Mitchell considered the Riviera special, and he wanted it done right, with as few compromises as possible. Phil Bowser and his engineering team did an excellent job. "The Riviera was the most exciting project of my career," he says. The 1963 Riviera's design promised much, and the right engineering was essential for the car to fulfill those promises.
George Ryder, who at the time was working at both Design Staff and Buick Engineering, says that Bowser's work was so painstaking that he sometimes had trouble getting drawings out of Research and Development for line engineering. Ryder found the project invigorating but exhausting.
The pressure to get this car right was incredible. "For example, it was quite a job to get all the engine accessories under the hood." The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system required special effort and design.
Buick Riviera was an early exponent of the
Riviera engineering involved a delicate balance between luxury sedan and sports car characteristics. Bowser took this challenge quite seriously. He and his staff studied the performance of the big Buick Electra as well as the Jaguar and Corvette sports cars. So careful was the study made by Bowser and colleague Sherrill Richey that they published a paper on it with the Society of Automotive Engineers.
Though basic chassis design concepts and mechanical components were used wherever possible for economy, reliability, and quality, the Riviera's overall engineering was new from the ground up, with "no compromise" the byword. For example, a cruciform frame as used on other cars in the Buick stable was also the correct choice for the 1963 Riviera.
It had been shown to isolate chassis noise from the passenger compartment better than other types and offered the advantage of a lower step-in height, important with the rakish body.
Independent rear suspension and disc brakes were ruled out because of increased maintenance costs and their lack of reliability at the time. However, special bushings were designed to give the 1963 Riviera a smooth ride, and finned aluminum drum brakes were specified, similar to those on the Electra.
Three manufacturers produced tires expressly designed for the new model, with special profiles and bolstered shoulders. Power steering was necessary because of the high curb weight (over two tons), but it did not detract much from road feel and provided about 3.5 turns lock-to-lock.
In the next section, read about the power behind the 1963-1965 Buick Riviera.
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