Evolution of the Riviera - 1981


by Ed Gunyo #101, Regional Coordinator, "10,000 Lakes Chapter"

Originally published in The Riview Vol. 21, No. 4 May/June 2005
Photo's Courtesy Jayson Pruitt #10266, Regional Coordinator, "DFW/North Texas Region"


1981 Riviera advertising

The 1981 Riviera was stressed by the full-time Buick catalog as being on the "leading edge of Detroit technology" by combining weight-saving materials and engineering approaches, interesting synergistic approach to alluding of big changes.


The "egg-crate" grill gives the 1981 Riviera a whole new look

New changes this year came in the form of a redesigned grille folks called egg crate. Self-sealing US Royal tires were offered for the first time this year, along with a new "fluidic" windshield washer that used no moving parts to spray fluid in a fan pattern on the windshield.


1981 Riviera sported sportier seats
This year the new "T-Type" replaced the "S-Type" with major refinements. New black accents and black side mirrors, along with sportier seats in cloth or leather were added, and the dashboard came with the simulated wood grain with the T-Type designation above the radio. The T-Type also came with a new, sportier leather wrapped steering wheel with the T-Type logo in the center, and all-new aluminum wheels with a distinctive R logo on the cap. New this year was the "Grand Touring Suspension" intended for quicker ratio steering and increased road feedback without a rough ride.
Two new engines were offered: the base 252-cu. in. 4.1-liter V-6 and the optional 350 diesel V-8 (a converted gasoline engine), which caused owners and GM many problems. The standard Oldsmobile 307 motor was offered for the first time. It gave good gas mileage but slow performance. The T-Type continued with the 3.8 turbocharged V-6, but the other engines could also be ordered.


There's a 5.0L V-8 in there somewhere


New dash in simulated walnut burl

The big new option was the Concert Sound six-speaker stereo system and electronic climate control. Gone was the '79-'80 digital trip monitor system.

Total production was 52,007, with only 11,793 V-6s for the model year, and 3,990 T-Type turbocharged V-6s. Diesel production was 16.1%, at 8,372, and not sold in California. Cruise was installed in 95.4%, or 49,596 of the 1981 Rivieras, and vinyl roofs increased to 76.5% of production, 39,775 total.

Prices were increased for 1981, with the standard model starting at $12,523, and the T-Type at $13,499. Production was up despite the higher prices, at 52,007 units. The changes in 1981 were a milestone in the Riviera line and a predictor of continuing change.


Year
Body
Total Production
 
Engine Size
HP
Carbs
Produced
1981
4EZ57
52,007 (T-Type 1,944)
Standard:
252 cu. in. V6 (4.1 Litre) 125 1x4bbl  
Option: 231 cu. in. V6 Turbo 180 1x4bbl
Option: 307 cu. in. V8 (5 Litre) 140 1x4bbl
Option: 350 cu. in. V8 Diesel   F.I.
Year
Curb Weight
Wheelbase
&nbsp
Track
Length
&nbsp
Width
&nbsp
Height
&nbsp
Tire
Front
Rear
Size
1981
3673
114.0
59.3
60.0
206.0
71.5
54.3
P205/75-15

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1982

Notice: BUICK and RIVIERA are trademarks of GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION used with permission. The Riviera Owners Association is independent and not affiliated with GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION or its BUICK MOTORS DIVISION    —Copyright 2007 Riviera Owners Association—