In the '40s and '50s, "Riviera" meant "hardtop coupe" at Buick; from '63 on it named a personal-luxury hardtop, Buick's Ford Thunderbird-fighter. But in mid-1982, the Riv flipped its lid. Though Buick's motives remain unclear, the new open 1983 Buick Riviera provided welcome proof that the Big Three hadn't abandoned convertibles in the '70s, just put them on furlough.

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1983 Buick Riviera
The ragtop didn't last long, but it is a coveted rarity today. See more pictures of classic cars.

Like some other reborn ragtops of that time, the Riviera was an outside conversion. ASC Incorporated did the job, and also assisted with body and top engineering. Little structural strengthening was required, as Riviera's new-for-'79 General Motors E-body was already pretty stiff as a hardtop coupe. That redesign also introduced the first Riviera with front-wheel drive and all-independent suspension, plus crisp new styling on a trim 114-inch wheelbase, the shortest in Riviera history. The convertible naturally benefited from all this, and looked even more distinctive than coupes because it didn't share a roofline with stablemates Olds Toronado and Cadillac Eldorado.

 

1983 Buick Riviera
The 1983 Buick Riviera didn't have a large production run, making it valuable to collectors.
 

Though Riviera coupes came in regular and sportier turbocharged T Type editions, the convertible was a well-equipped solo offering, initially base-priced at $23,994. Buick's new 125-horsepower 4.1-liter V-6 was standard, with a 140-bhp 307 Olds-built V-8 a no-cost option. Buick's 175-bhp turbo 3.8 V-6 was allegedly available, but few if any ragtops were so equipped. Even with the V-8, a hefty 3800-pound curb weight gave the convertible only adequate performance at best.

Not so the twin-turbo V-6 ragtop that paced the 1983 Indianapolis 500. Alas, that honor did nothing for soft-top sales. Nor did few changes through 1985, after which an even smaller Riviera debuted and the convertible was canceled. Buick built 1750 open Rivieras in 1983, followed by just 500 in '84 and a mere 400 in '85. A modern collector car? You better believe it.

For more classic convertibles of the 1980s and 1990s, see:

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