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Evolution of the Riviera - 1972

by Ray Knott #1

Originally published in The Riview Vol. 19, No. 5 July/Aug. 2003

An Egg-crate grill and side trim distinguished the '72

It takes a trained eye to distinguish between the 1971 and 1972 Riviera, since there are very few differences. The sheet metal, except for the trunk lid, did not change, nor did the bumpers. The only change in the trunk lid was the removal of the vents, which appeared only on the '71 model. The grille insert was changed from thin horizontal bars in '71 to an egg-crate design in '72. The taillights remained the same size, but the chrome trim was changed from horizontal strips to a double ring around the entire lens. A color-coordinated protective side molding was standard. Thin rubber protective strips on the front and rear bumpers were available for $24, which offered some protection to the bumpers. For the first time, a large bumper guard was offered for the pointed front bumper at a cost of $30. Vinyl tops were offered in a variety of seven colors, including white, black, blue, silver, sandalwood, dark brown or green. Initially the vinyl top was the full roof style. On February 2, 1972, Buick announced to their dealers that effective March 1, a new "short" vinyl top would be available. Buick announced that the full tops would be phased out by April 1.
The dash remained unchanged, as did the standard bench and buckets, which were offered only in sandalwood or black vinyl. The optional buckets also retained the same upholstery pattern as in '71, and were available in white, saddle or black vinyl. The only seat change was seen in the optional bench seats, which were a 60/40 design, allowing the driver and passenger to have separate forward/rear controls. The seat backs were shorter than in '71 and included the fold-down armrest. The vinyl bench was available in green, saddle, sandalwood and black. The vinyl/cloth seats were offered in green, blue, sandalwood and saddle. Once again, leather was not offered. All buckets included a short console, but a full operational console was available. An electric sunroof was offered for the first time in a Riviera and was available only if the car was equipped with power windows.

Gone were the trunk vents;, and rubber strips were added to the bumpers

This was the last year for the high back buckets.

To meet 1972 federal emission rules, the standard and optional GS engines were off about five horsepower from the '71 models, but the difference was hard to detect. On paper it appeared as if the horsepower was greatly reduced only because in '72 horsepower was measured in net hp, whereas in previous years it was measured as gross hp. The standard 455 ci (code WF) produced 375 lb. ft. of torque at 2800 rpm and 250 hp at 4000 rpm. The optional GS 455 ci (code WA) had modifications to the carburetor, camshaft and spark advance to raise output slightly. Torque was 380 lb. ft., also at 2800 rpm, and maximum output was up to 260 hp, but at 4400 rpm instead of 4000 rpm. Both engines were improved, with a revised modulated choke control, a solenoid switch in the throttle linkage, which replaced the dashpot; and a revised throttle linkage for more immediate response to accelerator movement. The three-speed Hydra-matic 400 transmission continued unchanged, as did the axle ratios of 2.93: 1 and 3.42: 1. MaxTrac, the antiskidding option in '7 1, was still available.
The base price for the '72 rose slightly to $5,149, and production dropped by 82 to 33,728, of which 2,171 were equipped with the optional GS package. Wheelbase continued at 122, length at 218.3, width at 80, and weight at 4,554 lbs. Popular options were manual A/C, $431; six-way power seats $205; 60/40 seats $200; AM/FM stereo $233; power windows $129; and the rare sunroof listed at $589.

Total Production
Engine Size
33,728 (Includes 2,171 GS Option)
455 cu. in. V8


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—