Home Car Stories Alley Finds 1966 BUICK Riviera- Alameda, CA
1966 BUICK Riviera- Alameda, CA PDF Print E-mail
Written by Double Dragon
Thursday, 19 February 2015 17:07

1966 BUICK Riviera- Alameda, CA

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Writing and photography copyright D. S. Brown

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The beautiful Riviera eclipsed most other 'personal luxury' cars of the early 1960s including the Thunderbird and even Buick's other entry into this field: the Wildcat. Ford effectively invented a new category of car when they enlarged the Thunderbird into a full size car that only seated 4. The personal luxury car was born and sold great numbers. Buick's first answer was the 1962 model year Wildcat. The new Buick Wildcat had a squared off shape a bit like Pontiac's response to the Thunderbird called the Pontiac Grand Prix.

Before the Wildcat made a dent in the Thunderbird sales, all of the other cars in the 'personal car' segment were wiped off the map by Buick's 1963 Riviera. Buick had used the Riviera name for a decade to denote top line option trim but saved that name for a production car that was absolutely spectacular. The 1963 Riviera is universally acknowledged as one of the best looking cars of the 1960s. The perfect proportions and shape created an instant success.

After leaving the design alone from model year 1963 through 1965 it was time to redesign. The reinterpretation of the Riviera was true to the original with the usual domestic 1960s agenda of increased size coupled to the GM mandate of platform sharing to maximize investment in tooling.

66 buick riviera alameda ca front

The first generation Riviera is a Buick only platform, but for 1966 Riviera shared components with the new Oldsmobile Toronado shell. Unlike the Toronado which pioneered front wheel drive, the Riviera maintained conventional rear wheel drive. In 1967, once the bugs were worked out of the Toronado, Cadillac shared the platform for their fabulous looking Eldorado.

Some fans lament the increased size of the second generation Riviera which slightly distorts the original first generation car's balanced proportions. The 1966 Riviera is still a fantastic looking car, as proved by strong sales.

With a similar body available from Oldsmobile certain things restrained a potential buyer from saving a few dollars on the step down in price Olds Toronado offered. Some people shied away from the 'revolutionary' front wheel drive. Others wished to get as close to Cadillac as they could without spending Cadillac money.

66 buick riviera alameda ca driver front

A careful look at all of General Motor's 1960s full size offerings would convince a cynic that they were all reasonably interchangeable. Chevrolet looked vaguely similar and gave you value. You could spend a bit more and step up to Pontiac where a racy image was yours. A notch up to an Oldsmobile provided a taste of upscale. Olds was still distanced enough from Cadillac in the GM hierarchy to operate in the fringe district of 'status cars'.

Buick was the car that announced you had made it. Doctors bought Buicks giving it an aura of success and respectability. Buick places just below Cadillac on the GM prestige ladder and is perceived to be 'almost as good as Cadillac, but significantly cheaper'. You bought a Cadillac because you could afford one. If you couldn't justify the big price leap to a Caddy, then the Buick gave you an 'almost Cadillac' for much less money.

This Riviera has seen better days but despite its sun scorched and primered surface and distracting afternoon shadows the fantastic body shape shines through.

66 buick riviera alameda ca driver side

1966 was the final year for the 425 'Nailhead' Buick engine. The derogatory nickname refers to the small size of the valves which were compared to nails. The engines suited the typical Buick buyer because small valves created very smooth running engines. Buick engines were huge and despite limited 'breathing' due to small valves they packed a lot of torque. The following year saw the debut of the 430 which used larger valves and shed the 'Nailhead' nickname. This Riviera sports the Buick 'Magnum 500' wheels and whitewall tires.

66 buick riviera alameda ca tilt steering wheel

Note the tilt steering wheel which is up and out of the way to aid exit and entrance. The original 'personal car' concept as pioneered by Ford Thunderbird relied on wasted space where a full size car only seated 4 adults due to a full length console and individual 'bucket' seats. Note that this Riviera has a front bench seat. In conjunction with the rear bench this car can seat 6 if necessary.

66 buick riviera alameda ca passenger side

The mechanical components seem to be fine on this Riv which I have seen driving about the area for many years now.

66 buick riviera alameda ca passenger rear

It seems as if this was a gold car at one time and its hard to figure out what happened along the way except to say that weather took a toll.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 16 March 2017 10:56 )