THE 1963 Buick Riviera made its debut on Oct. 4, 1962, with a price of $4,333. Adjusting for inflation, that would be about $33,000 in 2012 dollars, near the high end of what a collector might pay for one today.
Most Rivieras, which Buick built in eight generations through 1999, sell for much less, according to data from the Black Book CPI Value Guide, which monitors prices in the collector market.
Eric Lawrence, editor of the Value Guide, called the first Riviera a "bridge car," blending luxury touches from upscale American coupes of the late 1950s with performance characteristics of 1960s muscle cars. Buick made 112,000 of the first-generation 1963-65 Riviera before changing the design for 1966.
Donnie Gould, president of RM Auctions America, said the first-generation cars were "unique, with an almost 'semicustom' design from the factory."
Auction prices quoted by Mr. Gould fall in line with value estimates from the Value Guide. "A properly restored 1963-65 Riviera can bring $30,000 to $40,000," Mr. Gould said. "At the same time, the average enthusiast can still afford a good driver for $10,000 to $15,000 and have the same car, the same design, as the more expensive collector versions."
Prized among enthusiasts are cars equipped with the performance-oriented Gran Sport option package, introduced for 1965 and offered with varying specifications through the 1975 model year. Gran Sports command a premium.
Among the aficionados is Nicola Bulgari of the luxury watch and jewelry company that bears his family's name. He has seven Rivieras in his collection of vintage American cars, including two 1963 models (one kept in Rome and one in Pennsylvania), two 1970 versions and one each from '72, '93 and '99. His 1999 car is a Silver Arrow special edition, one of 200 made to close out the production run. Mr. Bulgari secured No. 199 of the series, and he calls it his second-favorite Riviera, after the '63 model.
Speaking by telephone from his office in Rome, Mr. Bulgari praised the 1963 Riviera for what he calls its ideal balance of aesthetics, engineering, drivability and elegance. "It is one of the best postwar U.S. car designs," he said. "It looks like something you want to drive forever."
Affirming that he drives his Rivieras, Mr. Bulgari said, "When I do, I do with gusto, with pleasure."
The third-generation (1971-73) Riviera, called the "boat tail" for its huge, tapered, wraparound rear window and protruding trunk, holds similar collector appeal to the second-generation cars of 1966-70, Mr. Gould said. That is in contrast with other American collectible cars, like the Chevrolet Corvette and Ford Mustang, whose later models often trail the earlier ones in value.
Somewhat controversial when new, the car's styling still stirs debate more than 40 years later. "It's dramatic, perhaps too dramatic," Mr. Bulgari said of his '72. "But it is very nice to drive."
The boat tails follow the first-generation models in popularity among the 3,000 members of the Riviera Owners Association, according to the club's founder, Ray Knott. He added that the final-series cars of 1995-99 had become more common at meets, attributing the trend to the cars' modern comforts and improved fuel economy. David Eldridge no doubt found those qualities welcome when he drove his rare 1999 Silver Arrow to a club event in Monterey, Calif., in June. He traveled 5,137 miles from his home in Barrington, Nova Scotia.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.