1988-91 Buick Reatta
Here at Restoration World, we look at cars that might be cool to own without breaking the bank.
I've known about the Reatta for a long time, but it was just recently that I got a close look on the supreme build quality of this interesting car...and they aren't aging badly either.
In the mid-80s, Buick engineers faced a serious challenge. There hadn't been two-seater sports car offered by the company in over 40 years, and they needed something new.
Caddilac had the Allante, which was based on a shortened version of the E-chassis - used by the Eldorado, the Tornado and the Riveria.
Buick stepped up to the plate with the Reatta, which after a mere four years of extremely disappointing sales, was discontinued.
The expected customer for the new car would be wealthy and probably retired, and expect a higher standard of luxury and quality than the average consumer.
Calling the Reatta a sports car is somewhat misleading. Calling it a roadster isn't really accurate, either - except for Alfa Romero, front-wheel drive cars rarely are.
The Reatta is more of a heavy two-seat cruiser that was available as a coupe or convertible.
The reason I'm focusing on the Reatta is rather simple. In today's money, the Reatta was 70 thousand dollars, and was very much a hand-built car.
You can pick up a super clean convertible right now for somewhere between 6 and 7k. And when I say clean, I mean a pampered car with everything in superb working order.
There are certain cars on the market that naturally fall into a category I like very much...and the Reatta is one of them.
These are the cars that are always garaged, have never been hooned - and have always been serviced by the dealer. My Volvo S90 falls into that category, which greatly influenced me when I purchased it.
The Reatta was only offered with a four-speed automatic transmission, coupled to a 3.8 liter V-6. It must be said, however, that GM had actually gotten things right with the L27 3.8, which puts out about 170 horsepower.
It's a very smooth and reliable motor, producing excellent torque at the lower end of the rpm range, and perfect for daily driving.
Another nice thing about the Reatta are the options...which can be described as a shit-ton of everything.
As a matter of fact, the only choice you really got were the 16-way memory seats.
The Reatta has a supple ride and decent acceleration while not being mind-boggleling fast.
It's a heavy car - weighing in at 3,500 lbs. - and feels extremely comfortable at highway speed. The doors are very heavy, and have that satisfying thunk you get with high-end cars like Mercedes.
I think the looks are clean and modern - as is the interior. I would stay away from the 1988-89 models, as the touchscreen Electronic Control Center in the middle of the dash hadn't really been worked out.
Some people have have had problems, while other didn't. Regardless, it was very much ahead of its time...perhaps a little too much.
The touchscreen controls the air-conditioning, stereo and diagnostic elements of the computer systems. When it fails, all hell breaks loose.
Mature buyers didn't like this feature, and it was dropped for the 1990-91 Reattas, which had normal controls.
If you are like me, then you are purchasing a classic car because you like the looks and plan on keeping it awhile.
I don't really care for the coupe version of the Reatta
That being said, go for the convertible Reatta - which I think is very handsome.
They will hold their value better than the coupe and will probably be worth worth more than what you paid should you decide to move to something else.
There are no rust issues with the Reatta, nor are there any power-train worries. However, inspect all the electronics very carefully and make sure everything works.
The electrical system on this car is its weakest link. Another thing to look at carefully is smooth operation of the pop-up headlamps.
Also - and this is very important - make sure your potential Reatta has never been in an accident.
You can do this by opening the doors, hood, trunk, and gas filler lid - then look very carefully for evidence of a respray. Stay away from cars that have mismatched paint from panel to panel.
Remember, the Reatta was built at a huge loss for GM, and you can take advantage of that.
They are nice looking, ride well and are truly hand-built. How cool is that?
If you have an itch for an American convertible with all the trimmings, you can't do much better.
As my readers know, Joy Osmanski rates our potential beaters here at Restoration World.
Joy is an Academy-Award winning actress, a former NASA engineer and the current CEO of Isuzu. Also, she's quite pretty. The question is - will our beater be cool enough for Joy to go for a ride in?
Joy had this to say about the Buick Reatta:
"Look, this is the last time I'm gonna tell you. I want a car that I can Tokyo Drift backwards into the gates of Hell at 9,000 rpm. Not some grandma-car to go play a round of golf. Ugh!"
Once again, thank you Joy, for your unwavering commitment to honest journalism.