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Evolution of the Riviera - 1988

by Sean Cahill #6613

Originally published in The Riview Vol. 22, No. 6 September/October 2006

The Silver Anniversary T-Type Riviera

1988 — 25 years into the life of our cherished Riviera. The Riv has transformed from its early beginnings as a heavyweight personal luxury cruiser to its now sportier, European flair. The Riviera remains the flagship of the Buick line up. For this anniversary, the new Riviera sported several welcome changes, starting with an increase in horsepower, to the improved looks of the new front-end treatment. Still built on the same chassis as it had been since 1986, refinements continued. Evolution, not revolution was the theme for 1988.

The redesigned 3800 engine came with a 10 percent increase in horsepower (now 165), over the 1987 model, thanks to improved fuel and ignition systems. With this increase in performance, there was a much improved feel in the driving and smoothness of the car over its predecessor. The T-Type version was carried over for its final year. With the $1,765 T-Type option, you received Gran Touring suspension, quick ratio power steering, 15" aluminum wheels with P215/65R15 Good Year Eagle GT+4 performance tires, leather and cloth reversible 16-way adjustable bucket seats, silver lower accent paint, and a 2.97 final drive ratio. Another standard T-Type feature was the ETR AM Stereo-FM Stereo and cassette player with graphic equalizer.

The new front-end treatment included more aerodynamic composite headlamps, new paint and landau top colors, and a new optional chrome accent stripe. Seat controls were changed from rocker switches to paddle switches that were easier to operate. The Electronic Control Center features improved visibility with a new 70 degree deflection CRT screen. Other features of the new system included an automatic calendar to remind you of selected dates. You could also add an electronic

compass and an integrated cellular telephone directory to the ECC. The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) was also added to the body panels for security measures.

Standard features of the Riviera were power steering and four wheel disc brakes, four wheel independent suspension and automatic level control, cruise control, power door locks, and automatic climate control. For safety, rear seat shoulder belts were also standard on every Riviera. The Silver Anniversary Riviera included a unique hood orna­ment and instrument panel trim plate.

Options for 1988 included the electronic trunk pull down for $250, keyless entry system $265, remote mirrors with heated right mirror, $35. Automatic dimming rear view mirror was an additional $80, sliding sunroof added $1230, and the cellular phone package set you back an additional $1975. The Gran Touring package without the T-Type option was a bargain at $104.

Sales were down though even with all of the improvements. For the 1988 model year, only 8.625 Rivieras would be sold, and almost 25% were T-Types totalling 2,065. This set a new record for the least amount of Rivieras sold in a model year. Base price for the standard Riviera was $21,615 which reflects an increase of $1,278 over the previous year. Weight of the vehicle increased 44 lbs to 3,364 total.

Sales were obviously not what Buick hoped for with the Riviera, and did little to reflect the value, performance, and the quality of this model year. It was as always, a trend-setter, and one of the unsung heroes in the Riviera lineage.

Total Production
Engine Size

8,625 (Includes 2,065 T-Types)

3.8 Litre V6
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—