1972 Buick Riviera
2dr Sport Coupe
8-cyl. 455cid/250hp 4bbl
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With an experienced team and a lot of data.
Buick tinkered very little with the 1972 Riviera, still coasting on the shock value of its introduction. Sales remained steady at 33,728, despite a continuing economic downturn. Overall, Buick slipped to sixth place in the sales race behind Oldsmobile and Pontiac.
The big news, which pretty much finished off the muscle car era, was the recalculation of horsepower into net numbers rather than just crankshaft power. This effectively cut bragging rights by about 30 percent. So 1971’s base 455 cid V-8, which had claimed 315 bhp, was now rated at 225 bhp. The Gran Sport engine could only manage 270 bhp, down from 330 bhp.
This lesser figure followed the reduction of compression ratios from 10.25:1 in 1970 to 8.5:1 in 1971, as the U.S. prepared for unleaded gas. That had knocked the 455 V-8’s power down from 1970’s 370 bhp to 330 the next year. While lead was definitely toxic, it both lubricated engines internally and also prevented “knocking” under load. Combine both these issues with tighter emissions regulations and the insurance industry’s vendetta against high horsepower and the outlook was grim. The 1973 and ‘74 5 mph bumper regulations would be the last straw.
From an enthusiast’s standpoint the 1972 Buick Riviera was a last hurrah – the last wildly elegant design without the “battering ram” bumpers. The egg-crate grille was altered slightly, as were the taillights, and rubber strips were fitted to the bumpers. A signature “R” was attached to grille and deck lid, and a full-length side molding was fitted. Standard interiors were available in vinyl in 60/40 bench seat or optional front bucket seats.
The Riviera Gran Sport package still added heavy duty suspension and engine dress-up kit and the traction control rear axle for $200, while a new option was a power sunroof. Other ’72 Riviera options included air conditioning, power windows, Strato bucket seats, four- and six-way power seats, tinted glass, cruise control, wire wheel covers, five-spoke chrome wheels, and AM/FM stereo radio, tilt steering column, console, custom interior, power door locks and bumper overriders.
Performance figures were 0-60 mph in 9.1 seconds and a quarter-mile in 15.9 seconds. Top speed was reported as 120 mph.
The Buick Riviera’s design continued to polarize buyers, though sales figures were almost exactly the same. As is often the case, though, fortune favors the bold. Excellent examples still draw crowds.