Harley Earl was legendary in the automotive world from the 1930s through his retirement in the late 1950s. As General Motors’ first Vice President of Styling, he pioneered car design. He was the first to use modeling clay for new model mock-ups, pushed to integrate fenders into car hoods to create a more unified body, and was known for driving concept cars as daily drivers. When Bill Mitchell took over for Earl, he had big shoes to fill. One of his first projects was the creation of a new personal luxury coupe that would become the Buick Riviera.
Bowing in October 1962 as a 1963 model year offering, the Buick Riviera name had been used previously as a Buick Roadmaster trim line. The new Riviera (Italian for coastline) would put a priority on fit and finish. An example of this was the installation and adjustment of the doors and door windows prior to application of the outer door skins, insuring proper fitment. Riviera production would be limited, guaranteeing exclusivity.
The Buick Riviera was built on a modified Buick Electra frame. At seventeen feet, it undercut the Buick LeSabre’s length by seven inches, but was both longer and 400 pounds lighter than its prime competitor, the Ford Thunderbird.
The Buick Riviera was meant to be a personal luxury car, and as such, came with a long list of luxury equipment and options. The interior was big and roomy, able to comfortably accommodate four passengers. The dash cascade ran rearward between the front seats, creating individual rear buckets. The center stack was home to separate air conditioning and heat controls, as well as the radio. Door panels had both front and rear door handles so the rear-seat passengers could open the door without troubling the front-seat occupants. Vinyl upholstery was standard, with leather an available option. Other available options included power windows, power locks, power seats, tilt wheel, air conditioning, cruise control, AM-FM radio, and an automatic trunk release.
The Buick Riviera was a hit, selling 40,000 units in the first year of production. It would be in continuous production through the 1999 model year, spanning eight generations.
1985 was the last year of the sixth-generation Buick Riviera. By that time, the Riviera had evolved into a front-wheel-drive personal luxury car, riding on the same platform as the Cadillac Eldorado and Oldsmobile Toronado. Offered as either a coupe or convertible, the Riviera could be had with a number of engine options including 4.1-liter V6, a 307 cubic-inch carbureted Olds V8, and even a rather unimpressive diesel. Production for 1986 was 65,305 units.
Our feature Buick Riviera is a true time capsule, having covered a scant seventy-seven miles from new. Highly original, it is finished in Dark Blue metallic paint with a matching partial vinyl top over a tan cloth interior. The Riviera is powered by a carbureted 5.0-liter V8 and a four-speed automatic transmission. As one would expect of a luxury vehicle, the Riviera is loaded with a power sunroof, power windows, power locks, power seats, power mirrors, trunk release, Twilight Sentinel headlight dimmer, Concert Sound stereo, cruise control, tilt steering, and a Gran Touring suspension. Mechanical work performed in preparation for the sale includes a new Delco battery, cooling system service with re-cored radiator and new hoses, and new belts. Included in the sale are all the original parts, window sticker, build sheet, dealer inspection checklist, and an Ohio title confirming the mileage.
This 1985 Buick Riviera will cross the Mecum Auctions block at their 36th Annual Spring Classic in Indianapolis, Indiana taking place May 12th through the 20th.