VentiPorts: 1957 Buick Super Riviera

Generally when the name “Riviera” is invoked, an image of Bill Mitchell’s 1963 outstanding design surfaces. But actually, the name was used earlier than ’63 and applied to different upscale models like the Roadmaster and today’s subject, a 1957 Buick Super 50. An interesting car to review, this Super Riviera is located in Martell, Nebraska and is available, here on eBay for a current bid of $3,275, reserve not yet met. There is a BIN option of $7,995 available too.

The Riviera name was first employed by Buick in 1949 and it recurred through the ’50s as a trim/upgrade to long-wheelbase models. The Riviera’s designation was originally offered on four-door models only, but by 1957 it was available on two-door hardtops too. And not only available on the Super model, the Riviera “panache” graced both the Century and Roadmaster as well. Looking for external evidence? You won’t find it as the Riviera name did not appear on any of the so-designated model’s exteriors. Rare? Not really, the total production volume of two-door model Super 50 Rivieras in ’57 was about 26K units. A tip of the hat to Hemmings for the Riviera specifics.

The seller indicates that he purchased this Buick without a title but he was able to contact the original owner, who was still in possession of the document, and got it properly transferred. The estimate is that this Riviera has been off the road since 1970, but that’s just an estimate on the seller’s part. Assuming that this car has been sitting for half a century, it must have been parked in a dry, and at least somewhat protected, environment. There is typical worn, original paint and some surface rust but the body still looks solid. The seller claims that there are only two small rust spots on the driver’s side rocker but the inner rockers and underside of this big Buick are sound. Buicks of this era had rather extensive trim, and this Riviera is no exception. The good news is that most of it is present with the possible exception of the passenger-side fender spear. And what is there shows pretty well, other than the red-painted center stripe which is chipping away. Of note, are the two chrome-plated “lifts” positioned on opposite sides of the trunk lid – functional, as well as a very neat styling cue.

Cluing in on this Riviera’s resting place, the interior confirms that a protected environment was part of the equation. The seats, dash, instrument panel, door cards, and headliner still present pretty well. There is a rubber mat covering the floor so it’s hard to get a good look at the inside floor condition, but as previously mentioned, they good OK from the underside. The trunk floor is another matter, however, it’s obscured with stuff but it would seem to need attention. A cleaning and freshening are in order but beyond that, it is usable as-is. And yes, the original radio is situated right where it belongs.

This Buick is a four port-holer so expect some oomph under the hood and in this case, it’s a 300 gross HP, 364 CI, V8 “nailhead” engine. The seller states, “engine has no water pump, and when I put the battery in it recently the starter clicked but did not turn it over. I think the engine is stuck, but doubt it is much“. It may not be that serious as the clicking could be the result of a low charge battery, a bad solenoid, or the starter in general. The breaker bar on the balancer-bolt trick is probably a better way to make a potential seized motor determination. If, as previously suggested, this Buick has been non-operative for the last 50 years, the engine will probably need quite a bit of attention. The missing water pump is a mystery, there is no detail surrounding that matter. The sole transmission available in the Buick Super was the Dynaflo automatic.

This Buick Super Riviera just oozes ’50s excess but it does it with class and not wretchedness. Note the through-the-bumper exhaust outlets, they are just so typical of this era. I found a similar model Buick that was sold at auction this past August for about $25K but it was a survivor with a cosmetic restoration. It will cost a significant amount to get this Buick into a similar condition as that auction example so this Riviera would be a project undertaken for the sake of saving a great old car. What do you think, worth the effort?

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Comments

  1. Fred W

    Got a good laugh out of “I think the engine is stuck, but not much”.

    Like 10
  2. Little_Cars

    Wheels from a 1990s Silverado….actually work and look nice. Don’t think that front seat upholstery is original. Seems to be some sort of embossed vinyl maybe even some sort of western pony theme (???)

    Like 1
    • Big Drag 49

      Pretty sure those are seat covers over the original upholstery. Maybe the original is in perfect condition? Or a total mess.
      Looks like “Cherry Bomb” mufflers!

  3. Ben T.Spanner

    Yes, those are “cruiseline ventiports”

  4. Will Fox

    Jim, you forgot to mention what “Riviera” referred to. It was Buick-speak for a pillarless hardtop! Just like ‘Holiday’ was with Olds, ‘Catalina’ used by Pontiac, and ‘DeVille’ by Cadillac, etc. The Super was built on the same wheelbase as the Roadmaster, and had upgraded trim the Special didn’t have.

    Like 3
    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      Right!

      Thx Will

      JO

      Like 1
  5. Bob C.

    I have a vision of Broderick Crawford behind the wheel of this thing. 2150 to headquarters.

    Like 10
  6. Bruce Fischer

    Some year Buicks water pumps were rare.I had a 56 Buick station wagon and only that year fit it.Bruce.

    Like 1
  7. Charles Simons

    I love the roof line…very clean

    Like 1
  8. HARM R SMIT

    Ah! When cars were cars! Great design nice potential. Complete!

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