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Evolution of the Riviera - 1969

by Ray Knott #1

Originally published in The Riview Vol. 19, No. 2 Jan./Feb. 2003

Horizontal bars and narrow vertical slits were added to the '69 grill. Otherwise, the front end remained unchanged.

Sales reached an all time high of 52,872. This record for the Riviera was not beaten until the popular ’84-85 models sold over 57,000 and 64,000 respectively. What was so distinctive about the ’69 Riviera? Very little in fact, since it shared the same body and engine with the ’68 model. Most ROA members and many owners of the 68-69 models don’t even know the differences between the two years. I will attempt to point out the differences with assistance of Ed Gunyo #101 of Minneapolis MN, who owns a ’69.

The first and most obvious difference is in the grille with the addition of 3 horizontal chrome bars and narrow vertical slits. The bumper, hidden headlights, parking lights and block letters on the front of the hood remained the same. The chrome molding in the center of the hood was flat and not raised as in 68. The rear bumper changed slightly as the backup lights were now incorporated into the taillights, rather than being located in the bumper below the taillights. A stylized “R” logo was added to the previously plain chrome fuel door in the bumper. The rear side marker was enlarged and instead of a Buick tri-shield it now had the stylized “R” logo. More ribs were added to the standard hubcap, but the optional wire cap and chrome wheel remained unchanged. Several new colors were introduced and six colors were exclusive to the Riviera. Initially Black was not offered on the Riviera and then on October 11, 1968 Buick announced to their dealers that black (code A) would be available on the Riviera as a “special order.” The vinyl top available in 6 colors was installed on 84.9% of the Rivieras. The top was available in black, white, buckskin, dark green, dark fawn and burgundy (which was only available on the Riviera)

A new flat steering wheel and wood grain trim was used in the '69

The most obvious change in the interior was a new padded steering wheel with a tri-shield emblem in the center. The lower portion of the dash was trimmed with simulated wood, which replaced brushed aluminum and black facing used in ‘68. The heater controls were changed to a roller style from levers, the ignition key was relocated to the steering column from the dash and the chrome moldings around the door and window openings padded and color keyed to the rest of the interior. The standard seats were again offered as bench or bucket in only black or parchment vinyl. Once again there were three optional styles. A bench with folding armrest was offered in black and sandalwood fabric with vinyl trim. An all vinyl bench with folding armrest was available in red, green, pearl white, buckskin and black. The optional bucket seats were available in blue, sandalwood, black or antique gold vinyl. A square pillow pattern was used on the optional seats and doors. Headrests were standard for the first time.

As previously stated, the 430 ci (360 hp @ 5000 rpm) continued to be the only engine available, in all models including the GS handling option. Buick introduced a new electric fuel pump, located in the fuel tank was standard on the Riviera. Front disc brakes were once again offered as an option. Steps were taken to improve handling by altering the kingpin axis and lowering the inner pivots in the front suspension. This gave what is known as a “positive” camber angle where the wheel tilts slightly outward at the top. This change made in all the full sized Buicks was intended to improve handling on the freeways from gusty crosswinds and uneven road surfaces. Another change was the introduction of the variable ratio power steering, which got progressively stiffer as speeds increase.

The Backup Lights were incorporated into the taillight housing.
Although the base price rose to $4701, the most popular option was still air conditioning at $422, which was installed in 95% of the cars. Only 19.5% had cruise control and 5,918 were equipped with disc brakes, a meager 11.2%.
(Thanks to Ed Gunyo # 101, of Minneapolis MN for assistance with the 68-69 research.)

Total Production
Engine Size
52,872 (Includes 5,272 GS Handling Option)
430 cu. in. V8 360 1x4bbl  
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—