1963-1965 Buick Riviera Production

When Jack Tinker arrived in Flint to see the Riviera production prototype, he was elated. He and his team studied the car, then returned to New York where he arranged for some of the ad industry’s top photographers to capture the new model on film.

Among them were respected fashion photographers Irving Penn and Bert Stern. With the kind of secrecy usually reserved for the CIA, an early production car was shipped under wraps to New York City and the team quickly began crafting the Riviera’s image.

The general form of the magazine ads and where they would appear was decided. Mitchell had elected to display the Riviera name in script, just like the Las Vegas hotel. Tinker developed a transected “R” design for the car’s logo and insisted that early ads show a reflection of this as part of the format.

The elegance that was part and parcel of the Riviera’s image was largely the result of decisions made by Tinker and his “Thinkers.” Much of that image, including the famous logo, lives on in today’s Riviera.

The Buick Riviera (seen here) emerged for 1963 as a U.S. styling landmark.
The Buick Riviera emerged for 1963 as a
U.S. styling landmark.

Well into the ad campaign, Buick’s marketing people decided that the ads were a bit too elegant, that people were getting the idea that the Riviera was so plush and uncommon that it was unaffordable. As a result, ads were toned down and leather interiors were not offered as an option for the 1964-1965 models.

In a similar move, Roland Withers decided to give the 1965 version more of a muscle aura, suggesting that Buick offer a high-performance Gran Sport package and factory mag-style wheels as options. Following the Executive Committee’s decision, Buick had sent the XP-715 design and models over to engineering for production development, with specific instructions to leave the body alone.

Chief Engineer Lowell Kintigh, who carefully watched all projects in his domain, delegated Riviera engineering to Phil Bowser, Buick’s Director of Research and Development and Assistant Chief Engineer.

“Kintigh told me what he wanted for the Riviera and told me to bring it to him when I had finished,” Bowser says. From Mitchell came word that the car should have performance somewhere between that of a comfortable sedan and a sports car.

This was not idle talk, and Mitchell sent his assistant, Ed Glowacke, to check up on Engineering’s progress and to give a suggestion here and there. Glowacke, renowned at GM as a perfectionist, had kept tabs on things during the Riviera’s design gestation and would continue to do so right through production tooling at Fisher Body.

Go to the next page to read about how Buick engineering stayed true to Bill Mitchell's luxury sedan/sports car design.

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