General Motors engineers built a unique Buick tire shredder

Image for article titled General Motors engineers once built a unique Buick tire shredder

Photo: Auctions Me

More than two decades ago, General Motors engineers set out to create the personal luxury car that Buick truly deserved. They took Cadillac’s Northstar V8 and crammed it into a front-wheel-drive Buick Riviera. The car was supposed to be the future of the coupe but ended up being one of its last hurrahs.

Do you remember the Buick Riviera? Not this Riviera, but one of the last breaths of personal luxury cars of General Motors. In the 1990s, an assortment of manufacturers still catered to a declining market of buyers who wanted luxury, but two-door cars. General Motors was hitting the market from several angles with cars from several of its brands. Buick went up to bat for the overall with its Riviera.

Image for article titled General Motors engineers once built a unique Buick tire shredder

Photo: Auctions Me

The eighth generation Riviera hit the road in 1995 against stiff competition. Cadillac had the Eldorado, BMW had its 8 Series, and Lincoln had the Mark VIII.

The Buick had a lot of advantages thanks to its plush exterior design and plush interior.

Image for article titled General Motors engineers once built a unique Buick tire shredder

Photo: Auctions Me

It even featured Buick’s venerable 3.8-liter V6 producing a respectable 205 hp when naturally aspirated and up to 240 hp when supercharged. This is a coupe that sprinted to 60 mph in under seven seconds and could hit the 30 mpg range on the highway.

Unfortunately, that didn’t translate to butts in the seats. According to the Riviera Owners Association, Buick moved more than 41,000 in 1995 before sales dropped to 18,000 the following year. Sales would never come close to the 1995 figure.

Image for article titled General Motors engineers once built a unique Buick tire shredder

Photo: Auctions Me

In 1998, a group of General Motors engineers felt that what the Riviera needed was more power. And how would he get more power? More cylinders and more displacement, of course!

According to an old Mecum auction, engineers took a Cadillac Northstar V8, polished it, and dropped it in the engine compartment of the Riviera.

Image for article titled General Motors engineers once built a unique Buick tire shredder

Photo: Auctions Me

While the Riviera never received a V8 from the factory, its G-platform companions like the Oldsmobile Aurora and Cadillac Seville did. It’s no surprise that the engine looks at home on the Riviera. Assuming the team chose the more powerful L37 Northstar, we’re talking about a 4.6-liter V8 delivering 300 HP to the front wheels. That’s more than enough to turn rubber into smoke and noise.

Engineers then gave the car a teal blue paint job and unique Budnik wheels. The finished product was a prototype of the Riviera’s potential future, and it was shipped to SEMA in hopes of convincing General Motors chiefs that the Riviera really needed a V8 option. It was a $150,000 bet on the future of the Riviera.

Image for article titled General Motors engineers once built a unique Buick tire shredder

Photo: Auctions Me

Unfortunately, not only did the prototype fail to convince General Motors that it needed a V8, but the Riviera died a year later in 1999. As noted by the GM Heritage Center in a 2009 Mecum auctionthe prototype was not only authentic, but it was also the last V8 Riviera, period.

Image for article titled General Motors engineers once built a unique Buick tire shredder

Photo: Auctions Me

What happened to the car after SEMA? Little is known of his whereabouts since then. He appeared on ebay and Mecum in 2009then was shuffled until it reappeared on Mecum in 2015. It seems to have disappeared and unfortunately I couldn’t find anything about it. The car has a production VIN so it can be driven like anything else. Hope someone out there still enjoys it.

If you know where this car is, write to me at [email protected]. I would like to know what happened to him!

Hats off to Classic FWD GM Corporation!

amoloans