1983 Buick Riviera Coupe, 2-door
Original cost: $15,905 (In 1983, average household income, $21,070; average house cost $82,600)
On loan from: Brad Kernick, Kearney, NE
Number made: 1,330
Engine, etc.: V-6; 231 cu. in.; 180 hp; automatic; 3,590 lbs.; 114” wheelbase
The Riviera nameplate was used by Buick from 1963 – 1999.
The Buick Company began business in 1902. Before this, David Dunbar Buick owned a plumbing company. It was sold in 1899 and the Buick Auto-Vim and Power Company was formed to produce gasoline engines mostly for farm and marine use. In 1902 a reorganization formed the Buick Manufacturing Company making Buick one of the oldest continuous automobile producers in American history.
The Riviera name first appeared on a Buick in 1949 and was used to designate a new two-door pillar-less hardtop known as the Roadmaster Riviera. In 1951 it was used for the Super 4-door sedan. It wasn’t until 1963 that the Riviera became an individual model rather than a name used across Buick’s model lines.
In 1979 the Riviera was redesigned and reconstructed. It had front-wheel drive for the first time, a 114 in. wheelbase, and a design shared with the Olds Toronado and Cadillac Eldorado. Motor Trend named it their “Car of the Year”.
Buick began trying to reach out to a younger, more affluent customer in the 1980’s. Lloyd Reuss became the general manager in 1980 and wanted Buick to become an American-style BMW and he got his way. The 350 engine was dropped in 1981 and replaced with the Olds 5-liter engine with 140 hp. The V-6 252 cu. in. engine was now standard. In 1982 Buick added a convertible to the Riviera line.
By 1982 there were sporty versions of almost every Buick model that featured a firmer chassis, a more potent engine, and “driver oriented” interiors. Buick started an Indy-car racing program for its V-6 and offered add-on parts to increase performance in order to improve its image as a more youthful, performance-oriented brand. In 1983 Buick was chosen as the Pace Car to lead the Indianapolis 500.
It worked for a while and Buick went to third in industry production in 1982-3 and fourth in 1984-5. It slipped in 1986 and 1987 mainly due to new competition from Pontiac which had returned to its ’60’s-style performance theme.
In 1984, Buick decided to cease trying to be all things to all people and began returning to its traditional upper-middle class luxury market niche.
See also: http://www.oldcarbrochures.com/static/NA/Buick/1983_Buick/1983%20Buick%20Full%20Line%20Prestige/index1.html (Original 1983 Buick brochure)