1963-1965 Buick Riviera Success

Because of its razor-edge lines, superb detailing, and advanced features, the 1963 Buick Riviera presented several problems for Fisher Body. For example, it was GM's first mass-produced car with frameless side glass, which meant Fisher had to develop a means to ensure proper window sealing. Removable outer door skins were part of the solution.

On the production line, the door was hung and adjusted so that the glass snuggled up to its gaskets. Then the door skins were installed and front fenders aligned to match via a special jig. The flush, adhesive-mounted rear window and windshield, both firsts for a production model, necessitated development of still other manufacturing techniques.

By 1965, the Buick Riviera's tail lamps (seen here) had moved into the bumper.
By 1965, the Buick Riviera's tail lamps had
moved into the bumper.

If the first Riviera's many design and engineering innovations seem clouded now, it's because so many of them have since been copied that they've been rendered commonplace.

But there's no question about its performance. Typical 0-60 mph acceleration was 8.5 seconds, with 16.5 seconds for the standing quarter-mile, faster than almost anything else on the road except for certain high-power sports cars.

Road test writer John Bolster of England timed the 1965 at 6.8 seconds to 60 mph and 15.4 seconds in the standing quarter-mile, placing it above the Jensen FF, the Ferrari 250 GT 2+2, and Aston Martin DB-4 GT, to name a few.

The 1963-1965 Riviera met with approval from all quarters, and has since earned Milestone status from the Milestone Car Society. Jaguar founder and designer Sir William Lyons said that Mitchell had done "a very wonderful job," and Sergio Pininfarina declared it "one of the most beautiful American cars ever built; it has marked a very impressive return to simplicity of American car design."

This beautifully preserved 1965 Riviera Gran Sport shows off even cleaner lines than the 1963.
This beautifully preserved 1965 Riviera Gran Sport
shows off even cleaner lines than the 1963.

At its debut at the Paris Auto Show, Raymond Loewy said the Riviera was the handsomest American production car -- apart from his own Studebaker Avanti, that is, the Riviera's only real competition for 1963.

General Motors had made a successful bid for what was advertised as "a new international classic." The reason was that Mitchell had made things happen for Nickles' elegant design, carrying it over all corporate hurdles with the cry of "no compromise!" The "jukebox age" was indeed over.

In the next and final section of this article, get specifications for the 1963-1965 Buick Riviera.

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