General Motors was proud of it’s 1972 Buick Riviera for a variety of reasons, and the automobile’s innovative styling was certainly one of them. The 71 Rivieras were radically redesigned.These models were designed under the direction of GM’s Bill Mitchell who had worked previously under legendary auto designer Harley Earl.

1972 buick riviera
Modified 1972 Buick Riviera

The Riviera Boattail Design

The 72 Riviera’s styling stood out with it’s beautiful Boattail. On the Riviera this took the form of a huge, tapered, wrap-around rear window and protruding trunk. The boattail design on the Riviera’s was a bit controversial on a design standpoint at the time and may still be controversial with some collectors.

Auto collectors will usually associate the flowing boattail design with the Auburn Speedsters of the 1930’s. That same styling was also seen on the Chevy Corvettes from 63 to 67 and no doubt hung around the GM design rooms long enough to makes it’s reintroduction in 1971.

buick riviera boattail
72 Buick Riviera boattail designed rear with wrap around window

Buick Riviera’s MaxTrac

Buick offered it’s MaxTrac all-weather traction control system beginning with the 1971 Riviera. The system operated with a small computer two sensors. One of the sensors is located at the transmission output link and this measures rear wheel speed. The second sensor is located on the left front wheel hub and measures front wheel speed. MaxTrac kicks in when the computer detects the rear wheels going significantly faster.

What happens at this point is that the computer cuts the ignition ( the 12 volt coil wire passes through the computer) for only 10 milliseconds which doesn’t cause the car to stall out.. This process is repeated many times per second until the rear wheels recover their grip on the road and the difference between the front and rear wheel speeds are down to within eight percent of each other. MaxTrac also keeps the car on course by cutting torque.

1972 Buick Riviera Specifications

The 1972 Riviera had the same 455 cubic inch V-8 that the 71 model had however horsepower as re-rated going down to 250 from 315 and the torque also was decreased. The GS models were rated at 260 horsepower. This change all came about when General Motors ruled that all of their engines had to be rated in net SAE output. This same 1972 engine was also put in the 1973 Rivieras.

Transmission was a three speed Turbo Hydra-Matic 400 automatic. The shift lever was put on the steering column but as an option the buyer could have it placed on the center console.

The front wheels received 12 inch ventilated disc brakes while the rear wheels had 11 inch drums.

buick riviera boattail
1972 Buick Riviera front view

The 1972 Buick Riviera Boattails had a different suspension than the previous Riviera models. Independent suspension with coil springs and upper and lower A-arms were found up front. In the rear was a four link suspension that consisted of coil springs and upper and lower control arms.

Total Buick Riviera production for the 71, 72 and 73 model years were 101,618 vehicles. For the 1972 model year the total was 33,728.

See the AutoMuseumOnline articles on the links below…

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72 buick riviera photos
Modified 72 Riviera front view

 The Buick Riviera Boattail as a Collector Car

The 72 Buick Riviera is an affordable collector car and does generate good attention at local auto shows. The design as mentioned above is different but stylish and the boattail design of the rear is innovative, especially for an early 70’s vehicle. The 1973 models were the last of the collectible Rivieras.

An article on lists the 71 Buick Riviera among the 100 cars that take their collective breath away. has an article that includes the Buick Riviera Boattail models as among the Eleven Best Buicks of the past 110 Years.

The rarest of the 71-73 Riviera’s are the Gran Sports versions. These had the Stage I version of the 455 cubic inch V-8.

buick riviera logo

Buick Riviera boattail automobiles can be found in a variety of conditions. You may see price ranges from $5,000 to $20,000 depending on mileage and general condition. As of this writing we also see a 1973 Riviera, slightly modified and restored and with 97,000 miles with an asking price of $42,000.

For those with collectible Buicks, there are two major auto clubs for owners. These include the Buick Club of America located in Columbus, Ohio and the Riviera Owners Association in Altoona, Iowa.

(Article and photos copyright AutoMuseumOnline)