It has a 7.0-liter V-8, hideaway headlamps, and exclusive, swoopy styling. If we’re talking late-1960s General Motors products, that sounds a lot like a third-generation Corvette. Not everyone can daily drive a two-seater, and if you were going to drop $4,600 on personal transportation back in 1968, there was another option. It came not from Chevrolet, however, but from GM’s founding division: Buick.
“The automobile you drive must be more than a machine that takes you from one place to another,” Buick said in Riviera promotional materials. “It must be as exciting to drive as it is to look at and as exciting to look at as is reliable to drive. Obviously, Riviera is your automobile
.”That may have been obvious five decades ago, but the second-generation Riviera is often overlooked these days. That’s a mistake. You see, if you wanted a big-block, A/C-equipped vintage ’Vette with an automatic transmission now, you’d best be prepared to spend around $60,000. A similarly optioned Riv, meanwhile, can be had in like condition for about a quarter of that.
We drove this example not long ago and can tell you: Unless you want to attend track days on the regular, you’ll have just as much fun in the Buick. Maybe more if you have some friends you’d like to bring along, or just prefer some extra room to stretch out
The Ivy Gold Mist example on these pages belongs to John Scheib (no relation to Earl, in case you were wondering) of West Hartford, Connecticut. Just to look at his car, you immediately realize a Riviera of this era was more than mere transportation. Take that curvaceous styling, for instance. It’s a clear departure from the sharper, more vertically oriented, Ferrari-meets-Rolls Royce looks of the 1963-’65 first-generation Riviera. At first glance, you could be forgiven if you mistook the Buick for an Oldsmobile Toronado, but look closer and it’s a more conservatively styled car.
That conservatism extends to the chassis. While the Toronado and the Riviera, along with the Cadillac Eldorado, shared GM’s E-body platform, only the Riviera adheres to the traditional American approach of a front engine and rear-wheel drive. The decision to retain what was tried and proven good not only means it’s a more straightforward car for the modern owner to service and find parts for, but its driving manners are familiar and predictable.
In the Buick’s cruciform X-frame chassis are nestled such well-respected parts as a division-specific differential, Super Turbine 400 transmission (that’s a TH-400 with a Switch Pitch torque convertor, in case you don’t speak Buick), and 430-cu.in. V-8.
The 430 was only in its second year in 1968, having recently replaced the 425-cu.in. “nailhead” engine found in earlier Rivieras. It shares its stroke with the later 455-cu.in. V-8, but uses a slightly smaller bore. The engine in John’s base-model Riviera was rated for 360 hp at 5,000 rpm and 475 lb-ft of torque at 3,200 rpm, thanks to 10.25:1 compression and a Quadrajet four-barrel carburetor
.Standard rear gearing was a long-legged 3.07:1, perfect for road tripping like John’s visit to the GM centennial in Flint, Michigan, back in 2008. Along on that trip was his wife, Bea, with whom he was celebrating 40 years of marriage—a perfect coincidence with the age of the Riviera. Back in ’68, leadfoots also had the option of more aggressive 3.42:1 gears with a limited-slip differential as a part of the Riviera GS package.