The truth is that I’ve made little progress on the Riviera Project in the last two months—a combination of work, travel, and the holidays have slowed things to a crawl.
Things haven’t been all quiet: I have managed to substantially improve the readability and space utilization of the option tables. I’ve also gotten a better handle on mapping the exterior colors.
I’ve also done some more statistical research. I plotted Riviera prices from 1963 through 1999 against monthly changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Unsurprisingly, the sixth-generation convertibles were the most expensive Rivieras of all, with the 1983 being the absolute peak. What did surprise me was that the 1999 was the most costly coupe even when adjusting for CPI. In constant dollars, the 1974 was the least expensive.
I have hopes of making some more progress before the end of the calendar year. We’ll see what happens.
I’ve been getting more of the option tables done, which only reveals how inconsistent some of the data is. I’ve also become resigned to the statement under Selected Available Equipment in many Buick brochures:
This is a partial list. See your dealer for details.
One thing that helps with getting accurate options data is scans and photos of the original window labels (the famous Monroney sticker), which sometimes turn up in the strangest places. I’ve gotten to the point where I hope for a heavily optioned car when I do find a window sticker—it’ll give me more data!
Options available in a Riviera of any generation are somewhat strange to our modern eyes, where reduced choice is often the watchword. Even at the very end in 1999, the Riviera was available with 12 exterior colors, six optional accent stripe colors, and five interior colors. Contrast that with Buick’s current top-of-the-line car, the 2019 LaCrosse sedan: 10 exterior colors, no accent stripes, and four interior colors.
A few statistics while we’re at it: revision 12 of the book sits at 106 pages. The two longest chapters are on the sixth generation and the seventh generation cars. Unsurprisingly, by far the most pages per year are for the first generation. The eight chapters on each generation currently make up 82% of the book.
My process when writing a book is, I think, unusual. Very early on, I move from raw text to content formatting, creating chapters and moving to a desktop publishing application (I’m currently using Adobe InDesign). This approach helps me with my visualization of what the book is going to be.
It also serves to remind me of when I have fundamental formatting problems. As long as I’ve been working on the Riviera Project in InDesign, I’ve had a big issue; the body text display with my chosen font was simply too wide, both for legibility and looks. I know I’d have to fix this, but I wasn’t sure how.
Sometimes it just takes looking at prior art. I decided to page through a few of the many single-marque books I own for ideas. After viewing quite a few, I found inspiration from the interesting and enjoyable Camaro: Fifty Years of Chevy Performance, written by Mike Mueller and published by Motorbooks. In particular, the layout for the text in the chapters on the various Camaro models and generations seemed close to what I’m looking for.
I saved a new version of the Riviera Project and went to work. Essentially, I divvied what had been the basic single-column page into three even columns. I then set the body text to the two inner columns, with photographs, graphics, and tables aligned to the outside.
At this point, I’m happy with the fundamentals of the new base layout, though I’m sure I’ll refine it further over the next few months. It’s definitely more legible than it was and the new text alignment is visually freeing up the graphics and tables.
Overall status for the Riviera Project as of mid-August 2019: 29,000 plus words over 97 pages with 15 tables and 53 photos and images.
After returning from the delightful Riviera Owners Association’s International Meet in Gettysburg last month, I’ve struggled just a little to translate my post-event excitement into action. The Riviera Project progresses, but not as quickly as I’d like.
As I look back, one of the things the meet did provide me with was a lot of context around various Rivieras and their features. One small example: photographs from period brochures don’t give a great sense of how the fourth generation (1974-1976) Rivieras integrated their high-mounted taillights.
At first, I wasn’t sure if there would be any of the fourth generation Rivieras at the meet—there are a lot less of them being collected than the 1973 and prior cars. However, on Wednesday evening I came out to my car to see a handsome Judicial Black (oh, those bicentennial Buick color names) 1976 parked next to it. So I got some good pictures and, more than that, I got a good overall feel for these cars—I don’t believe I’d seen one in decades.
This example also speaks to the value of attending something like the ROA’s International Meet. Information about some parts of the Riviera’s history is readily available. However, other parts such as the 1974-1976 cars are not nearly as well-covered.
Some statistics for the Riviera Project; as of this morning, we’re at 27,000 words and 81 pages.
On the first full day of the 2019 International Meet of the Riviera Owners Association, the final event was a Guided Rallye through Gettysburg and the surrounding country. I do not currently own a Riviera, and, though other cars were explicitly welcomed on the tour, my preference was to be in a Riviera. However, I didn’t know anyone from the ROA either than virtually before attending the meet, so I didn’t think my odds were good of achieving my objective.
As it happened, I met one of my virtual acquaintances from the ROA section of the AACA forums as we were listening to the pre-road tour briefing. Mike offered me shotgun in his striking Aqua Mist 1968 Riviera, and I jumped at the chance. In a total coincidence, his car was on all the meet materials, including the t-shirt. I wonder how many t-shirts I would buy if my car was on them …
We left the hotel parking lot slowly, with a total of about 17 Rivieras. My number one observation is that the second generation Riviera is a very comfortable car. At no point in our approximately two-hour tour did I feel remotely cramped, despite my 6’2″ and a little over 200 pounds.
Another thing I noted was how much visibility these cars have. I managed to take some decent pictures during the tour, primarily because of the wide views I had available to me in almost all directions.
Finally, it cannot be ignored that Mike’s 1968 is quite spritely. Even with an all-in weight that was likely around 4,700 pounds, The Aqua Zephyr (probably only a week older than I am—another wild coincidence) got up and went when he asked it to.
So, thank you, Mike, for giving me the experience of being in a sixties Riviera driving through the Pennsylvania countryside. I’ll never forget it.
I’m off this morning to do some true primary research for the Riviera Project. By total coincidence, the Riviera Owners Association’s annual International Meet is in Gettysburg, PA this year. That’s only about two and a half hours away, so it seemed fairly apparent that I should make the time to attend.
The meet’s organizers are expecting over 100 Rivieras by the time everyone who has registered arrives. From the early photos posted on the meet’s thread on the AACA forums, I can already see six out of the eight generations represented—the fourth (1974-1976) and fifth (1977-1978) generations have yet to make an appearance.
I see this as a great chance to immerse over the next two-and-a-half days. I’ve made some acquaintances on the ROA portion of the forum, but there’s nothing liking talking to folks in person—and, of course, seeing the cars.
Yesterday I made it to 25,000 words in the Riviera Project. It’s been slower going than I expected, but the results are satisfying. I’ve also made a couple of design decisions, moving to separate tables for options (and learning how to create tables in InDesign) and refining my chapter headings.
I continue to learn a lot, both about the Riviera itself and about all the context around it. I’m also learning that accurate data will be a problem, but for different reasons. With the earlier cars, it’s disagreements about the data while with the newer cars, it’s often a lack of any data at all—especially for the seventh and eight generation Rivieras.
A few statistics while we’re at it: the book sits at 75 pages. The longest chapter so far is on the seventh generation cars, which makes sense since—at nine years—they were the longest-lived generation. The eight chapters for each generation currently make up 81% of the book.
Over the last two weeks or so, I’ve been celebrating the five year anniversary of the trip that inspired Lincoln Highway 101. As I’m sure you may have guessed, this will be the last of those posts—against (some, many, ?) odds, we made it back home.
Ivelis and I arrived home safely but quite spent at our house in Bryn Mawr on May 31, 2014, at roughly 3:40 pm. We had traveled approximately 6,314 miles, and we had (amazingly) made it in our 29 and a half-year-old car. I felt like both we and Lauren should have received some kind of medal!
The three of us had been on the road for a total of 15 days. One day was spent “staging” to Times Square, New York City, eight traveling from Times Square to Lincoln Park, San Francisco on the Lincoln Highway, and six returning home (actually five and a half because we stopped for significant amounts of time at those two amazing museums on our second to last day out). I have to give credit to the weather in mid to late May of 2014—for the most part, it was near perfect. So many of our photos of this trip include beautiful blue skies.
For all of my worries and concerns about our ability to successfully complete this trip in this car, we ended up having only two major issues—the passenger door and the stalls. For the final eight days of our journey, I remained quite concerned that the passenger door would disintegrate even further than it had in Ely, Nevada. However, Ivelis and I were able to use both the manual door lock and the inside door handle all the way back home. Despite these problems, I’m very glad that we took this excursion in Lauren—I think that this choice of vehicle made the experience more special.
It was precisely five years ago that we completed the Lincoln Highway portion of the trip chronicled in Lincoln Highway 101. As I’ve mentioned before, this was not a done deal and was fraught at points. But, we made it.
We finally arrived at Lincoln Park, the western terminus of the Lincoln Highway, on May 25, 2014, at 3:50 pm. Interestingly, Lincoln Park was dedicated in 1909—a few years before the Lincoln Highway came into existence. It seems hard to overstate the power of the 16th president of the United States’ name in the early 20th century.
According to the reasonably accurate trip odometer (it needed to be quite precise to pass an NCRS performance verification in June 2011), we had traveled a total of exactly 3,250 miles in nine days. Our Lincoln Highway portion had been about 3,150 miles in eight days or approximately 394 miles per day. The odometer also showed us averaging an absolutely astounding 26.0 mpg with that relatively large V8 and very rudimentary engine controls that were designed in the late 1970s. Still a little doubtful about this mileage, I confirmed the accuracy of the trip computer’s numbers with our gas station receipts after our trip was complete—it turned out to be off by well under 1%.
Despite our painfully substantial delay, our friend Jordan was (still) patiently waiting for us at the circa 1924 Legion of Honour in Lincoln Park with very unexpected but excellent champagne and tasty cheese—undeniably taking a lot of the edge off what had been an extremely trying last day of our Lincoln Highway experience. He did seem quite perturbed that he had somehow left some accompanying bread at his apartment, but we were certainly not complaining! The three of us spent a little more than an hour together eating, drinking, and talking on that breezy late afternoon. Afterward, we parted ways, with Jordan departing on his snazzy BMW R1100R motorcycle and the two of us driving a final five miles to our stop for the night.
One of the strongest memories from our Lincoln Highway trip in May 2014 was our visit to the Bonneville Salt Flats. This also made it one of the easiest sections to write about.
Both of Ivelis and I had agreed quite early in our planning process for this trip that we positively wanted to visit the Bonneville Salt Flats in western Utah, something that has been on our automobile racing related “bucket list” for many years. If the salt is dry enough (and it isn’t always so), the land speed record attempts happen every year in the middle of August (a streamliner with a twin-turbocharged small block Chevrolet V8 was clocked at 437 mph in 2013). The rest of the year, the salt flats are a “special recreation management area” managed by the Department of the Interior.
Once we had passed the ghost town of Arinosa, we left Interstate 80 just east of the Nevada border and drove slowly out on a several-mile-long ribbon of asphalt. The speed limits are aggressively low—as if the civil engineers involved knew that there would be speed freaks driving along this road. The pavement ends in a kind of cul-de-sac, except there are (of course) no houses. What you do (if the salt is dry enough—and we were lucky that it was when we visited) is just gently drive off the asphalt and onto the actual salt flats.
There were six or seven other cars and trucks of various types (we spotted everything from minivans and crossovers to late-model Mustangs) on the salt flats. Everyone present tried hard to avoid getting into each other’s camera angles—I believe because all of us understood the flats’ relevance. While Ivelis waited patiently, I spent about twenty to thirty minutes cleaning up Lauren’s exterior enough to make me comfortable with taking some (perhaps way too many) pictures.
The eerie silence for the entire distance you can see and the absolute emptiness of the famous salt flats were both impressive and also striking—and not just for the beautiful pictures it produced. Finally getting a chance to visit the Bonneville Salt Flats after so many years met both of our high expectations.