1971 Buick Riviera Classic Car Review Oct 11, 2016 by Cedric (Driver Weekly)
The 1971 Buick Riviera was the beginning of a new generation for the popular luxury car. This model was heavier and had a longer wheelbase than the previous version. Instead of a conservative design like those typically associated with Buick, the new model aimed to stand out from the crowd. This two-door model with its “boat-tail” was instantly recognizable. The dramatic styling was controversial but created a noteworthy vehicle that still draws attention to this day.
The Riviera was introduced in 1963 as a two-door personal luxury car with prestigious styling. While the first generation was praised for its sleek style and luxurious interior, the car received a bold restyling in 1971. The new model was larger and heavier than its predecessor despite the fact it was built on the smaller A Platform, stretching the style to its limits. The long lines of the car allowed for a dramatic rendition of the “sweepspear” on the flanks of the car, drawn from similar lines on 1950s Buicks. The rear of the car had a curvaceous boat-tail and fastback window inspired by the Corvette Sting Ray. The new style was immediately controversial and proved to be too much for some buyers, and the car was restyled in 1974.
Inside the Riviera
Sitting inside the Buick Riviera gave you a unique experience with the wrap-around control panel. Like many models of the time, it came standard with a bench seat in front with the choice of bucket seats. You can find this model with vinyl, cloth, or some combination. The full-length center console was a popular option for those with bucket seats. Every Riviera you find will have power steering, but air conditioning and power locks were options so you may or may not find them. The luxurious feeling was enhanced by the leather upholstery and soft plastic touches.
If you know anything about previous model years of the Riviera, you will be familiar with the 455-cubic-inch V8 engine in the 1971 model. The only difference was that the compression ratio lowered, meaning drivers had 315 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque. The compression ratio had to be lowered, however, so drivers could use lower-octane unleaded fuel. You may stumble upon a 1971 Riviera with a GS Package. This package took the same base engine but was equipped with .125-inch oversized valves, heavy-duty valve springs, a deep sump oil pump, and a special camshaft. The result is 330 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque. You can recognize it by the engine code TA.
Every Buick Riviera from this generation you find will have the same transmission, a Turbo Hydra-Matic 400. This was a durable three-speed automatic with its shift lever right on the steering column with the option of moving it to the center console. Because this transmission was the only option available on this car, it is very easy to find replacement parts and a skilled mechanic to work on it.
The 1971 Buick Riviera has a few key features that were innovative for its time and not found on most other models, starting with rear-wheel drive and an independent suspension. These included a traction control system known as MaxTrac. This innovation didn’t last long, but it was an effective electronic wheelspin-control system. It connected electronically to various components, including the ignition system, and could be switched off and on. The Riviera also had a new ventilation system complete with special louvers on its trunk lid.
The 1971 Buick Riviera remains a popular choice among classic car collectors and enthusiasts for its distinctive look and sophisticated features.