16K Miles! 1990 Buick Reatta Survivor

For all that is written about Buick not finding its way among younger buyers, it’s easy to overlook the fact that the company has made some pretty big bets on new models designed to appeal to that audience. In the modern era, the Buick Cascada comes to mind as a sexy retractable hardtop convertible that, like others before it, failed to find favor with the under-40 crowd. This 1990 Buick Reatta is a hardtop model and supposedly has 16,631 original miles on the clock. Despite this, it still has some cosmetic flaws that are somewhat surprising for a time capsule-like this. Still, if you’re looking for a survivor Reatta with documented low mileage, it’s worth checking out here on eBay where bids have reached $5,000.

There’s no reserve in this auction, which describes the Reatta as a one-owner car. One of my favorite features of this front-wheel-drive coupe is the instrument cluster, which was light-years ahead of the first mass-production digital gauge cluster. While different manufacturers have experimented with these electronic read-outs over the years, the Reatta remains my favorite design among the early adopters. The seller notes, however, it has an intermittent illumination issue, and I can only imagine how troublesome it is to sort that out. High-end electronics may be factory-correct in certain vehicles that came with them, but that doesn’t mean they’re not positively antiquated underneath by today’s standards.

The one-piece of technology this Reatta doesn’t have is the Electronic Control Center. This was basically a precursor to the now-standard center stack that features all of the key driver controls accessible via the touchscreen. These nifty pieces of kit are still desirable today for collectors looking for some cool garage art, or to swap into a Reatta that didn’t come with the novel command center. The odd thing about this Reatta is, despite its low mileage, it still feels like a tired used car in places. The headliner is sagging down, and to be honest, the interior doesn’t look that great. I’d expect the leather to look absolutely like new, but it doesn’t. And what’s with that weird gap where the horn pad meets the steering wheel?

You can just barely see one of them here, but the front bumper is covered with chips that have caused the top layer of paint to wear away. The odd thing is it looks more like a crappy respray of the bumper cover that’s broken down over time simply due to the occasional errant rock. Now, none of this can be proven, obviously, but a car with this sort of mileage leaves a specific impression in your mind, which is that of a near-perfect example.

The Reatta has the potential to be a collector car someday, and certainly, bidders aren’t shying away from this specimen despite the disclosed issues. Do you think the Reatta was simply a misunderstood car, or is there a reason it wasn’t a bigger success?

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Comments

  1. alphasud Member

    Given the flakey nature of the electronics one has to wonder on the actual mileage as the appearance doesn’t match the low mileage. I’m sure a couple hours with a solder iron to reflow those cracked solder joints would cure the dash woes. If you say the Reatta has collector potential than I guess the same think can be said for the Pontiac Aztec. Every frog has the potential to be a prince someday!

    Like 9
    • Richard Isenberg

      Love Buick’s not calling anyone deceptive here but this doesn’t add up on the mileage. Sorry not buying the odometer story.

      Like 2
    • RacinRob4

      As the owner of an 01 Aztek GT I really don’t understand where everybody puts them out there like they’re bad vehicles. Why not the Buick Rendezvous ?? Same thing under all that sheet metal and glass. There’s not hardly a single GM car, truck or SUV of that era (96-06) that didn’t have the same electrical issues, engine issues and transmission issues but yet everybody has to pick the Aztek. GLWTA Buick Reatta’s were one of my favorite cars back in the day.

      Like 6
      • TheGasHole

        An Aztek GT is on my bucket list. Forget the massive amount if haters that jump on the “Aztek is ugly cos people who think they are funny say so” band wagon. There are much much uglier vehicles than an Aztek out there. Prius? Yep. Any new GMC or Chevy truck…butt ugly. Honda Accord….ouch my eyes! Enjoy your Aztek and forget the detractors.

  2. Sherminator

    My thought is the flaws you mention have more to do with 1990s GM quality standards than abuse. Unless stored in climate control, virtually every GM headliner from that era sags and several of their paint colors were know for chipping off within a year or two. My 1990 Cavalier SS got repainted three times in four years thanks to our lemon laws.

    Like 3
  3. JolietJake Member

    Jeff, I own a 2016 Buick Cascada, and to my knowledge it was never offered as a hardtop convertible (2016-2019). It has a cloth soft top. Plenty fast for me with the turbo 4-cylinder, but WAY too heavy at 4,500 lbs. !!!

    Like 5
  4. JolietJake Member

    I keep getting “you already made that comment” even when I didn’t, and what’ s up with the “subscribe now” message when I been paying my membership dues to BarnFinds for 3-4 months???s up

    Like 3
  5. JolietJake Member

    Jeff, I own a 2016 Buick Cascada, and to my knowledge it was not offered as a hardtop at all, and has a cloth top (vinyl not offered). Car is way too heavy at 4,500 lbs., but with the 4-cylinder turbo is plenty fast for me, but most of your readers would not find it a fast enough ride (I also own a ’68 El Camino with a 350 for faster motoring).

    Like 2
  6. Superdessucke

    Another one from the GM styling Hall of Fame. I think now we just need an Allante to join this and the C4 for the trifecta! I always thought these were kind of ugly. They look stubby, very much like an N car in my opinion.

    Like 1
  7. wjtinfwb

    Reatta was a unique car let down by absolutely zero unique attributes other than being a limited utility 2-seater. Same power train as a garden variety LeSabre, decent road manners but nothing special and nice appointments but still generic GM in so many areas. Even the styling, while attractive, didn’t create a lasting impression. Add in GMs lackadaisical build quality of the 90s and you end up with an underwhelming product. Gray on Gray doesn’t help this one nor does the lack of upkeep.

    Like 4
  8. Skorzeny

    If Buick wanted younger buyers (and I love Buick) they might have considered installing some manual transmissions in their products. Young people (at least back then when they had a little sense) wanted to drive a manual.

    Like 4
  9. RacinRob4

    As the owner of an 01 Aztek GT I really don’t understand where everybody puts them out there like they’re bad vehicles. Why not the Buick Rendezvous ?? Same thing under all that sheet metal and glass. There’s not hardly a single GM car, truck or SUV of that era (96-06) that didn’t have the same electrical issues, engine issues and transmission issues but yet everybody has to pick the Aztek. GLWTA Buick Reatta’s were one of my favorite cars back in the day.

  10. Gerard Frederick

    Way over 100.000 miles on this semi-beauty. With the electronic issues, it´s a No-No, unless the guy buying it has unlimited patience and lots of dough stashed away.

    Like 2
  11. Maestro1 Member

    No, and because of the electronics, read alphasud’s remarks.
    The car is a no no because of the electronics which I think was an option.
    If you can find an analog instrument panel in this car, they are out there, buy it; you’ll enjoy it as a driver. Forget all the technology junk.

    Like 2
    • ACZ

      Completely inaccurate and incorrect

      Like 5
  12. Allen Member

    Jeff – a little more research please. Reattas of ’88 and ’89 came standard with the electronic control center to which you refer. But 20th-century technology was just not quite up to the task so Buick went to more conventional controls in 1990 and 1991 models. 1991 was the last year of production.

    Also, not Jeff’s fault in an otherwise nice write-up, several of the comments above refer to GM’s poor quality at that time. But nobody refers to the fact that Reatta’s were HAND-built in a separate dedicated facility. ‘ Believe it was in Lansing, but I’m not sure. So, generalizations about GM’s quality at that time are not applicable to the Reatta – assembled with entirely different techniques.

    I too am cautious about this one. I don’t know how you tinker with a digital odometer, but maybe this one was somehow disconnected for 60-80,000 miles? The crowning glory of these cars was Buick’s 3.8 liter V6; one of those legendary engines in automotive history that was – like the Mopar slant six – practically indestructible. With reasonable care, service in excess of 300,000 miles is apparently quite common. So I don’t mind a few miles showing on the odometer. That is if they are SHOWING!

    It strikes me, also, that Reatta’s seemingly have yet to catch on with the collector-car community, and I’ve seen numerous examples – at least as nice as what we see here – going for prices in the $3500-5000 range.

    I’m very fond of Reatta’s – although I have yet to own one. I am going to keep looking…

    Like 4
    • chrlsful

      3 here at a dealer (twn of Easthampton, MA) saved till now, may be going out of business.
      yes, good motors, agreeable style…

    • Phil D

      You’re correct, Allen, the Reatta was essentially hand built at the Lansing Craft Center, the bodies ferried from workstation to workstation by trackless robots during assembly.

      Like 4
    • ACZ

      There is one way that the odometer can be faked on this car. The mileage memory is stored in the eprom in the bcm. If you swapped the bcm out with another car that actually has 29K, it would read that, but if you want to verify, plug a Tech1 into the car and read the VIN burned into the bcm and see if it matches the VIN of the car.

      Like 1
  13. charlie Member

    There was a complaint the other day in comments about ’50’s Fords that “everything” is our of the price range of ordinary guys like us. This, and Allantes, and the bean shaped LeBaron convertibles, are really attractive, reasonably rare, and affordable. I have not seen another Allante on the road (or in a parking lot) in the last 5 years, for example, and I have spent a good deal of time in LA as well as the boondocks where I live. The mechanical parts for all of these are easy to find, some trim parts are not, but there are sources for most of them. And as for Astec’s they were just ahead of their time, styling wise. Look at any of the six figure cars today and they are full of the Astec angles and sharp edges. As for the Riata they were good long distance road cars. Reliable, comfortable, and fast enough. A cousin drove a 10 year old one from Chicago to the east coast, then to the west coast, and then home, with no issues – she had had it since new and maintained by the book, went from 80,000 to a something over 90,000 in the process.

    Like 3
  14. Rick

    I was at the Detroit Auto Show when the Aztec was presented. I commented to my friend that I couldn’t believe GM gave the green light to this big mistake.

  15. Angel_Cadillac_Diva Angel Cadillac Diva Member

    Light years ahead of it’s time in mass production digital dash? The 1984 Chevrolet Camaro Berlinetta had a digital dash that IMO was better than this 1990 Buick. But, that’s just me.

  16. RCodeSteve Member

    The weird gap where on the steering wheel was a common problem with the horn buttons. They tended to release and flair up – looked like junk when they did. Sagging headliners were indeed a common problem as well. They were solidly built cars and a nice bargain vehicle when a good one is found (not saying this isn’t, I haven’t studied this car).

  17. charlie Member

    My Allante has the original digital dash, derided by some as a “carnival” dash, lots of colors, greens, reds, oranges, graphs rather than dials, but, optional was an analog dash, with dials, which just plugs in to the electronics. My “digital dash has about 150,000 miles, the analog sitting in the garage has about 29,000 miles which if plugged in would go from there.

    Like 1
    • Dave Mazz

      Charlie;
      You should delete your (above) post if you ever plan to swap in that 29.000 mile dash and sell your Allante. :-)

  18. ACZ

    There are some accurate and a few erroneous posts here. This design IPC started use in the 1990 Reatta and Riviera. The 86-89 Riv and the 88-89 Reatta used the CRT version. Any of these are fairly easy to repair if a problem arises. If you can read, all you have to do is follow the service manual diagnostics and fix the car. If you can’t, read then you are destined to continuously throw parts at it and never fix anything.
    Now from the symptom in the eBay auction, pay special attention to the central power supply in this car. I believe this was the last year to use that component. It’s intent was to supply clean power and ground to the electronic components in the car. It did have a problem with the surface mount technology used in it’s design that could cause this. This is not to say that is definitely the cause. Diagnosis will determine that.
    Headliner? Show me a GM car from the 70s, 80s, or 80s where that has not happened.
    The paint coming off the front fascia? It looks as if the plastic parts were resprayed. You’ll noticed some chipping on the rear as well. Looks like these were repainted at some point and a flex agent was NOT used as it should have been.
    One more thing. Even though this car is for sale in Alabama, it was sold new at a dealership in Detroit. God knows how much of it rotted away while it was in Michigan.

    Like 4
  19. ACZ

    Jeff, about the “horn pad”. That is an air bag. The two slightly raised triangular shaped pieces on the left and right side of the air bag are the horn switches.

    Like 2
  20. Steve Clinton

    No way should Buick have had the audacity to call this a Riviera!

    Like 1
    • ACZ

      They didn’t. It’s called a Reatta.

      Like 4
    • Steve Clinton

      OOPS! Too much Holiday champagne!

    • Richard Isenberg

      You know Barn Finds is such an enjoyable email to read everyday. I look forward to seeing it daily. Please enjoy it and if you don’t wanna enjoy it for what it is then stay off it. Awesome job barn finds and you folks with ur back and forth comments don’t ruin it. If u don’t have anything good to say about a listed vehicle then don’t say anything. You ruin this with that attitude

      Like 2
  21. Allen Member

    Hey Charlie – ‘ Gotta have a bit of fun at your expense. You say: “And as for Astecs they were just ahead of their time, styling wise. Look at any of the six figure cars today and they are full of the Astec angles and sharp edges.” Yup, all those new SUVs are butt-ugly too. It doesn’t impress me that the Aztec was one of the first ones.

    To my sensitivities, ALL SUVs are ugly. ‘ Confess to owning an Equinox for a few years, and it was a very good car – thoughtfully designed, very well built, easy on gas, and well equipped with really neat features. It was just the four-cylinder version, but it seemed very fast by my standards (I normally drive an MGB). But I hated the looks of the thing. Furthermore, I don’t think the basic proportions of any SUV lend themselves to any kind of automotive attractiveness. Functional, maybe? I can accept that. But if you need a truck, buy one. If. you want something attractive, go with a proper saloon, coupe, or convertible.

    Like 2
    • Steve Clinton

      My bad. I should have written ”No way should Buick have had the audacity to call this a Buick!”

      Like 1
      • ACZ

        Obviously, still too much champagne. You can’t see a beautiful car through your stupor.

        Like 3
  22. John Bauer

    Wow so many bashers! I own an 91 and for what it is is a fun car to drive.comfortable and turns heads because most people wonder what it is.i also have a rusted out 90 for parts as my 91 had front end damage when i purchased it.also parts are available from east coast reattas or ebay so happy motoring all you reatta owners!!

    Like 3
    • CaCarDude

      I agree with you John, I also own a ’91, and a ’89, and a ’88. Ok so I like the small or Baby Buick as I call them. They are actually a very comfortable road car. Hand built in Lansing as was mentioned, and they were built on the Riviera Chassis as well. The odd thing is with the reinforced Chassis the Reatta was actually heavier than the Riviera the same year. Unless you read and study the car as with any you might own you really do not know much about the car. Those who say you can bypass or alter the Odometer are totally wrong, you do not know this Reatta has a built in safe guard that any type of tampering will throw up a red flag and is not something you can just erase or delete. It will remain there for all to see. If the odometer says it has 16k miles I believe it. Especially a one owner car.
      As for the headliner dropping that is very common with these cars, regardless of mileage this Buick has been around 30 years now. My ’91 has the same issue, not a big deal as it is a very easy fix if you have the know how. I did work in auto upholstery for several years as a side job. On the drive train the 3.8 V6 is ranked one of the best ten engines ever made. Think about that. When I bought my ’91 two years ago I drove it 1,050 miles thru 5 states, (MT. to CA) in two days without an issue one. It had 65k mile at the time. Now at 67k.
      If you want a car that is not a fast sports car but want a nice comfortable road car to drive and enjoy, the Reatta is just that.

      Like 5
      • Allen Member

        Thanks CaCarDude,

        For all the reasons you write – these are why I want one!

        Like 1

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