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1965 Buick Riviera Gran Sport
Riviera: One of the new Gran Sports from Buick

1965 Buick Riviera

1965 Riviera Auctions


Exterior Paint Colors

Interior Trim

Standard Equipment

Optional Equipment

Headlamp Visor Manual Operation and Maintenance



An almost impossible thing happened to Riviera on the way to '65.

A Buick ad for the 1965 Riviera stated that on the way to 1965, something almost impossible happened. The Riviera got even better. And it did. In fact, the styling changes to the 1965 cars were quite dramatic. The Riv lost some unnecessary chrome, received a new front end appearance and a new rear bumper and taillight design. The headlamps were now placed vertically in the edge of the front fenders, and were hidden behind distinctive ribbed chrome grilles that opened like a clamshell to expose the beams. This design was the original intent of GM's chief stylist Bill Mitchell, and was illustrated in the XP-715 project drawing. But as with so many innovations, engineering hadn't quite caught up to the designers and the hidden headlights were not ready for production until the 1965 models came out. And since 1965 would be the third and final year of this styling cycle, it's wasn't unusual to see more changes than normal to create new interest in an aging design.

The ribbed clamshell doors were operated by a single electric motor placed behind the front bumper, and they were operated automatically whenever the headlight switch was turned on or off. This design was not without its issues, however, with early models suffering from a failed relay that prevented the covers from operating, due to the manner in which the relay was initially mounted. A service bulletin was released that instructed service departments to angle the relay so that water wouldn't seep in and short it out. Another frequent problem was due to a build up of dirt on moving components and the subsequent lack of lubrication of the arms that rotated the clamshells themselves. This caused the motor to work too hard, and eventually some of them burned out. Only one other General Motors car was equipped with hidden headlights in 1965, and that model was the Chevrolet Corvette, which utilized a similar motor, but the headlight assemblies were built in to the forward edge of the hood, and the entire assembly rotated when the lights were needed.

1965 Buick Riviera with clamshell headlight doors openThe front turn signals, which formerly occupied the area where the headlights had been relocated to, were moved below the bumper and concealed behind a matching ribbed grille. Continuing the ribbed theme, a $26.88 rocker panel molding was made available, and was included at no charge when an interior upgrade was ordered.

The chrome side scoop was removed, which really made the beautiful Body by Fisher stand out. The removal of this one chrome decoration made the car appear to be leaner, meaner, and lower. Perhaps it was just one less thing to distract the eye from the overall brilliance of the original design, but whatever the reason, it worked.

The taillights were moved from the panel below the trunk lid and were now integrated with the one piece rear bumper. Wider than before, the taillights were decorated with a chrome grille that split each lens in half horizontally, and featured six fine chrome vertical lines. The back up lights were mounted at the center most point in the taillights. The Buick Tri-Shield emblem concealed the trunk lock.

A couple of dress up items were added to the options list for the first time in 1965. At $110, the new black vinyl roof should have been a major hit, but a late introduction of April 9, 1965 may have been too late to create much excitement as just 2,006 cars left the factory so adorned. A new chrome Buick wheel with exposed chrome acorn lug nuts, a charcoal black recessed center section, and knock off hub was a $91.38 option, and was significantly more popular than the vinyl roof.

Inside the new Riviera, the standard interior featured minor changes to give it a fresh look. The instrument panel received a black camera case textured finish from end to end, and the center console used wood veneer that matched the veneer on the door panels. Standard interiors were upholstered in vinyl, and had a sew style similar to previous models. They were offered in white, black, medium blue, or saddle. As before, door panels had a small arm rest and if optional power windows were ordered, the switches were mounted on the door panel instead of incorporated into the arm rest.

Optional interiors featured Beaumonde Cloth inserts with vinyl bolsters. Available in green, medium blue, black, or fawn (off white), the upgraded interior was priced at $96.75. Full length arm rests were provided on the doors and for rear seat passengers, along with expanded wood veneer inserts that ran the length of the door as well as the rear quarter trim panel. Optional power window and seat controls were incorporated into the arm rests, and provision was made for rear seat passengers to open the door by providing an additional handle at the rear of the door armrest.

If cloth upholstery wasn't your thing, an optional all-vinyl interior could be ordered. For an extra $166.63, the all-vinyl upgraded interior was offered in 3 colors: black, saddle, or green. On January 29, 1965, a 4th shade, white was added. The sew style on the optional interiors differed from the standard interior in that the seats featured a widely ribbed pattern on the seat cushion and back, with an inverse triangular pattern at the top of the seat backs. The new ribbed rocker molding was also included with both interior options.

The convenience of a tilt steering wheel was provided as standard equipment on all Rivieras in 1965, a nod to the Thunderbird's "Swing-Away" steering wheel that had become very popular on that car. Since most potential Riviera buyers in 1965 were also considering the T-bird, it made sense for Buick to be as competitive as possible. Front seat belts were a mandatory safety item, and as such were provided on all cars as standard.

1965 Buick Riviera60 days into production, a new Gran Sport option was released. For $306.38, it included a package of performance and appearance equipment, including the "LX" code 425 cubic inch V-8 engine with 2 4-barrel carburetors, Positraction rear differential with a 3.42:1 ratio, a modified heavy duty transmission, 8.45 x 15 tires, a modified exhaust system, special wheel covers with spinners, and Gran Sport emblems mounted under the Riviera script on front fenders and on the rear deck lid. Early cars with this option featured a smaller Gran Sport emblem, which was enlarged mid-December 1964. At the same time, the rear deck emblem moved to the left side of the deck lid, instead of being mounted under the script on the right. A total of 3.354 cars were ordered with the Gran Sport option, making them highly coveted collectibles today.

Often confused as being a part of the Gran Sport option, an optional handling package that included heavy duty suspension and a quicker steering ratio was available, but it was not included as part of the Gran Sport option, and was available on all Rivieras.

To keep the base price down, Buick dropped the 425 cubic inch engine from the standard equipment list for 1965. In its place, the 401 cubic inch Wildcat 445 V-8 (code "LT") with 325 horsepower was installed. This engine featured 4-barrel carburetion and required Premium fuel. The 425 cubic inch Wildcat 465 V-8 (code "LW") with 340 horsepower was optional at just $48, which was quite a bargain. For even more performance, a Super Wildcat 425 cubic inch V-8 engine (code "LX") was offered at $188, and provided 360 horsepower. This engine was installed in 3,808 Rivieras, all but 454 of them into cars also equipped with the Gran Sport option.

Despite the very attractive styling updates and new options offered for 1965, sales once again fell short of Buick's 40,000 per year benchmark. Just 34,586 Rivieras came off the assembly line, making 1965 the lowest production year to date for the model. An all-new Riviera would appear for 1966, with new styling inside and out, and the personal luxury car market would also become a bit more crowded with the introduction of the 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado. The 1963-1965 Buick Riviera ranks near the top of most people's lists when it comes to landmark styling, and these cars proved that a luxury car could also offer performance and good looks without tacking on a lot of chrome to justify its price.

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