Vintage Road & Track Review: 1966 Buick Riviera Gran Sport – Lighter and Faster Than The FWD Toronado

Given that they shared the same body shell and were otherwise very similar in their mission and specs except for which wheels were driven, this review of the new 1966 Riviera makes a nice counterpoint to the Toronado review the other day. Does FWD in a very large luxury personal coupe make a difference?

The one significant difference was that despite being down 25 hp (360 vs 385) hp from the Toronado, the Riviera spanked it in acceleration, almost two seconds quicker from 0-60  (8.1 vs. 9.9 sec.) and beat it solidly in the 1/4 mile (16.7 vs. 17.8 sec.).  Curiously, the Toronado was a hefty 300 lbs heavier than the Riviera, but the Toro’s higher rated output resulted in both having the exact same 13.1 lb/hp ratio. So much for FWD saving weight!

Ideally this would have been a comparison test; in fact, there’s little reference to the Toronado in it. So without a direct frame of reference it’s a bit hard to make any calls regarding handling. The GS package, which was a bargain at $176.82, included Positraction, dual exhausts, red-line tires, and stiffer suspension. The venerable “nailhead” 425 CID V8 was in its final outing, to be replaced by the more modern but somewhat less bullet-proof 430 V8 in 1967. It sported dual quad carbs and a pretty racy cam to make 360 hp from its undersized valves and ports, but it worked quite effectively.


As to its handling, it was a significant improvement over the non-GS Riviera, but still with the obvious limitations of its size, weight, numb steering, and strong understeer. Everything is relative, and realistically, the lion’s share of Riviera buyers were not likely to be plumbing the limits of its handling.

Although the big finned drums were better than the Toronado’s thanks to the much better weight distribution, they were hardly fine. Like so many American cars then, the rear drums, lacking a proper load-sensitive proportioning valve, locked up causing the tail to swerve. They were rated “Fair” overall.



The giant doors came in for criticism, as they were very heavy and capable of almost crushing a little sports car parked next to it.

As a finale, R&T pointed out that the induction moan of the two carbs on the big V8 was excessive, and it was speculated that this was done on purpose for effect. Probably so.