The customized Buick Riviera known as Silver Arrow I was one of GM styling boss Bill Mitchell’s finest and most favorite creations. Here’s a rare close-up look.
Sometimes it just pays to be in the right place at the right time. Last June, MCG was attending the media preview for the 2013 Eyes on Design show, when top automotive photographer Al Rogers strolled over and gave him a heads-up. “The Silver Arrow is on its way over from the Sloan Museum. It’ll be here in a few minutes,” he said. “I was thinking you’d probably want to get a look at it,” he added with droll understatement.
Created by and for General Motors Vice President of Styling Bill Mitchell, the Silver Arrow I is an artifact of a time when GM styling bosses ran the division as their own personal kingdom, regarding the show cars as their own personal property. The 1963 Buick Riviera, originally conceived as a Cadillac and intended to wear LaSalle badges, was a Mitchell favorite, and the one-off Silver Arrow I show-car version is his personal expression of the design.
Based on a production 1963 Riviera, and then subtly yet heavily customized, the Silver Arrow bears Mitchell’s stamp from front to rear. Mitchell knew just where to sweeten and accentuate the Riviera’s classic lines, lowering the top two inches and extending the front doghouse a similar amount. His personal touches can be found throughout the car’s interior and exterior details.
Today the Silver Arrow I resides in the collection of the Sloan-Longway Museum in Flint, Michigan, emerging only now and then for special appearances like EyesOn Design, where these photos were snapped. Thanks to the Sloan-Longway staff for letting MCG drool all over their priceless Buick.
The Silver Arrow I shares the production Riviera’s finely detailed cowl inlets.
The top has been chopped approximately two inches and the C pillars reshaped to create even sharper features. It’s said Mitchell’s fondness for razor-edge styling was inspired by the designs of British coachbuilder Hooper & Co.
’60s style racing mirror
Right rear quarter view
The dash and console are essentially production car assemblies, but more finely finished. Note the matching custom floor mats.
In lieu of the wide, flat GM corporate bucket seats of the stock Riviera, Mitchell chose deep-contoured Euro-style buckets upholstered in silver leather.
The rear seats are reshaped and upholstered to match the fronts.
For an added touch of continental luxury, chrome-plated door jamb plates were added. The additional interior handle at the rear of the door was a common feature on GM’s big two-door coupes in this period, allowing rear seat passengers to open the door unassisted.
The 401 CID Nailhead V8 is detailed in black wrinkle finish. Note the giant alternator, a common feature on GM show cars due to high accessory loads and battery drain, and probably sourced from a GM ambulance or fire engine application.
The formal wheel covers are a callback to those often found on Classic-era automobiles to cover their wire wheels. The wide whitewalls are another Classic-era touch, rather anachronistic for 1963.
The Silver Arrow’s front fenders and hood are several inches longer than a production Riviera’s, forming a deeper vee in the grille and a longer overall profile.