60,000 Words and Another Test Print

Last week, the Riviera Project hit 60,000 words. With that number written and the 168 pages currently created, I can estimate that completion will come when I get to at least 66,000 words and 182 pages—and likely considerably more. It has taken over two years to get to this point.

I had previously decided to do another test print at 60,000 words (or so), so I uploaded the PDFs to the printer yesterday. By my count, this is revision 17—the previous test print was in December 2020.

Annotations on the title page say this:

Content not complete, brackets indicate questionable data, layout not optimized,
photos largely unedited, color correction not applied

—this is all true. Though I have worked a lot on the general form, there’s still much content left to go, so there’s been almost no attention made to optimizing the layout. Thus, nearly all of the photos and illustrations are in a few standardized sizes to get an idea of page flow and chapter length. Beyond using generic dimensions, I haven’t yet given consideration to cropping any of the photos or illustrations.

I also haven’t attempted any color correction except for the work I did on the exterior paint appendix. I sense that color correction will be fraught and will require some artistic choices—how closely, for example, will I try to get brochure selections to their original and unfaded colors?

Content that is known incomplete includes some option tables for 1973, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1980, 1981, and 1983, along with completing the Development chapter and the Annotated Bibliography. Across the book, I keep finding things to add, amplify, and clarify.

The two most lengthy chapters remain those on the sixth generation (1979-1985) and the seventh generation (1986-1993) cars, which were the Riviera generations longest in production at seven and eight model years, respectively. I don’t see this changing because—at least to a certain extent—yearly changes drive chapter length.

1966 Buick Riviera photo
1966 Buick Riviera

Unsurprisingly, by far the most pages per year are for the first generation. However, that count only comes when I combine both the chapter on the Riviera’s initial development and the one on the actual three model years from 1963 to 1965. Otherwise, the second generation (1966-1970) leads, driven by its notably lengthy options lists and the onset of significant competition from Oldsmobile, Cadillac, and Lincoln. All together, the chapters on each of the eight generations currently make up 84% of the book.

We’ll see how this test print looks—no matter how many times I look at something on a display (even a good display), there are always things I miss.

On to revision 18 …

More Formatting Questions: What’s Worth A Subhead?

1969 Pontiac Grand Prix advertisement

As the Riviera Project gets steadily longer—currently at 158 pages and 57,000 words—I find myself using more subheads within each chapter.

Some subheads are easily placed. For example, every model year of the Riviera gets its own subhead, as does each of the three special edition Rivieras.

Other subhead decisions are not so obvious. As an example, I discuss many personal luxury coupes in the Riviera Project—they were the Riviera’s primary competitors—but in my mind, there isn’t room for every one of them to get a subhead.

1969 Lincoln Mark III press photo

An excellent illustration of this repeating formatting conundrum happens over the 1969 and 1970 model years. Those years are part of the fairly lengthy (currently 18 pages) chapter on the second-generation Riviera, which ran from 1966 through 1970.

For 1969, Pontiac introduced the second-generation Grand Prix, while Lincoln introduced the Continental Mark III, based on the same platform as the fifth-generation Ford Thunderbird. In the following model year, Chevrolet introduced the Monte Carlo, based on the same A-special platform as the Grand Prix.

1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo brochure cover

Despite being designated as personal luxury coupes, none of these three models directly competed with the Riviera. In fact, the Grand Prix and the Monte Carlo were substantially downmarket from Buick’s pride, while the Mark III was more of a Cadillac Eldorado adversary.

Because the Mark III was an offering from Ford Motor Corporation, I think it is the more relevant and important competition to the Riviera. I’m leaning toward giving the Lincoln its own subhead and including the Pontiac and the Chevrolet within the other text.

What do you think?

At 55,000 Words, Is It Time to Come up With a Real Title?

Last week, the Riviera Project went over 55,000 words. With that number written and the 154 pages currently created, I can estimate that completion will come when I get to at least 61,200 words and 170 pages—and likely considerably more. It has taken almost two years to get to this point and over three months to generate the last 5,000 words.

What we still don’t have is a working title—Riviera Project is just a placeholder. I want the title to include some reference to my central thesis; that the Riviera would often differentiate from its competition with exterior design—with varying degrees of critical and financial success. But nothing has yet come to mind that I like.

Delco-GM/Bose Music System head unit

I have made significant progress recently on several fronts. The chapter on the sixth-generation cars now includes a section on the ground-breaking Delco-GM/Bose Music System, which first debuted in 1983 in the Riviera, the Cadillac Eldorado, the Cadillac Seville, and the Oldsmobile Toronado.

Work with the colors and the options continues to add notable context to the chapters themselves. In particular. I’ve done an extensive analysis of the prevalence of various colors in the seventh generation (1986-1993) and the eighth generation (1995-1999) Rivieras, since there doesn’t seem to be any actual data available.

Some statistics while we’re at it; the two most lengthy chapters remain the ones on the sixth generation (1979-1985) and the seventh generation cars, which were the Riviera generations longest in production at seven and eight model years, respectively.

Unsurprisingly, by far the most pages per year are for the first generation. However, that count is generated when I include both the chapter on the Riviera’s initial development and the one on the actual three model years from 1963 to 1965. Otherwise, the short (only two years) fifth-generation (1977-1978) leads, driven by its origin story, its notably lengthy options lists, and 1978’s 75th Anniversary Package—the first of several special edition Rivieras. The chapters on each of the eight generations currently make up 85% of the book.

50,000 Words

Last week, the Riviera Project went over 50,000 words. With that number written and the 148 pages currently created, I can estimate that completion will come when I get to at least 57,700 words and 170 pages—and likely considerably more. It has taken a little over twenty months to get to this point and over five months to generate the last 5,000 words as the writing has become less easy.

I have made significant progress recently on several fronts. Appendix Two, which displays the Riviera’s exterior colors, now has placeholder displays for all eight generations—details on some of the color diagramming considerations are here and here. I also continue to give attention to the options tables, adding more data and cross-referencing what’s already there. This work with the colors and the options is adding notable context to the chapters themselves.

Riviera 75th Anniversary Package advertisement

Some statistics while we’re at it; the two most lengthy chapters remain the ones on the sixth-generation and the seventh-generation cars, which were the Riviera generations longest in production at seven and eight model years, respectively.

Unsurprisingly, by far the most pages per year are for the first generation. However, that count is generated when I include both the chapter on the Riviera’s initial development and the one on the actual three model years from 1963 to 1965. Otherwise, the short (only two years) fifth-generation leads, driven by its notably lengthy options lists and the 75th Anniversary Package—the first of many special edition Rivieras. This is interesting (at least to me) because the fifth generation (1977-1978) is one of the “forgotten” generations, along with the fourth generation (1974-1976) and the seventh generation (1986-1993). The eight chapters on each generation currently make up 84% of the book.

Hue … and Cry?

As I continued to work on the exterior paint color charts for the Riviera Project, I have been thinking about arranging the colors I display. I’ve been trying to sort visually using ROYGBIV, with some degree of success. After a few months, a seemingly obvious concept finally came to mind—why not just use the color hue values to place them?

I’ll expand: one of the many ways to describe a particular color is the HSB color space—Hue, Saturation, and Brightness. Also named as HSL (Hue, Saturation, and Lightness), HSB is a different way of measuring the RGB color space. The interest here is that it nicely separates hue from other color factors over 360 degrees, with the red in ROYGBIV starting at about 345 degrees.

HSB was initially conceived as a way to add color to black-and-white television transmissions without changing the signal that the black-and-white sets were receiving. It has been around for quite a while—French engineer Georges Valensi invented it in 1938, pre-dating the first consumer color televisions by 16 years. Those first color televisions were astoundingly expensive—the Admiral C1617A’s $1,175 price (about $11,200 in 2020 dollars) gives a hint of why substantial color television adoption would take almost 15 years.

fifth-generation Riviera color chart

So far, I’ve charted the exterior colors using the print-oriented CYMK color space. Still, Adobe Illustrator (which I’ve been using) and a plethora of other applications have no trouble converting the values displayed to HSB so that I can see the hue value. It was time for some testing—what could go wrong?

I tried this new-to-me color sorting method out on the current beta of the fifth-generation chart. It seems to work decently, but more exploration will be needed. The early results are shown to the right.

While I’ve been testing these sorting revisions, I’ve added the appropriate Buick-assigned two-digit color number and an asterisk if the color is metallic to each paint swatch. So, the charts now also have higher data density.

The charts also show the somewhat confounding color naming inconsistencies that prevailed throughout the Riviera’s life. A color can keep the same marketing name (i.e., Medium Green), but be a different painting formulation (changing from PPG 2694 to PPG 3062). Another color can alter its marketing name but remain the same paint formulation. Finally, the same Buick-assigned color number (63) can change paint formulations (PPG 2970 to PPG 3090) and color names (Gold to Dark Gold) from year to year.

Details, details, details, …

Progress: 45,000 Words

Yesterday evening, the Riviera Project went over 45,000 words. With that number written and the 140 pages currently created, I can estimate that completion will come when I get to at least 53,400 words and 166 pages—and likely considerably more.

1977 Riviera advertisement

I have made significant progress on several fronts. Appendix Two, which displays the Riviera’s exterior colors, now has placeholder displays for half the generations—details on some of the color diagramming considerations are here. With those colors tables now in place, there’s now more precise analysis by year in each of the separate generational chapters.

There’s also been notable work on further rationalizing and extending the index and adding to the books discussed in the annotated bibliography.

Likely the most time-consuming effort over the last two months has been the attention I continue to give the options tables, both adding more data and refining their display. I’ve put extra time into the tables that show the complex 1982-1985 period when the Riviera offered coupe, T Type, and convertible versions.

Some statistics while we’re at it; the two most lengthy chapters remain the ones on the sixth-generation and the seventh-generation cars, which were the Riviera generations longest in production at seven and eight model years, respectively.

Unsurprisingly, by far the most pages per year are for the first generation, though that count is generated when I include both the Riviera’s initial development and the actual three model years from 1963 to 1965. Otherwise, the short (only two years) fifth-generation now leads, driven by its notable options lists and the 75th Anniversary Package. The eight chapters on each generation currently make up 86% of the book.

Analyzing and Displaying Exterior Automotive Colors

If a possible thesis of the Riviera Project is that exterior design matters, then by definition, the exterior colors matter. A detailed study of these colors turns out (surprise!) to be another rabbit hole.

I have decided to build visualizations of each generation’s colors, trying to get all the years and colors on a single page (though that may be challenging with the lengthy sixth and seventh generations). Building accurate visualizations means some attention to detail: the same color name may change painting codes from year to year, while the same painting code sometimes applies to different color names.

Riviera color chart
Very draft second generation Riviera exterior color chart

I’m using (mostly) scans of the original paint samples from PPG and others. These samples have, of course, aged—and accurately restoring them is non-trivial. There’s also the whole issue of how to depict different textures of paints—metallics, Firemists, etc.—one I have not yet solved.

There are many reasonable ways to sort and display these colors. I have chosen to organize the colors in the traditional ROYGBIV fashion, with the blacks, grays, whites, and various beiges and browns on top. I also combine color names across multiple years if the paint code stayed the same.

Building the visualizations in this way clearly shows changes in color fashion detailed in The Secret Lives of Color and other books. For example, note the pronounced movement toward more beiges and greens as model years moved from 1966 to 1970 in the chart above. There were also no yellow second-generation Rivieras, though the prior and following generations both offered various yellows.

Thus, we proceed, with the one guarantee that the charts as currently designed are probably not in their final form.

40,000 Words

I recently passed 40,000 words on the Riviera Project. Looking from the current 41,300 words and 126 pages, I can estimate that completion will come when I get to at least 47,900 words and 146 pages—and likely considerably more.

This 1991 is of the most beautiful seventh-generation cars I’ve seen

Progress continues to be made beyond mere word count; I’ve gotten even more work done on the chapter that covers the second-generation Rivieras and also made progress on the often stunningly ill-documented seventh-generation cars. These cars were initially very unsuccessful as far as sales when they debuted for the 1986 model year, but an “emergency” exterior restyle for 1989 at least partially turned things around.

There’s also been notable progress made with completing the options tables, with more years added, greater consistency across the years, and additional useful detail. A challenge, but not an insurmountable one, has been how Buick both changed the names of the same option and also used the same name for different options.

A few statistics while we’re at it; the two most lengthy chapters remain the ones on the sixth-generation and the seventh-generation cars, which were the Riviera generations longest in production at seven and eight model years, respectively. Unsurprisingly, by far the most pages per year are for the first generation, though that count is generated when I include both the Riviera’s initial development and the actual three model years from 1963 to 1965. Otherwise, the fourth-generation leads, driven by its endless options lists. The eight chapters on each generation currently make up 85% of the book.

35,000 Words and Nowhere Near Completion

I recently passed 35,000 words on the Riviera Project, and with that came the realization that I am nowhere near complete. Looking from the current 36,700 words and 112 pages, I can estimate that completion looks like at least 43,300 words and 132 pages—and likely more.

1966 Riviera brochure picture

Progress is undoubtedly being made; I’ve gotten a lot of work done on the chapter that covers the second-generation cars that were sold in the 1966 through 1970 model years. These interesting cars were very popular when new, with almost a quarter of a million sold over five years. I secured a scenic ride in a 1968 last year at the Riviera Owners Association International Meet in Gettysburg, PA, and came away quite impressed.

The second-generation story isn’t merely interesting for the Riviera itself. Part of the story is the arrival of new direct competition over those years; the 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado, the 1967 Cadillac Eldorado, and the 1969 Lincoln Continental Mark III. That’s not even considering the attacks from below from the Chevrolet Monte Carlo and Pontiac Grand Prix—and a substantial revision of the Ford Thunderbird. This makes this chapter a question of balance; the primary story remains the Riviera, but the context of its competitors is important.

It’s Been Slow …

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.