Sale of the Week

Boattail beauty: this 1973 Buick Riviera is a perfect sub-$20k cruiser

by Eddy Eckart
12 August 2022 2 min read
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Personal luxury cars emerged from Detroit in many stylish variations during their halcyon days of the 1970s, but you’d never miss a 1971-73 Buick Riviera among the other two-ton cruisers. Penned under Bill Mitchell’s tenure as Vice President of Design at GM, the big Riv’s distinctive prow, “sweepspear” fender lines, and boattail rear evoked classic Buick body cues while adding sharper accents that characterized Mitchell’s most successful designs. Surprisingly, one of the more memorable shapes to come out of Detroit in the early ’70s doesn’t cost an arm and a leg: at $18,375, this 1973 Riviera sale reminds us that elegant classics can still be affordable.

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Originally intended for GM’s intermediate platform, the third-generation Riviera got upsized by the time it made it to production for 1971. That first year was the cleanest and most true-to-concept iteration, as Buick added regulation-compliant bumpers in ’72 and again in ’73, and toned down the boattail for the final year. The car didn’t lose any of its unique appeal, however. Big blocks were the sole option in Rivieras (how else would you power a large boat?), and in 1973 the base trim 455 V-8 cranked out a low-compression 250 hp while the rarer GS bumped that up an additional ten ponies.

This particular Riv presents as a very nice #3-ish-Condition driver, and its sale price lands just $175 north of the Hagerty Price Guide #3 value. Its 34-year-old current shade of Mercedes Signal Red appears in good condition save a crack on the trunk lid. Inside, the tan seats show few signs of wear and the carpet is immaculate for a 49-year-old car. Videos depict a motorboat-smooth burbling idle and the seller claims the AC still blows cold. Overall, the car appears to need very little.

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The big coupe has broad appeal—it's not just Boomers flocking to third-gen Rivieras, although they make up the largest single share of quotes at 39%. Younger generations make up a majority of the interest in these Buicks, with Gen X and Millennials combining for 53% of quotes.

Say what you will about styling being subjective, this Riviera is certainly in the running for highest character-to-value ratio out there, and with due respect to the sleek first-gen cars, the boattail Riv is the one enthusiasts remember. I might be a bit biased, but big-body Buicks like the Riviera are a great way to get a head-turning big-block piece of Americana at a reasonable price.

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  • John K says:

    Hello, Good article. Yes, these are exciting cars and I would love to have one in my stable. Interesting analysis on the age groups seeking quotes. However it would be helpful to know how many total requests were made in this analysis. Thanks.

  • Bostwick9 says:

    It’s got “styling” alright. Great is a massive exaggeration.

    The 65-66 Marlin had “styling” too. And the ’58 Lincoln. The ’70 Gremlin.

    Tell me another one.

    I thought these were ridiculous when they came out. Time has not made them better proportioned or easier on the eye.

  • Larry D says:

    I loved them back then. I love them still 50 years later. But the ’71 is the ultimate thanks to its louvers.

    If it weren’t for these cars, would we even be talking about Rivieras?

  • Mike Schubert says:

    I never liked this body style. . . Give me an early or second generation Riv. . . But not one of these!!!!

  • OldFordMan says:

    Greeat Date Night cruiser! Big bench seat.

  • Jack Walden says:

    I have loved the design since I saw it in the Buick brochure my mom brought home to discuss the wagon she was going to order with dad. Lots of family Buicks back then.
    I passed on a 63’ Lincoln Continental convertible in ‘08 with an older restoration for 20k. Big mistake investment wise, not to mention it’s my #1 dream car.
    The Mercedes Red is too much.

  • Rick L. says:

    I did not care for them when new, but then again that was a transition time from horsepower to emissions, as well as major issues in going on in a divided country. Many of us from that time were mourning the death of the muscle car era. All these years later it is a unique look, not my cup of tea, but then again…

  • David Dean says:

    Your article rings true, but even in 1973 this was your fathers Buick. If they still remain, most were garage kept, and in reasonable condition. My first new car was a 69 Mustang Mach 1. These big Buicks are still too old for me.

  • Bob Bacchi says:

    I love Buicks, especially Rivieras. First, was a 1983 and then purchased a new 1995 supercharged. The current mileage is 67,xxx. This was a showroom car with many upgrades, chrome wheels Vogue Whitewalls, Burlwood dash, Italian leather seats and the Gold package and not for sale.
    I read constantly that the 1st generation Rivieras were the ones in the 60’s. I’ve always disputed that statement. To me the 1st generation began with the 1949 model which was the first without the “B” pillar and continued thereafter. It was the first Buick “hardtop” and was known as a Riviera Why is not recognized as such by Buick Riviera lovers?

  • Sajeev says:

    Love those boattail Rivs! Kinda surprised they aren’t worth even more than this, considering how valuable everything is today.

  • Ren says:

    Is it still for sale

  • ERIC Daniiels says:

    Just love that car

  • ERIC Daniiels says:

    Love that 1973 Riviera Buick

  • Jared Allen says:

    You need to do some actual research before putting anything into print.
    The buick 400, 430 and 455 are all the same block.
    1 unch wider than a SBC.
    30 pounds heavier than a SBC.
    There us no comparison between the different Buick engines and SBC/BBC Chevy engines, because Buick did not refer to their engines as small or big block– that was EXCLUSIVELY a Chevy thing.

  • Kevin says:

    My first car was a 73 Riviera. I also have had a second one for years until I lost it a few years ago. Fantastic cars. Mine had everything working perfectly and ran 12.60 in the 1/4.

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