I Like the Buick Reatta, and I Don’t Care Who Knows It!

When I wrote this article’s headline today, Will Ferrell’s lovestruck character from the hit Christmas movie Elf immediately came to mind. I understand the controversy to be stirred up by my statement. I’m ready for the slings and arrows. My skin is thick. OK, now that the quivers have been emptied and I can put my shield down again, consider this: the short-lived Buick Reatta is a sort of guilty pleasure of mine. Why? Well, read on, fellow car enthusiast!

Developed and launched just in time for the painful late-1980s/1990s recession and expected to deliver healthy profit margins for GM, the Reatta is now a modern-day classic cruiser with interesting styling and features, with power delivered by Buick’s excellent 3.8-liter V-6 engine mated to a 4-speed automatic overdrive transmission. Front-wheel drive recalled the prior Buick Riviera/Oldsmobile Toronado, and fully-independent suspension delivered a smooth ride and nimble handling. A then-revolutionary CRT display on the dash provided engine diagnostics.

Assembly was performed by hand in Lansing, Michigan, with just over 21,000 Reattas, including coupes and convertibles, produced over the model’s relatively brief four-year production run. Never produced in large numbers, the Reatta is also fairly uncommon today. Many were used as stylish fair-weather conveyances, and it’s not too hard to locate nice, clean, examples listed for sale today. They can also be easy on the wallet, often selling for less than $10,000 and service is readily available at any GM dealer or local garage, supported by abundant parts supplies.

In 2013, I was asked to assist a lady with the sale of her late husband’s 1988 Buick Reatta Coupe, which was his dream car while studying engineering at university – a dream eventually fulfilled by the early 1990s. I explained that these vehicles generally do not bring strong money at market, with carefully preserved, virtually new examples and especially the rarer Convertibles bringing the most.

This driver-quality Reatta was unrestored and mostly original, other than the usual wear items and it was well-maintained and garage-stored. At the time, the car had 140,000 kilometers (87,000 miles) indicated. Finished in red with tan leather interior, it was equipped with suede seat bolsters, a 1988-only feature. The touchscreen CRT display worked as it should and displayed proper fluid levels, diagnostics (4) all read ‘OK’ and everything seemed to work. The car starts and runs and the many power items are functional. A set of 4 extra Reatta wheels in boxes were sold along with the car itself. The only glitch I found was with the engine cooling fan, which seemed to run fast. The paint finish was pretty good, no rust issues were noted, and the interior was clean and of driver quality.

If you’re looking for a distinctive and fun modern classic car that won’t leave a huge dent in your pocketbook, the Reatta warrants consideration. Here are a couple of recent sale listings to give you an idea of the current market for them:

https://bringatrailer.com/listing/1990-buick-reatta-5/

https://bringatrailer.com/2017/02/13/one-of-2437-10k-mile-1990-buick-reatta/

2 Comments

  1. I am 70 years old and recently purchased my 3rd 1990 Reatta. Before my 1st one, I promised all who asked..why don’t you buy American made cars?..that when America builds a great 2 seater…I’ll get in line! I love this car..and it makes me feel like I’m 40 again!!

    • Thank you for your comment! Yes, these are truly fabulous cars with interesting development history. I helped a close friend buy one a few years ago and they have used it while wintering in Florida annually.

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