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Unfinished Business: 1972 Buick Riviera

Buick joined the personal luxury car ranks in 1963 with the Riviera. Sales in the 1960s would peak at 50,000 units and then drop off. Buick redesigned the cars in 1971 thinking they would find new magic with distinctive boat tail styling. That didn’t help sales, which stayed stuck in the mid-30,000s for the first half of the decade. This 1972 Rivera has been partially restored and just needs finishing, but the seller has lost interest in the project. So, his loss is your gain on this Buick in Ottsville, Pennsylvania, and here on craigslist for $11,000. Thanks again, T.J., for your latest tip!

The 1971 Riviera was quite different from its predecessors and the competition, at least coming at it from the back half of the automobile. The styling was a throwback to exotic cars of the 1930s, like the Duesenberg Speedster. Rather than sales improving, interest in the Riviera went backward, from 37,000 copies in 1970 to 34,000 in 1971 and things would remain static through 1973. That’s when Buick started to downplay the styling. The ‘72 versions were very similar to the ’71s.

From what the seller of this ’72 Buick tells us he must have bought the car several years ago from a party in Oklahoma. As best as we can tell, much of the work performed since then has been cosmetic in nature. On the exterior, the paint and chrome have been redone, though there is a scratch on the hood from a garage door. From there, efforts moved inside where the upholstery was updated. But things didn’t stop there. The exhaust and brakes are newer now and the heads on the 455 cubic inch V8 were reworked.

As is often the case with projects, a lot of time passes with work still remaining and owners lose interest and move on to other projects. In this case, the 84,000-mile Riviera has become a shelf for other things in the garage, so it’s time for the car to move to someone else’s universe. A lack of use has led to a carbon build-up which the buyer will need to address before getting the automobile back out on the road. If you’ve been wanting one of these interesting cars, much of the heavy lifting on this one has already been done. But I’ll bet these are tricky to park without a backup camera.


  1. JoeNYWF64

    Looks like a camaro horseshoe shifter with 35% of it missing – odd.
    Looks like no room for optional gages.
    I’ll be darn if they made any even one-off 4 speed manual Rivs, Toros, or Eldos.
    Sure wish Toyota still made those once affordable 2 door Yaris’ – 1 blue 1 next to this Riv – they don’t even make 4 door Yaris’ anymore.

    Like 1
    • Jay McCarthy

      The Buick shifter was just an arm sticking out of the side of the console unlike the basket handle style

      Like 1

      The car is all stock and everything is correct.

    • Erik

      Here’s a better photo of the optional console shifter in the model year 1972 Riviera:

      Like 1
  2. Tim

    How can a lack of use produce a carbon build up?

  3. Jay McCarthy

    These cars were such a pleasure to drive, but like the Toronado and the Eldorado there wasn’t an overabundance of rear seat legroom with a 6ft1 person driving

  4. Patrick J Curran

    It was a daring design for sure, but it is a love it or hate it proposition which ultimately limited sales.
    Bill Mitchell’s original design was based on the “A Special” platform (Monte Carlo, Grand Prix) but he got pressure from GM to use the full size frame. He rarely lost a battle as he was a very powerful executive, but he lost this one. He stretched the original design to satisfy the Corporation but years later during an interview, he stated that he didn’t like the final outcome.

    Like 1
  5. Steve

    Like the bucket seat interior and console, not many equipped this way.

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