Catching even a glimpse of certain vintage vehicles instantly turns my head and makes me stop what I’m doing. While most are muscle cars, Buick’s personal/luxury 1963-’65 Rivieras have held that power over me as well. Though I still have yet to own one, my desire for doing so actually dates back to when I was a teenager living in northern New Jersey in the 1980s.
I guess you could say that the Riviera has been my dream car of the personal/luxury genre. My order of favorites within the first generation of the E-body Buick is the inverse of their production years—I prefer the ’65, then the ’64, followed by the ’63. I’ve long imagined piloting a Riviera on extended highway trips to exciting vacation destinations and arriving at large family gatherings in style, given the Buick’s stately appearance, smooth operation, and polished demeanor, as compared to some of the muscle cars I’ve owned, which are generally louder and targeted more towards performance than luxury.
From the fertile mind of GM styling chief Bill Mitchell and through the talents of designer Ned Nickles, this exquisitely rendered reaction to the four-seat Ford Thunderbird was initially developed as the XP-715 for Cadillac (and was referred to as the LaSalle II), but the division passed on it. It was then was awarded to Buick following a competition between the other divisions. Ever since the first time I saw a Riviera up close, I’ve admired its “knife-edged” exterior appearance.
Forward-jutting fenders implied motion, a formal roof instilled elegance, and large wheel openings showed off a generously sized 15-inch wheel/tire package with effective 12-inch brake drums (aluminum in front) behind it. The body’s proportions are just about perfect to my layman’s eye, and with a 117-inch wheelbase cruciform (X-type) frame and an overall length of about 208 inches, the Riviera was sized right to offer a more nimble driving experience than Buick’s larger and heavier luxury liners.