- 1 1972 Buick Riviera – The High Point of Personal Luxury Style and Performance
1972 Buick Riviera – The High Point of Personal Luxury Style and Performance
The 1972 model year marked a high point for the Buick Riviera, with this generation combining confident styling, a refined chassis, and the power of a 455 V8 engine. The 1972 Riviera exemplified GM’s command of the personal luxury coupe segment in the early 1970s.
1972 Buick Riviera Striking New “Boattail” Styling
The new-for-1971 Riviera brought a radical fastback “boattail” rear-end design inspired by earlier concept cars. Bold front and rear bumper treatments added to the distinct look. While controversial, the sloping coupe shape made a strong styling statement and gave the Riviera an upscale, contemporary personality versus rivals like the Thunderbird.
Powerful Standard 455 V8
Standard under the hood was GM’s proven 455 cubic-inch V8, rated at 250 horsepower in base trim. The 455 delivered strong low-end torque well-suited to the Riviera’s luxury mission. Buyers could upgrade to the Stage 1 package, which bumped power to 330 hp for exhilarating performance. The Riviera had brains to match its brawn, with standard features like variable-ratio power steering.
Refinement Maximized with Gran Touring Package
Buick sought to optimize the big coupe’s refinement with the optional Gran Touring package. This included radial tires on styled chrome wheels, self-leveling air suspension, vented front disc brakes and a soft leather interior. These upgrades complemented the Riviera’s standard luxury touches like air conditioning, 6-way power seats, and an electric clock. The package helped the Riviera deliver a sublime long-distance driving experience.
1972 Buick Riviera Strong Sales Success
The boattail Rivieras proved hugely successful for Buick, selling over 112,000 units in 1971 and over 92,000 for 1972. These were Buick’s strongest sales years since the late 1950s, reaffirming the brand’s reputation for upscale styling and performance. For 1972, upgraded interior appointments and minor exterior changes kept the Riviera appealing. Its sales dominance showed Buick’s command of the personal luxury landscape at the time.
Last Riviera Designed by Bill Mitchell
This generation Riviera marked the last overseen by GM design chief Bill Mitchell before his retirement. The coupe’s adventurous “Coke bottle” styling and flowing, continuous lines reflected Mitchell’s influence. Combined with the proven Riviera formula of luxury, refinement, and V8 power, Mitchell’s design acumen made the ’71-’73 Riviera a standout GM product.
Legacy in NASCAR and Pop Culture
The boattail Riviera’s charisma extended beyond showrooms onto the track and pop culture. The Riviera became the basis for Buick’s NASCAR entry during the early 1970s, notched with 49 race victories. On-screen, a 1971 Riviera convertible was featured prominently in the iconic film American Graffiti. The bold, influential Riviera design still resonates with collectors and enthusiasts today.
The 1972 model year represents the boattail Riviera’s peak, when Buick luxury and style leadership aligned perfectly. The 1972 Riviera remains coveted by collectors as a quintessential personal luxury coupe of the period.