1964 Buick Riviera Coupe

In 1953, GM introduced the Corvette as the first pure sports car to come from a Big Three manufacturer in the post-war era. Two years later, Ford responded with the Thunderbird, which shared the Corvette’s two-seat roadster layout but prioritized style over outright performance. Buyers responded by snapping up thousands of Thunderbirds while the Corvette teetered on the brink of cancellation due to lagging sales. The Corvette survived, of course, but in 1958, GM found themselves on the sidelines as the T-Bird evolved from a sporty 2-seater into a stylish four-seat “personal luxury car,” and sales skyrocketed. General Motors was forced back to the drawing board and began the development of a two-door, four-seat personal luxury car to take on the Thunderbird.

While on a trip to London, GM’s styling chief at the time, Bill Mitchell, found inspiration among the coachbuilt Rolls-Royces he saw, particularly the razors-edge panel transitions where soft lines intersected with a subtle crease. When he returned to Detroit, he charged his team to create a fresh and modern concept incorporating key elements of the Rolls-Royce style, but in an entirely new design to suit American tastes. The first glimpse of the car’s shape appeared on the GM XP-715 show car, designed by Ned Nickles and originally pitched to Cadillac as a revival of the LaSalle name. Cadillac passed on the opportunity, so Buick swept in, eager to revitalize its stagnant image.

Under the Buick umbrella, the XP-715 evolved into the Riviera, a name previously applied to high-level trim packages on specific models. The striking Coke-bottle profile was noticeably devoid of the superfluous chrome trim and fussy detailing that defined the 1950s. The flowing beltline intersected with sharply creased panel transitions, with a perfectly proportioned roofline and no central B pillar to spoil the lines. The distinct egg-crate grille and scoops in the quarters lent a sporty and purposeful appearance, while the optional 425 cubic-inch, 340-horsepower OHV V8 provided ample thrust. For a base price of $4,333, customers got a host of standard features as well as an impressive list of luxury and performance options. Not surprisingly, Buick’s gorgeous new Riviera was a hit with buyers and was considered an instant classic among car enthusiasts. Sophisticated and stylish, the Riviera saw only minor changes in the first three years of production, and many enthusiasts and industry experts consider these first-generation cars as the most elegant and beautiful production American cars of the modern era.

This 1964 Riviera is a great example of Buick’s iconic grand tourer, presented in its original color scheme of Bronze Mist over Saddle trim. This Riviera is a good original car that features numerous desirable options including factory air conditioning, power steering, power brakes, rear bucket seats, and electric windows. Paintwork (code S, per the trim tag) is attractive all around, with some imperfections noted on inspection. One of the most distinctive features of the Riviera is the car’s relative lack of fussy chrome trim, the designers utilizing thin-line trim to highlight the sophisticated shape. This car has sound and attractive brightwork overall. Some fading is noted on the headlamp bezels along with light patina on minor chrome parts. It sits nicely on the road, rolling on factory steel wheels shod with chrome wire wheel covers and whitewall radial tires.

Luxury and style continue inside the four-place cabin, which features bucket seats in the front and rear, with aircraft-inspired controls and details. The seat upholstery is in good condition, and the carpets and door panels are in fine fettle, as is the delicate wood veneer on the console. Controls, instruments, and switches look to be in good original condition, all appearing in tidy order. A period-correct Sonomatic radio sits in the dash above controls for the factory-fitted air conditioning (code N2 on the trim tag), and other equipment includes power windows and a remote trunk release.

Driving the Riviera is a joy, thanks to the effortless power from the single four-barrel-equipped 425 cubic-inch Wildcat V8, automatic transmission, power steering, and power brakes. Rated for 340 horsepower, the 425 is the ultimate development of Buick’s Nailhead overhead-valve engine. The “Wildcat 465” air cleaner decal reflects the peak torque rating of 465 lb-ft for the single carb version. This car features a slightly later block from a 1965 model, and it is well-presented in the tidy engine bay, with the block and heads finished in proper Buick light blue and with authentic detailing.

Design experts, car enthusiasts, and journalists consistently rank the first-generation Buick Riviera as one of the finest designs to come out of Detroit in the 1960s. It is also a marvelous car to drive thanks to that powerful V8 and luxurious, well-appointed cabin. This lovely driver quality example reflects that view with its attractive presentation and usable, road-ready character. It is ideally suited for regular enjoyment in club events or simply for casual weekend cruising, with power, luxury, and sophistication to spare.


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