13k Mile Garage Find: 1979 Buick Riviera

This 1979 Buick Riviera spent twenty years hiding out in the original owner’s garage before their son took possession of it and sold it to the seller. In the years it (presumably) spent with an elderly owner, it accumulated less than 15,000 original miles. The Riviera may have slowly descended from greatness as future models like this were unveiled, but they still were seen as a pinnacle of automotive excellence but older generations. Find this pretty survivor here on eBay for $5,999 or best offer.

Compared to previous generations, the Riviera was a far cry from its ancestors. The boat tail styling of previous models was downright legendary in the realm of automotive design, and by the time this model came along, much of the bold swagger was gone. That didn’t mean shoppers saw the Riviera as anything less than the benchmark against which other luxury cars were measured; the word “malaise” wasn’t in their dictionary. This Riviera sports mostly original paint and handsome wheel covers.

Still, for all that chatter about luxury, you may be shocked to learn there’s a cloth interior inside this Riviera. This tells you a lot about the era in which this car was made, as the standards got lower and lower – it’s almost as if the pride in building cars was gone. The seller notes the interior remains in fairly good condition, although the power seat motor in the passenger bucket no longer works and the steering wheel wrap is cracking badly, as seen here.

Despite the low odometer reading, sitting is generally not good for vintage cars. Therefore, the seller has undertaken a fair amount of maintenance items, including the installation of a new radiator, cap, rotor, hoses, spark plugs and wires, fuel pump, gas tank, and distributor cap. The carburetor was cleaned up and fresh oil and antifreeze added. The seller claims the Riviera now drives like it should, with no issues from the engine or transmission. Is a timewarp Riviera worth $5K in this condition?


  1. Wonson

    Cloth interior was pretty standard during this models run. Not everyone liked leather and if memory serves me correct is was a very expensive option. I had a Toronado with this exact interior and drove it for 150k miles, the cloth seats held up nicely. To bad the transmission was junk.

    Like 5
    • Superdessucke

      Velour interiors were common in American luxury cars starting around 1973 or so. Leather was often a no-cost option.

      Like 1
    • Angel_Cadillac_Diva Angel Cadillac Diva Member

      My 2 passions are Cadillacs and Riviera’s. GM cars of the 80s and 90s were crap, stylingwise.
      At one time I owned all three…. A 1970 Riviera, a 1971 boattail Riviera and a 1972 boattail Riviera.
      IMO Riviera’s from 1966 through 1972 were the best, stylewise, hp wise, funwise.
      The 70 and 71 had buckets, console, floor shift and great interiors. The 72 had a bench seat and colume auto.

      Like 1
      • Nick Linnear

        79 riviera…

  2. john willis

    beautiful car

  3. LMK Member

    Age & time might account for the ratty look of the carpet but 13K orig miles , I don’t know….????
    But who knows, might be a diamond …..

  4. Ralph

    Great car, lots of options, Astroroof, automatic climate control, tape deck, lamp monitors, its technically an Oldsmobuick, since she does have the Oldsmoble 350. The car looks to be in nice shape with the exception of the soy plastic steering wheel that tends to crumble on these. The build sheet shows the car was made in Linden NJ and sold in Hackensack and its still in NJ, it was sold 25 miles from the factory, the owner must have still gotten it when the paint was still wet.

    Not sure why the author has to take a dig a cloth upholstery, it exposes him as someone who knows little about cars and automotive history as cloth, even in this era was a very desirable upholstery choice for a luxury car interior, before the BMW Humpers, leather was reserved for open cars and for the chauffer’s compartment. Go look any old limousine and the rear compartment, where the moneyed people sit, its going to be cloth or some sort of fabric

    Next time maybe do a little research or maybe don’t comment on something you don know about, if I wanted poorly written articles with sloppy details and ad hominem attacks on American cars, I’d go read Jalopnik…….

    I mean 2 paragraphs wasted telling us about “how the Riviera ain’t what she used to be” and boo hoo, (never mind that the 1979-1985 Riviera was by far the best selling of all time)and barely anything about the car itself? Does this have the turbo 3.8? Oldsmobile 350?

    Like 10
    • Dale

      Dude…….have a beer.

      Like 10
      • LMK Member

        Or 6…

        Like 6
      • Joe

        Or eat a Snickers!

        Like 9

      Or 3 paragraphs, to tell us about 2 paragraphs. Sorry, couldn’t resist

      Like 2
      • Daved


        Like 1
    • James Martin

      I believe it is the olds 307

      Like 2
      • moosie moosie

        The picture in the EBAY listing of the build sheet shows that it has the L34 350 V8.

      • Ralph

        Its a 350, the 307 wasn’t available in these until 1981, but the reader had to find that out on their own since the author went off on a tangent that went nowhere…….

        Like 1
  5. Rex Kahrs Rex Kahrs Member

    I agree with Ralph. And, the comment that “it’s almost like pride of building cars was gone” sounds like those line workers had lost their pride, which I’m sure is far from the truth.

    OK, by the late ’70s, cars weren’t as interesting/flashy/colorful/powerful as they were from say the post-war era through the 1960s, but this is still a nice car from the era. The bean counters were probably the ones who lost sight of what automobile building should have been. Corporate greed I guess…and then we had to bail GM out…and Chrysler. Those boys at the top all came out just fine I’m sure, and we paid the bill. What a world.

    Like 4
  6. David Rhoces

    the 350 is a bonus …. the 307 was a pig

  7. Ben T. Spanner

    My favorite year of Riviera. Someone else likes it as it sold. My favorite is chrome steel wheels and turbo 3.8. My Father had a 1984 or so with a similar interior. It felt like suede and grabbed his overcoat making entry and exit difficult.

    • LMK Member

      The listing ended but it doesn’t show that it sold….

  8. Pete Phillips

    $5,000 for one of those with low miles and excellent condition is a steal. What most folks don’t know is that the turbo-charged V-6, which was available in these, actually puts out more horsepower than the V8.

    Like 1
    • MG

      I had a 1981 T-type Riviera with the Turbo 3.8. That car and an 82 Park Avenue are the main reasons I still can’t drive GM products today. They were both absolute nightmares!!!

      • Vance

        The real crime was what they did to this elegant car after the body style. GM went from selling thousands to selling hundreds of Rivs. I had a tan 1983 fully loaded with leather, Bose stereo, and an electronic temperature control that was possessed by demons. It never worked right for long, and was replaced by the dealer 3 times. Agree the 307 was a pig, but it drove nicely and the car was a looker. Sold it for a nice profit and 2 weeks later the tranny blew. Loved this body style.

    • Ralph

      I think in 1979-1980 they are about par on HP, both about 170-180, but the 350 out torques the 3.8 turbo, after 1981 the turbo becomes the best engine and by 1984-1985 it was the most powerful E-body engine, making 200hp after MFI was added.

  9. JP

    Nice ride for the money!

  10. Angel_Cadillac_Diva Angel Cadillac Diva Member

    My 2 passions are Cadillacs and Riviera’s. GM cars of the 80s and 90s were crap, stylingwise.
    At one time I owned all three…. A 1970 Riviera, a 1971 boattail Riviera and a 1972 boattail Riviera.
    IMO Riviera’s from 1966 through 1972 were the best, stylewise, hp wise, funwise.
    The 70 and 71 had buckets, console, floor shift and great interiors. The 72 had a bench seat and colume auto.

  11. KP

    I had a 79 Riv SType. 3.8 V6 Turbo, cloth interior and loved it! Once the turbo lag caught itself, the car would haul ass and actually handled pretty well for a big car. I ended up trading it in for a 83 Hurst Olds.

  12. Stevieg Member

    I like these cars a lot, this being my favorite year of the series only because I like the 350 so much more than the 307. I am also not a fan of the turbo v-6, but I would still prefer that turbo v-6 over the 307.
    I really like this one in particular. I much prefer cloth over leather & I am a fan of open air motoring, so the sunroof does it for me. I really don’t believe the miles. This would have the 5 digit odometer, so it is probably 113,000 miles. Still a fair price, in my opinion, for the car. Fantastic shape, going by the pictures.

  13. aristo phanes

    Just in case anyone is interested, this same Riviera is for sale, again. This time the seller, Gesswein Motors in Milbank, South Dakota, is asking $12,950. Wow, this Riviera appreciated over 250% in value in 3 short months from the date of this article, June 19, 2019. Golly gee, even Warren Buffet can’t typically get those high of returns so quickly. Truly fascinating!

    Happy Motoring Everyone!

  14. Rex Kahrs Rex Kahrs Member

    Doesn’t the price of $12,950 reflect an appreciation of 115%? If the car started at $6000, and appreciated by 100%, then that would put it at $12,000, right?

    I can see Sister Placid walking over to my desk to smack my knuckles with a ruler as I write this……

    Like 1
  15. ElStinko

    The 350 in these cars were Oldsmobile engines. I have this same car color and all except mine has the leather interior. I bought it new when i was 18 years old and i think the sticker price was $12700. That may not be correct but i still have the window sticker. It is almost impossible to find one of these cars that the polymer hasn’t cracked on the steering wheel. I would love to find a steering wheel for mine.

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