COASTING ALONG ON ITS NAME
I think I was trolling the blocks of Kensington in Brooklyn when I ran across this slab. With its dated styling cues such as the padded landau vinyl roof it looks like the last one to leave the '70s party. Laugh all you want people, I present to you the Motor Trend Car of the Year for 1979!
This is actually a 1984-1985 Buick Riviera in one of a few Silvers they offered that year. As befitting the yawn-inducing decade that the '80s were for General Motors they list 7 different versions of gray and silver, followed by a further 10 soft blues and greens that could be mistaken for gray. It's like a mighty fog descended over the art department that couldn't be cleared.
Oh man. Sometimes a car just looks like it's reflecting on a life of wasted opportunities. Sad down turned eyes and chipped teeth. Bad posture. "The kids don't even call at Christmas anymore" this expression seems to be saying.
On a less emotional level you can identify the age somewhat by the grill changes over the years. This "waterfall" grill design was used in 1980, and then again in '84-'85. Someone took the hood ornament which is a stylized R in a chrome oval.
The Riviera name harkens back to 1963 when Buick took the Paris Auto Show by storm in its debut. Sir William Lyons (the founder of Jaguar) and Sergio Pininfarina (responsible for some of the most celebrated Ferrari designs in history) both lavished praise on the car. Unfortunately like many storied nameplates it ended up being slapped on some truly forgettable slabs over the years. Talk to the 1986 Chevy Nova or Dodge Charger and ask them how they feel.
This is the doppelganger to the Caddy in which DeNiro was almost blown up in Casino. The Olds Toronado, too, was the same front wheel drive, long hood short deck 2 door coupe. It does have some gangster lines with its big wheel arches and overall presence, at least when parked. The engine choices were a maligned list of GM failures such as an underpowered diesel, a turbocharged V6 (which was a spectacular motor but not in this big car), and a 307 V8 that was starved of power due to emissions. Despite all this a 1983 turbocharged V6 Riviera convertible was chosen as the pace car for that years Indy 500.
Once the sign of forward thinking design now gaudy paste jewelry on a dowager.
Here we see another indication that this car is not from 1980 as the grill suggests it could be. The taillights had that horizontal line bisecting it only in '84-'85. The plastic trim around both front and read bumpers has been obliterated by years of being parked on the streets. That gargantuan bumper look perfect though.
From this angle with the sunroof option on display and pretty much the coolest '80s GM wheels available it looks alright. For the decade this is actually a swoopy Coke Bottle design.
Pardon my finger reflection, but at least you can see the towel showing you how to do sit-ups. The leather is deep and creamy, meant to coddle even the most hemorrhoidal bum. The dashboard is like a wooden building with vents and electronics filling the windows.
The back is even more so creamy and dreamy. the center rectangle is an armrest you can pull down when you're not heavy petting (this IS the Riviera). Ashtrays, though not on display in these pics, abound.
Well there we are; one more great big slab of dreariness in the books. I suppose if I had to make an escape I wouldn't mind climbing on board and shoving this thing down the street, but really I'm having a hard time finding redeeming features on this car.
The late-'70s is often offered up as the lowest point in domestic automotive design. To me those cars were underpowered for sure, but interesting in the scope of their bad timing. To me this is the very lowest ebb for cars in America. Japan so thoroughly had its hands around the neck of Detroit at this point that the movie Gung Ho came out. Ford was busy building the Taurus which would slowly get things back on track, but for now, Riviera.