Literally translated, Côte d'Azur means blue coast, but it's also known as the French Riviera. Today's Nice Price or Crack Pipe Buick Riviera is also azure, and has so few miles it could easily coast for years to come.
Phil Collins once sang that It's no fun being an illegal alien, and it's getting me down, and down also went the voting yesterday on the 1993 Toyota Starlet GT turbo, culminating in a 58% Crack Pipe loss for the not so FOB JDM. That car was never intended to be driven here, as evidenced by its steering wheel and pedals being farther right than Glen Beck, and the fact that it was a Toyota that appeared to still have its soul intact.
Small, agile, space-efficient, these are attributes of the Starlet that also make it exceedingly foreign in the eyes of many an American. We live in a big country, and we like to keep some distance between ourselves and our fellow Americans. That goes for both how far apart we tend to live physically, as well as how much metal we like to keep between us and everybody else on the road. A prime example of a car designed to meet this combination of expansiveness and anthropophobia comes, not with a red white and blue American name, but one from the effete confines of Europe, and worse, from France.
Once the General's most distinctive sporty personal coupe, the Riviera eventually fell in lockstep with its Toronado and Eldorado brethren until they became less and less distinguishable from one another. But that doesn't mean that today's 1981 Riviera, with fewer than 5,000 miles on its clock, won't stand out in a crowd. The sixth generation of Riviera was also the last edition with real gravitas which came largely from the 114-inch wheel base that helped stretch the car to an overall length of over 17 feet. Despite dimensions allowing climate-altering shadows, the '81 Riv is a proportionally svelte 3,675 pounds.
That's good because the entry-level engine in '81 was a 125-bhp 252-cid V6. If that didn't float your boat, the other under-hood options were a 49-state Olds diesel V8 with an even more anemic 105-hp, a 185-horse turbo V6 which was exclusive to the T-Type, and the engine that powers this blue beauty, a 307-cid V8, also sourced from Oldsmobile. That engine puts out 140 horsepower, and does so through a 3-speed automatic with shifts as soft as a mother's kiss. Performance? Well, the Riviera had previously been known to be able to get out of its own way, but by '81 it was, well. . . hey look, blue velour seats!
Not just blue velour seats, but a whole color-coordinated blue interior, including wheel, belts and dashboard. And set into that rectilinear instrument panel is a plank of petrochemical burlwood and a gauge cluster that dispenses with distraction, providing only speed and fuel levels. Below the dash is one of the best features of this car or any, that being the twig and berries-level air vent that is reason enough to wear either baggy shorts or pretend you're a Scot and rock a kilt. It's a genitali-a/c and once you've tried it, sweaty crotches just won't hold the appeal they once did.
As noted, this car has put only 4,700 miles under its front-driven wheels. With that few, it's small wonder it looks showroom fresh. The seller gives no history of the car explaining why or how it managed to stay so unused and in pristine condition, other than to note that the back seat looks to be virginal. But that condition is why this Cleveland dealer is asking a fin-below nine grand for the baroque beast. While it's not a boat tail, nor one of the angular and dramatic ‘60s Rivieras, it is not without its own sense of presence. It's also one of the last of the really gargantuan road cruisers, a factor that plays into that presence as well as making the car roomy and comfortable. Plus, think of how far away you could keep all the other drivers on the road in this thing.
So, having seen it, and ruminated on its various merits, is $8,995 a price that you would lay out on this Riviera? Or, is that too much green, even for the azure coast?
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