J3Studio

[Wierd Riviera Question 01] Why No Leather Seats In 1964?

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The 1963 Riviera offered leather seats, but for 1964 leather was no longer an option—I believe leather didn't become available again until 1974.

 

Why? Did sales not meet expectations? Was there some other problem? Did Cadillac object to this upmarket intrusion?

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I can't say for sure about the Riviera, but I know

that in the 1960's and 1970's, leather seats became

much less common in most car lines.  Vinyl took over

and became prevalent.

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In my understanding there were two that left the factory in the early part of production that came with leather.

I owned one, very early build, 07D, was in the '64 pattern not '63 as if someone had changed them.  Had MANY '63 parts on it that made it strange. Long since scrapped as it was rusted beyond recognition.

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As most of us know, Cadillac turned down the Riviera when it was originally proposed to be the new La Salle.  

I have heard a few people say that Cadillac was surprised by the success of the Riviera and complained internally to GM brass.  Taking the leather option away would further differentiate Cadillac from Buick.  This would be hard to prove and may be just speculation.  

 

GM was famous for internal politics back in the day and brand hierarchy reigned supreme.  As an example, the Corvette had been protected for many years and had to be the top ranking performance car of them all.  Rules had been broken once in a while (GMC Typhoon and Syclone) and spankings resulted.  Not so much today.

I always wondered why the leather option was dropped after one year.  I have seen a number of 63’s with this option.  Leather was standard in the Olds Starfire in the early 60’s and Pontiac offered it on the Grand Prix in 1969-1970.

It would be great to see an internal memo to answer this question but not sure if we ever will.

 

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Posted (edited)

Thanks, all.

 

John S provides an important reminder to me that just because leather seats have been generally preferred since I was coherent doesn't mean that was always so.

 

I think Pat may have something with his discussion—I can't believe that Cadillac management was particularly happy about the success of Buick's new toy, whether or not they had been part of the La Salle go/no go decision.

Edited by j3studio (see edit history)

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I'm thinking the nationwide growth of MacDonald's brought prices of leather down in the marketplace, enough to make it affordable for almost any car. Burger King (Carrols) helped as well.

Bernie

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1 hour ago, j3studio said:

Thanks, all.

 

John S provides an important reminder to me that just because leather seats have been generally preferred since I was coherent doesn't mean that was always so.

 

I think Pat may have something with his discussion—I can't believe that Cadillac management was particularly happy about the success of Buick's new toy, whether or not they had been part of the La Salle go/no go decision.

The Riviera name came from Buick once they obtained the XP-715 design.  There are prototype pictures of the car with Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Cadillac, and Buick variations.  The name on the Cadillac version was LaSalle; and the grills over the turn signals replicate the grill in the post war years LaSalle (aka small Cadillac).  Cadillac apparently had first rights of refusal and they turned it down.  In some of the prototype pictures, the name Centurion was used. I always thought that the treatment of the rear bumper on the Pontiac version was the best rendition.  It was two nerf bars, similar to the front bumper, with the tail lights between the two bumpers.

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51 minutes ago, RivNut said:

The Riviera name came from Buick once they obtained the XP-715 design.  There are prototype pictures of the car with Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Cadillac, and Buick variations.  The name on the Cadillac version was LaSalle; and the grills over the turn signals replicate the grill in the post war years LaSalle (aka small Cadillac).  Cadillac apparently had first rights of refusal and they turned it down.  In some of the prototype pictures, the name Centurion was used. I always thought that the treatment of the rear bumper on the Pontiac version was the best rendition.  It was two nerf bars, similar to the front bumper, with the tail lights between the two bumpers.

 

I've been (slowly) reading through some back issues of the Riview (and some other sources) to get a good look at variations of the XP-715. I know that the Riviera was a Buick name they had used going back to the 1949 Roadmaster hardtop.

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Originally it was the name given to the '49 "Convertible Hardtop" Pillarless 2 door hardtop, then it became a name synonymous with other Buicks.  It was actually used to describe a four door at one time.  

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Just now, RivNut said:

Originally it was the name given to the '49 "Convertible Hardtop" Pillarless 2 door hardtop, then it became a name synonymous with other Buicks.  It was actually used to describe a four door at one time.  

 

You are, of course, correct. I believe that it was 1955 when Riviera began to mean "pillarless hardtop of some sort"—either coupe or sedan. Before that, it showed up on a few pillared sedans in addition to the expected hardtop coupes.

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Here's an ad from 1949 where the Buick is referred to as a "Riviera" and also a hardtop convertible.  

 

Image result for 1949 buick riviera advertisement

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Posted (edited)

Which begs another question (02 :) ) — why was the Riviera name used on the brand-new 1963? Did Buick believe that the name's strength would suffice for a completely new car, despite the fact that in 1962 Riviera had meant "pillarless hardtop sedan version of the Electra 225" ?

 

http://www.oldcarbrochures.com/static/NA/Buick/1962_Buick/1962 Buick Full Line Brochure/1962 Buick Full Line-30-31.jpg

Edited by j3studio (see edit history)

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In 1955, this Roadmaster 4 door sedan also had a reference to "Riviera" in the ad.

1955%20Buick-04.jpg

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5 minutes ago, j3studio said:

Which begs another question (02 :) ) — why was the Riviera name used on the brand-new 1963? Did Buick believe that the name's strength would suffice for a completely new car, despite the fact that in 1962 Riviera had meant "pillarless hardtop sedan version of the Electra 225" ?

 

http://www.oldcarbrochures.com/static/NA/Buick/1962_Buick/1962 Buick Full Line Brochure/1962 Buick Full Line-30-31.jpg

Good question.  I can only imagine that the name Riviera was used to indicate something luxurious that Buick wanted to promote.  When it came time to give a name to the XP-715, Riviera already was a known quantity.  Just right for a new personal luxury coupe.

 

Perhaps someone knows the "rest of the story."

 

Ed

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Posted (edited)

I think they went with Riviera again because of them wanting to compete globally with the Italian design (Italian Riviera), and they used leather in the first 63 because they pulled out all the stops for launching. But after lunch they then had to think more about the dollars and cents. Plastic is cheaper and more versatile. Hence the plastic Star Wars air cleaner and plastic radio knobs in 1967. 

 

The commercials often referenced the Americans taking it to the Italians as a form of flattery in reference to their engineering. I think of Bill Mitchell's Pontiac Pegasus (1971). American styling with an Italian Ferrari V-12.

Screen Shot 2019-03-17 at 11.17.19 PM.png

Edited by Chimera (see edit history)
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Posted (edited)
15 hours ago, j3studio said:

Which begs another question (02 :) ) — why was the Riviera name used on the brand-new 1963? Did Buick believe that the name's strength would suffice for a completely new car, despite the fact that in 1962 Riviera had meant "pillarless hardtop sedan version of the Electra 225" ?

 

http://www.oldcarbrochures.com/static/NA/Buick/1962_Buick/1962 Buick Full Line Brochure/1962 Buick Full Line-30-31.jpg

Pontiac also did the same with the Catalina name.  Catalina was used for the 2 door hardtop Pontiac's just like Buick used Riviera.  It eventually became its own model.

Edited by Pat Curran
update content (see edit history)
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Hi Gabe,

  I think you are absolutely correct in your assesments. The bean counters went to work fine tuning cost versus anticipated Riviera buyers early on. As a matter of fact, most folks do not realize that the standard trim was only made available very late in planning, or perhaps as late as after new car rollout, to accomodate Riviera buyers who were more "value oriented" than most. That`s market speak for CHEAP!

  I suspected this for a long time due to an addendum to the `63 dealer`s book which was an announcement of the availability of the standard trims. But I didnt have much else to go on. Since, I have found very early dealer prep materials which DO NOT list any standard trim interior choices for the Riviera. At this point, I am convinced the standard trim options were a very late addition, but not so late that most materials do not contain a reference to the standard trims.

  Jim Cannon and I emailed about this (before I picked up further confirmation) long ago and we/he started tracking the earliest produced standard trim `63`s. I dont remember the exact time frame or know if he continued to track the earliest standard trim cars but preliminary research indicated that the initial rollout of the `63 Rivieras did not include standard trimmed cars. Maybe he can chime in on this...

Tom Mooney

 

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1 hour ago, 1965rivgs said:

  The bean counters went to work fine tuning cost versus anticipated Riviera buyers early on. As a matter of fact, most folks do not realize that the standard trim was only made available very late in planning, or perhaps as late as after new car rollout, to accommodate Riviera buyers who were more "value oriented" than most. That`s market speak for CHEAP!

  I suspected this for a long time due to an addendum to the `63 dealer`s book which was an announcement of the availability of the standard trims. But I didn't have much else to go on. Since, I have found very early dealer prep materials which DO NOT list any standard trim interior choices for the Riviera. At this point, I am convinced the standard trim options were a very late addition, but not so late that most materials do not contain a reference to the standard trims.

  Jim Cannon and I emailed about this (before I picked up further confirmation) long ago and we/he started tracking the earliest produced standard trim `63`s. I don't remember the exact time frame or know if he continued to track the earliest standard trim cars but preliminary research indicated that the initial rollout of the `63 Rivieras did not include standard trimmed cars. Maybe he can chime in on this...

 

Do you think they originally intended to make one of the custom interiors a "required option"—keeping the official base price the same, but making all actual cars have a higher as-delivered price? I remember that Chevrolet did that with some features on the first Corvettes.

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7 minutes ago, j3studio said:

 

Do you think they originally intended to make one of the custom interiors a "required option"—keeping the official base price the same, but making all actual cars have a higher as-delivered price? I remember that Chevrolet did that with some features on the first Corvettes.

No, I dont. I think the bean counters started to do some comparative price evaluations with competitors and lessened the car to create a lower base price for comparison. Probably the same reason they did not include a standard outside rear view mirror in the base price.

Tom

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I had read in Collectible Automobile back in 1985 that the reason leather wasn't offered as an option in 1964-65 was because Buick didn't want people to think the car was so exclusive that it was unobtainable. I also read in that same issue that they toned the adverstising down some for those years for the same reasons.

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Sadly I've already proven to myself that I'm significantly older then the average Riviera owner, so I remember the early 60's quite well. I recall several things that might go overlooked.

1) The quality and the look of vinyl had improved greatly, over what was used just a few years previously

2) To make this quality improvement sink in, the automobile industry began to tout vinyl as a superior alternative to leather. It was said to look like leather, and wear better then leather. Advertisers know if they say something often enough people will come to believe it.

3) By making vinyl the only option of a vary popular model, GM knew that people were going to buy it regardless of the interior product used. In 1963 Buick couldn't possibly know how the Riviera was going to be accepted by the buying public, so they were willing to put that little extra into the product. By 1964 they knew they had a winner, so, dare I say, they chose to cheapen up. Vinyl had become the standard for the industry, and Buick used it because they could.

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Leather has a funny history in US cars. Early upscale cars had serious leather seating with upholstery that was much more like home furniture. Postwar luxury cars also had thick, heavy leather seating. If treated well, those interiors take on a patina that is really pleasing to some, but generally un-appealing to the restoration crowd. Very little of a modern car interior is actually leather...like hide from a cow. Most manufacturers actually call out "leather seating surfaces" which means pretty much everything on the seat is vinyl except the sides facing your butt and back. Add to that all the fancy marketing terms used to imply leather but actually describe a vinyl product. Alcantara leather is a term salesmen will tell you actually is leather with a straight face when really it's a spun textile of polyester and polyurethane. Todays Alcantara is yesterday's Morrokide. Suede, low glare dashboards on Corvette's are actually vinyl. Step into a King Ranch Ford pick up the days and its the best replication of what old school leather interiors were all about and yet most of that interior is actually vinyl. Interestingly, in Asia leather interiors are considered crude in upscale cars and silk spun interiors are considered ultra luxury. We live in a plastic age and consumers seem to care less and less about what something actually is and more  about how it looks, feels and performs. Very little of the brushed aluminum trim you see in a modern car interior is actually metal. The fastest selling "hardwood look" home flooring product today is actually vinyl  Nobody cares. PRL

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On 3/17/2019 at 5:03 PM, 60FlatTop said:

I'm thinking the nationwide growth of MacDonald's brought prices of leather down in the marketplace, enough to make it affordable for almost any car. Burger King (Carrols) helped as well.

Bernie

Bernie, the folks overseas use all kinds of animals for their skins and fur. Canadians bang baby seals in the head For their fur. Americans kill horses for their meat and skins ( think Horeen Cordovan). Why we didn’t have more leather seats in our cars during the 60’s was probably due to global warming. Who knows?

 

i can say with certainty my 63 Red Riviera has red leather seats. I’m not sure what kind or where the leather came, but it is leather. Looks good too.

 

 

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934B41E1-C1D8-4377-A3A7-39BA61D686FE.jpeg

A99B7191-23C3-4E40-9E3C-8A227C7297E9.jpeg

AC47CE59-A162-4E36-9C75-45D717156972.jpeg

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I would agree, that the car became so popular that there was no reason to "give away" a leather interior, so it was dropped as standard equipment in 1964.  However, one would think that since they already had it designed and fitted, that they would have made it an option in 1964. My Dad really wanted to have leather, but by the time he saved his money to purchase his (my) Riv, the best he could get was the deluxe interior (which is really nice anyway, and Still looks good after all of these years (the leather sure would not!!!)

IMG_3358.jpg

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A very fine automobile your Dad purchased.

You are fortunate to have his 64 Riviera. I’m certain it is in good hands

Turbinator

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