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Evolution of the Riviera - 1973

by Sean Cahill #6613

Originally published in The Riview Vol. 19, No. 6 Sept./Otc. 2003

New Front End treatment for the '73

1973 was the third and last year for the controversial boattail design, with the most changes done on this year. A major facelift of both front and rear bumper designs, as well as other interior and exterior items came about. A softer, more luxurious approach to the car was taken by Buick.

The obvious differences in the exterior of the car can be seen in the front bumper, now a government-mandated impact resistant unit, and in the more conventional rear bumper, now with the license plate in the center, and much flatter than the '71 and '72 rear bumpers. The stylized Riviera emblem now appeared above the grille, and on the rear bumper, as well as on the sail panels. Front parking lamps and turn signals were moved to the outer edge of the fenders, combining the side marker lamps and optional cornering lamps. If the car was equipped with the optional Stage 1 engine, the Stage I emblem was placed in the grille for the first time. These additions and changes brought another 143 pounds to the weight of the car.

Interior changes again took the Riviera closer to the luxury side of the market. The high back bucket seats that were available in '71 and '72 were now replaced with 40-40 seats. Also available was a 60-40 seat. The unique three panel machine-turned trimmed cockpit was replaced by a wood grain trimmed instrument panel similar to other full-size Buicks, and was no longer curved on the passenger side. Other improvements included an increase in sounddeadening materials, more supple body mounts, and improvements to the suspension, again, to make the '73 quieter and smoother.


Woodgrain dash replaced the engine turned aluminum finish of the '71-'72 Boattail
The same 250 horse power engine used in '72 was standard, along with a 2.93:1 rear axle ratio. The GS option was still available for '73. The Stage I engine was a $139 option, and was not included in the GS package. Suspension was upgraded with different springs and shocks, the addition of a rear sway bar, a 3.23:1 posi-traction differential, radial tires, and a recalibrated turbo 400 transmission. This was the third and last year for the Max-Trac option. This was a "computer" controlled device that prevented wheelspin by limiting engine acceleration. Though it was not available in '74, this option was the predecessor to the units now seen on many modem performance cars.

New Bumper put the license plate in the center and eliminated the point of the tail

This was the last year for the true pillarless hardtop design. Also, exhaust gas recirculation was now standard on the Riviera, having been installed only on California cars before. Paint options included 16 standard colors, as well as Black, Mediterranean Blue and Jade Green as extra cost options. There were seven interior and vinyl top colors available. The interior vinyl had two different types of grain, again to give the car the more luxurious look of real leather.
The most common options for '73 included air conditioning, with 99.3% of the cars equipped. Power windows were added to 97.2% of the cars, 87.5% had the power seat, and 81.1% had a vinyl top. Cruise control was installed on 53.8% of all cars. Other options included both a manual and a power sun roof, AM FM 8-track radios, front fender light monitors, power trunk release, and chrome road wheels.

Total Production
Engine Size
34,080 (Includes 3,933 GS Handling Option)
455 cu. in. V8


1,234 Stage 1 Option
Stage 1 Option:
Dual Exhaust
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—