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.
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.
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.
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?