A stroked 340 V-8 was standard for the 1966 Buick LeSabre.

1964, 1965, 1966 Buicks

For 1964, Buick joined Olds and Pontiac in offering larger, restyled compacts with GM's new midsize A-body platform, also used by Chevy's new Chevelle. Wheelbase stretched to 115 inches for all body styles except the new Skylark Sport Wagon, which had a 120-inch wheelbase. The Sport Wagon (and Olds Vista Cruisers) featured a raised rear roof section with glass insets on three sides.

There were new engines, too: a 225-cid V-6 (a novelty for Detroit) with 155 bhp, and a cast-iron 300-cid V-8 with 210/250 bhp. With that, the plush Skylark rapidly became the most-popular smaller Buick. Skylark/Special production was about 9-to-10 for '64, but Skylark had reached a near 5-to-1 ratio by 1969.

Flint's 1964 standards were longer overall but unchanged in wheelbase. The compacts' new 300 V-8 became base LeSabre power. Like the Century of yore, Wildcat was the division's hot rod, carrying the Electra 401 in the lighter, shorter LeSabre chassis. Reflecting its popularity, a four-door sedan joined the convertible and two hardtops that year. All '64 seniors retained their '63 look, but with corners and edges ­rounded off. Riviera was little changed, but production dropped by about 2500 units.

The division's 1965 production was 50 percent above its 1960 total, putting Buick fifth in the annual industry race. An expanded lineup in general and the unique Riviera in particular were responsible, but so was a very strong overall market that bought Detroit cars in record numbers: over 9.3 million for the calendar year, the best since '55.

Like everyone else in 1965, Buick proliferated trim and model variations so buyers could virtually custom-build their cars. That year's junior line comprised V-6 and V-8 Skylarks and standard and DeLuxe Specials priced from about $2350 to $3000, plus V-8 Special "Sportwagons" in the $3000-$3200 range. Wildcat returned with three body types in standard, DeLuxe, and Custom trim, plus DeLuxe and Custom convertibles. LeSabre and Electra 225 offered the same in standard and Custom versions.

At $4440 base, the Electra 225 Custom convertible was the priciest '65 Buick, with the elegant Riviera close behind at $4408. Engine assignments stood pat. Riviera gained added distinction via hidden headlights, the four beams moving from the main grille to stack vertically behind front-fender subgrilles reworked into "clamshells." Taillights moved down into the rear bumper.

A memorable new option arrived for '65: the Gran Sport package for Riviera and Skylark. It delivered some $250 worth of performance goodies, including oversize tires, Super-Turbine 300 automatic, and Wildcat 401 V-8. The Skylark Gran Sport was every inch a grand tourer, though it was really Buick's "muscle car" reply to Pontiac's hot-selling year-old GTO. The Riviera GS was even grander in its way, capable of 125 mph flat out. Motor Trend magazine said it "goes and handles better than before, and that's quite an improvement."

The big attraction for 1966 was a second-generation Riviera, a cousin to that year's new E-body front-drive Olds Toronado. The Riv retained rear drive and looked much more massive than the crisp 1963-65, yet wheelbase was only two inches longer. More-curvaceous contours, wide hidden-headlamp grille, and a sleek semifastback roof with vestiges of the previous razor edges made it impressive to the eye. Yet it sold for only about $4400, which today seems unbelievably low.

Other '66 Buicks were mainly carryovers, but a stroked 340 version of the 300 V-8 was made standard for LeSabres and Skylark Sportwagons.

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