The 1971-1973 Buick Riviera was the manufacturer’s most controversial piece of styling since the batwing job of 1959. Despite the success of the 1963 Riviera, sales had plummeted by 1970. A quick fix was badly needed, and Buick gambled that the 1971 ¡°boattail¡± was the answer.
It¡¯s true, too, that by 1971 the time had obviously come for a new and different Riviera. Consider 1,070 production figures, for example. While still comfortably ahead of Oldsmobile¡¯s Toronado — the Riveria’s intra-corporate rival — output skidded an alarming 29 percent from 52,872 units in 1969 to 37,336 units, the lowest since 1965.
Nor was this a reflection of market conditions, for overall Buick sales were holding steady, while Ford¡¯s Thunderbird made a modest gain that year.
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It had been Ford, of course, that had pioneered the ¡°luxury personal car¡± concept with the 1958 introduction of the first four-place T-Bird. And the Bird continued to lead the field in sales, despite stiff competition from its counterpart at Buick.
Even so, the Riviera, first introduced for the 1963 season, had been a resounding sales success from the start, and a style and performance leader as well.
¡°It was the Riviera,¡± authors Ian Norbye and lames Dunne declared, ¡°that put some class into this market segment.¡±
Even Car and Driver, a magazine not usually noted for unstinting praise of American luxury cars, admitted that ¡°the Riviera is different from the other big Buicks, and it stands alone among American cars in providing a combination of luxury
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, performance and general roadworthiness that approaches Bentley Continental standards at less than half the price.¡±
Learn about Buick Riviera styling changes on to the next page.
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