Dream Projects tesla-riviera-this-and-that

Published on April 28th, 2014 | by Christopher DeMorro

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Dream Projects: A Tesla Model S Combined With A Buick Riviera

tesla-riviera-this-and-that

Let’s say you have an unlimited budget, no timeline, and all the skills needed to build your ultimate dream car. What would you build? It’s a question every gear head ponders from time to time, and I’ve had a thought that just won’t leave my head. How hard could it be to combine the electric drivetrain and chassis of a Tesla Model S with one of the most beautiful cars ever, the 1963 Buick Riviera? Not that hard, as it turns out.

Of course beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and not everyone may agree that the 1963 to ‘65 Buick Riviera is one of the most stunningly gorgeous automotive creations to ever grace this planet. Don’t take my word for it though; noted Italian car designer Sergio Pininfarina called it “…one of the most beautiful American cars ever built…” Just bear with me while I try to convert a few non-believers.

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Still with me? Good. Now, the Buick Riviera was never really a muscle car so much as it was a personal luxury coupe. At over 17-feet long, the two-door Riviera is actually more than a foot longer than the four-door Tesla Model S, though the Tesla is about 10% heavier. The Tesla is the more powerful of the two however, as the ’63 Riviera was limited to a 325 horsepower 425 cubic-inch V8 engine (later engines offered as much as 360 horsepower). The Model S, meanwhile, offers 416 horsepower in its highest trim, and can make the 0 to 60 MPH print in literally half the time of the Riviera, 3.9 seconds in the EV compared to over 8 seconds for the Buick.

Yet as good looking as the Model S is, the Riviera is widely regarded as a timeless classic. More importantly though, the Riviera has a 117-inch wheelbase that is within a half-inch of the wheelbase of the Tesla. The Riviera is also a body-on-frame design, which means that sexy body shell can be taken off of its chassis, and dropped onto another one.

See what I’m getting at yet?

As far as I know, Tesla has a rolling chassis display showcasing its drivetrain and battery pack at every Tesla store. If they can do that, could they maybe one day sell a complete rolling chassis, sans the body, interior, or all that other fancy stuff, and let us come up with a body of our own to install? You can make the interior of a classic Riviera look surprisingly modern with just a few key touches.

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I don’t see why not. In fact, it sounds like a great business plan to me, as I can imagine plenty of people willing to pay good money for the Tesla’s advanced drivetrain and battery technology. You’d have to source your owner interior, sure, and there are also issues you’ll have to account for (like hooking up brakes, lights, and speedometers), but I don’t see why it can’t be done.

Here’s the thing about converting a classic American car into an EV. It can’t suck, and the truth is, the performance of many iconic “muscle cars” is rather disappointing, so setting the bar even lower with a wimpy electric drivetrain just isn’t going to fly. Tesla got it right by offering lots of power and range, and so far it’s the only drivetrain I’d consider worthy of a classic car conversion…like a ’63 Buick Riviera.

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Basically, picture the above Buick, but yank out the gas-guzzling V8 in favor of the Tesla powertrain, and you have the basic idea of what I’m dreaming of.

The resulting vehicle would be roughly the same size, range, acceleration, and weight as Model S, but with the classic styling of a beautiful Buick with the cutting edge drivetrain of a Tesla. If you absolutely must, you could even add a roaring V8 soundtrack, though I’d much prefer to enjoy the natural soundtrack of the open road in a guilt-free (and much-faster) slice of automotive Americana.

That’s my idea, at least. What about you? If you could drop the body from any classic American car onto the drivetrain of a Tesla Model S, what would you do?




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About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or esle, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.



  • MrKevinSD

    Personally I’d go for a 69 Lincoln Continental… A much cooler car IMHO

  • WeaponZero

    I personally prefer the Tesla, but if your going to ask someone. Ask the person who is making the Stretchla. ( VW Vanagon Westfalia Bus merged with a Tesla )

  • J_JamesM

    Oh, thank goodness, I’m not the only one that thought this exact thing. Well, with a ’60s American classic, at least, not specifically the Buick.

    I dunno, I think that a full-size convertible would be a mighty fine alternative… nothing like sailing the asphalt seas in a gargantuan blue-and-white land-yacht with the top down…

  • Adam

    The rolling chassis is for display only. The vehicle is primarily supported by the body of the Tesla which isn’t on display. I do think however it could be done but it’s not gonna be drag and drop.

  • egogg

    I don’t think, as the story states, that the resulting vehicle would weigh the same as the telsa. It would likely weigh more as tesla uses aluminum body panels, and the buick uses steel.

    • CGriffin

      Speaking to the author of this article, if this project of yours could be done, it would definitely NOT have the same range, acceleration, and weight as the Tesla Model S. As “egogg” stated, the body of the Riviera weighs more than the Model S’ body, which would naturally reduce its power to weight ratio, thus slowing its acceleration. And lastly, the poor aerodynamics of the Riviera body would begin to greatly reduce its range at any speed over about 40 mph.

  • Serge Pednault

    I know it’s easy to say when someone else actually wrote an article about it but I was just discussing this exact subject with a couple of friends of mine. What’s even wierder is that I was thinking of doing this with my own 1967 Buick Riviera,…. I think the author is right that this is the future of classic car restomodding or hot rodding. Just split a body on frame car from it’s old chassis and drivetrain, drop it on the Tesla rolling chassis (hook up the bakes, direction etc,.. ) and you have a pro-touring electric conversion. You’d even have access to Tesla’s supercharger stations.

    I am certain someone is presently working out a deal with Tesla to buy chassis either to build their own models or to do exactly what’s mentionned in this article. Looking forward to it.

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  • Steve Grinwis

    1967 Chevy Impala convertible.

    Was just thinking about that last week…

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