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1964 Buick Riviera
Adventure is a car called Riviera
1964 Buick Riviera

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TRIVIA:
British singer Dusty Springfield owned a 1964 Buick Riviera; it was finished in Silver Cloud with a Medium Blue Custom Baronet Cloth and Vinyl interior. Leonard Nimoy ("Mr. Spock" on Star Trek) also owned one for several years.

The Rivieras (Let's Have A Party album cover photo)The 1964 Riviera by Buick: If you liked last year's model, you'll love this one! Without question, the debut year of the Riviera was a successful one, so much so that by its second year, the car had already become a part of modern culture. A rock group, The Rivieras, not only shared their name with the car, but featured a 1964 Riviera prominently in publicity photos and on the cover of their record album titled Let's Have A Party.

At first glance, very little changed with the Riviera on the way to 1964, but it takes more than a casual glance to spot the differences. And believe it or not, there are quite a few of them. One of the most obvious is the elimination of the Buick Tri-Shield from the exterior of the car, replaced by a new stylized "R" emblem that would be used for years to come and would become immediately identifiable as a Riviera emblem. The new "R" emblem appeared as a stand-up hood ornament, in the center of the wheels and wheel covers, and on the taillights. Riviera script appeared on the right side of the deck lid for rear identification. (Not that anyone who was even casually paying attention didn't know what it was at the time!)

The Finned Alloy Wheels which were introduced as an option in 1963 were still available in 1964. Two detail changes were made between the two years, however. The areas between the fins were painted silver in 1963, and the Buick Tri-Shield emblem was used on the center caps. For 1964, the "R" emblem appeared on the center caps and the fins were painted black to make them stand out more.

Inside, the standard interior remained identical to the 1963 models, but was offered in the new shades of Red, Fawn, or Black vinyl, which joined Blue and Silver, carried over from last year. Sandalwood was dropped, replaced with White, but was not available in standard form. The upgraded Custom interiors were now available only in all-vinyl or cloth and vinyl, with leather being removed from the list of options. It seems Buick wanted to make sure people understood that the Riviera was an affordable luxury car, so they did away with leather upholstery to help make their point. Whatever. At any rate, documented examples do exist with leather upholstery, so if you threw a fit or knew someone who knew someone, you could still get it..."unofficially."

The Custom interiors were available in all-vinyl in Blue, Saddle, White, or Black, and the fabric and vinyl interiors were offered in Blue, Fawn, or Green. At $139.75 extra, the Custom interiors were well worth the additional expense. Wood veneer panels highlighted the doors and quarter trim, as well as the center console instead of the black textured vinyl used in 1963. The radio face plate was also covered in wood veneer for 1964, and the new stylized "R" emblem replaced the circular Tri-Shield emblems on the door panels.

Perhaps the most noticeable change inside the Riviera for 1964 was the relocation of the heater and air conditioning controls. Previously mounted up under the center of the dash pad, the controls were a bit confusing at first, and took some getting used to. The new placement located the heater and air conditioning controls into two separate—but identical—sections, which were grouped together on the upper console and were more traditional in appearance and function. This location and layout made it easier to adjust the temperature without studying the panel first.

This move allowed a radio speaker to be placed in the instrument panel for the first time as well. The 1963 models only offered a rear speaker, which was mounted behind the chrome grille in the center section of the rear seat back, a location which was a little too unconventional for some customers. Plastic instrument panel knobs replaced the metal ones from 1963, and an attractive simulated woodgrain sports steering wheel was a new $53.75 option.

The standard Riviera engine for 1964 was the Wildcat 465, a 425 cubic inch V-8 that produced 340 horsepower at 4,400 rpm and 465 ft. lbs. torque at 2,800 rpm. Of the 37,658 Rivieras built for 1964, 2,122 of them were equipped with the optional Super Wildcat engine, which was a 425 cubic inch V-8 that utilized dual carburetors to develop 360 horses at 4,400 rpm. Identified as code "KX" on identification tags, the Super Wildcat engine cost $139.75, and came with a chromed air cleaner and finned aluminum valve covers. Riviera engines were now painted the same corporate aqua color that would be typical of Buick engines during this period. This new color was much brighter in appearance than the silver color used in 1963, and when coupled with the finned aluminum valve covers, really made the engine compartment stand out.

A new Super Turbine 400 Transmission was introduced for 1964, replacing the Dynaflow used in 1963. The new transmission produced a 43% increase in thrust at the rear wheels, which made the Riviera a stunning performer, especially when equipped with the Super Wildcat engine. The new Super Turbine tranny differed from the Dynaflow in that it would start in low gear instead of an intermediate gear to reduce slipping on slick streets or on loose materials, such as a sandy beach. The Dynaflow was not as efficient when compared to newer transmissions such as the newer Hydra-Matic other GM Divisions were using or the Chrysler TorqueFlite, so this was a welcome change at the time.

At $4,374, the Riviera was generously equipped in standard form. In fact, it offered a higher level of standard equipment than Cadillac's entry level models did. But to keep the base price low, luxury car staples such as power windows and power seat were optional. Riviera buyers had a long list of optional equipment available to them, which gave them the ability to order their Riviera to suit their individual needs. Front seat belts were a safety item that became standard equipment on all GM vehicles for 1964, and the Riviera was no exception.

1964 Buick Riviera front turn signal detailBuick's advertising for the Riviera changed a bit between 1963 and 1964. While the ads in 1963 were usually done in black and white photography and emphasized the new car's elegance and luxury, the 1964 ad campaign featured full color ads, often placing the car off in the distance. Attractive young people were pictured enjoying the good life, which was no doubt more rewarding because of their Riviera purchase. Details such as the front parking light or instrument panel were pictured. It's obvious Buick wanted to tone down the marketing of the Riviera a bit, making it seem less like a Cadillac and more like a Pontiac Grand Prix or Oldsmobile Starfire. The talk around Buick Division at the time was that the 1963 ad campaign made the car seem too expensive, and out of reach for many. The 1964 ads were intended to correct this impression, and place the Riv firmly in the "exclusive but more affordable" category.

This didn't appear to work, as sales slipped a bit from the previous year. The Riv's main competitor, the 1964 Ford Thunderbird [link opens in new window], was all new for 1964, and was selling in near-record numbers at Ford Dealers. It's possible the Thunderbird took a few sales from Riviera, as its new styling was very attractive, and was more squared off than it had been in its previous styling sequence, which new car buyers at the time seemed to like. Buick Division had a few surprises in store for the Riviera in 1965, though, and these changes would broaden the car's appeal as well as give it a fresh new look in the third and final year of this body style.


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