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[1963] What Was The Real Competition?


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Flory believes that the 1963 Riviera's competition was the Chrysler 300-J, the Ford Thunderbird, and the Studebaker Avanti.

 

Thoughts? The Thunderbird would seem obvious and correct …

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The main competitor was the Pontiac Grand Prix........back then if you were a Ford guy you bought a T-bird no matter what.

GM guys had to choose between the Grand Prix and the Riviera......the Grand Prix won out with more sales than the Riviera.

People who bought Fords in 1963 were not going to switch to GM......if the management of GM thought the Riviera was going to steal sales

from the Thunderbird, they were kidding themselves.......sales of the T-Bird in 63, 64, and 65 sailed right along just as in 60, 61 and 62..

 

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Posted (edited)

Thank you @Seafoam65 Agreed on the Thunderbird sales data—T'bird sales didn't peak until 1973. Through 1976 (Ford exited the market in 1977) Riviera beat Thunderbird just twice: 1969 and 1971.

Edited by J3Studio (see edit history)
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In some of the pictures of the Riviera as a concept, it's pictured with a "Squarebird" Ford Thunderbird.  That was GMs aim all along; a competition for the Thunderbird .  Thunderbird was the only other four seat personal luxury car.  The Avanti was more of a sports car and the Chrysler 300 could be had as a 4 door.  

 

In its concept form, XP-715 was originally designed to be sold by Cadillac as the LaSalle.  There are pictures of it as a Pontiac, Oldsmobile, the Cadillac LaSalle, and the Buick Centurion - with only a single headlamp in the grill. Buick sales had slipped from 3rd place in 1955 and Buick won the rights to the car hoping that the Riviera would draw customers into Buick dealerships just to view it and walk out with a different Buick. Hence, they planned on limiting the production numbers to 40,000. They sold exactly 40,000 in '63 but fell short in '64 and '65.

 

The turn signal grills at the front of the fenders are representative of the original LaSalle grill.

 

Picture of the 1963 Cadillac LaSalle concept. 

1963_Cadillac_La-Salle_XP-715_03.jpg.b88cd86439dd1f26d3f66485f7d1b467.jpg.0d369771eb0365a698a64777ca8e9858.jpg

 

1937 Cadillac LaSalle 

1070857835_unnamed(1).jpg.5915d9872180e6a3f319aee19e5aca42.jpg

 

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I was 15 years old in 1964 and pretty deep into cars. My maternal grandmother was the matriarch of the family and all the sons in law strove to own a Buick to get on her good side during those years. Her choice was Roadmaster, Super, Invicta, and finally Wildcat, all four doors in black. When I went to the dealership in 1963 and 1954 I liked the hot roddy theme of the Riviera but it was a small car in many people's eyes. The black '64 Electra 225 six window pillared sedan, now that was the traditional imagine of a Buick  and the one I remember most (it is in the prestige brochure). It wasn't until my personal postwar experience that I took a liking to what I saw as a small car. The Riviera had its own niche and I don't remember many new ones around here.

 

My car still feels tight in elbow room, short in the garage space, and lower than most cars I have owned. I had to buy newer cars before I got near that 117" wheelbase, small car when it was new.

Bernie

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14 hours ago, RivNut said:

Buick sales had slipped from 3rd place in 1955 and Buick won the rights to the car hoping that the Riviera would draw customers into Buick dealerships just to view it and walk out with a different Buick.

 

Agreed. A draft from the Riviera Project:

 

"As the decade changed to 1960, Buick was suffering because of a combination of unpopular styling, product problems, and the 1958 economic recession. From a high of nearly three-quarters of a million cars in 1955, sales had plunged to fewer than a quarter of a million units in 1959. Worse, the division was declining in comparison to its competitors. From a height of third place among all domestics for the 1955 model year, Buick fell steadily to ninth place by model year 1960."

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17 hours ago, Seafoam65 said:

The main competitor was the Pontiac Grand Prix........back then if you were a Ford guy you bought a T-bird no matter what.

GM guys had to choose between the Grand Prix and the Riviera......the Grand Prix won out with more sales than the Riviera.

People who bought Fords in 1963 were not going to switch to GM......if the management of GM thought the Riviera was going to steal sales

from the Thunderbird, they were kidding themselves.......sales of the T-Bird in 63, 64, and 65 sailed right along just as in 60, 61 and 62..

 

GM actually had three to choose from - the 63 and 64 Oldsmobile Starfire had most of the same features as the Grand Prix and was marketed as a personal luxury car. It did not have the performance credentials that the GP did but it moved pretty good. I do love the 61 to 63 bullet T-birds but as far as style the Riv beat them all. It was a true concept car released for street use.

3.JPG

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   The Riv, was shopped around to the various divisions  (except Chevrolet as they had the Corvette, another story)

I don't think it was handed over to Oldsmobile as they had the Starfire & Pontiac had the Gran Prix that started in '62. 

So Cadillac was approached. Cadillac didn't want it because they had all they could handle with their lines of producing cars.

So Buick was the only one left.  Bill Mitchell was a hell of a designer & did a good job to make the car stand out in the crowd as well as make it ride & handle better than current cars of the day.  Even BETTER than the '63-'67 Corvette as far as REAL handling & weight distribution for a '60's car.  That's one of the reasons the spare tire was shifted to under the package tray to help with weight distribution. IF you ever notice a '63-'67 Corvette in your rear view mirror you can readily see the similarity of the shape of the hood & the cowl vents as Bill was ALSO in on the design of the Corvette at the time. (the other story)

 

Tom T.

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Here are some factory photos showing the XP715 as it might appear from different divisions.

 

 

IMG_20200516_153139962.thumb.jpg.3a027b41f08a9b4fcc273a9a4b4954e8.jpgIMG_20200516_152932873.thumb.jpg.a37f27a8cd02cc37ccdcbf532099209d.jpgIMG_20200516_153014428.thumb.jpg.5421a858ced9e320629d1a0009390e4c.jpgIMG_20200516_153032066.thumb.jpg.e96eba9c99f7d503ebe3aa10dea08519.jpgIMG_20200516_153038756.thumb.jpg.4a5de1a193bae4b37b338e9d67271297.jpgIMG_20200516_153109970.thumb.jpg.4ff97e7869929df9391019ca0b0daccc.jpgIMG_20200516_153057930.thumb.jpg.455008d7539905e31d38c7bcb7dcd4f0.jpgIMG_20200516_153020874.thumb.jpg.531921f5ae46e25ff68aee59b6626011.jpg

IMG_20200516_152955981.jpg

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Olds didn't want it because they were working on the styling feature knock offs  from Cord for the FWD Toronado. And just 20 years before Cadillac dropped LaSalle because it was cutting into Series 62 sales, They didn't want another smaller car. (But the didn't know the wait would get them a Nova platform.

 

Back in '95 I was hoping to see the new Riviera on the Eldorado platform with a waterfall grille. Someone must have been at the Paris Auto Show and got stricken with the shape of French bread loaves for that one.

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Posted (edited)
15 minutes ago, 60FlatTop said:

And just 20 years before Cadillac dropped LaSalle because it was cutting into Series 62 sales. They didn't want another smaller car (but they didn't know the wait would get them a Nova platform).

 

Of course, it only took them four model years to decide that they did need a personal luxury car—even if it was larger car than the Riviera, the 1967 Eldorado was smaller than any other Cadillac sold that year.

Edited by J3Studio (see edit history)
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1963 was certainly THE year for Bill Mitchell.  Between the Riviera and the split window Corvette, could it get any better?

The T’Bird was definitely the target audience (Ford pioneered the personal luxury car and GM was jealous) and the Avanti was a good effort from a dying auto maker.

GM had the Grand Prix, Starfire and Wildcat, but they were based on full sized offerings.  Chrysler had the full sized 300 and finally the Córdoba in 1975 (late to the party).  
The real competition in 1963 was the T’bird and the Avanti. 

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Compare the fenders and hood on the Corvette to the first generation Riviera.

 

My Dad and I went to the 1963 Watkins Glenn races in his '63 Galaxie 500 fastback. There was a concours in the village park. A Pierce-Arrow Silver-Arrow and a new Avanti were sitting side by side. The Avanti went through a short depreciation cycle and returned to it's original value faster than any car built up to that time.

And the '53 Loewy coupe was the basis for design of the second generation Camaro. Good stuff out of that company too.

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4 hours ago, TexRiv_63 said:

GM actually had three to choose from - the 63 and 64 Oldsmobile Starfire had most of the same features as the Grand Prix and was marketed as a personal luxury car. It did not have the performance credentials that the GP did but it moved pretty good. I do love the 61 to 63 bullet T-birds but as far as style the Riv beat them all. It was a true concept car released for street use.

3.JPG

Nice Starfire, like the wheels 

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Posted (edited)

From other things that I've read, Cadillac didn't need another model - they were selling everything they had.  GM went with Buick to try to bolster sales of their other models and they felt that neither Oldsmobile nor Pontiac were the prestige names to carry the new model. Cadillac and Oldsmobile made their marks in 1967 with the new front wheel drive Eldorado and Toronado. Pontiac was the performance name for GM.  Just check out some of the names Pontiac associated with NHRA  and NASCAR. The gas crisis in the 70's was the start of the downfall for Pontiac. No one wanted to buy gas for a HD455. No gas; no performance vehicles.

Edited by RivNut (see edit history)
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Posted (edited)
44 minutes ago, Pat Curran said:

1963 was certainly THE year for Bill Mitchell.  Between the Riviera and the split window Corvette, could it get any better?

 

It was a notable year for automotive styling in general, but Mitchell definitely led. There was also Raymond Loewy's Avanti, of course, along with notable and acclaimed revisions to the Grand Prix. Across the industry, manufacturers were substituting "creases for chrome." Popular Mechanics wrote at the time that there hadn't been so much styling change since 1959.

Edited by J3Studio (see edit history)
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IMG_20200516_153212385.thumb.jpg.b7c04bce6625af5dbfaa8252de07628c.jpg

 

Car Exchange, March 1984 (upper right hand corner.)  Last I knew, Gene may have had a couple of these for sale. 

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21 minutes ago, RivNut said:

Car Exchange, March 1984 (upper right hand corner.)  Last I knew, Gene may have had a couple of these for sale. 

 

Thank you, Ed. You can safely ignore the message I sent you.

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I tried to post the cover of the magazine along with the other photos but I got bumped telling me that the cover would take me over my GB limit for attachments.  ??????

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3 minutes ago, RivNut said:

I tried to post the cover of the magazine along with the other photos but I got bumped telling me that the cover would take me over my GB limit for attachments.  ??????

 

Ooog … we want you to keep posting stuff. :)

 

I can't find anything that tells me how much my attachments have used or what the limit would be.

 

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     This is a GREAT thread.  Lots of knowledge here with everyone looking to share.  The old photos are also GREAT. Brings back MANY memories.

   There's a thread going on at v8buick.com that ANYONE can look at.  You may have to be a member to look at pics.  BUT it's free to join & also has lots of knowledge from many different people around the world just like here.

The thread is called "buickanything thread".  MANY more pics about Buick's. I'm sure MANY would enjoy it also.

 

Tom T.

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Posted (edited)
19 hours ago, TexRiv_63 said:

the 63 and 64 Oldsmobile Starfire had most of the same features as the Grand Prix...

 

...including the distinctive concave rear window glass, exclusive to these two cars and one of my favorite design features of the GP.  ;)

 

image.thumb.png.4bb0210d9d439feef29811afc07e1948.png

Edited by EmTee (see edit history)
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3 hours ago, abandg said:

Ed, I still have a few of these left. They are brand new and 12 dollars shipped to your door. Gene.

getPart-11.jpg

 

I would like one.

PayPal? If so, send me a request for founds. If not, ??

Address sent via PM

Craig

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IMHO, the 63 Riviera beats the 63 T-Bird in a walk.  One might then suggest that it was the Riviera which prompted the redesign of the T-Bird for 64.  And let's be honest here: the 64-66 T-Bird was a good looking car.

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My Dad was trying to choose between a T Bird and a 65 Riv. My Mom talked him into the Buick. MUCH better choice.

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I dunno.  I've always thought the 65 Riviera was a step back from 64, while the 65 T Bird convertible with the tonneau option was pretty fine.  Mechanically, though, I might give the Riviera the edge.

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Friend (a real Ford guy) just bought a 66 Tbird. He admits it is a nice car, but still not as nice as my Riviera. But he didn’t want to spend the money a first gen Riviera would have cost. 

B62AB9CC-999B-410F-8B7C-5DDB75E4479A.jpeg

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Agreed about the Riv. over the T-Bird.

When I was out looking for a new car at the age of 18, 1st. & only new car I've eve bought,  I shopped around at Ford, worked at a Ford dealer for a few years, Lincoln, Merc. some Mopars & other GM cars of the era.  I ended up with my '64 Riv. because it rode & handled so much better than ANY of the others. Too bad it was too early for the Skylark GS as I might have ended up with one of those.  I drove ALL the various GM cars, full size & A-Body's.  Why did I choose the Riv. over the others???  I had the choices of an Impala SS, the GTO, the Olds 442, any of the Chevelle's or even the Corvette. ( IF I bought a 'Vette I would probably not be here today) In actuality the Riv. was far more superior in the outright performance areas of most ANY of the others. Mopars were too wishy wasey & the brakes were horrible, you look at the brake pedal & your head would be into the windshield. WAY over boosted along with the P/S way too sensitive.  Along with most of them only having a 2 speed auto trans. available.

The brakes & steering were the same on most of the Ford offerings.

Same with most of the GM offerings. Pontiac with their Hydro-matics, Olds with their SlimJim autos,  Caddy with the same Hydro as Olds, (BUT the '64 Cad, had the 1st. yr. TH400 same as the Riv. & other Full Size Buick car offerings)& the GM intermediates only had a 2 speed auto.  In actuality the '64 Riv. was FAR SUPERIOR than ANY of the other GM cars as far as riding, handling & weight distribution.  I ALMOST bought a Fuelie 'Vette.

For the most part MANY of the other offerings from GM were at the beginning of the Muscle car era.  The Riv. actually out drove & handled better than the 'Vette & was FAR SUPERIOR in the performance & handling departments except for the Fuelie 4 speeds.  The reason I choose the Riv. amongest ALL the others was the cost of insurance.  This was the time insurance company's were starting to up the costs for these so called Muscle cars.

The Riv. was so much more car & it DIDN'T come with the higher costs of insurance, although if you compare apples to oranges the Riv. cost 1/2 the costs of the other GM & Chevs. at the time & 1/3 the costs of a 'Vette.  It wasn't considered a muscle car although it was faster & handled better than what was available at the time.

So in my mind the '64 Riv. I bought new & still have today pleases me in ALL departments I considered important to me at the time.  I was thinking about a KX version, BUT I thought & felt the 1x4 had faster initial  acceleration, would probably give me better fuel mileage & be easier on the final pocket costs.  You must remember at this time I was ONLY 18 yrs. old so ALL these costs had to make some kind of sense.

People ask me when I restored my Riv, although it's kinda getting long in the tooth today., it started the day I drove it home from the dealer & I've been playing with it since then & have it to where I feel I want it to be.

 

Tom T.

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Posted (edited)

Some might still remember Joe Gallina from western New York. He lived about a mile from me and sold a lot of 1st Generation Riviera parts. He bought a new Cobra in 1964. He told me every time he hear his son pull out of the driveway with the Cobra he imagined the kid in a coffin. He traded it for a '65 Riviera and was never without one for the rest of his life.

 

He also was very adamant that Buick had never built a car called a Riv or a Rivieras. And that's all I call them by today.

 

On the T-bird, I joined the Navy in 1967 and the first company commander had a new '67 Thunderbird coupe. At the time I thought wow, what a good looking car. It has a real solid GM style to it.

 

Bernie

Edited by 60FlatTop (see edit history)
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As luck would have it, i have both a T-Bird (1962) and Riviera GS (1965). While a coupla years apart (so not a totally fair comparison) , I'll take the riviera every day.

 

 

20190918_210152.jpg

20190901_180835.jpg

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1 hour ago, 60FlatTop said:

He was also was very adamant that Buick had never built a car called a Riv or a Rivieras. And that's all I call them by today.

 

Bernie

A little off topic but if you want to find good deals on Rivieras. Misspell Riviera on Craigslist of Facebook Market place.  The most common misspellings Riveria or Rivera.

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I used to search both Ebay and Craigslist for misspellings. And one day I just decided I didn't want THEIR cars.  I have managed well even though I excluded them.

 

I think that was back when Ebay let you use the * as a wildcard. I was telling a guy he could search easier if he used an asterisk. He asked "What's an asterisk?" I haven't bought any cars from him either.

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10 hours ago, kreed said:

Those are killer wheels on your 65 ! What are they ? Thanks 

KReed

ROA 14549

Thanks, Ken. These are Billet Specialties GS-47s. These are custom made to order. I love them and everybody comments they look great on a Riv. Not cheap and you have to wait while they are made, but it was the right choice for my car.

42F61CC8-32BD-4F8E-A000-DB712B97DCD6.jpeg

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