Tuesday, October 16, 2012
The 1963 Riviera Almost Went Topless
Many early Riviera enthusiasts have long wondered why no convertible version was ever offered to supplant the coupe. The prime competitor, Thunderbird, was offered as a convertible and so it would seem to make sense that Riviera be offered in one as well.
Now comes a series of photos that suggest that, not only was Buick thinking about such an idea, they were taking the idea very seriously. These photos were taken on the GM Styling patio in the summer of 1962 and show a Riviera convertible prototype that had been the subject of considerable planning.
Retired GM stylists recall the car clearly and note that it was not a fiberglass mock-up, but rather a body in white that arrived from Fisher to be converted by the craftsmen at the Styling buiding. In other words, this was a high level exercise.
The convertible top has been carefully styled to mimic the crisp look of the hardtop as closely as possible. Note the sharp upper rear corner- no descending bow as was so often the case on GM convertible tops- and note the sharp corners of the rear quarter windows. They look like they were taken directly from a coupe.
Look carefully at the top- it's the parallel arm top that was first created for the 1960 Cadillac Fleetwood four door convertible prototype. This will allow for a full width rear seat and side panels similar to the coupe. The top will be utilized on the 1971 full-size GM convertibles. Also notice the top deck (a'la Corvette) which mates brilliantly with the rear seat back and provides a beautifully finished look with no separate top boot. Clearly they had paid attention to the T-Bird.
This rear 3/4 view shows how carefully the top had been styled to mimic the coupe version. It lacks the slight curve of the roof where it meets the rear deck, but otherwise mirrors the coupe lines beautifully.
Here is the convertible in profile with the top lowered. Those who saw the car say that without the crisp, formal roofline, it simply lacked the dramatic presence of the coupe and in all likelihood explains why it was not approved for production- a convertible should never be less exciting visually than the coupe from which it is derived.
(Photo credits: General Motors. Cross posted at Reynolds Buick GMC Blog)