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Evolution of the Riviera - 1965

by Ray Knott #1

Originally published in The Riview Vol. 18, No. 4 May/June 2002


Headlights were hidden in the fenders behind motor operated clamshells.

The first noticeable changes took place in the third year of the Riviera with hidden headlights and a restyled rear bumper. GM's chief stylist Bill Mitchell had originally wanted the headlights hidden in the fenders as shown in the preliminary drawing of the XP-715 project model. However, the engineering had not been completed in time for the earlier models. The ribbed clamshells were controlled by a single electric motor located behind the front bumper, and operated automatically when the headlights were turned on or off. As much as the hidden headlight added to the cleaner appearance they also added to frustration if they didn't work. Most often the problem occurred when the arms out to the clamshells were not kept lubricated and the motor burnt out. The only other GM car with the hidden headlight in '65 was the Corvette Sting Ray, which had a similar motor.
Adding to the cleaner look was the removal of the non-functional side scoops. In the rear, the taillights were moved from the body into a large one-piece bumper and a Buick Tri-shield emblem covered the trunk lock. A ribbed rocker panel with a motif similar to the headlight covers was standard with the optional interiors or it could be ordered separately for only $26.88. Offered for the first time on the Riviera was the popular chrome wheel with painted charcoal inserts for $91.38. These wheels were first introduced on the '64 Wildcat. On April 9th, 1965 Buick announced to its dealers that an optional vinyl roof would be available on the Riviera. The roof was offered only in black and would be indicated on the trim code plate as "#2" As it turned out only 5.8% of the 65 models were ordered with this option, which listed at $110.

Removal of the side spears and addition of the rocker panel molding adds to the clean look.

The standard interior seat trim was stitched in a square pattern much like the earlier models. The standard vinyl interior was available in white, black, medium blue or saddle. The doors had the small arm rest and a small patch of wood veneer with a stylized "R" above the armrest. The dash on all of the 65's had a new textured black face, with the console covered in wood veneer. The optional Beaumonde cloth and vinyl interior was available in green, medium blue, black or fawn, which listed at $96.75. The optional all vinyl interior listed at $166.63 and was offered in black, saddle and green. It wasn't until Jan 29th 1965 that Buick made white available in the optional all vinyl interiors. Once again as in '64 leather was not offered. The optional interior seats had a unique triangular pattern, unlike the square pattern used earlier. The interior molding was chromed in the optional interior not painted as in the standard interior. The doors on the optional interior were similar to the earlier models with a long armrest and full-length wood veneer panels. As previously stated the ribbed rocker panel was also part of the optional interior package. A tilt sheering column became standard in '65, as did front seat belts.

The upgrade interior has a long arm rest and full wood panel.

A Standard door panel with a small wood panel and short arm rest.


For reasons unknown Buick reverted back to making the 325 hp "Wildcat 445" 401ci engine as standard equipment, whereas in '64 the 425 ci was standard. The 401 ci, code "LT" was put in 28, 467 Rivieras and had a single 4 bbl carburetor. The optional 340 hp 425 ci "Wildcat 465" code "LW" was installed in only 2,311 of the '65 Rivieras at an extra cost of $48. A third option was the dual 4 bbl carburetor "Super Wildcat" rated at 360 hp 425 ci, code "LX" for only $188 of which 3,808 were installed.


The Gran Sport package, which listed at $306.38 made its debut two months after production, started on the 65 models. It should be noted that the Gran Sport was only an option, not a separate model, therefore there were no indicators in the vin or on the trim code plate. Details on how to identify a 1965 are covered in Volume 17-3 of the Riview, pages 13 & 14. It is said that the Gran Sport was offered to keep up with the increasing popularity of muscle cars. In addition to the "LX" 425 dual 4 bbl engine, the Gran Sport option also included a modified exhaust, Positraction differential (3.42 ratio), modified transmission, 8.45x15 tires and a special wheel cover. The wheel cover was basically a standard hub cap with a spinner attached.. A total of 3,354 Gran Sports were manufactured, which meant that only 454 of the "LX" engines were put into non Gran Sports. A separate handling package with heavy-duty suspension and quicker steering was available for every model. All the Gran Sports had identifying emblems on the fenders under the Riviera script and on the rear deck. Initially the emblems measured only 3x 1-½ inches and were put under the Riviera script on the rear deck. In mid December of 1964 the emblems were enlarged to 5 ¾ x 1 5/16 and the rear emblem was moved to the left side

An example of the optional seat pattern.

Arctic White was the most popular color in '65, with 14.3 % produced, followed by Astro Blue at 9.8% and Silver Cloud at 9.2%. Sahara Mist, Verde Green and Seaform Green all came in at a little over 8%. The least popular colors were Flame Red at 3.1%, Bamboo Cream at 2.7% and Midnight Aqua at 2.5 %
Although Buick sales increase in '65, Riviera sales fell to 34,568, short of the projected 40,000. The base price of the Riviera rose to $4,408 up only $23 from the previous year. Even though the Riviera came with many standard features, many buyers chose from a long list of options. Some of the most popular options were: Air Conditioning at $430, which was installed in 69%, Whitewall tires $43.32 (95.6%), remote outside mirror $11.93 (79.7%), power windows $107.50 (74.2%), tinted glass $43 (67.5%) and a 4 way power drivers seat $70.95 (55.5%). Some of the least popular and now rare options were; four note horn $27.95 (13.9%),. cruise control $56.98 (12.6%), simulated wood steering wheel $53.75 (10.2%), power vent windows $53.75 (9.2%) and Guide-Matic headlight control $43 (3.4%) and The rarest of all were; less air conditioning modification $18.28 (.6%), less seat belts $11 (3%) and less heater/defroster $98 (.1%). Yes, people even paid to remove such basic standard features.

Total Production
Engine Size
HP *
34,586 (Includes 3,354 GS Option)
Wildcat 445
401 cu. in. V8
Wildcat 465
425 cu. In. V8
Super Wildcat
425 cu. in. V8
* Note: Only 454, 2-4 bbl. engines were installed in cars without the GS Option
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—