Bad Boat Tail: 1971 Buick Riviera 455

The early ‘70s Buick Riviera is known for its boat-tail styling in the rear and a fastback roofline that was inspired by the 1963 Corvette Sting Ray coupe. Unlike the Corvette, the Riviera was a full-size personal luxury automobile that would maintain this stance throughout the decade of leisure suits and big hair. This 1971 Riviera has been owned by the seller since 1995, in hibernation for half the duration since, but back in running order once again. It’s located in Huntington, New York and available here on Barn Finds Classifieds for $8,900.

As the story goes, this was a California car until the seller acquired it 25 years ago. Since relocating the Buick to New York, it’s stayed in a covered garage and was the seller’s only classic car for a long time. But as other vintage finds came along, this Riviera found itself moving to the back burner. So, it’s been mostly inactive since around 2005. The seller pulled it out and went to work getting it running again and the car is no worse for its slumber. Everything works except perhaps the air conditioning. And it may have developed a few leaks from sitting, so that suggests a seal or two may need attention. Something fell on the car while in the garage and it will require a new windshield.

The exterior of this Detroit iron and its blue paint look good for being 50 years old. We’re told there is no rust or damage to the sheet metal. At some point, the grill was swapped for one from a ’72 model, but that’s an upgrade because it’s made of metal rather than plastic. You often see these cars with the requisite vinyl top that was popular in the 1970s; this car does not have one, which helps with the looks anyway.

Prior to the seller’s purchase in 1995, someone had recovered the cloth seats, but they’re not in the correct fabric used in 1971, but still good. The dash pad has faded as a result of the California UV rays of the 1970s. The odometer reading is about 55,000 miles. Anyone interested in the car can ask for photos of the undercarriage because the seller has a lift he can put the car up on. Under the hood, a 455 cubic inch V-8 should reside, which would have been good for 330 hp back in the day. The Buick will come with clear and transferable New York State registration paperwork (we understand that titles not required back then).


  1. Jake8687

    Hmm. Only 30 minutes from me and on the bucket list.

    Like 16
  2. chevelle guy

    gotta love those 1971 GM trunk vents !

    Like 11
    • Patrick Farmer

      Those wonderful grandparent incontinence odors vents. Super spaceage Astro-Apollo tech brought down to earth from Lunar orbit, just for you and yours.

      Be in command when taking the dog to the vet to get his anal glands drained. The fundament being aimed directly at your face as the dog barks madly out the window.

      Stay command when your daughter Susie barfs out her chill cheese dogs from the fair.

      Know your in command when grandad blows out an O-ring on your like new crushed velvet front bucket seats.

      Finally take command of the road by romping down on the gas the second you flip the Astro Vent lever. The smooth torque monster Buick 455 V8 can air out any of your smelly shorts in mere seconds as you try to out run the pugnacious billowing clouds of the reality bending cheese gases that have completely and forever masked out any remaining new car smells.

      Can you love your command? Visit your local Buick dealership to find out.

      Like 2
  3. Jcs

    Definitely go check it out, Jake. These are killer cars that draw lots of attention and drive great. Anvil strong. Being close by, a closer look is certainly warranted.

    Mine was a 72, but the 71 grill looks very stylish on the premier model year – an easy change if desired for originality.

    Fantastic colors too, these are real sensitive to having the right colors, this one really stands out.

    Like 9
  4. Gary Robinson

    Any pictures of the interior?

    Like 0
    • Patrick Farmer

      There is a shot of the engine turned dash. It is a beautiful dashboard design that is embarrassed by that idiot column shifter sticking out.

      Like 0
  5. Dave Rhodes

    only 330 horse BUT 455 ft lbs of torque

    Like 5
  6. James Clark

    Were these front drive as the early ones ?

    Like 0
  7. Gil Davis Tercenio

    Y’all need to do some more automobile history research. That boattail styling first appeared on a GM design on Buick’s 1938 Y-Job. Then it appeared on the Vette, then again on the Riviera.

    Like 2
  8. Maestro1 Member

    I’ve always liked this design, I have no room for one and it’s too far away.
    But somebody jump on it, give ti what it needs and enjoy.

    Like 1
  9. Super Glide Member

    I don’t care what’s at the Country Club, next Saturday, a 71 or 72 boattail Riviera in front of the Clubhouse would change the subject.

    Somebody please buy this an get to work immediately.

    Like 3
  10. JamieB1966 Member

    “…titles not required back then”?! Not quite accurate. All states required a title for a new vehicle and for subsequent transfers-of-ownership up to a certain point. Some states do not require a title for a car oven a certain age (typically 30 years), but many DO require you to have a transferable title signed by the seller. For example, good luck trying to register that find in NJ or MA, where the kindly folks at DMV will want to see a signed title before issuing a title and registration. Great resource from Hagerty on the topic:

    Like 2

    Will smoke the right rear tire for days. So much so, Dad brought it to the dealer, convincing the rear end, was out of alignment. Sorry Dad, that is what 16 year olds do. It will also bury the speedometer easily.
    Great car, surpringly bad 0n the snow

    Like 1
  12. William Cockayne

    Titles not required in NY until 1973. Before then just a transferable registration and that still applies to 1972 and older vehicles. If the paperwork is lost, stolen, or otherwise unavailable registering it is a simple process. Fill out a affidavit of ownership, make a tracing of the VIN, and DMV will register it for you with a non transferable registration. Then after a month or 3 they will send you the transferable one. As my grandfather passed away in 1986 with over 2 dozen old cars I am very familiar with the process. If it is a 1973 or newer its a whole new game, usually not worth it.

    Like 2
  13. Vinnie Basso

    Boat tails have been around way before corvette. My first thought was Auburn. But was a tulipwood Rikenbacker from the mid 20’s

    Like 0
  14. Patrick Farmer

    The 1971 HP didn’t ring through for me so I got out 1971 Chilton’s 42nd year Automotive Service Manual- Professional Edition, and looked up the HP and TQ. The book, on 8pg, listed under, General Engine Specifications, two 455’s for 1971. The detuned 455, 4bbl. listed the advertised HP as 370@4600. The torque was omitted, compression ws 9.0-1. If you look back a year, there was only one 455 on the spec table for 1970. It is described as thus, 1970 455 4bbl. Advert Spec is 370 HP@4600 and the torque was, hey get this, 510@2800 with 10.0-1 compression. Starting 2800 rpm with 510 is fantastic. I bet the TQ curve is flatter than a fritter. Which means an old mans car has a nightmare under the hood. Can you imagine a 1970 Buick 455 with an LSX EFI modern technology setup running it instead of a carb?

    “Stumps Anyone”

    Like 3

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