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      Car History: Car History Year 1971
    Posted on Monday, September 27 @ 00:54:45 UTC by Cars
      Cars Following the success of the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California, 1971 saw the opening of the much larger Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida. No doubt, this was well received by kids all over the States, but young people in their late teens would probably have been more interested in the fact that henceforth, from age 18, they would be eligible to vote in all political elections.

    People in the news that year included the boxer Muhammad Ali, who was cleared of draft dodging after his earlier refusal to join the army, which inevitably would have resulted in him being sent to Vietnam. The pardon allowed him to resume his successful boxing career. One person who would not receive a pardon, however, was cult leader Charles Manson, who was sentenced to death for the murder of actress Sharon Tate in 1969. Meanwhile, NASA had sent men to the moon again, but this time they had taken along a set of wheels for exploring the lunar landscape. The Lunar Rover gave the astronauts mobility, but it was not the swoopy space vehicle of science fiction. Little more than a bare frame, it was fitted with a pair of seats and equipped with special wire-mesh wheels driven by electric motors. However, it did the job, although it had to be left on the moon, as the astronauts' spacecraft did not have the capacity to bring it home. Back on earth, towards the end of the year, GM recalled a record 6.7 million cars to rectify a problem with faulty engine mounts. It was not their most memorable achievement that year, but one that was more notable was the launch of Buick's new Riviera. Although not to everyone's taste, the Riviera had eye-catching styling teamed with luxurious appointments and plenty of power. By 1971, the styling of most Detroit products was becoming a little subdued compared to previous years. While many of the designs were good, few could be considered head-turners. One automobile that did turn heads, however, was the Riviera. Since the introduction of the 1963 Riviera, GM's design department, under the leadership of Bill Mitchell, had been turning out elegant designs for Buick's personal luxury car. All stood apart from the run-of-the-mill models, and the '71 was the most outstanding yet. Mitchell had been the driving force behind a number of unique designs for GM, among them the 1963 Corvette Sting Ray, which shared one important feature with the new Riviera: the tapering, "boattail" shape of the rear roof and deck. It was this aspect of the design that caused the most comment from magazine road testers and potential buyers alike. Some loved it; others hated it. Like the earlier models of the Riviera, the 1971 version was a 2-door hardtop coupe. It was based on a new 122 inch wheelbase perimeter frame, which was longer than the previous frame, which was longer than the previous model by some 3 inches. This helped emphasize the long, sleek shape with overtones of an earlier era that designer Jerry Hirshberg had penned for the body. When viewed from the side, the line of the front fender swept back and curved gently downward, continuing well into the door, the top of which also ran downward slightly towards the rear. Immediately behind the door, the line kicked up quite sharply to match the prominent curve of the rear fender. The shape of the latter was quite pronounced, bulging slightly out of the body, much like the rear fenders of a Forties Roadmaster although, in this case, the fender itself tapered downward to the rear. The overall effect was that of the classic "leaping cat" shape found in so many sports and luxury cars of the Forties and Fifties. The line through the fender and door emulated the outstretched front limbs, while the rear fender echoed the powerful haunches, pushing the body forward. It was unlike anything offered by any other US manufacturer at the time. On top of this traditional outline was the unique roof treatment. From the steeply raked windshield, the roof curved down to the tapering "boattail." This swept across the deck and came to a rounded point that projected out from the rear of the car. This projection was emphasized by the trailing edge of the trunk lid, which tapered inwards slightly from the rear fenders in a shallow V-shape. The inset bumper mirrored the shape of the trunk lid and "boattail." The latter was flanked by two narrow rectangular tail lights, while the license plate was sent into the bumper on the left side. The roof treatment was pure '64-67 Sting Ray, only wider. The rear window was of the same shape, while the same raised molding ran down the center of the roof and continued beyond the rear window, right down to the tip of the tail. The window itself proved a problem in more ways than one. Because of its size and position, it had to be specially tempered to withstand the stresses imposed on the body when the car was driven over extremely harsh road surfaces. This resulted in a slight distortion of its optical qualities. Moreover, the large area of glass exposed to the sun could turn the interior into an oven quite rapidly, so air conditioning was an essential option for cars that were destined to spend their lives in the sunnier states. At the front, dual head lights flanked a simple grille of horizontal bars, while rectangular parking lights were incorporated in the lower bumper. Although there was a degree of peaking to the hood, the front end styling was somewhat subdued compared to the rear. Inside, the car was well trimmed with the dashboard taking on a dual binnacle form, with the triple-faceted instrument panel designed so that all controls and instruments directly faced the driver. Despite the car's size, the interior was not exactly roomy, and it would be better described as a 2+2 rather than a full four seater. Mechanically, the new Riviera was similar to its predecessor, having coil spring suspension all round and front disc brakes as standard (although these had been an option on the previous mode!). However, the earlier models had demonstrated quite poor handling, so Buick engineers redesigned the suspension to good effect, producing a car that rode and cornered well. Moreover, the Riviera could be ordered with the Max Trac option - a computer-controlled system that prevented wheelspin and fish-tailing under hard acceleration on slippery surfaces by restricting the amount of power fed to the rear end. Only two models of Riviera were available: the base version and the Gran Sport (GS). Both were powered by a 455 cu.in. V8, which produced 315 horsepower in the former. However, the engine of the latter was equipped with a modified carburetor, a different camshaft and other bits and pieces that bumped output to 345 horsepower. In both cases, the engine was backed by a Turbo 400 three-speed automatic transmission, with a choice of column- or console-mounted shifter. With the big 455 engine, the Riviera offered performance to match its striking looks, and was capable of reaching 60mph in around 9 seconds with a top speed in the region of 125mph, However, with such a large engine and weighing in at 4500 pounds, gas mileage was not outstanding, although the car had never been designed with economy in mind. It had a very well-defined, but limited, market, being aimed at junior executive types who were moving up the income scale and wanted to say to all and sundry: "Look at me; I'm going places." Within this market, the Riviera sold well and very steadily. It continued in production throughout 1972 and 1973, although in the latter year it lost its very distinctive "boattail," and received the federal "5mph" bumpers. After that came another restyle, but never again would the Riviera be the head-turner - or the performer - it had once been. Specification BUICK RIVIERA Engine V8 - cast iron block Displacement 455 cu. ins Bore and stroke 4.31 x3.9 ins. Horsepower 315 Body styles Hardtop coupe No. of seats 5 Weight (lbs) 4,325 Ibs Price $5,253 Produced 33,810     Specification FORD PINTO FASTBACK Engine Cast iron -4 Cylinders in line Displacement 98.6 cu. ins Bore and stroke 3.19x3.06 ins. Horsepower 75 Body styles Body styles: 2 door sedan No. of seats 4 Weight (lbs) 1,949 Ibs Price $1,919 Produced 288,606     Specification CADILLAC ELDORADO CONVERTIBLE Engine V8 - cast iron block Displacement 500 cu. ins Bore and stroke 4.30x4.30 ins. Horsepower 365 Body styles Convertible coupe No. of seats 5 Weight (lbs) 4,730 Ibs Price $7,751 Produced 6,800  
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