For $2,000, This 1996 Buick Riviera Could Be Your Coupe de Grâce

Nice Price Or Crack PipeIs this used car a good deal? You decide!

If you can’t afford a trip to the French Riviera then maybe the Mexican Riv will do. If even that is too dear then perhaps you’d just be content to ride around in today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe Buick Riviera.

Do you remember back when Audis supposedly suffered from unintended acceleration? I think today we call that autonomous driving and pay a premium to get it on our cars.


There was nothing unintentional about yesterday’s 2004 Audi TT 3.2 Quattro S-Line other than its excessively long model name, and the only thing it would do autonomously was shift gears if you were too lazy to do so. While its price was dunned in the comments, it still managed to pull out an energetic 58% Nice Price win for its troubles. See, don’t believe those exit interviews!

Buick’s Riviera exited the car market in 1999 after a laudable 36-year run as a stand-alone model. Once one of General Motors’ premier personal coupes, it became a casualty in the war of attrition with the SUVs and Crossovers that now litter our highways and byways.

Riviera is Latin for coastline and I can’t think of a nicer image than cruising up PCH in one of Buick’s original Rivieras. That ’65-’65 coupe is quite arguably one of the best-looking automobiles ever made. Very sadly, few of the ensuing Riviera generations could so much stand in that model’s shadow.


That doesn’t mean there weren’t some interesting Rivieras over the years. The third-gen boat tail car had presence, and this 1996 edition rocks a supercharged L67 V6 that gives the car one of the best power to weight ratios in the marque’s history.

The OHV 3800 pumps out 240-bhp and 280 kb-ft of torque, not high numbers today, but impressive for the Nineties. Here, that’s backed up the standard 4T60E-HD four-speed transaxle operated through a console-mounted shifter.


An opulent and overwhelmingly burgundy color-coordinated interior surrounds that console and shifter, one that also features leather seats that look eminently inviting and a dashboard with real dials rather than the earlier Riviera’s electronic displays that invariably failed. It all looks pretty decent inside, although the ad says that the driver’s seat won’t go back anymore so plan on digging into that the first weekend home.


Another issue is the traction control and ABS lamps which apparently are lit. As noted in the ad that’s most likely a wheel sensor gone tits up, but it could forebode more expensive issues.

Aside from those minor problems, the car seems to stand up, and the seller—who says it was his grandfather’s car—says it drives smooth, like “driving a couch.” The always garaged bodywork looks to have held up over the years, both physically and in style, the swooping lines and flush glass presenting a nice counterpoint to the severe angles prevalent in today’s cars.


You get new tires on the factory alloys, and a new battery under the sloping hood as bonuses. Mechanically, the supercharged 3800 is considered a rock solid mill, and even the 177,000 miles this car has under its belt shouldn’t cause concern for its longevity. Perhaps more concerning is the gearbox, as the engine puts out a lot of power for the 4T60 to handle. An upgraded 4T65E was spec’d for the car in ’97.

People often say they just don’t make ‘em like that any more, and in the case of the Buick Riviera, that’s totally the case. Today Buick is selling re-worked Opels mostly to the Chinese market. That’s okay I guess, and honestly the market for what they used to do—big traditional American sedans and coupes—doesn’t seem to be a viable market proposition anymore.


Of course, if you’re still interested in such fare, then this Riviera seems to be a good choice. That choice however, demands $2,000 OBO. Geez, you know what? I think once you get to two grand for a running and drivable car you’ve pretty much reached the OBO basement. Maybe that’s just me.


What do you think about this last-generation Riviera and that $2,000 price? Does that seem like a fair deal to see the Riviera—every day? Or, is this big Buick’s price too hefty even for its supercharged engine to pull off?

You decide!


Portland OR Craigslist, or go here if the ad disappears.

H/T to rayisok for the hookup!

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About the author

Rob Emslie

Rob Emslie is a contributing writer for Jalopnik. He has too many cars, and not enough time to work on them all.