R.E.S.P.E.C.T. for the Riviera - Buick's best in 1:64 scale
by James Price and Doug Breithaupt

Though one of the top selling car brands, even reaching number three in US sales after Chevrolet and Ford, Buick has not been a popular subject for the model car manufacturers, who favor more youthful and carefree cars to replicate. Regardless, model car manufacturers could not ignore the Buick forever. In particular, Buick's most glamorous model, the Riviera, is finally finding favor with 1:64 scale producers.

In 1963, Buick introduced the debonair Riviera. Originally, the car did not have the sponsorship of any particular General Motors division. The car was designed with the expectation of becoming a Cadillac, but Cadillac was enjoying strong sales and had no interest in expanding its line. Oldsmobile and Buick were interested, and as Buick was considered slightly more luxurious than Olds, the Riviera became a Buick. The concept behind the design of the Riviera was to create a "Rolls-Royce crossed with a Ferrari". Though the car does not resemble either European make, somehow this is a good description of the concept as the Riviera was a luxury car with sporting undertones. The car followed the trend of understated elegance introduced with the 1961 Lincoln Continental, and followed by the 1962 Pontiac Grand Prix. Aurora produced an excellent model of the original 1963 Riviera in their Cigar Box line of the 1960's. It features a plastic body and metal base. The casting is very nice but this model is difficult to find today. The example shown is from Mac Ragan's collection. Strangely, it took nearly 40 years before another diecast model of the 1963 to 1965 Riviera was brought to market. Hot Wheels introduced its 1964 Riviera in 2002. The model is a custom lowrider '64, with a '65 front end (the one with stacked headlights concealed in the fenders behind the parking lights). While the design is nice, the design excellence of the original is compromised by the lowered chassis. A stock 1965 would have been a more appropriate tribute to the original milestone design.

The second generation Buick Riviera of 1966-1970 was just as handsome as the original models with razor edges and a fast-back styling. These sleek personal-luxury coupes are represented by two recent models. Tiger Wheels produced an excellent version of the stock, 1966 Riviera. The casting includes added weight for gravity track racing and is painted in the actual colors used by Buick in 1966. The blue iridescent mist color is especially attractive. Hot Wheels produced the 1969 Riviera in their collectors series as a low-rider model. The detail is excellent although it is again a shame that this car has not been offered in stock trim as well. Two 1968 Riviera models were produced over 30 years ago. Mego offered a model in the Jet Wheels line. This casting was likely intended to be an AMT Pup but was produced after the AMT connection to Hong Kong was broken, according to Diecast Motor Vehicles. Track Burners also is shown to have done the 1968 model. Track Burners were like the Cigar Box cars with plastic bodies and metal bases. Both of these 1968 models are a rare find today.

The third generation Riviera of 1971-1973 was a sensation when it first appeared. Bill Mitchell, styling chief of GM, had a special affection for the Riviera and he gave the 1971 model his full attention. It features a neo-boat tail fast-back design which reminded many of the 1963-67 Corvette. Mini-Lindy did a plastic version of this Riviera that is difficult to find but worth the search. Revell currently offers a low-rider Riviera which is quite good and may, like their 1970 Monte Carlo casting, appear in stock form. Just released from Johnny Lightning is an excellent 1971 Riviera in black. It is a clean, sharp model which sports red-line tires and chromed mag wheels. It's great to see this unique car done as it should be.

It is perhaps a blessing that none of the Riviera models from 1974-1978 have been done in small-scale. These cars were some of the ugliest of the 1970's, which is quite a statement. The styling is odd and un-balanced. In 1979, the Riviera was re-designed on the same front-wheel drive platform as the Cadillac Eldorado and Oldsmobile Toronado. Once again, the Riviera was a car with style and buyers were quick to reward Buick.

In 1982, Chrysler introduced the Chrysler LeBaron, the first American factory convertible available in the United States since the 1976 Cadillac Eldorado. Ford responded with a convertible Mustang, and General Motors created convertible versions of the Buick Riviera, and Cadillac Eldorado shortly afterwards. In response, Road Champs developed a nice range of American convertibles, which included models of the LeBaron, Mustang and Riviera. The company offered a simple, yet thoughtful feature of interchangeable plastic roofs. One piece was a plastic roof representing a convertible top in the raised position, while the other piece was a tonneau cover for top down motoring. Though inexpensive, the cars featured very nice, realistic detail. Unfortunately, the opening doors on this model had large gaps that detract from the overall profile.

The Riviera continued to be produced into the 1990's by Buick but the styling did not tempt toy car manufacturers to produce any more examples. The last Riviera was a handsome car in it's way and would be a good candidate for small-scale reproduction. We can even hope that someday, this proud name will again be selected to represent Buick's best.

1963 Buick Riviera - Aurora Cigar Box

1964 Buick Riviera - Hot Wheels

1966 Buick Riviera - Tiger Wheels

1969 Buick Riviera - Hot Wheels

1971 Buick Riviera - Johnny Lightning

1971 Buick Riviera - Mini-Lindy

1971 Buick Riviera - Revell

1982 Buick Riviera Conv. - Road Champs