When the time came to design the second-generation Buick Riviera, the corporation very much wanted its three upper divisions -- Oldsmobile, Buick, and Cadillac -- to share what would soon become the 1966-1967 E-body. Olds and Cadillac eventually did share it, of course, with the front-drive Eldorado arriving as a 1967 model Cadillac. General Motors agreed to give Olds one year of front-wheel-drive exclusivity, thus bolstering that division's reputation as a GM technology leader.
The 1966 Buick Riviera's dimensions and general shape derived from the Toronado, according to David R. Holls, who was Buick's design chief from 1963 through 1967. The 1966 Buick Riviera's design included grilles in the edges of the front fenders, W-shaped ends and headlights that flipped up underneath the hood.
The design of the Buick Riviera's hidden headlamps was very clever. Envision, in side view, an L-shaped assembly. One leg of the L contained twin sealed-beam units. The other leg carried a grille section that blended perfectly with the normal grille texture.
When the headlights were off, the lamps faced upward and laid underneath that part of the hood that overhung the grille. The other leg of the L, the grille section, automatically pointed down and became part of the grille. When the headlights were turned on, an electric motor behind the grille center rotated the L a full 90 degrees, flipping the lights down, while the grille insert moved up under the hood, behind the pivot.
Holls lists the 1966 Buick Riviera as one of his personal favorites. It was a big car, yet it didn't rely on size for its interest. There was visual appeal and impact in just the shape itself, a purity and simplicity that needed -- and fortunately got -- virtually no ornamentation. So there was very little to distract the eye from the total sculpture.
Everything flowed from one source, and the W-shaped front and rear complemented each other to give the car an overall harmony. The 1966 Buick Riviera was one of those rare, miraculous designs that made it into production without a lot of fussy committee contributions.
In addition, two benches became available: a standard version with a conventional 50/50 split, and an optional Strato Bench, with a center armrest. Both the Strato Bench and optional bucket seats could be ordered with extra-cost headrests and recliners.
The console added $47.03 to the price of any Buick Riviera, even the Gran Sport, and came with a basket-handle shift lever for the Super Turbine automatic transmission. Power steering and a tilt column were standard in all 1966-1970 Buick Rivieras, and for 1967 quick-ratio 15.0:1 steering became available as a $15.79 option.
On the next page, find out how GM modified the Buick Riviera in 1967.
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