1971 Buick Riviera Silver Arrow III

During the early 1960s, following on the heels of the aircraft-inspired design themes that had swept the automotive community - characterized by high-reaching tailfins and generous uses of chrome trim, GM stylist Bill Mitchell began designing a personal luxury sport coupe with both style and sport. Mitchell became General Motors Director of Styling under Harley Early in 1954, and Vice President of the Styling Section in 1958 when Harley Earl reached GM's mandatory retirement age of 65. Thus, Mitchell became responsible for all styling at GM, immediately distancing his designs from the styling cues introduced under the Harley Earl-era, eliminating the fins, signature marks, and chrome excess.

During the 1960s, Mitchell promoted a more aerodynamic, 'shoulderless' design which was called the 'sheer look,' coupled with styling cues of Ferrari and Rolls Royce vehicles, as he described 'have the Rolls-Royce's stately presence, but with the sporty lines of a Ferrari grand tourer.' The design was originally intended for the Cadillac Division, on a proposed revived La Salle brand that would once again serve as a 'baby Cadillac.' When Cadillac turned down the idea, Buick accepted the proposal. Many of the styling cues of the concept made it into production, but others did not, including the hidden headlamps which would not appear on the production car until 1965.

Buick Riviera Silver Arrow I
As soon as production began, reportedly on the model's first day of production, an example was pulled from the assembly line and sent to Creative Industries for additional modification. The roof was lowered by two inches, the fenders and hood were lengthed, and custom moldings decorated the body side. The hood, bumper, and grille formed a deeper vee and the overall profile of the vehicle was longer than the production Rivieras. Instead of using electric motors or vacuum assistance to operate the hidden headlights, they were placed behind translucent lenses on the front fenders and the parking lights and directional signals were moved below the front bumper. The production Rivieras had two sealed beam headlamps positioned on either side of the grille, with parking and turning signal lamps hidden behind the translucent grilles, in the forward edges of the front fenders. The production Riviera used a four headlamp system while the Silver Arrow received a dual headlamp setup.
The bullet-shaped side mirrors were painted in matching silver bodycolor paint. The interior featured silver leather upholstery and trim, and deep-contoured European-style bucket seats. The rear bucket seats were shaped and upholstered similar to the front seats. Perhaps a nod to the chrome-era of the 1950s, chrome-plated door jamp plates were added. Power was sourced from the Riviera's 401 'Nailhead' cubic-inch V8 delivering 325 horsepower and sent to the rear wheels riding on removable wheel discs with wide whitewall tires via a Buick Turbine Drive automatic transmission. This first design experimentation was called the 1971 Buick Riviera Silver Arrow I.

The Silver Arrow I was used as Mitchell's personal transportation while not on the show circuit.

Buick Riviera Silver Arrow III
The Buick Riviera Silver Arrow III was the third chopped and stretched Riviera showpiece by Mitchell. It was based on the new-for-1971 third-generation 'Boat-tail' Riviera, the start of Mitchell's fascination with modern interpretations of classic prewar proportions.

The bumpers and quarter windows were redesigned, the roof was lowered, real wire wheels were used at all four corners, and custom side moldings adorned the body. There were six front halogen headlights and additional brake lights mounted in the roof. The unique high-level warning lights doubled as secondary turn signals. The Delco Remy four-wheel anti-lock braking system was one of the first experimental uses of this system, complete with four-wheel disc brakes. It used a Trac rear axle, an integrated roll bar, digital instrument panel, auto-dimming rearview mirror, adjustable brake and accelerator pedals, and a 445 Stage 1 Buick engine. The Max Trac system was a forerunner of the modern traction control system. The interior was elegant and comfortable with plush silver leather trim.

The Buick Silver Arrow III Concept was introduced at the 1972 Detroit Auto Show.

by Daniel Vaughan | Mar 2021

Related Reading : Buick Riviera History

The Buick Riviera is a nameplate that was used for many decades by the Buick Company, lasting from 1963 through 1999, with total production reaching 1,127,261. The Buick Company has been in business since 1902 actually, David Dunbar Buick had a company that affixed porcelain to cast iron. In 1899 the plumbing business was sold and the Buick Auto-Vim and Power Company was formed. The purpose of this....
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1971 Buick Riviera Silver Arrow III Vehicle Profiles

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Riviera Silver Arrow III

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112.00 in.
8 cyl., 350.00 CID., 315.00hp

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