Buick's status symbol coupé had a stunning new look for the 1970s, with a centrally divided wraparound rear window and accentuated rear "hips." The 1971 model year brought a new yet familiar look to the entire line of big Buicks, and subtle revisions to the Skylark line.
At the top of the pricing structure, the "luxury-sport" Riviera debuted with the most radical styling ever featured on a Buick to date. At the front end was a pointed bow-type grille and hood, with dual exposed headlights set outside the grille area. Along the sides was the trademark Buick sweep-spear design (less the usual chrome trim), and arched wheel openings. At the rear was an updated take on the 1930s boattail speedster designs. A semifastback roofline that ended in a 2-piece glass window, bonded in the center (not divided), met with a short rear decklid that led to the center boattail section, which was flanked by horizontal taillights on each side. It was a highly distinctive design that most people either loved or hated. Sales did not seem to be helped by the redesign, though to some extent increasing sales of the Monte Carlo/Grand Prix class of cars were affecting the Riviera.
The other full-size lines were totally new automobiles too. Along with the other full-size GM cars, the Electra, LeSabre and newly named Centurion were larger, more spacious, and wore more sculpted body sides. In place of the traditional Buick sweep-spear was a sculpted line beginning at the leading edge of the hood, just inside the fender line, flowing back across the hood (through fake venti-ports on all but the Centurion), onto the leading edge of the door. Then it ran across the door through the front door handle, gently arching downward toward a point near the top edge of the rear bumper. This line gave the illusion that the cars were even longer and lower than they already were. Interiors were also larger, with the doors curved out near the center to provide more hip room. The overall effect was similar to what Chrysler had tried in 1969 with their fuselage design, but the GM cars turned out as much prettier cars, although somewhat bulkier. The new Centurion effectively replaced the Wildcat and, at least initially, sold better.
With all of the station wagon models available, it is somewhat surprising that the new-for-1970 Estate wagon was so well-received. It quickly became the best seller in its class, outselling the Chrysler Town & Country, Mercury Colony Park, and Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser. The restyled 1971 model received all the new GM full-size treatments, including the infamous Glide-Away "clamshell" tailgate. The Electra and LeSabre models were similar to the Centurion in styling, with the Electra receiving the traditional four venti-ports, longer wheelbase, and plusher accommodations. LeSabre models were once again the entrylevel full-size Buicks and wore three venti-ports. All full-size models utilized the GM Flo-Thru ventilation system, with louvers built into the trunk lid (or tailgate on wagons). Mid-sized models received a new front grille/ bumper arrangement. A Skylark 2-Door Hardtop and GS 350 Convertible joined the lineup.