Warehouse Kept: 1990 Buick Reatta Convertible

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A few years ago, a junkyard operator my brother got friendly with let him in on a secret: he was buying up all of the junked Buick Reattas and becoming known as the used parts king for owners of these low-volume cars. Whether that salty yard owner is still in the business of harvesting Reatta parts for more deserving cars is unknown, but this 1990 drop-top example here on eBay sports low mileage and impressive original condition. 

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Personally, I’ve always found these two-seaters to be attractively packaged with a design that works well even today. For folks who don’t know what a Reatta is (and that it has rather humble underpinnings), it can look practically exotic compared to a Miata from the same era. But these were different cars, meant more for cruising than for hustling, and despite grand projections from GM, production ended in less than five years.

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As a later car, this Reatta sports a driver’s side airbag. The convertible model is a rare find, and this example features the manually-operated top (a power top would become standard in 1991). Buick kicked the Reatta over to its long-time partners at ASC to handle the drop-top conversion, but the rest of the car remained pure GM with the familiar 3800 V6 up front, delivering steady, but not sporting, performance.

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Marketed as a grand tourer, the Reatta had to compete with other vehicles from within the GM lineup for attention. The Corvette, Fiero and even the Cadillac Allante were all available at the time of the Reatta’s introduction in 1988, so buyers certainly had options. My favorite feature of the Reatta? The leather portfolio that came in the glove box with a custom pen and assembly line supervisor’s signature. I wonder if it’s still with this example?

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  1. John

    Being a convertible makes it worth 10000 more?!?!?!?!? I think someone has set the price a tad stratospheric on this one.

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  2. Roselandpete

    Should be a smooth ride if it’s anything like my 86 Riv was.

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  3. MH

    These are wonderful cars. I would buy a clean used one for the right price. But I need something with 4 seats as I would need to haul the family. I was thinking mustang. Any other cheap convertible cars with for seats that anyone recomends?

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    • JJ in TN

      MH, any of the Chrysler Sebring convertibles. These cars are true four seaters, more so than the Mustang. I have a friend who has had Sebring convertibles for the last 10 years. He loves them. Buy a low mileage one only.

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      • KenBlackt Pearson

        Don’t try to treat i like a sports car. They are only meant to look nice and cannot corner above 25. I wiped out most of the front end of one trying to enter the freeway at speed sometime back. And those 4 spd auto trannies go boom sooner or later.

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  4. Mike

    The 3800 front wheel drive drivetrain is bulletproof and get 27-30 mpg at 75-80 mph very reliable

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  5. charlieMember

    And, if you keep it 10 years, it should appreciate a lot, these, and the Allantes are at the bottom of their market now, and being a drop top makes it worth even more.

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  6. rangeroger

    There was a Reatta at the car lot around the corner from me. Did a lot of reading up on them as it seemed a real interesting vehicle. Found that a popular engine switch was the supercharged engine from the Riviera.
    Then found that the electronics supporting that gorgeous instrument panel were very problematic.
    Like the Riviera body style a lot more.

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  7. charlieMember

    I have the same electronic, some say, carnival, circus, or jukebox style, instrument panel on my Allante with 140,000 miles and it works perfectly, although it is tempting fate to brag about it. Red, orange, yellow, green lights, plus the standard blue for high beams, but my ’94 Saab, bless its long departed soul, had even more lights although all but two (check engine and high beams) were red.

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    • Rod Munch

      You were very fortunate and lucky with the electronics on your Allante.
      My dad had a very clean, low mileage ’90 Riviera with the infamous digital dash.
      A nice car to drive or ride in….but it wasn’t a pleasant experience to have the dash go “dark” while driving. (Yikes.)

      The dash was taken apart numerous times.
      Modules were checked and replaced. (Never a cheap bill either.)
      The problem always seemed to reappear. Then….the problem went away.

      He replaced it with a ’98 Riviera — without a digital dash.

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  8. Myron

    I have had 3 of these cars an 88, 89, and 90. I gave the 90 to my son for graduation and he loved it. I have since sold the other 2. On my 89 I could get up 32 MPG on the 3800 in the car, my other 2 would only get up to 28 MPG. It was an awesome car but expensive to fix! The Tevis brake system would cost $1700 for a reman and over $4800 for new. That was the only reason I sold mine.

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  9. FrenchbuffMember

    A friend of mine bought up all the original factory parts stock when it was sold off & stored it in what he claimed was an old Packard plant building in Flint Mich which he’d bought for peanuts way back. So he was the King of Reatta new parts, but unfortunately passed away a few yrs ago. His building was several floors tall and built of reinforced concrete – a great building for storing his car collections. Only downside was it’s in Flint, with its ruined water supply due to local incompetent politicos and the governor. One of my work projects was converting the front bumper cover from a competitive elastomer to our product. If i remember right, these cars were built at an Oldsmobile plant in Lansing Mi.

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    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskeyMember

      If it’s a former car factory in Flint, Michigan, it’s NOT a Packard plant, probably Buick. {Flint was known as “Buick City”.] Packard had only one factory, on East Grand Blvd in the heart of Detroit. Some of it’s still there, slowly falling apart due to lack of management by the Detroit government. [Don’t get me started on how the city of Detroit screwed it up!]

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  10. Paul Bellefeuille
  11. AMCFAN

    I bought one of these for $400. several years ago (not the rag top) from the original owner a school teacher. Outside looking in I thought I got the deal of a lifetime. I knew as did she that it was both somewhat unique and rare. Yes it had the leather folder etc and the window sticker and the purchase docs were another plus. She purchased the car as new and was nearly a year old with 10,000 miles. Dealer had a hard time selling it.

    It had been parked for a year as it need brakes. Women! Had 80K miles and looked like recent tires. It really did have a brake problem…..yep $1700 worth just for parts. No thanks. I too couldn’t find anyone interested except the scrap man and ended up loosing $65. when I sold it. (still have the leather folder) Could have been a lot worse. Sad too as it was clean but at the time I couldn’t justify spending $2500.+ on a $2000. car.

    I really do not see the values going anywhere on these except maybe a museum type with unusual low to no miles. No disrespect to the owners who love them. It is yet another example of the “Old GM” with too many designers and not enough engineers. New were targeted for I am to assume those who were over 50 with an empty nest and upper level income. Generally it is the same or older demographics who have them now save for those who buy them ridiculously cheap. No manual trans and Aztek performance solidify lack of collector appeal,

    If I were to dump a ton of money in an American car 1990’s-2000’s vintage two seat convertible. The Solstice is my choice. It is a fantastic looking car. Next maybe a Ford Thunderbird. It was a beautiful execution. Nearly $50K new but still over priced now. Jag/Lincoln LS V8 driveline parts pricey…..Nothing like a $1700 brake system though.

    The best deal price and reliability wise would be Chrysler Crossfire. I have seen a lot of interest in these as prices for them depreciate. Now being owned by twenty something year old guys. Run and handle good as well as decent fuel economy. Mercedes quality and not a Fiat!

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    • dj

      Just remember that the Crossfire shares it’s parts with the SLK. I just worked on one that needed the headlight switch. They’re around $450. Plus you have to replace the dimmer switch as well.

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  12. charlieMember

    Crossfires are a bargain now, bottom of their market, as are Mitsubishi 3000 GT and Dodge Stealths, the latter expensive to repair, but so were the Vega’s, Monza’s with a V8, big engines in cheap cars, (like Jag’s), but look at the prices now! And the 1990 plus or minus Jags are cheap as well, at the moment.

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  13. DolphinMember

    Some very interesting comments here about this car.

    I don’t think I would be a buyer for this car even if the price was realistic, which it isn’t. If you are going to have a special car that’s affordable, you don’t want to have something that will put you under water when something basic like brakes need work….which they will, likely sooner rather than later unless they have been overhauled recently.

    Then there’s that fancy, scary christmas tree dash. And I have always had a hard time warming up to cars like this one where the wheel-to-body placements look all wrong, with way too much front overhang.

    With the expensive repair bills, boulevard performance, and low resale on top of everything else………no thanks.

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