When Buick introduced the radically styled “boat tail” Riviera for 1971, America’s car buyers collectively gasped. A Bill Mitchell-driven throwback to the 1930’s, it had been a long time since a new car had appeared with a rear end styled like this (although some ’63-’67 Corvette can be seen in the back window). The rear “prow” led to a lot of controversy within GM as well and only lasted in this form for two years. This big boat is being sold in Las Vegas here on craigslist for $2,500.
One of the original designers, John Houlihan, recalled that GM Director of Styling Bill Mitchell drove the unusual design. The “side sweep” of the Riviera also echoed a continuing Buick theme from the 1950’s but was very prominent on the boat tail cars. Rejection of the new design was immediate as 1971 sales tanked. Although GM struggled to revise the design as quickly as possible, only minor changes were possible for 1972, which didn’t help, as Buick sold essentially the same number of 1972’s as they did the previous year.
This car seems to have been sitting for a while, although the shade from the nearby tree and house may have kept the sun damage to a minimum. The ad mentions it runs well and has air conditioning; a must with that much glass area! It looks like all four of the original rally wheels are present as well.
Although the paint is oxidized, the all-important glass and bumpers are intact and straight. I noticed that the radical shape of the bumpers meant that the license plates couldn’t be mounted in the usual center location. At least my home state of North Carolina doesn’t require a front plate, so it would only be the back that would have to be asymmetrical.
Given the difficulty in finding parts for a car this rare (how many have you seen lately?) it’s nice to see that the vulnerable grille is intact. Although no engine picture is included in the ad, this Buick should have the 455 cubic inch V8. Even with the large engine bay, the massive V8 has to take up most if not all of the available space.
The dramatic styling continued into the interior, with a huge dual-cowl dashboard that on this example is cracked. I know those can be repaired, but it would be quite a job. Original-appearing upholstery would be good only for patterns, while the molded door panels are not available (although the vinyl top panels are); I imagine good used ones will be hard to find. This car was not fitted with either of the available front consoles and features the stock “60/40” split bench seat that allowed individual seat movement.
Since the seller claims to have a clear Nevada title in hand, there should be no issues driving this one home and into your garage…right?