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Ready for Cruise Night: 1971 Buick Riviera


Among other styling qualities, the Buick Riviera was perhaps most well known for its “boat-tail” rear end design. But really, taken as a whole, the entire car is quite striking – and I’m always surprised they don’t sell for more money. Take this barn-find 1971 example here on eBay: it’s listed for $14,500 or best offer, which seems like a fair price for a nearly rust-free and running, driving example of a well-loved American classic.  The earlier cars are considered more desirable by some, but are also more expensive. Which one would you choose? 


The interior remains in great condition despite the Riv’s prolonged storage. It’s easy to envision stretching out behind the wheel for lots of comfortable, well-padded miles, cruising to the beach or simply down to the boulevard for a meet. Although Rivieras are often modified with modern wheels and sometimes air suspension, I think they’re quite stunning as-is. The seller doesn’t mention it, but I’d have to assume the power features are working since it doesn’t look hacked apart inside.


The 455 engine was sadly on a downward trajectory power-wise thanks to changing EPA requirements. It still made a respectable 255 b.h.p., but for a car this large, 300 horses would seem like the lowest number you’d want at your disposal. If you opted for the slightly more powerful GS package, the Riviera would still hit 60 in 8.1 seconds – so figure this example may be a step or two behind.


If the seller’s description is true (and his solid eBay feedback is reassuring), then this Riviera just has some minor cosmetic needs, like a badge missing and the chrome needing to be polished. There’s some minor paint chipping and a rust spot at the bottom of the left front fender. Other than that, this seems like a turnkey classic you can enjoy immediately. Is this one to buy, or are you better off increasing your budget to own one of the more desirable early models?


  1. Avatar photo Ceezy

    I currently own an ’83 Riv, but this has always been my favorite. Love the color and it looks like a great car to play with.

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  2. Avatar photo Gary I

    I have a 1969 Riviera, great looking car, drives nice, good torque and hp in the 430. I have always been shocked at the low value of these cars for what they are. The Riviera was Buicks flagship, always top of the line, always full of features, big block power, chrome and stainless trim everywhere. You get a lot of car for your money, but it makes restoring tough, since values are so so. I never really fell for the boat tail design, as kids we called them frog cars, thought they resembled a jumping toad or frog hunched up. I think $14,500 is fair for a car that you couldn’t build for less.

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  3. Avatar photo Howard A Member

    My ex-BIL had a “Boatailed Riv” like this. It was a beautiful car, but claimed the worst gas mileage ever ( single digits, mostly) and it handled, well, like a boat, but was probably one of the last really nice Buick’s made.

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  4. Avatar photo Moparmann Member

    I like the color combo, and it has the road wheels, BUT, the non-OEM body side molding (of which I normally am a fan of) IMO detracts from the look because it doesn’t accurately follow the character line. Also, those HIDEOUS exhaust tips would have to go; and I’m not sure that the vinyl top was extended to the trunk from the factory. Other than those quibbles, it looks good! :-)

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  5. Avatar photo George

    This year has always been my favorite look from the second it was released. It’s just that over the top look that appeals to me. I always thought that it needed a flying bridge with driver controls up top. I had that idea long before the cartoon in Road & Track showed the same concept. After all, they don’t call them Land Yachts for nothing!

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  6. Avatar photo Joe Nose

    That white pointy-end trunk lid is soo wrong.

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  7. Avatar photo Chris Member

    These things are tanks. I was riding shotgun in one of these boat tails back in the early 80’s when we hit a concrete telephone pole head on while doing 60 mph .

    The pole sheared off re-bar & all and fell over….We were able to back the car off the stump with almost no visible damage. And while the entire front end seemed to have shifted back 1/2″, that pole would have cut any other car in half length wise.

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  8. Avatar photo Chris A.

    These were a polarizing design, you loved it or hated it, no in between. As a big fan of the first three versions of the Riviera I thought these were a mish-mash ugly POS design. But now I sort of like the fact they are so different from anything you’ll see on the road and in motion they have a neat presence. Still not my favorite, but what a nice cruiser with a great interior. Per George above, I’d forgotten about the R & T “flying bridge” version that was an actual car. Now that car was over the top.

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  9. Avatar photo Roseland Pete

    I always loved the BT’s and spent years looking for a low-mileage, bronze, 71 but switched my focus because of the rust/water-leak issues I saw due to the trunk louvers which they got rid of a year later. I finally got a 72 with 9,600 miles.

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  10. Avatar photo Justin Boyle

    Looks clean, and seems like a fair price. Maybe with a bit of engine tuning, and a few other things, it could be a good performer. I LOVE the boat tail Riviera!

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  11. Avatar photo AMC STEVE

    Best year of the BATMOBILE. This color combo doesn’t work for me on this car and it’s not a GS but this car is number 3 on my wish list. My uncle had a triple black one in 71 and I remember how stunning this car was when I first saw it.

    There is nothing like it.

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  12. Avatar photo Keith

    Agree with AMC Steve 71 is the year you really want to go for on the boat tails. $14.5k for a non-GS would be a lot (IMHO)

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  13. Avatar photo Rocco

    There is a black one on that TV show “Second Chance”. It is really cool looking.

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  14. Avatar photo Jim Benjaminson

    Stumbled across this 1971 Buick Riviera and the more I looked at the photos I thought to myself – this is the car I bought new back in February 1972. It was a dealer carry-over model and I was working for the dealer at the time. I added ’72 body moldings and the “Barris custom tail piece” to the car. Looking at the photos I kept saying – how many blue ’71 Riviera’s with the white “skunk tail” could there be. It had to be my car. I contacted the seller and found it was already sold. I asked him to pass along the info to the purchaser and have him contact me, as I still had all the original paperwork for the car. A gentleman from Mississippi called me – I gave him the serial number and guess what – yes, it was MY car, purchased new in North Dakota in 1972. I’ve since sent the new owner copies of all the paperwork, including the window sticker, dealer invoice, etc. Small world……

    Like 1

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