1965 Buick Riviera Gran Sport

1965 Buick Riviera Gran Sport

There are few people that have not heard of the Buick Riviera. For more than four decades the name has symbolized style, luxery and power. While it has never really been considered a muscle-car, big motors and sleek two-door styling have made them a desireable car for collectors and restorers. The Riviera represented one of the most sucessful American attempts at capturing European styling and performance in a large automobile, and an indication of it's popularity is the fact that it has been in continuous production since 1963, and has undergone 7 different generational changes.

Lee family with their 65 Riviera

This particular Riv belongs to the Lee family (above). A full, frame-off restoration, it took a little over a year to complete. The Lee's seem pleased with the result. Some things are worth the wait.

1965 Buick Riviera Gran Sport, side view

The Riviera name actually goes back to 1949 when Buick introduced a two-door, pillarless hardtop, which was described in advertising as "stunningly smart." The Roadmaster Riviera (as well as the Cadillac Coupe de Ville) were the first mass production vehicles to use this body style, which became very popular over the next 30 years. 1963 was the year the Riviera would become a separate model in its own right, but unlike other GM models, it would not share it's body-shell with any other model in the Buick line-up. Because it came with every conceivable luxury option, it soon became the flagship of the Buick line.

1965 Buick Riviera Gran Sport, quarter front view

The Riviera rode on a cruciform frame similar to the standard Buick frame, but shorter and narrower. The suspension used the same basic design as standard Buicks, with double wishbones in front and a live axle located by trailing arms and a lateral track bar, but with the roll centers raised to reduce body lean. With the same power as the larger Buicks and less weight, the Riviera had great all-around performance. According to Motor Trend, it was capable of running 0-60 mph in 8 seconds or less, and the standing quarter mile in about 16 seconds. The Riviera was introduced on October 4, 1962 as a 1963 model, with a base price of $4,333.00 (although typical delivered prices with options ran upwards of $5,000). Production was deliberately limited to 40,000 or less to increase demand, and Buick sold all 40,000.

1965 Buick Riviera Gran Sport, quarter rear view

The Riviera continued with minimal trim changes for 1964, differing mainly in substitution of the old Twin Turbine for the new Super Turbine 400. This was the first year that the Stylized "R" emblem was used on the Riviera, a trademark that would continue throughout the remainder of Riviera's production run.

1965 Buick Riviera Gran Sport, front view

Changes for 1965 included the introduction of the Gran Sport option, which included the dual-quad Super Wildcat 425 cid V8 (360 bhp), a numerically higher 3.42 axle ratio (plus posi-traction), dual exhausts, and stiffer, heavy-duty suspension (to answer handling complaints). The 401 (6.5 L)V8 returned as the standard Riviera engine and the Super Turbine 400 transmission now had a variable pitch torque converter. All this added to an estimated top production speed of 125-mph for the Grand Sport..

Externally, the headlamps were concealed behind clamshell doors in the leading edges of each fender, as in the original design. Further back, the non-functional side scoops between the doors and rear wheel arches were removed, and the taillights were moved from the body into the rear bumper. The 63-65 models constituted the "first generation" of the Buick Riviera. Total sales for the three model years was a respectable 112,244.

1965 Buick Riviera Gran Sport, rear view

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Rod & Custom Magazine, December 2006

Click on the magazine cover to read the December 2006, Rod & Custom article on this Riviera

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