This 1973 Buick Riviera is a perfect sub-$20K cruiser
Personal luxury cars emerged from Detroit in many stylish variations during their halcyon days of the 1970s, but you’d never miss a 1971–73 Buick Riviera among the other two-ton cruisers. Penned under Bill Mitchell’s tenure as vice president of design at GM, the big Riv’s distinctive prow, “sweepspear” fender lines, and boattail rear evoked classic Buick body cues while adding sharper accents that characterized Mitchell’s most successful designs. Surprisingly, one of the more memorable shapes to come out of Detroit in the early ’70s doesn’t cost an arm and a leg: At $18,375, this 1973 Riviera sale reminds us that elegant classics can still be affordable.
Originally intended for GM’s intermediate platform, the third-generation Riviera got upsized by the time it made it to production for 1971. That first year was the cleanest and most true-to-concept iteration, as Buick added regulation-compliant bumpers in ’72 and again in ’73, toning down the boattail for the final year. The car didn’t lose any of its unique appeal, however. Big-blocks were the sole option in Rivieras (how else would you power a large boat?), and in 1973 the base trim 455 V-8 cranked out a low-compression 250 hp while the rarer GS bumped that up an additional ten.
This particular Riv presents as a very nice #3-ish-condition driver, and its sale price lands just $175 north of the Hagerty Price Guide #3 value. Its 34-year-old current shade of Mercedes Signal Red appears in good condition save a crack on the trunk lid. Inside, the tan seats show few signs of wear and the carpet is immaculate for a 49-year-old car. Videos depict a motorboat-smooth, burbling idle and the seller claims the AC still blows cold. Overall, the car appears to need very little.
The big coupe has broad appeal—it's not just boomers flocking to third-gen Rivieras, although they account for the largest single share of quotes (39 percent). Younger generations make up a majority of the interest in these Buicks, with Gen Xers and millennials combining for 53 percent.
Say what you will about styling being subjective—this Riviera is certainly in the running for highest character-to-value ratio out there, and with due respect to the sleek first-gen cars, the boattail Riv is the one enthusiasts remember. I might be a bit biased, but big-body Buicks like the Riviera are a great way to get a head-turning big-block piece of Americana at a reasonable price.