One Owner Since New: 1989 Buick Reatta

Anytime that a car has a manufacturing facility named after it you know it’s special. This 1989 Buick Reatta is three decades old now yet it looks almost like it just rolled out of the Reatta Craft Center. This one is located in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and it can be found here on eBay. As of this writing, there are 23 bids and the bid total is a head-scratching $1,987. There is no reserve and this looks like too nice of a car to sell for that amount. Let’s check it out.

I have liked these elegant, jaunty cars since they came out in 1988. I thought that they were modern and beautiful and stylish and crisp and chic thirty years ago and going through three decades worth of life hasn’t changed my mind one bit. If anything, I think they’re even better looking today then I did back when I was in my 20s. A two-seater Buick? Their first two-seater, in fact, and one that looks it should be parked on the dock next to your yacht? Yes, please.

The Reatta was originally conceived as being rear-wheel-drive, but with Buick’s focus on an aging customer base and a more luxurious experience, the car was added to the same platform that the front-drive Rivera used but a shortened version. Oldsmobile was the only GM car maker that didn’t offer a two-seater in this era and I think it’s great that there are still a few nice Reattas out there. Not that it matters in the least, but I personally love the elegant, almost nautical look. The rear window would be harder to find than it would be to achieve political harmony in the US so whatever you do, don’t park this one outside of a little league ballpark.

The interior looks similar to the Cadillac Allante to me, but they were somewhat related and were available at the same time, so maybe that’s why. The Reatta used a high tech touchscreen interface, the Electronic Control Center, which went to regular push buttons in 1990. The area behind the front seats was for storage and the trunk was relatively small. It’s not a car that you’ll want to try to sneak a half-dozen friends into the drive-in theater with. (I just lost 64% of the Barn Finds readership who have never heard of drive-ins) One issue on Reattas is that the anti-lock system can fail and I noticed that the ABS light is on in the dash photos, as is the “service engine soon” light. Hopefully, those things aren’t a big issue.

The engine is Buick’s famous 3800, a 3.8L transverse-mounted V6 which had 165 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque. This car has only 80,000 miles on it which is less than two years of driving for me so it’s hardly broken in. It really looks like a winner to me. I’m bummed that it’s winter where I live now so this car would just sit in storage for the next five months, but maybe one of you will bid on it. This is a lot of car for two-grand, there’s no question about it. Hagerty is at $3,600 for a #3 good condition Reatta so with shipping this is right on the money. Have any of you owned or driven a Reatta?

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Comments

  1. Had Two

    Shame, beautiful cars but….high tech touchscreen interface, the Electronic Control Center…….is a deal breaker

    Like 8
    • Frank Sumatra

      I think GM had too many of these “one-off” design/build exercises going on at the same time. Reatta, Allante, Fiero, XLR, ZR-1,etc. They should have picked two of the above and really put some dedicated resources into to making them true World-Class automobiles. Every one was as series of compromises that eventually killed the car.

      Like 13
    • Jonny the Boy

      You said it! I worked at a Buick dealership back in ‘88-‘89. I didn’t like the touchscreen even then, as I could hear its constant high-pitched ring that is common to CRTs. And I knew the system would be too expensive to replace if something went wrong, and probably too complex to fix if it did. Damn expensive car back then, so of course the dealership owner’s son had one!

      Like 1
  2. Julian K

    nah that’s a deal maker

    Like 6
  3. Chuck Foster Chuck F 55chevy

    I bought an 88 Reatta with 92k miles, drove it daily for 15 years and it ended up with 268k before it died. Great road cars, very comfortable with the 16 way adjustable seats. There is an active sub forum for Reattas on the AACA Antique Automobile Club of America.

    Like 12
  4. Dave

    Weird. Unless there is more than one red Reatta in the Dirty Myrtle, I have actually seen this car within the last couple years.

    Like 10
  5. Car Nut Tacoma

    Beautiful looking car. I remember when the Buick Reatta was on the market. I found it way more attractive than the Buick Riviera of the same year. I was in fact hoping that it would replace the Riviera. But that didn’t happen.

    Like 7
  6. Autobob

    We have a Reatta as a shop driver / loaner. We have owned it for 7 years and bought it from a client we serviced the car for. It has 140,000 miles and has been great. The forum mentioned by Chuck has lots of dedicated people that can answer/solve most any Reatta questions. On the touch screen we found a retired GM tech that rebuilds them and have had no issues past 6 years. Don’t buy a tested used or salvage screen get a rebuilt unit from a qualified tech. Most people don’t know what the car is so it usually gets questions at valet and gas stations.

    Like 3
  7. JCA Member

    Hey, it’s up to $2,025 now so that’s pretty fair. I’d rather have the rusty CRX next to it, as long as it has a 3rd pedal. More fun, less problems.

    Like 3
  8. carbuzzard Member

    Can you imagine if this car had RWD? Couldn’t have happened, however. It might have competed with the Corvette.

    Like 6
    • Ralph

      Buick was allowed to pick any GM chassis including the Corvette for the Reatta at its program inception in the early 80’s but Buick decided the Corvette Y-body had to many compromises to make it into the luxury 2 seater they wanted the Reatta to be, this would have been using the C4’s chassis at the time and the high sills were a deal breaker.

      Buick also toyed with the idea of using the Fiero chassis for a time Buick was involved in the 2nd gen Fiero/GM-80 FWD F-body program that could have potentially seen a mid engine Reatta that looked very close the the 1983 Buick Questor show car. There was also an aborted Oldsmobile 4 seat sports car that was part of the GM-80 plan too, it was going to be called the Silhouette, which Oldsmobile ended up using on its minivan in 1990.

      Like 12
  9. Little_Cars

    I have a 1/25th scale promotional model of this car in the exact same color. In it’s original box. I kind of think there may be more of the plastic model than of the real one still around. There was a pale metallic blue one near me for sale not long ago. Dash was out. Seller was motivated to sell to someone who appreciated the value of the car. I kept focusing on the dash and pulled up a pdf from the factory showing all the fault codes for the digital screen. I probably should have offered less and drove it home… but I wouldn’t know how fast I was going or how much gas was in the tank! LOL

    Like 5
  10. Todd Zuercher

    I saw one of these in the local pull a part yard recently. I was very surprised to see it!

    Like 4
  11. charlie Member

    My ’93 Allante has the digital screen dash and at about 140,000 miles, and 25 years, it still works just fine. I do have a spare in a box, just in case, but so far, so good.

    Like 8
  12. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    Scotty, wasn’t this a Pininfarina deign? It’s always been a looker, though the backend doesn’t flow lie the front and sides.. It’d been sweet to later see the Northstar V8 in this!!

    Like 1
    • RayT Member

      Not Pininfarina, but the Allante was. Pretty sure the Reatta was designed in Detroit, even if most of the prototype work was done in the U.K.

      Oddly enough, Buick built some interesting one-off variations, including one RWD Reatta with — if my memory is correct — a ‘Vette IRS and a longitudinally mounted engine turboed-out to roughly GNX power levels. The thing was a real blast to drive, and I thought it should have gone into production instantly!

      Like 3
      • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

        Good info-thanks, Ray! And yes, the RWD Reatta would’ve been a hoot but probably would’ve hit a little too close to home for the ‘Vette folks to be comfortable, especially since Buick was trying to appeal to the younger crowd like Olds was with the “this isn’t your fathers Oldsmobile” IIRC.
        Nevadahalfrack

        Like 1
      • Ralph

        If it would have lasted a little longer it was scheduled to get the supercharged 3800 from the Park Avenue Ultra.

        Like 4
      • ACZ

        Those were styling exercises. And, they were fun. Too bad one of them was wrecked by a magazine writer that had just got behind the wheel.

        Like 1
      • carbuzzard Member

        One GM XP exercise (XP-383) by I believe Oldsmobile was a sports car smaller than an Opel GT. It was nixed because, yes, it was a competitor for the Corvette, at least in some Chevrolet bigwigs mind.

  13. Mike D

    There was also a convertible version in later years.

    Like 2
    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      You’re right, Mike, in 1990 and 1991. I should have mentioned that.

      Like 2
  14. Bob McK Member

    I want this and it is affordable…

    Like 4
    • Dave Mazz

      Bob;

      Go for it! As you probably know, some shops are offering rebuilt touch-screens for $300-500 so if that’s a problem, at least a reasonable solution may be available. And with the well-known GM 3.8 V6, while you may not be able to outrun a Corvette of that era, you will likely be able to out-last one !!!

  15. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    Go for it, Bob McK, and post pix! It’s a great looking car they’re not seen often (at least not around our parts) and yes it’s a great price.

    Like 3
  16. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Auction update: this beauty sold for a mere $3,300! That’s painful.

    Like 5
    • Nate

      Somebody got a good deal on a cool car.

      Like 4
  17. carbuzzard Member

    At that price, you can fix a lot of little problems—even major ones—and still have a neat ride that will have everyone looking for not much money.

    Like 4
  18. Del

    Most 89 Buicks were dawgs. Even the Rivieras.

    I would need proof of mileage.

    But no longer need it.

    It sold for peanuts. Whuch is what its worth

    Like 1
  19. Simon Lucas

    I had a ‘90 coupe and a ‘90 convertible. I loved them both. I only sold them as parts were getting difficult. I wish I hadn’t. Wonderful cars, superb design. I still have 3 of the dealer models, one I made into a convertible. I also have the rare pewter model which fetch about $200 if you ever see one!

    Like 3
  20. ACZ

    Still have my 91 convert and love it. Just as much fun as either of my Corvettes but for different reasons.
    The CRT cars were not at all hard to fix if you know what you are doing and followed the Service Manual diagnostics. That system is pretty elementary by today’s standards.
    The supercharged Reatta was almost a reality. The part numbers were assigned. Pilot pieces were made. Then the plug got pulled on the whole car.

    Like 4
  21. Little_Cars

    “…by today’s standards…” I got a chuckle out of that. ‘Tis true. When I downloaded the pdf of said diagnostic manual ahead of my potential purchase I shook my head at the simplicity of the whole component. My Netflix account and updates to my cell phone are probably more time consuming and complicated! Anyone who’s had to manually key in information using a remote control could figure out the “if this, then do that” approach to the CRT dashboard operation.

    Like 2
    • Ralph

      They were super easy to use, I remember playing around with them as a kid when my grandmother would take her LeSabre in for service at the Buick dealership.

      This was around the time the CRT’s were already slipping into things like ATM’s and cash registers.

      Like 1
  22. CaCarDude

    The “Halo” car for the GM Buick lineup, designed to get the buyers into the showroom and when they saw the price back then at about $28k they turned away and bought a lesser priced LeSabre or Riviera. The Reatta was built on the Riviera Chassis but was boxed and reinforced to the point it was actualy heavier than the Rivi. of the same year. The Reatta was made and sold as a Luxury two seater for the older driver not wanting a race car, or a Corvette so to speak. As mentioned here by a few others the CRT was not that difficult to troubleshoot and maintain, and rare if you ever had an issue with it. The Reatta was designed with Italian influence and was hand built “assembled” at a special craft plant in Lansing, Michigan. When you own a few of these car’s as I do then you learn the good and bad just like any car, and the one thing that would set you back on a replacement believe it or not is the front windshield, yes this alone is rare, or hard to come by as so few cars were made. Have a Reatta and need a windshield expect to pay $1K + installed. This alone many scare many away, but I personally like the car and have to say for the size and drivetrain and as a long distance driver, they are second to none on comfort.
    The featured car was a smokin’ deal for one lucky buyer!

    Like 1
    • Ralph

      They pitched it at upper income “empty nesters” middle aged folks, what marketers call DINK’s, double income no kids.

      They were made at the LCC, Lansing Craft Centre, with ye olde timey E at the end. They were built in teams, the LCC was an interesting concept, the cars moved from station to station on automated robot platforms and each time had time to work on the car at a slower pace.

      The LCC later made the GM EV1, Cavalier and Sunfire convertibles and the last Eldorados.

      Like 1
  23. JoeNYWF64

    Apparently the stylish trunk lid & hidden wiper designers were still working, but the full door glass & door mirror designers all retired or were laid off – permanently.
    I think JCWhitney even had better looking mirrors back then,

  24. Had Two

    There was a lot of build-up hype provided to Buick dealers about this
    special new car to be hitting the showrooms. Dealers were to
    build anticipation with customers… excitement, “It’s coming!”
    Problem 1 was it took a lot longer than anticipated. Potential customers
    lost interest. When the first “demonstrator” arrived at every dealership,
    Problem 2 showed up….there was nothing special about the drivetrain!
    The engine was the standard 3800 and the transmission was off the shelf.
    And Problem 3 was….It was front wheel drive! This at a time when BMW’s
    rear drive, were selling like hotcakes.
    Then, when curious people would stop to see this car, they’d look at the sticker
    and either have sticker shock, if they were serious, or snicker, if not.
    Biggest comment was, “Gotta be kidding! For that amount I can buy
    a BMW…or a Cadillac!”
    Sadly resale values plummeted. For those that can find a good one, they can be bought fairly inexpensively. However a good Park Avenue Ultra will
    outrun them and outride them at the same time.

    • Ike Onick

      The dreaded “Snicker Shock”

      Like 1
      • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

        Snicker shock-As in a peanut intolerance or as in the customer laughing incredulously at the salesman discussing the price?

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