Museum Quality: 1973 Buick Riviera

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Cosmetic imperfections are almost inevitable when a classic has over five decades under its belt. It seems this 1973 Buick Riviera didn’t receive the memo because it is superb. The seller describes it as “museum quality,” and that assessment is justified. Every aspect of this car is spotless, and the only thing it appears to need is a new home. It deserves a close look if 1970s luxury sits high on your Wish List, and I must say a big thank you to Barn Finder numskal for spotting this incredible survivor.

The 1973 model year was the end of the line for Buick’s Third Generation Riviera. It is fair to say that while its general styling was more sleek and elegant than its predecessor, the “boat-tail” rear end divided opinions. Of course, such views are always subjective, but the fact that sales figures were generally lower than those of the Second Generation probably reflects the lack of widespread acceptance. The seller describes our feature car as a “museum quality” classic, and its overall condition makes that claim plausible. It is part of an extensive and valuable collection, and the lack of imperfections in its stunning Burgundy Metallic paint is the first thing that draws the eye. The laser-straight panels, subtle Gold pinstripe, and Tan vinyl top accentuate the car’s luxury leanings. The seller doesn’t mention any existing or prior rust issues or restoration, and the lack of visible surface corrosion in areas like the engine bay is a positive sign. The chrome and tinted glass are as impressive as the rest of the exterior, and there is no evidence of physical damage to its Rallye wheels.

Emission regulations began to bite in 1973, but if the company’s official figures are accurate, the impact on the Riviera wasn’t as severe as for many cars from this era. Buyers in 1971 received a 455ci V8 producing 255hp and 380 ft/lbs of torque in Net terms. This car’s 455 should generate 250hp and 375 ft/lbs. The newer car is slower over the ¼-mile, but the Riviera gained an incredible 500 lbs between 1971 and 1973. Additional weight always impacts performance, which seems to be the case here. It is disappointing that the seller supplies no information regarding how this Buick runs or drives, but the visual indications are positive. However, nothing is guaranteed, and the brevity of the seller’s description may cause some potential buyers to place this Riviera in the too-hard basket. There’s a lesson for anyone considering parting with a classic because most people prefer too much information to too little.

This Riviera’s interior is as stunning as every other aspect of the car, and if it isn’t perfect, it doesn’t miss by much. The Tan vinyl upholstered surfaces show no wear or deterioration, and I question whether anyone has ever occupied the back seat. The dash and carpet are spotless, and there is no evidence of lifting or deterioration on the faux woodgrain. The seller doesn’t provide any information on included creature comforts, but the photos reveal air conditioning, power windows, cruise control, a tilt wheel, a console, and an AM/FM radio. Buyers could order many other items, including a remote trunk release and a power driver’s seat, but it is unclear whether this car scored those extras.

The seller listed this 1973 Buick Riviera here on Craigslist in Costa Mesa, California. Admission to a classic of this caliber is rarely cheap, and the seller’s asking price of $35,000 is above market expectations. However, with values climbing steadily, it could be a good investment if it is all the seller claims. Would you pay the asking price for this stunning Riviera, or would something more modest be on your radar?

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  1. HoA HoAMember

    Nice! In the late 80s, my then BIL wanted the biggest and therefore the safest car for his family. He bought a ’73 Boatail Riv just like this, same color. To say it was a cruiser would be an understatement, none better, however, that came at a cost, its atrocious fuel mileage, single digits. More than once I had to come bail out my SIL that ran out, or was about to run out of gas with it. This was one car that actually got better mileage in the city. At almost 4500 pounds, it could be considered a big car. I read, this car cost $5200 bucks new, a lot of money in ’73, but still $300 cheaper than a T-bird. I’m not sure what could be used for more economical operation, it takes a 455 to move this car.
    I like it, but museum quality indeed, the museum of lost and wasteful automobiles, maybe.

    Like 13
    • Aaron

      It’s unfortunate that you have to elevate your personal feelings above the overall view of this fine car. I sold these new in 1973, and it’s price would be closer to 7,000 dollars even though it doesn’t appear to be the GS mode. And as far as gas mileage is concerned, this isn’t going to be used for Uber, it is going to be driven, and enjoyed on short leisure trips..All and all, this is a timepiece, and should be preserved..

      Like 40
      • HoA HoAMember

        Yeah, where do you see that? I praised the car, and can only go by what I find on the internet as far as what they sold for. Obviously options had a lot to do with it. Thanks for your hands on experience. And gas mileage is indeed a big concern, as even today, anywhere you drive this, it will have to circle around getting gas. I think some of you have forgotten, after years of gas sippers, what 8 mpg is really like.

        Like 3
    • ClassicP

      Little more than $5,000 cause my dad bought a 73’ Grand Prix and it was $6,000 no way was riviera lower than

      Like 2
  2. Nevada1/2rack Nevada1/2rackMember

    This is a remarkable car for its age and care, one that anyone looking for a weekend cruiser might consider were it not for the absolute lack of details and the B-J price.
    Perhaps there’s the belief the car will sell itself or even a very UNmotivated seller?
    Regardless, it LOOKS like a nice car..

    Like 8
  3. Bud Lee

    I bet this car can hold up to modern car standards. Except for trying to park it mpg. But comfort, performance and handling, it’s right up there.

    Like 11
  4. Nelson C

    This is another dream car come reality. By ’73 it had run its course as the bumper standard wouldn’t accept the boat tail design. I was ten when the ’71 was revealed and my 24-year-old brother thought I was a kook for thinking they were cool. Still a beautiful car.

    Like 7
  5. mainlymuscle

    If I’ve said it once ,I’ve said it a thousand times ; Depending on where you live and the length of the collector car season , you will put somewhere between a few hundred, and maybe 1000 miles per year on your car.I won’t bore you with the math details ,but what is the cost of fuel REALLY ???
    Even if you are BF royalty ,this MPG type of comment needs to be rendered obsolete. This is an incredible automobile ,and will garner more thumbs up than a Bugatti could ever dream of . Craig’s list is the wrong place ?
    Hmmmm ,Costa Mesa California -seems to me there are tens of thousands of folks in his local market that could access $35k by lunchtime .I follow the Boattail market and the buckets/console is very rare ,the colors are probably the best you could imagine for a personal luxury car ,and yes,it does appear to be museum quality . Personally ,I think this Riv is a bargain.GLWS

    Like 31
    • Tony Primo

      I have to agree with you about fuel economy comments mainlymuscle, they don’t really apply to collector cars. I worry more about not using a full tank of gas each season and having it go skunky on me.

      Like 19
  6. Jay McCarthy

    You seldom see the console in these Riviera’s especially one that’s not a GS

    Like 6
    • scottymac

      I bought my ’73 Rivi for another compelling reason, and since it wasn’t a GS, I decided to load it up with other options. Light monitors, four note horns, Max Trac, electric antenna, sport wheels, rear defroster, mini-console used as 8 track tape storage, low fuel light, speed minder alert, vanity mirror, map light, and pulse wipers. I’d bought a floor shift console with a steering column void of the shifter lever, before I bought a dealer’s catalog that showed the floor shift console was not offered in oxblood (maroon) – broke my heart I couldn’t have buckets!

      Like 1
  7. Art Engel

    Beautiful car but so typical of today’s seller, spend two minutes on the ad, zero effort, minimal photos, no details and want the moon for your car. Next thing they’ll say is they’re swamped with inquiries, all because they put no details in the ad, so they have to answer every question about every little thing. Have fun with that!

    Like 9
    • AnthonyD

      Exactly! And it’s not like CL charges more for longer ads…a CL ad costs ..what..$5?

      Like 1
  8. Steve RM

    I was in high school working as a lot lizard when these came out. Buick made a big deal about the boattail. At the time I thought they were ugly but they’ve slowly grown on me to the point where I really like them now. This one has every thing going for it. The colors (interior and exterior) are perfect together.
    The only down side for me is that they are a BIG car.

    Like 2
  9. AzzuraMember

    Beautiful car! Always loved the boat tail design, and these colors really accent the lovely lines. Price does seem a bit high, but what else are you going to buy? Another pedestrian 65 mustang? No sir, give me this Buick any day.

    Like 10
  10. Billyray

    I think the ad is insufferably arrogant and can not be taken seriously by a real buyer. Is the mileage really 11,111, or is it just too much trouble to get the genuine reading? Is just the photo of the car sufficient to attract skads of eager buyers? I am not a fan of these cars, but my interest was piqued.

    Like 4
  11. Greg G

    I would love to commit on this one but it would take a couple of pages. So I’ll just say this is one of the prettiest styled personal luxury cars of the early 70’s and worth the ask. I’ll tell you this. Dream Cars and Big Boys Toyz would love to have this beauty. I’ve seen what they’ve done with a boat tail Riviera and it’s beyond words

    Like 1

    I’ve always loved the look of these boat tails, If I were looking for a mint
    turn key example this would be it, however I would need more info.

    Like 5
  13. David Cook

    As the old saying goes “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it”. I owned a 1971 Riviera GS which had 3.42:1 gearing, rather than the 2.93:1 that this one probably has. I got about 11 and 13 with it. Fortunately Buick enlarged the gas tank over my 1969 Riviera, from 21 gallons to 25. It should have been about 50 gallons. I was young then and the car needed gas on a trip before I needed a bathroom break. Today at 70, it’s the opposite!

    Like 7
  14. Wademo

    Again, hard for me to believe how much I would like to own one of these! I used to think these were just too weird and huge, now I think it would be cool to tool around in one!

    Like 3
  15. Robert West

    It’s always the big grocery getter cars that hold up well over time. It’s nearly impossible to find an old Camaro, Chevelle, Challenger, etc without holes in the floors and lower quarter panels.

    Like 0
  16. Old Man

    Those government-mandated battering-ram bumpers ruined the looks of the boattailed Rivies.

    Like 2
  17. ACZ

    Beautiful example. To bad it’s not a GS.

    Like 0
  18. George Mattar

    Great lead Adam. Who gives a damn about MPG when you can drive something actually styled and doesn’t have a stupid nav screen staring you in the face. Think about this. As fast as people drive today, this car gets decent mileage in contrast to them. I drive my 03 Mercury Grand Marquis at less than the speed limit and get 25 mpg.

    Like 0
  19. CarbobMember

    I’m always curious when a “museum quality” vehicle like this is up for sale as to what its back story is. As Adam remarked it would be nice if sellers took the time to provide pertinent information on the vehicle that they want someone to purchase for a not insignificant sum. But CL ad writers don’t seem to understand how doing this will enhance their chances of success. As one of my bosses of many moons ago used to tell us: “sell the sizzle”. One thing we know; it’s not been driven very much. I was 22 in 1973 and can’t imagine how if this was my new car not driving around as much as possible. I’m betting that this car has an interesting history. From what can be seen in the photos; this car is pristine and immaculate. A true cream puff as the car salesman used to say. I’m not going to pass judgment on the asking price for something like this. I would guess that it will sell in the neighborhood of the $35,000 that the seller wants. Try and find another one of these today in equivalent condition. The CL ad for this car at least has a picture of the engine and two of the interior! Woo-Hoo! This is a pretty car but unfortunately the mandated front bumper isn’t as elegant as the earlier Rivs. We referred to them as serving tray bumpers. This is a big American car built in the day when those folks who bought them weren’t terribly concerned with gas mileage. Same thing with Muscle Cars. My 1967 Mustang with the 390 got 5-8mpg and I ran out of gas more than once. Sunoco 260 wasn’t cheap even in the early 1970’s. But I had a stupid boy racer’s need for speed then; so I had to live with literally watching the old needle on the fuel gauge heading for empty if I was getting on it. This Buick will be a collector car and the new owner probably won’t be putting a thousand miles a year on it. So until they ban dinosaur juice I say: fill ‘er up. It’ll be worth it because cruising this sweetheart will certainly put plenty of smiles on the new owner’s face. GLWTS.

    Like 3
  20. JoeNYWF64

    How could the Riviera gained an incredible 500 lbs between 1971 and 1973?!
    200 at most if you ask me, due to 5mph/2.5mph bumpers.

    Like 0
  21. Tony

    As a former owner of a ’73 Riv, I wonder about the following:
    – were gold emblems even available? I would guess no, I have never seen them before and I’ve spent a lot of my life studying cars.
    – There is a pinstripe where bodyside molding would normally be. If the molding wasn’t ordered, I don’t believe pinstriping would be there in its place. So makes me wonder if there has been bodywork done?
    – As another has said, mileage stated as 11,111 makes me think the seller is just plain lazy. Doesn’t make me want to dig so deep in my pockets without many more questions answered about the car’s history.
    – As another said, the console is a rare sight and nice asset on this car.

    But seller should be giving us more photos and info to document this car’s condition!

    Like 1

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