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“It Suggests the Future”: 1979 Buick Rivera brochure

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Images are from the brochure collection of Hemmings Motor News

It was reported that some Buick executives called the new-for-1979 Riviera “the best Buick ever,” so proud were they of the flagship coupe’s deft blend of advanced engineering and crisply traditional style. This car replaced the last of the large (“B” body, in 1977-’78) Rivieras, and was built on the “E”-body (think Eldorado and Toronado) platform, which signaled major changes: front wheel-drive and fully independent suspensions.

If you’d visited your friendly local neighborhood Buick dealer in 1979, you could have come home with this small, 20-page brochure -its cover embossed with “The Free Spirit Hawk”- designed to inform and excite the potential Riviera buyer. You’d be teased with this luxury car’s “elegant, even arrogant, formal lines and impeccable interior trappings,” and learn that “it contains a remarkable amount of technical prowess.” What it didn’t include much of was technical details (power ratings were likely, in Rolls-Royce terms, deemed “adequate”).

The brochure started on a high note, and conjured up some residual glamour by tying the new model to the first generation Riviera coupe, whose incredible lines came from the imagination and pen of Bill Mitchell.

It also came with an insert that noted that the available V-8 engine had been engineered and built, not by Buick, but by GM’s Oldsmobile Division (gasp!).

Regardless, the new Riviera retained the traditional body-on-perimeter frame construction, but it contained a lot of fresh thinking, including a torsion bar front/coil spring rear suspension, an available 185-hp turbocharged 3.8-liter/ V-6 engine (or 160-hp 5.7-liter/ V-8), and the option of selecting the sporty, bucket seat-equipped S Type model, which was a nod back to the performance-tuned GSs of old.

Of course, personal comfort was the name of Riviera’s game, and along those lines, even the thriftiest buyers received a six-way power driver’s seat, power windows and door locks, air conditioning, remote control exterior mirrors and more. The available equipment list was even longer, and included four-wheel disc brakes (replacing rear drums), leather-and-vinyl-upholstered seating, automatic A/C, the Trip Monitor digital gauge readout, CB/8-track stereo player, a vinyl top, and Astroroof sliding glass sunroof.

Despite the steepest pricing ($10,111/$10,388 for Riviera/S Type, or roughly $33,927/$34,856  in 2017 dollars) in that year’s Buick Motor Division lineup, this car was a hit with critics and buyers alike, and the S Type actually earned Motor Trend‘s 1979 Car of the Year award. Sales were strong, with buyers choosing 37,881 Rivieras and 14,300 Riviera S Types. Twenty percent of buyers chose the new-age turbo V-6 engine, too.

Have you ever driven a ’79 Riviera? How about a car with Buick’s 3.8-liter Turbo?

Click on the images below to enlarge.