The Exquisite 1965 Buick Riviera GS, a Prized Museum Artifact Empowered by Super Wildcat Power --197

Introduced in 1962 as a stand-alone production model, the Riviera name can be traced back to 1949. That's when Buick used it on the two-door hardtop version of the Roadmaster. The term also appeared on Super, Special, and Century models in the 1950s. But none of these trim levels had the massive impact of the stand-alone Riviera.

That's because the latter arrived as a unique piece of rolling art. Designed by Ned Nickles and reportedly inspired by a custom-bodied Rolls-Royce that Bill Mitchell had spotted in London, the Riviera had a distinctive body shell. It looked unlike any other Buick or GM vehicle, which was quite unusual for a General Motors product at the time.

It was also among the first production cars to sport the "Coke bottle look," which had been introduced by the Studebaker Avanti about six months before. But more importantly, it was GM's first venture into the personal luxury car market.

But what about Cadillac, you will ask? Well, Cadillac competed in an entirely different market. It was up there with Lincoln and Imperial. The latter became a separate brand in 1955. GM actually needed a product to compete with the Ford Thunderbird and the Chrysler 300 "letter series."

The company had initially planned to create a smaller Cadillac for this market, but the brand passed on the opportunity in 1960. The project was then proposed to the remaining GM divisions, with Buick winning the competition.

Built on a shortened and narrowed version of Buick's standard chassis, the Riviera was well received by the motoring press and labeled as the Thunderbird's first real competitor. Production of the first-gen coupe lasted through the 1965 model year, with sales amounting to an impressive 112,244 units.

While the 1964 version was largely identical to the first-year Riviera, the 1965 model arrived with notable changes. Having originally ditched the hidden headlamps of the concept car, Buick adopted the design for 1965. Previously mounted in the grille, the lights were now vertically arranged and hidden behind clamshell covers on the edges of each fender. 1965 also marked the debut of the Gran Sport version.

A higher-performance coupe, the GS hit showrooms with a more aggressive 3.42 rear axle ratio, heavy-duty suspension, and larger dual exhaust pipes. More importantly, it came standard with the 425-cubic-inch (7.0-liter) Super Wildcat engine. Fitted with two Carter carburetors, it generated 360 horsepower, an extra 35 horses compared to the entry-level 401-cubic-inch (6.6-liter) mill. The lump was potent enough to send the heavy Riviera flying from 0 to 60 mph (97 kph) in only 7.5 seconds. The coupe also covered the quarter-mile in less than 16 clicks.

A significantly more expensive option, the Gran Sport wasn't as popular as the regular Riviera. Of the 34,586 luxury coupes built in 1965, only 3,354 examples were ordered in GS trim. That's less than 10% of total production for the year. It's also the rarest Riviera Gran Sport of the 1960s. If you haven't seen one yet, the Flame Red example shown here is perhaps the finest 1965 Riviera GS out there.

And if you think it looks like it belongs in a museum, it's because this two-door coupe was actually on display in the Fran and Ron Greens Verde Classics Museum for a few years. It was auctioned off a while back, and now it's looking for a new owner.

In tip-top condition inside and out and equipped with white leather seats and power windows, this Riviera also rocks a numbers-matching Super Wildcat engine under the hood. And the latter is so clean it could win beauty awards on its own. I'm surprised that this Buick doesn't have numerous awards to its name based on how it looks right now.

If it's something you'd parade in, the Riviera is waiting for a new owner in Colonial Beach, Virginia. But it won't be cheap. The auction already shows almost 50 bids, and the price is sitting at $68,100. Moreover, the reserve is still in place. I've seen GS models in Concours-ready condition go for $150,000, so don't expect this Flame Red beauty to change hands for a five-figure sum.

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