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Evolution of the Riviera - 1986

by Sean Cahill #6613

Originally published in The Riview Vol. 22, No. 3 March/April 2006


After reaching record sales the previous year, the 1986 Riviera brought a completely new design to the show floor. Unfortunately, the new design brought few customers in to replace their previous Riviera with the smaller, sportier version.Though the new design was influenced by the smoother and more aerodynamic European cars in this class, it was very untraditional for what the Riviera had become known for.

The all new design, 19 inches shorter overall, with a 6 inch reduction in wheelbase, brought the weight of the new car down to 3298 lbs. A reduction of over 500 lbs. Interior room stayed very close to the previous year however, and the new "gentle wedge" shape added to the sporty nature the new Riviera was after. An all new strut type independent coil spring front suspension replaced the torsion bars, and a new transverse fiberglass leaf spring suspension was installed at the rear. Standard were automatic level control, front anti-sway bar, and four wheel disc brakes.

Under the hood, the reliable 3.8 V6 was the only available engine. Mounted transversely for the first time, it now fea­ tured advancements such as sequential port fuel injection and computerized distributorless ignition. Rated at 140 horsepower, it was enough to bring the car from 0-60 MPH in a little over 11 seconds shifting through the 4 speed automatic transmission.

3.8 Litre 142 HP Engine

Interior design was now much sportier, with the standard Graphic Control Center being the feature that catches your attention as soon as you sit in the driver's seat.The"touch screen" system allowed the occupants to access controls by the simple touch of the appropriate area of the screen, as well as being the main driver's information display center for monitoring engine functions and diagnostic data. Heating and air conditioning as well as audio system con­ trols were all part of this compact display center. Also part of the newly designed interior was the return of a center con­sole and floor shifter.

Unique Touch Screen Dash

The T-Type returned for 1986 with several desirable standard eatures.Though no improvement in engine performance, there were upgrades to the chassis, including a Grant Touring suspension, aluminum wheels and P215/60R15 Eagle GT tires, which was an upgrade over the 14 inch tires on the

standard Riviera. Leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob was part of this package, as well as unique reversible leather/velour seat backs and cushions. Much time had been spent in the development of the new seats, making them firm, yet comfortable for short drives around town or days traveling across the country. Adjustments included the ability to move the side bolsters as well as the thigh supports with the touch of a button.

Standard plush interior

New options included a keyless entry system for $185 as well as a heated outside drivers mirror for an additional $35. Returning was the optional Bose audio system, a power slid­ing astroroof for $1230, four note horns at $28, rear window defroster added $145, and power trunk pull down, $80, to mention some of the more popular items ordered from the dealership.

Optional interior included 12 way adjustible seats.

As previously mentioned, sales fell well short of the over 65,000 1985 Rivieras sold.Total for the 1986 year was 22,138, and this included 2042 T-Type Rivieras.Though reduced drastically in size and weight, price increased to $19,831 for the base model, up from $16,710.The T-Type set the buyer back $21,577, up from the previous $17,654.The Riviera Convertible was gone, as well as the turbocharged engine option. Also missing since the Rivieras introduction, was the availability of a V8 engine.

Rear angle shows the bobbed trunk styling.

Putting popularity aside, the new Riviera brought new advancements to this model line. With improved seating and occupant visibility in a much smaller chassis while retaining interior room and a comfortable ride was not an easy task. Access to controls, convenience of operation of seats and accessories was well thought out. Handling with the reduced weight of the new car was much better than in previous years. Performance was not record setting, but was sufficient for the average Riviera owner.The 1986 Riviera is a car worth owning, and can be one of the best values avail­ able.Though far removed from its V8 ancestors, it remains very clear once behind the wheel, this is a Riviera.

Total Production
Engine Size

22,138 (Includes 2,042 T-Types)

3.8 Litre V6
Curb Weight

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