Theme: Brochures – 1995 Buick Riviera

There might even be one of these cars in the United Kingdom. A GM concessionaire in Manchester provided this brochure by post one day in 1998.

1995 Buick Riviera brochure front cover
1995 Buick Riviera brochure front cover

After this iteration, Buick gave up on the personal two-door coupe in 1999, ending a line that had existed since 1963. It began with Bill Mitchell’s hallowed car that supposedly blended the power of a Ferrari with the presence of a Bentley.

After the first version only the 1971 “Boat-tail” which lasted a mere three years, had any further claim to fame. My entrée to the car is the re-styled seventh series which Bill Porter transformed from a car resembling a Buick Somerset Regal but costing much more, into something deserving of the name.

I saw these in the early 90s and really liked the full-width lamps, the elegant C-pillar the pleasing lamp and grille arrangement.


This is the back page, showing good old Buick: a maker of solid, middle class saloons. These days, as Wikipedia points out, Buick is the successor to Saturn and takes other platforms from the GMpire and gives them a bit of Flint make-up.


The target market for the 1995 Buick would have been baby-boomers enjoying the splendid, gilded comfort of the 90s: their careers at their peak and the kids safely ushered from the family nest. For the Riviera, Buick took one last cast of the dice to see if customers could be attracted from their hated minivans into less-practical cars focused on style. No, they went off to BMW or bought an SUV.


The lady is Hollywood mature: a single wrinkle indicates she’s a full grown up while Mr Man is a good decade older, pleased with his senior position as head of HR at Mackwood-O’Vann Thermoplastics, Branton, MA.  The plan is to take a longer summer holiday and visit their eldest in Washington DC and then cross-country to Baker, Ca where Danni is working for the summer as a waiter.


The colours are warmly conservative: brown, green-grey. The fonts have serifs, as ornate as the balustrades on the mansion chosen for the backdrop. It might be Italy or it might be Florida. What it is not is a geometrical, minimal box set in a sterile plane of concrete and gravel.


The headlamps always stood out as the problem on this car. Bill Porter, Buick’s designer, reported in Car Styling that this area required a lot of work in the clay after having abandoned the grille of the 1989 Lucerne concept car. Ford’s Escort of 1995 landed on a similar theme of an oval grille but made it work better.

1995 Ford Escort (left) and 1995 Buick Riviera (right).

Ford went for a shallower wing pressing which kept the bonnet shutline outboard. On the Buick it flows down from the A-pillar to the inside corner of the lamp (with a tight apparent radius) and the makes an outboard swerve with a big radius. It gives the strong impression there is more lamp behind the body-colour part between the grille and the visible lamp. Like the Alfa 166, the lamps seem too small. A deeper grille would have helped perhaps but the priority was a narrow, wide oval grille (with an “R” badge not a Tri-Shield).

This is how the problem was approached in the same year but on a concept called the XP2000 (rear-drive, they said):

1995 Buick XP2000: source
1995 Buick XP2000: source

For the XP2000 the bonnet has indeed moved outboard though the lamps are now a bit amorphous. Design is compromise, it seems.

1995 Buick Riviera brochure
1995 Buick Riviera brochure

On the inside, Buick harked back to the 1963 car’s wide slab with holes cut into the panel. The speedo is to the right of the wheel. The dash flows nicely into the doors. It’s pleasingly restrained and devoid of the electronic showing-off that marred the 1986 car which had a touch-screen before anyone worked out how to make them work properly.

1995 Buick Riviera interior
1995 Buick Riviera interior

On the technical side, the Riviera benefited from sharing the rigid platform of the even less successful first generation Olds Aurora. The engine range came in three flavours of 3.8 V6, one of which had supercharging.

The lamps work better in black.

Here’s a close look at some of the copy:


Buick’s designers appeared to lose interest (or the budget to pursue dreams) after the B-pillar. Even if the kids weren’t going to spend much time in the back, it’s still quite basic, too much so. It’s proof that GM thought most customers never would give anyone a lift.

That panel behind the driver is missing one or two extra components to separate it from what you might find in a three-door Ford Escort. The driver’s door handle might also have been designed as cut-out in the arm-rest. Without checking, the previous model might have had a nicer rear compartment.


What were Buick trying to do with this car? On the aesthetic front it was to emphasis length and width and create a clear contrast to the formality of the predecessor which had a more upright and thicker C-pillar. All the main surfaces have a lot of curvature though the point where the wings meet the central part is defined by a sharp crease. At the base of the C-pillar is echoes of Jaguar’s XJ saloon but minus the crude joining trim which Jaguar needed to mate the roof to the body.


Buick offered a broad palette of colours. It must have looked good in black but Buick went with white for the brochure to highlight the DLO’s long, low silhouette.


I had a look at and no 1995-1999 Buick Rivieras are for sale. The same holds for autoscout. You can read a period review here.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

4 thoughts on “Theme: Brochures – 1995 Buick Riviera”

  1. I like that each model in the line up (2nd image) is presented to the camera at a slightly different angle. Was there any logic to this?

    Richard is absolutely right to highlight the plain rear compartment. It looks very cheap. This makes me think that other bits I can’t see are also cheap. Conversely, had they made the rear seats more inviting, it would have made a positive impression on the prospective purchaser.

    ‘Wow’, Mr or Ms Baby Boomer would think. ‘If they lavish that much attention on seats that nobody will use, the engineering of this car must be really top notch.’

  2. It’s an odd mixture. Two wheelcovers (yes they might be wheels but they look like hubcaps) on a stone (?) background make little sense. The driver, confident in the top shot from gear lever level, suddenly looks wary as she tries to turn on the interior lamps whilst talking to her grandchildren in the rear seat – is that because she’s still driving forward at 60 mph? The straw hat on the rear seat – a universal shorthand in Western culture for well-heeled retirees who enjoy their leisure – and the La-Z-Boy type front seats – which always look very inviting, but to fall asleep in rather than to drive from. And, on a point of pedantry, ‘handling’ is an interactive concept maybe, but the term itself is not interactive.

  3. I saw one — the car, not the brochure — late this morning. The pictures in the brochure disguise the car’s poor proportions. Short snout, long rump.

    I couldn’t quite read the brochure text as posted here so I don’t know if it contains the the press release’s text that stressed the car’s, um, nautical nature. If I recall it correctly, it claimed that the car’s shape was reminiscent of classic motor boats of the 1930s. Over-imaginative puffery, but then when that model of Riviera came to market GM was skint and desperate.

    1. Yes, I agree – in the metal there is something about this car that doesn’t quite work as it should. It’s not ugly, per se, but proportionally it is not entirely correct, either. I saw a very tidy one in Montreal a while back and had the opportunity to take it in from a variety of angles. Dead-on in profile (an angle notably avoided in the brochure) it’s almost like it is two different designs joined together at the B-pillar – proportionally, the rear half of the car implies a much lengthier car than you actually get when your eye travels to the front half. The core problem is that the wheelbase behind the door is a bit too long in an effort to accommodate the rear passengers that GM didn’t care about anyway. Looking from the rear-three-quarter, this creates a pleasingly sculpted effect but it writes cheques the front half just can’t cash.

      I had never seen the XP2000 before. Interesting find. That might as well be the styling buck for the VT Commodore.

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