43K Original Miles: 1990 Buick Riviera

There’s not much time left to bid on this survivor Buick Riviera that has just 43,000 miles from new and is offered up with no reserve. While not necessarily the high water mark for Buick’s famous nameplate, this generation of the Riviera is endlessly approachable and easy to live with as a starter classic. Cheap parts and just modern enough to be a car you don’t mind driving every day make this Riviera a solid choice if you’ve always wanted one. Find it here on eBay with bidding at $2,375.

Now, I understand why some enthusiasts may have felt somewhat betrayed by this era of the Riviera. Seriously downsized and looking like a shadow of its former self – all while retaining the iconic nameplate – was an insult in the eyes of many brand loyalists. Plus, there wasn’t even an eight-cylinder option, leaving a lone 3.8L V6 as the main source of thrust. Still, some of the iconic styling remained, most evident from this angle that captures the sloping rear end and “R”-emblazoned taillights.

Luxury was still top of the list in terms of priorities for the model, so you’ll find acres of leather and wood-look trim inside. Technology began to play more of a role in terms of the upscale trimmings, with the “CRT” display making an appearance in the Riviera and other loaded-up 1980s GM vehicles. The seller doesn’t report whether any of the displays or functionality have failed at this juncture, other than noting that the speakers are blown. The A/C is still ice cold and the power seats and windows work as well.

The 3800 is neither loved nor hated in most circles, though there are plenty of critics who fault it for reliability issues. I’ve always found it to be an enormously versatile engine that makes great noise when you’ve got your foot in it, and the seller says the one in his family’s car is healthy as can be. No details on recent maintenance are offered, but the listing does mention it was ordered with factory rust-proofing, which appears to have paid off given how clean this 1990 Riviera appears to be.

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Comments

  1. Bick Banter

    $2,325? In this environment for a low mileage vintage car? Yikes.

    Like 2
    • Bick Banter

      Someone ladled on another 25 bucks. I guess the 2020-21 spending spree love doesn’t extend to stubby, oddly proportioned GM FWD cars from the early 1990s!

  2. Raymond L Saunders

    Will a 3800 series II SC bolt up?…i have one…

    • Poppy

      Some of the engine mounts are different, I think, but it should be doable. That pre-Series I 3800 feels more lively than the power ratings would indicate.

  3. CCFisher

    That seat belt is awfully dirty for 43,000 miles. Must have been driven by someone who either got dirty for a living or had an issue with bathing.

    Like 5
    • Poppy

      And it looks like both horn buttons are missing, not just one as the listing indicates. I have the same steering wheel in my 165K-mile LeSabre and the horn buttons are both securely attached. Some people are just hard on things, I guess.

    • Ed Sel

      “Body By Fisher?”

  4. Dale S

    I like the styling on this Buick. People actually liked this model year over the 11 inch shorter 1986 to 1988 Riviera, and sales improved. The leather on the drivers seat needs refurbishing, or replacement, along with the horn buttons. If I had the garage space….

    • Nick

      The ’89 is a HUGE improvement over the Skylark sized ’86 to ’88. People massively rejected the ’86 E-bodies as GM took its “downsizing” philisophy a bit too far. The ’95-’99 is an underappreciated classic. One of the most beautiful cars to come from GM since the 60’s. Too bad it was not in production that long, or that they never found a way to make the Lucerne show car (not the production car) a Riviera–take a look at it and you will see why.

      I was a member of the Buick Club Of America and attended the National Meet which was held in Flint in honor of Buick’s 85th anniversary in the summer of 1988. Buick General Manager Ed Mertz was there and gave us a special treat–an advance showing of the ’89s a few months before they were released. That was when I first saw this model of the Riv and was very pleased at what they had managed to do to turn that design into something far more worthy of the name Riviera. No, it’s not a ’63 or a ’66 in terms of total beauty and class, and yes, it’s too small, but compared to the ’86, it’s terrific.

      Like 7
  5. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    I have no interest in this generation Riv, but boy do I love the next generation.

    Like 1
  6. Ed Sel

    Somebody correct me if I’m wrong: 1. There was a Caddy Coupe that was the same body size and style. 2. Both are larger than the OLDS Cutlass Calais – the same vehicle but a shrunken-down version (with the vertical back window that I found unfortunately-appearing), and maybe a 4-cylinder FWD instead of the 6 but electric seats and windows, great ac that cooled the little cabin down and kept it cool, nice rims, a nice personal lux car, nice body trim, last year before the quad 4 engine – here’s a red one -mine was blue – https://external-content.duckduckgo.com/iu/?u=https%3A%2F%2Fphotos.classiccars.com%2Fcc-temp%2Flisting%2F82%2F3252%2F184676-1987-oldsmobile-calais-supreme-std.jpg&f=1&nofb=1 That’s it.

    Oh, also, despite all the remarks about the style, etc., this Buick is, in many ways, identical to the Buick Reatta 2-door lux coupe w/the same engine, pop-up headlights, no back seat (just a couple of locking built-in floor tubs and a pass-through to the trunk, and even a SUN ROOF on some despite the tiny size of the roof, and the all-digital dash with a TOUCH SCREEN in 1989! like a modern ATM machine – pretty cool if anybody remembers THAT one

    • Nick 8778

      Yes, the Reatta was a sportier body but was derived from the same platform as the Riviera. They used the same dash and instrument panel as well. And there was even a convertible version. The Reatta is a pretty rare bird.

      • Ed Sel

        Nick, I owned the ’89, with the sunroof (which impressed me, in that it’s about like having a sunroof in a Miata), and there is both a Reatta Club, and a guy in North Carolina, as I recall, that sells all kinds of parts, occasionally making delivery “trips” – charging very “Country Club” prices, but there are quite a few around )if you’re looking for one), but very few, if you just happen across one, if that makes sense – they were kind of from the Cadillac Allante/Chrysler Le Baron coupe era/school, maybe a push-back to the Mercedes Coupe that also came with a removable hard-top, right?, but here’s a pic of one the same color as mine, a 1989, but it’s the 1990, that ‘replaced the touch-screen center console (allegedly because of the considerable expense if the module “went out” – because it controlled/informed on almost everything – radio, climate, gauges, trip odo, etc. – real ‘James Bond’ stuff at the time)
        https://external-content.duckduckgo.com/iu/?u=https%3A%2F%2Fccmarketplace.azureedge.net%2Fcc-temp%2Flisting%2F118%2F7823%2F15315532-1989-buick-reatta-std.jpg&f=1&nofb=1

        So, get the ’89 with the sunroof, the 10-way electric driver’s seat, keep a pocket-full of solenoids/fuses with you when traveling, and off you go – You’re in Buick Country!”

    • Nick 8778

      The Calais was the sister car to the Buick Skylark and Pontiac Grand Am. It was smaller. The Olds counterpart to the Riviera and Eldorado was still the Toronado. I don’t blame you if you forgot that they were still making it at this time—everyone else did too–even then. And deservedly so. What a come down from the revolutionary and enormously innovative and beautiful ’66 Toronado.

      • Ed Sel

        Right you are, Nick, exactly, with the exception being that the Olds was trimmed out like the Caddy (kind of like how they used to try to make the Olds 98 like the big caddies), and the Skylark interior was cheaper (at least the one I saw online recently was) – and it wasn’t until I saw the Caddy coupe from the same year that I realized the Olds was basically a “mini-Caddy” and even though I could extend my arm and touch the passenger door, it had electric windows and door locks, etc. and either an inline 4 or 6 (but this was still pre-“quad 4” pontiac engine) and between the wheels (not hubcaps), and all of the other gizmos/trims, you didn’t feel like you were driving an “econo” car, despite the size, so it was nice that way…now, about that vertical back window…

  7. Nick

    The ’89 is a HUGE improvement over the Skylark sized ’86 to ’88. People massively rejected the ’86 E-bodies as GM took its “downsizing” philisophy a bit too far. The ’95-’99 is an underappreciated classic. One of the most beautiful cars to come from GM since the 60’s. Too bad it was not in production that long, or that they never found a way to make the Lucerne show car (not the production car) a Riviera–take a look at it and you will see why.

    I was a member of the Buick Club Of America and attended the National Meet which was held in Flint in honor of Buick’s 85th anniversary in the summer of 1988. Buick General Manager Ed Mertz was there and gave us a special treat–an advance showing of the ’89s a few months before they were released. That was when I first saw this model of the Riv and was very pleased at what they had managed to do to turn that design into something far more worthy of the name Riviera. No, it’s not a ’63 or a ’66 in terms of total beauty and class, and yes, it’s too small, but compared to the ’86, it’s terrific.

    Like 1
    • Ed Sel

      Any opinions on the Buick Reatta?

    • Ed Sel

      Nick – Maybe you knew ‘Riv Man’ – Did you see his Riviera here on BF the other day? OOOh- WEE! – He even has the silk head-rest covers with the buick logo for car shows.

      What did you think of the Reatta (’87-’89)?

  8. mpower

    I recently purchased a 93 model, it was the previous owners show car. He was getting up in age and couldn’t show it anymore and let it sit up for awhile before I bought it. Currently I’m sorting out the minor problems that came from being idle so long.

  9. nycbjr Member

    My understanding is the 3800 is pretty much bullet proof, no?

    Like 1
  10. Nick 8778

    The Cadillac version was (shamefully and rather pathetically) passed off as an “Eldorado” but people didn’t buy it (in both senses of the term.

    • Nick 8778

      Ford is currently engaging in a bit of the same kind of unforgivable behavior by calling its new electric “Mach E” SUV a “Mustang.” It is not and will never be a Mustang no how many horse badges you slap on it. It might even be a fantastic car. But it is NOT NOT NOT a MUSTANG and it is an insult to everyone who has ever owned (I own one now) or even wanted to own a Mustang to call a 4-door SUV a Mustang.

  11. Nick 8778

    I liked the Reatta and thought it was pretty daring for Buick at the time. I wish they would have made the attempt to differentiate it a bit more from the rest of the line. A little sportier with performance options not available on any other Buick–a “halo” model as they say. They did offer a convertible version, though, which was about as “different” as they were able to go, I guess.

    • ed sel

      Yes, Nick – and the locking “pass-through” portal from the trunk was ideal for golf clubs, and, I suppose, skis, but I somehow see a print ad of a Reatta in a Country Club parking lot with a you wasp pulling his clubs from the trunk and older “club establishment” guys looking on appraisingly – it was more that kind of car – suburban “in the know” sleeper, I suppose/imagine. Even then Caddies were skewing older, demographically, and “on the cusp” (making it) was already different than “over the hill.” (made it early, and square).

  12. Nick 8778

    Ah yes, the Allante….an interesting experiment by Cadillac, going out of their way to make it more expensive having the bodies built in Italy by Pininfarina and air-freighted over buy 747 to be mated with the running gear. They were beautifully made bodies and the styling was pleasant but again, the performance did not deliver on the promise made by the looks. GM at this time had really lost their way, trying to reinvent themselves–Roger Smith and Saturn taking production away from the divisions then giving it back to Cadillac for a while with Grettenberger, then taking it away again–and Buick City, building modern Buicks in Flint where they belong with a quality level higher than anyone else in the American auto industry and maybe even the world–only to eventually raze the entire complex in Flint that was once GM’s largest single site manufacturing plant except for the Opel Werke in Germany (which is now owned by Stellantis.) I could go on and on about Buick and what it has sadly become. They no longer make anything I would even want to drive let alone buy. A few boring SUVs–they are a Chinese operation now, building cars for that market–the U. S market is now an afterthought for Buick–the only reason the make wasn’t killed off is because it somehow is one of the most prestigious and top selling makes in China. I still own a ’96 Regal Custoim with the 3800 Series II…Buick was really making great cars in the 90s and into the early 2000s. I think Ed Mertz had a vision for the division as a producer of “Premium American Motorcars” with the “Distinctive Substantial Powerful and Mature” mantra. I think the ’95 Riviera was the pinnacle of that era and by 2005 it was over. There was this perceived need to start all over with new names, (hey we did it in ’59) LaCrosse, Lucerne–but the cars were boring–(which the ’59 and especially the Buicks of the ’60s were NOT.) Buick today is a zombie brand in the United States. Technically alive, I guess, but no longer possessing its soul. To guys like me who loved Buick all my life, it’s a huge loss. Lloyd Reuss (even though he came over from Chevy) understood what Buick was and so did Ed Mertz but that was 30-40 years ago now…..

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