A sensational new Riviera  debuted for 1971. A large car  with a boattailed rear roof  and window section  and sweeping  side sculpture greeted 1971's Riviera  customers. Wheelhouses  were wide open  after a year of  skirted fenders.  Riviera shared Full-Flo ventilation  with other Buicks and had the louvers on  the deck lid.  Standard  features  were numerous  and  included heater and defroster; Custom padded contoured seats; deep pile carpeting; electric  clock; smoking  set; head restraints; new seat  belt system; inside hood lock release; variable power steering; TurboHydramatic; power front disk brakes and dual exhausts.

Note: A Gran Sport option was available for the Riviera. Cars so equipped had a 330 horsepower 455 cubic V-8 with chrome air cleaner top linked to a specially calibrated Turbohydramatic 400 transmission; heavy duty suspension; positive traction differential; H78 x 15 Bias Belted whitewall tires and Riviera GS monogram on front fenders.
What happened at Buick's....
The design was selected while Kessler was general manager, but  Lee Mays was  in charge when it was introduced.  Mays publicly called it  "a  classic new design that is a triumph of automotive styling." Privately, however, he hated the boattail Riviera and spent much of  the rest of his Buick career trying to get rid of it. "Sure, people liked it, some people like anything,"  Mays:  "I could never  find anyone who admitted they designed it."
The designer (our hero)
Jerry  Hirschberg  does.  Hirschberg,  later  chief designer of Buick Studio 2 where the larger and intermediate Buick are designed, acknowledges that he was responsible for the Boattail Riviera, trying to interpret a concept of GM styling chief Bill Mitchell's.
"It is a peculiar car to look back on," says Hirschberg. "Bill Mitchell was the prime mover of the car; he wanted a classic. The boattail was my first big assignment as chief designer of advanced Buick, and I threw myself into the work." Click here to read the comment of John Houlihan in our guestbook from 07-18-2000. John was part of Jerry Hirschberg's design staff back in 1968 !!
"At first it was supposed to be on a smaller body, the A-body. But then it was built on the B-body, and that didn't help. On a smaller car it could have been kind of interesting. It was one of the more painfull exercises I've ever been through. The car looked slighly eccentric. But so would a Corvette if it were the size of a Cadillac. I will say I have taken a gentle ribbing around the office about it, but the car did have aspects I like myself. Mitchell wanted a classic. And to Bill's credit, he liked a little controversy. Too often, we are intimidated by all the regulations. But I think te boattail was a mistake." (editor: thát thinking is a mistake!)
Ned Nickles agrees. From a styling viewpoint, the boattail Riviera, he said "was a disaster and the ones the next few years after were no good." But there are people so fond of the cars that they carefully restore them. Kessler today says he thinks the boattail was a "nice, distinctive car" but that Buick didn't do a good job of marketing it. The last word goes to Mitchell, who comments: "What hurt the boattail was to widen it. It got so wide, a speedboat became a tugboat".
Some owners:
We  like these cars just because they are so big and strong. They pull like a freight train. The lines are classic compared to other 71-73 cars.
They did a great job at Buick,
Jerry: we're proud of what you made!
This drawing is also (in color) in the 71 brochure, see the 'about this site' page.
A 72 promotion picture, nice car (and girl)