• Oct 28th 2009 at 8:20AM
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Northstar-powered 1998 Buick Riviera prototype - Click above for high-res image gallery

As we approach the big SEMA show in Las Vegas next week, it's time to look back at a previous star of the show. Sometime back in the mid-80s the decision was made that Buick would abandon V8 engines and instead be the home of the V6. Even for top models like Riviera and Park Avenue, turbocharged and supercharged versions of the long-lived 3.8-liter V6 would serve propulsive duties. Needless to say, not everyone in the bowels of the Warren Tech Center agreed with this approach.

In 1998 a group of GM engineers felt the Riviera should be powered by no fewer than eight cylinders and knew full well it was possible. The Riv of that era shared its platform with other models like the Cadillac Eldorado and Oldsmobile Aurora, which of course were powered by the still contemporary Northstar V8. A single Northstar Riviera example was built as concept and trotted out at the 1998 SEMA Show.

Upper management did not agree with the premise and only a year later the whole Riviera program was euthanized. Somehow, that one V8 powered Riv survived and managed to get sold outside of GM on a salvage title. If the styling of that last Riviera doesn't give you convulsions, the car only has 10,200 miles on it and the Buy It Now price is $20K. The current bid of $3,550 hasn't yet hit the reserve so it's anyone's guess what this will go for – if it goes at all.

[Source: eBay]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      I think the car itself is "distinctive" (in an Infiniti J30 sort of way) even though it's not my cup of tea, but those wheels make it look totally heinous. Whoever killed it at GM did absolutely the right thing and should pat him-/herself on the back for that decision 11 years ago: come on the fact that it couldn't even fetch $3500 should tell you how desirable the general public thinks of it. This car, by the government CARS program definition, is a clunker.
      • 5 Years Ago
      If the seller wants the car to be sold, get rid of those rims and take down the photos of the car up on a lift. Seriously!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Northstar? No thanks... Well it does only have 10k on it, so you've got about another 10k before you have to worry about replacing both head gaskets, which oh by the way, you have to drop the motor to get to the rear bank. If you don't want to replace the head gaskets I guess you could just like with warping the block and heads and have a continually overheating pig on your hands. These engines were such an accomplishment when they came out but GM never invested/cared enough R&D in these motors to see their long-term issues.

      I'd rather have the standard issue 3800 Supercharged, wayyyy better motor.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The problems with the headgaskets were the early-90s Northstars. Since 1995 they are practically indestructible.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I love the lines of this generation Riviera except one thing; how the designers seriously overlooked how the exhaust would be integrated into the rear design. This SEMA car actually makes it look more gaudy from the rear. Wish this could have included some sort of rear valance that tucked the exhaust up out of sight.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I love these Rivieras, one of my favorite designs of the '90s!
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm surprised online6 didn't beat me to this one :-)

      Buick's decision to move to a V6 was actually in the '60s and the second time in the '80s. The history around this V6 is rather interesting. It came out in '62 Buick Special I believe. In my opinion this was a really crappy engine - they call it "odd fire" and was the definition of NVH. Buick sold the design and tooling to Jeep reverting back to the inline 6 design. When AMC bought jeep in 1970 the reverted back to inline 6 as well. GM bought the design back for the 1975 model year. It was then enlarged and changed to an "even fire" arrangement I think in 1977 but still had super low power. My dad had one in an Olds Delta 88 and it had a tough time making the thing move - and started blowing oil at 40K miles.

      Of course this is the same engine Buick marketed heavily in Turbo form in the late '70s and '80s. Even enlarged to 4.1 l it only made 125 HP.

      It was revised again in 1988 adding much-needed balance shaft. 90 degree V6 is a very poor design in my opinion. Should have never been bought back from Jeep.

      The V6 referred to in this article was still based on the old crappy design - but was revised heavily in 1995 when this generation Riv was introduced.

      It was supposed to have died in 1999 but recently (finally) died about a year ago.

      Yes I am from Flint - the birthplace of Buick, GM, and this crappy engine. Just thought I would share.

      I know it won awards - but it took from 1962 to 1995 to develop it to that point.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Love the color & hate the rims. There should have been a V8 GS model.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I LOVE those rims! if they weren't so convex I would buy the car for the rims and ditch the front wheel drive sausage of a car they come with
        • 5 Years Ago
        Ho about the hubs and spokes?
      • 5 Years Ago
      I always liked this blown up interpretation of several Alfa Giulias and Giuliettas, but the interior is so tacky, the effect is lost. Buick did integrate the oval grille and taillights nicely, sometimes bringing the oval inside, too. Everybody's right about the Kmart wheels.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I have a '68 Riviera and I love it. This one is not too bad...but the wheels, yikes.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Anyone who likes the 8th gen Riv should go here -


      Yes, that is Riviera >Performance
      • 5 Years Ago
      The exterior isn't too bad, but that interior is giving me convulsions.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It was the 90s. Every car had an ugly interior in the 90s. It looks pretty solid for what it's worth.
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