The Riviera has its origins as the first ‘personal luxury car.’ In the late 1950s, GM began to feel the need for a personal luxury car to compete with the highly successful Ford Thunderbird — a uniquely styled, two-door, four-passenger car with an image of both comfort and performance. The design that became the first Riviera was created as a Cadillac model, the XP-715, possibly to be called LaSalle, after Cadillac’s smaller “companion” car of the 1930s. Its styling is believed to be inspired by GM styling chief Bill Mitchell. During his visit to London during the period, he was struck by the sight of a custom-bodied Rolls Royce in the fog. He later said that “knife-edged” styling was what he wanted for the new model, but with a lower profile and a bit of Ferrari thrown in for performance.
The Riviera name first entered the Buick line in 1949 as the designation for the new two-door pillarless hardtop. The Buick Roadmaster Riviera coupe constituted the first mass production use of this body style, which was to become extremely popular over the next 30 years.
The second generation Buick Riviera debuted in 1966. A notable styling point was the absence of vent windows, a feature General Motors had introduced in the 1930s. Headlamps remained concealed, but they now pivoted up above the grille when not in use. Sales for 1966 were ~45,000 a new record for GM.
Photos courtesy of Gaetan D