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1963-1965 Buick Riviera

1963-1965 Buick Riviera Proposed Design

At an early stage it was decided that the car was a bit narrow, so 3/4 inch was subsequently added to the beltline, creating a little "shelf" at the base of the side windows on the final production cars. An accent strip was added just below the rear window. This tended to emphasize the razor-edge line that ran the length of the car. Working together, the two made the car appear to be lower than it was.

Because of Mitchell's special liking for them, rear side scoops appeared on late clay models. The scoops were divided by horizontal lines in the various studies right up through the final fiberglass model, but these lines were lost by production time. However, the scoops were quite prominent on a Riviera show car, the Silver Arrow of 1964, which was often used by Mitchell "as his personal transportation."

Many solutions for acceptable headlight placement were tried. Some were awful. The original plan of placing headlamps in the fenders behind the grilles could not be engineered in time. Sliding panels were tried but just did not work.

Finally, the headlights were simply left exposed, placed horizontally in the grille, in order to meet time limitations and to save expense. There were groans from the sidelines.

The 1963-1965 Buick Riviera headlights (seen here) were left exposed for the final design.
Not everyone was thrilled about the placement of the
headlights on the Riviera.

George Moon directed the interior design effort. Sitting in the front seat of a 1965 Buick Riviera more than 20 years later, he said, "I had forgotten how nice this design was. You know, today we'd never be able to use all the brightwork that is here on the dash -- government regulations."

A couple of years before XP-715, Drew Hare, a member of Moon's team, had done the interior for XP-921, an experimental affectionately known among the designers as the "Buck Rogers" or "Double Bubble" car. This featured a "double-circle" theme for the dash and a distinctive split seat design in the rear. Hare and Moon drew heavily on these earlier themes for the Riviera's interior.

This 1963 Riviera dash design was like no other Buick's.
The 1963 Riviera dash design was like no other Buick.

In fact, all 1963 Buicks used the double-circle dashboard design. Because of its console, however, the Riviera's radio faceplate had to be V-shaped to fit (the 1963 had no front speaker). The console necessitated other changes, so the Riviera dash differed slightly from that in other Buicks.

The console itself was functional, housing an ashtray, two cigarette lighters, a compartment, the gear selector, courtesy lights, and ductwork for the air conditioning and heating systems.

When the design was completed, a fiberglass model of XP-715 was presented to the heads of the five GM divisions. Although the program was targeted for Cadillac, that division was selling cars at such a rate that it had no need for the new model and thus turned it down.

Chevrolet bowed out for the same reason, but Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Buick were quite interested. All three wanted and needed an innovative product like this, so a series of marketing presentations was scheduled to determine which division would get it.

Continue reading to find out how the "XP-715" became the "Riviera."

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