Cheap Grand Tourer: 1989 Buick Reatta

The Buick Reatta has been a fairly common site around emerging collector car circles for quite some time, helped by its limited production and decent looks from the factory. However, it has seemingly remained stuck in limbo as it relates to desirability, never transcending its status as an affordable entry into “weekend car” status. The seller of this relatively low-mileage Reatta here on eBay bought his specifically to use for Monterey Car Week as a reliable vehicle for use during touring events like the Italian Stampede. The asking price is $4,900 or best offer.

While it takes some guts to show up at an Italian car event with an American-made two-seater like a Reatta, road rallies are probably well-suited for a car like the Reatta which was never intended to be a back-roads hustler. Comfortable and low-slung, the front-wheel drive Reatta also offered independent suspension and four-wheel disc brakes. Power came from the standard-issue Buick 3800 V6. By no means exotic, the Reatta still aimed to deliver a refined driving experience with high-grade materials and a laborious assembly process to ensure a high-quality finished product.

While I haven’t inspected too many of these cars in-person, the ones I have come across seem to be holding up incredibly well. There’s a devoted following for the Reatta, even if the name doesn’t register on the radar of most consumers. The interior design was straight out of the late 80s / early 90s, but featured high-grade features like the touchscreen center control unit seen here. The Electronic Control Center was sort of a precursor to the modern-day center stack with a touchscreen panel that the newest generation of drivers raised on iPhones likely assumes has always been there. This one appears to be working well with no dead pixels.

The seller doesn’t provide much info on recent maintenance other than a new battery and ABS unit / accumulator. With under 50,000 original miles, it’s entirely possible the Reatta hasn’t needed much. Other improvements include new tires and refinished wheels, along with the installation of a back-up camera. For not much money, the Reatta offers an attractive alternative to more expensive GT cars of the early 90s, and will likely continue to mature gracefully. I don’t believe these will ever be immensely valuable, but the low cost to maintain and some level of exclusivity is a good combination, too.

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Comments

  1. JoeNYWF64

    I’ve never seen dead pixels on a CRT screen – some i have are 25 yrs old! (on LED screens, yes i have seen dead pixels on new sets WTH).
    How could the government allow such a screen(& the modern ones) on cars?
    I bet there would be a heck of a lot less accidents if all cars were mandated to have 3 mechanical dials for HVAC – no need to take your eyes off the road at ALL with those. & just print out directions from google maps at home before you leave.
    Plan your trips.

    Like 16
    • carbuzzard Member

      CRT screens don’t have pixels. And ll take a GPS navigation system over printed notes any day. You don’t have to take your eyes off the road to read printed notes…which become useless once you miss a turn?

      Like 1
      • JoeNYWF64

        I have heard of castatrophic results from following gps – sending one into areas that don’t exist, etc.
        I become very familiar with my printed instructions & pull over if i forget.
        & double ck em at traffic lights. THOSE directions are very accurate.
        & they show me IN ADVANCE up to 3 or 4 ways to go!!

    • Jerry Brentnell

      these and the cadillac verson were complete sales flops I watched 2 of these go through a classic car auction they couldn’t get a bid on either one! nobody wanted them! my boss bought a cadillac alente it spent more time at the dealer getting fixed than him driving it! total lemon!

      • Little_Cars Saul Member

        The Allante was not a “Cadillac version” of the Reatta. Totally different platform. The thinking of the engineers was about the same though. And they both suffered from a perceived service nightmare with their digital dash/controlled. I believe the Allante probably has a much longer wheelbase. If you sat the two of these cars together I don’t think you’d see many similarities other than them being two-seaters.

  2. YankeeTR5

    This car could have had promise had it been released on a rear wheel drive platform. This, and many other cars introduced in 89, represented a seismic shift to front wheel drive from GM while simultaneously, in my mind, represented the execs at GM throwing in the towel against the Japanese.

    Like 10
    • Zapp

      I think you’ve overlooked a significant fact: the Reatta is a two-seater derivative and evolution of the Riviera, which had been front-wheel-drive since 1979.

      Still, Ford brought out a new-for-’89 Thunderbird and Cougar which retained RWD and ADDED independent rear suspension. GM should have similarly updated and upgraded the RWD Regal/Grand National/GNX. Imagine the greatness that might have been…

      They threw in the towel versus FoMoCo more than anyone else, abandoning the entire RWD personal luxury segment, where Ford proved there were still customers to be found.

      Like 7
  3. Chuck Foster Chuck F

    The touch screen/computer has diagnostic mode that would show any engine codes. Great road cars, I bought one at 92k miles and went to 268k before it quit, never did diagnose it.

    Like 7
  4. Kenneth Carney

    I could just see Mom driving one of these. Sports car looks and great MPG
    too! What’s not to like. Some HD
    suspension parts from an ’01 LeSabre
    Custom would go a long way to firm up
    the Reatta’s ride and improve its handling
    quite a bit over the original units. Mom’s
    LeSabre sedan has the HD suspension
    on it and it handles like a rocket sled on
    rails. I know first-hand that a LeSabre
    equipped this way can take a curve at
    80 MPH with no body lean at all.
    Cornering was flat and the rear end
    didn’t break loose. Just imagine the
    fun you could have hopping this car up
    with off the shelf GM parts! Then add
    some wide, meaty tires and you’d have
    quite a rocketship. Oh yeah, forgot the
    turbo!

    Like 3
    • CanuckCarGuy

      The supercharged 3.8 would certainly be a fun swap on this car…I’ve always liked their looks, and can’t argue with tightening up the suspension. Could be a road rocket hiding under there without much investment.

      Like 7
    • JimmyinTEXAS

      My “off the shelf GM parts” comes with two turbos. I always loved the looks of these, just have a tough time with FWD.

  5. AMCFAN

    GM’s targeted segment was for an older crowd. They were overly expensive and ran like any other V6 GM vehicle at the time. Nothing new…..Still looks like an old persons car. I am old enough and wouldn’t be interested. Sorry.

    Like 1
  6. Capriest

    I always thought these were pretty cool cars. Love the styling on them. It’s a shame they were made before the 3800 series II with the blower. One of these would be killer with say a 98 regal GS engine.

    Like 2
  7. Ben T Spanner

    I live in Southwest Florida aka God’s waiting room. One of my neighbors has 2 red Reattas, a coupe and a convertible. Yesterday i saw a blue Reatta convertible on the road driven by one of my contemporaries; an old guy.
    8 for sale in South Florida on Craigslist.

    Like 2
  8. Karl

    One of the most FORGETTABLE cars of all time!

    • olecarguy

      So Karl, have you actually ever been in one, or driven one? I can think of a lot of different cars that would be classified as Forgettable, ie Yugo, Vega, Pacer, Aztec, to name a few…

  9. Edselbill

    These always reminded me of my 1967 Hot Wheels Silhouette. Long hood, bubble cockpit, upturned and stubby rear.

    Like 1
  10. Little_Cars Little Cars Member

    A bit of a stretch with that Hot Wheel comparison, Edselbill. I guess my eyes don’t pick up on the similarities as much as yours.

    Jeff, one of your best Barn Find write-ups — not at all reliant on cut n paste from Wiki as other writers seem to do before press time. Well done!

  11. carbuzzard Member

    I always liked the looks of the Reatta, but not the fwd.

    Like 2
  12. carbuzzard Member

    One reason the Reatta “failed” is that GM heated up to sell too many of them, making each one sold unprofitable. Smaller factory and it would have survived. Alas, still I’d want RWD, but the world was going FWD for everything. I wonder what the reception would have been with RWD.

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