Car Spot: the Buick Reatta

GM’s other two-seater

Did you know that with the exception of Oldsmobile, all of GM’s passenger-car divisions offered two-seaters during the late 1980s and early 1990s? There was Chevrolet Corvette, Pontiac Fiero, Cadillac Allante, and this week’s car spot, the Buick Reatta.

I think it’s a cool-looking car but America didn’t.

Introduced in 1988, the Buick Reatta was a low-volume transverse front-engine, front-wheel drive, two-door, two-seater grand tourer/sports car featuring a 3.8-liter V6 engine utilizing a shortened version of the GM E platform. A convertible was added to the lineup in 1990. It was manufactured in a highly specialized assembly program at the Reatta Craft Centre.

In an interview with Car and Driver magazine when the vehicle was launched, Buick Advertising Manager Jay Qualman said, “We went to the market to ask people what kind of product they envisioned a two-seat Buick to be. We said to ourselves, ‘Hey if we’re really going to be market-driven, we have to look at what they tell us.’ They told us that what they wanted was an affordable Mercedes 560SL.” Welll maybe not quite.

RELATED Spot: GM tries to take the concept upscale with the Cadillac Allanté

How did it handle? Writer Rich Ceppos said, “Somewhere along the way, while Buick was busily exorcising the sports-car demons from the Reatta, it also drove out the visceral excitement that we expect from two-place cars. Where is the sharp steering response that teases you, the taut suspension that goads you to take on a twisty two-lane, the power that opens your eyes wide and sends a thrill down your spine? Not here. The Reatta is nearly viceless, all right, but also nearly soulless”.

This interior has been ridden in.

There were all kinds of options including 16-way power seats, and side moldings in either black or body color, a sunroof became optional in late 1988, and in 1989 keyless entry was added as a standard feature. Tech included a touchscreen computer interface, marketed as the Electronic Control Center, that included radio and climate control functions, date reminders, a trip computer, and a user-configurable overspeed alarm, as well as diagnostic access to the vehicle’s electronic systems and sensors. Later replaced with conventional push-button stereo and climate controls.

Buick hoped when the car came out in 1988 that it would add some sporty flair to the brand’s lineup, one that was pretty dull at the time, except for the Grand National. They added the convertible, but the Reatta never found the buyers Buick hoped for, and it was canceled after four model years.

RELATED Spot: Pontiac’s 2-seater was fun.

What are they worth now? Well, you’d think that with just less than 22,000 made something but they have not appreciated in value. In 1988 listed retail price was $25,000, about $58,000 now, and according to Hagerty average value is just under 10 grand. There are some exceptions though a 1990 Buick Reatta Ltd Dealer Special Ed, 2dr Convertible, 6-cyl. 231cid/165hp FI can go as high as $28,600. But for 10 grand or less, you can have a 2-seater that’s going to always be noticed in the grocery store parking lot.

Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend. Be sure to tell your friends and come back next week for another one of my car spots along with some of the history that goes with it.

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