Boattail Garage Find: 1973 Buick Riviera

Buick threw caution to the wind for the redesign of the third generation Riviera in 1971. Styling was a radical departure from prior editions, going with a pronounced “boattail” look in the rear whose curved rear window was a throwback to the C2 Chevy Corvette of 1963-67. Sales would be consistent from 1971-73 as Buick created some exclusivity for the car in the 30,000+ unit per year range. This 1973 Riviera was Dad’s “Summertime land yacht” as the seller puts it. His father has passed on and its time for the car to do so as well. It’s located in Fairport, New York and available here on craigslist for $11,500. Hats off to Ikey Heyman for another great tip sent our way!

The Riviera was Buick personal luxury car entry from 1963 through 1999, skipping 1994 for some reason. If you wanted the luxury of a Cadillac but the affordability of a Buick and you wanted it in a sporty package, the Buick Riviera was GM’s answer. GM’s head designer came up with a total change for the Riviera in the early 1970s, with the car now featuring a prominent forward-jutting prow with a vee’d grille and a beltline along with a “sweepspear” that was borrowed from the 1953 Skylark. Its roof treatment worked its way into a “boattail” rear. It was one of those cars that either you liked, or you didn’t.

Styling of the Riviera was toned down a bit in 1973 in advance of a total re-do that was coming for 1974. This particular car has a bit of a story which always makes reviewing one more interesting. As we understand it, the seller bought the car as a present for his father’s 70th birthday (we don’t know how long ago that was). It apparently was a fair-weather use vehicle as we’re told its never seen the tough winters of northern New York, often tucked away inside a garage. His dad enjoyed the car for several summers and then sadly died, so the car has been in storage for the past five years. It is said to have been running when it was put away. We’re guessing it doesn’t run now, but that’s not exactly stated.

The old man apparently liked a little pop with his wheels, so it wears a custom exhaust system with Cherry Bombs which would be quite noticeable. Really out of character for a car like this, but they could always be swapped out. Under the hood resides a 455 cubic inch V-8 with 4-barrel that would have been good for 250 net hp back in the day. There is no indication this is the more desirable GS model and 62,000 is said to be the reading on the odometer.

48 years of on and off use are starting to take its toll on the body and paint. The seller tells us the car is virtually rust-free with some surface corrosion on the driver’s side front fender. The paint is faded and tired in many places, so a new coat should be put on the to-do list. We’re told the interior is in great condition, but it looks a bit dirty and one of the photos shows what might be some mildew on a headrest. The presentation for this car could have been a lot better by pushing it outside and giving it a thorough washing and cleaning. For more interesting reading on this gen of the Riviera, check this story out!

A history of the car compliments of its prior owner will come with the Riviera as it appears that party was in possession of the Buick for at least 30 years. If you like the styling of these cars and don’t mind their size, NADA says the average resale on these boat-tail wonders is about $20,000. So, by the time you bought it, got it running and put some paint on it, that’s likely what you’d have invested. Be the only kid on your Cars & Coffee block to have one!


  1. Moparman Moparman Member

    This looks to be the start of what could be a nice cruiser for someone desiring a boat tail Riviera. Some TLC and a paint job would definitely add to the right stuff that it already has: the canopy vinyl top/road wheels/bucket seats and console. GLWTS!! :-)

    Like 5
  2. Rustytech Member

    A good polishing may just do the trick. Make sure there isn’t rust under that vinyl though. I love these big cruisers, and might be interested,but it would take up too much of my limited garage space

    Like 0
  3. AZVanMan

    My friend Tony had a boat-tail Riv the same color scheme as this one in the early 80s. Such a nice cruiser!

    Like 1
  4. Jcs

    Great driving cars that are fun to own. I personally wouldn’t do a 73, but a 72 front end would be an easy modification that would really make this one cool sled, and wouldn’t turn off the purists nearly as much as is normal.

    The interior is exactly like my 72 GS, other than the fake woodgrain on the dash rather than the engine turned aluminum on mine and the different passenger side dash shape. Supremely comfortable and stylish, the interior on this one looks to be in particular nice shape, with the colors looking very even throughout and what looks to be a perfect dash top, both hard to find on these.

    Like 7
  5. Steve Clinton

    The ’71 and ’72 were great designs, but starting with the ’73 (and that government-mandated bumper), the Rivie went downhill.

    Like 1
  6. John Oliveri

    My buddy had a 72, back in 77, NY w a power sunroof, gorgeous car, quick for its size and comfortable, went to plenty of Discos in that thing, you totally arrived

    Like 6
  7. Frank

    Looking closely at the pictures on craigslist, That frame seems awfully crusty for a car that wasn’t in winter weather.
    The vinyl top on the front is either discolored or might be rust bubbles forming.
    Paint on dr. door and fender is cracking.
    Good starter project but may become expensive if you want to fully restore it.

    Like 0
  8. Stevieg Member

    She’s looking a little rough, but I want her.
    My Mom had a twin to this car (at least the body is a twin, hers had a different interior). I loved that car! I ended up with it after it went to a neighbor, then to a friend of mine. By then, mine was rougher than corn cob toilet paper. I’d buy & restore this one in a heartbeat!

    Like 0

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