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Evolution of the Riviera - 1963

by Ray Knott #1

Originally published in The Riview Vol. 18, No. 2 Jan./Feb. 2002

The 1963 Riviera was designed and equipped to appeal to the sophisticated car buyer, one who knew quality, yet appreciated a fresh, new, exciting look in an automobile. As mentioned in Part I of this feature, this was accomplished through the efforts of the GM Design Staff, Buick Research and Development and the Marketing Group.

With a base price of $4,333, the Riviera was considered rather pricey. But the level of standard equipment was impressive, especially in 1963. Every Riviera was equipped with Twin Turbine automatic transmission, a 401 ci engine, power steering, power self-adjusting brakes bucket seats, a console, heater-defroster, windshield washer, two-speed windshield wipers, and was fully carpeted.

Upgrade fabric interior. Note: wood on doors and black console

The standard interior consisted of all-vinyl seats available in silver, sandalwood or blue. The standard door had a short armrest with a small-brushed aluminum plate affixed to the interior door panel. The console on the '63 was covered in a black veneer material. The upgrade options included a choice of either fabric or leather seats. The fabric was available in black, blue or sandalwood, while the leather was offered in blue, silver, red, white, black or saddle. The upgrade interior included a long armrest and full-length wood veneer panel on the interior door. As previously mentioned, the stylized "R" was not used on the 1963 Riviera. The interior emblems were a black circle with the word "Riviera," while the Buick Tri-Shield was used on the standard door trim, hood ornament, wheels and taillights.

Silver engine with red air cleaner

As with all new projects, there are small changes that take place in the beginning; it was not different With the Riviera. In the first few months of production, Buick realized that they were not satisfied with the plain metal dash, but tooling could not be completed in time to make a change. It wasn't until November of '62 that they were able to add ribs to the face and a Riviera emblem on the glove box. They also discarded the 120 mph speedometer used on the Electra with one that registered up to 140 mph! On a practical note, the spare tire was removed from the well up to the rear axle hump, where it would be out of the way. These and a few other minor changes were listed in an article published in Volume 10-6, page 6-7 of the Riview.

Tri-Shield hood ornament

The wheelbase was 117 inches, nine inches shorter than the Electra, with an overall length of 208. 10 inches and overall width of 76.6 inches. Its curb weight was 4,140 pounds, 285 pounds less than the Electra. Power was supplied by the 401 ci "Wildcat 445" with 325 hp @4400 rpm and 445 torque @2800 rpm. The optional engine was the bored-out 425 ci "Wildcat 465" which produced 340 hp @ 4400 rpm and 465 torque @ 2800. In 1963, the Riviera engine was painted silver, with a large air cleaner painted in wrinkle red. This was the only year Riviera had a silver engine. The transmission in 1963 was an old standby, the Turbine drive Dynaflow which had been used in Buicks since 1947.

The first year for the Riviera was a smashing success, receiving rave reviews and selling all of the 40,000 units produced. There would be few changes for '64, which we will cover in the next issue.

Total Production
Engine Size
Wildcat 445
401 cu. in. V8
Wildcat 465
425 cu. in. V8
Curb Weight

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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—