By on October 26, 2011

My trip to California to judge the Skankaway Anti-Toe-Fungal 500 24 Hours of LeMons started with a jaunt to Los Angeles, where I saw this extremely rare Hyundai Scoupe in a junkyard. Not so rare as the Scoupe, yet more interesting from an automotive-history standpoint, was this Buick a few rows away.
For reasons I can’t explain, the interior of this Reatta was full of bowling balls. Mysteries abound in junkyards.
At this point, all the Reatta fanatics are going to freak out, because this one still has its touchscreen ECC. ZOMG!
The Buick two-seater didn’t sell as well as The General’s commanders had hoped, for reasons that every TTAC reader can no doubt recite in his or her sleep, and so it joined the Allanté as another costly GM exercise in German-fearing squanderitude.
The luxury competition on the other side of the Atlantic wasn’t building a lot of cars with pushrod V6s based on late-50s technology, and we don’t need to get into discussions about front-wheel-drive and the lack of a manual-transmission option.

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102 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1989 Buick Reatta...”


  • avatar
    brettc

    A touchscreen in 1989? I didn’t realize those even existed back then. I vaguely remember seeing the occasional Reatta since I was only 12 when this thing came out. My doctor at the time had one though.

  • avatar
    Bresnan-Distributor

    A Captain on my fire department had one of these cars and for the time it was a cool coupe to have. I would have loved to have one but I was driving a 1978 Olds Delta 88 with 100,000 miles on it. A great car but I would have much preferred the Reatta. Unfortunately, he left us far too early but every time I see one of these cars I remember him and his black Reatta with tan interior. Thanks for the memory.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    GM later went on to build the Chevy SSR at the same factory where the Reatta was built.

  • avatar
    hifi

    For a GM car, this was soooper expensive when it came out. Like the Allante and the Riviera and just about every other GM coupe, they thought FWD was the way to go for luxury cars. How wrong they were. Unfortunately, production costs were too high and they couldn’t be sold profitably. But the Reatta (and the Allante) were beautiful cars. It’s a shame to see one junked, even though they all pretty much ended up this way.

  • avatar
    dolorean

    Glad you didn’t mention that manky ’94 Pontiac Grand Am GT next to it.

    Always loved the bungee holders for the engine mounts GM used back then.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Wow…what a piece. Funny thing, a good friend of the family’s was considering getting rid of his 1986 Porsche 944 for a Reatta. I politely talked him down from that ledge and continued to enjoy borrowing his 944 for years to come (which was great, as I was a senior in high school at the time!).

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      I had a customer that drove a 1988 BMW M6. I was a BMW fanatic at the time, and I couldn’t resist telling the guy what a great car I thought he had. He informed me that he hated it, as he regularly drove from Virginia to Palm Beach, Florida, and it was uncomfortable, unreliable and loud. He was actively looking for a Buick Reatta to replace it, and this was two years after Reatta production had ended. I was speechless, which was awkward because he was one of my best customers as a sales rep at the time.

      Looking at it from the perspective of 2011, maybe this explains why today’s BMWs have so much more in common with the Reatta than they do with the BMWs that used to be built for driving enthusiasts. Now it is BMWs that have splashy, instantly dated styling, video game dashboards, incomprehensible, short lived electrical systems, and engines that sound like industrial stationary pumps.

  • avatar
    mallthus

    My Dad, a GM employee at the time, had one of these. It wasn’t that it was a bad car…heck, it was actually pretty nice…it was that it just didn’t know what it was supposed to be. Kind of like GM at the time.

    I recall a couple of things that really stood out. One of which was the paint…it was so thick and so much better applied than I’d ever seen on a car before. The other was the design of the truck hinges. If GM had managed to design a single car as well as they’d done the hinges on the Reatta, they’d have owned the global marketplace.

    Before my Dad finally sold his, I suggested he swap out the 3800 V6 for a Supercharged Series II…that might have been kinda fun.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      If GM had managed to design a single car as well as they’d done the hinges on the Reatta, they’d have owned the global marketplace

      All GM had to do was make a car that cost less to keep up than the equivalent Toyota, and a warranty department that would bend over backward to keep it that way. Full stop.

      All the discussion about paint, hinges, panel gaps, features, cam placement, badging, whatever—it doesn’t matter in this market. Three letters—T. C. O.—that’s all it takes.

      • 0 avatar
        aspade

        Compete on price and warranty and TCO? That’s for underdogs and upstarts. GM wasn’t Hyundai.

        GM was the home team. GM had 50% of the market once. Even in the 80s it averaged over 40%. Foreign was a pejorative in 50 states, not just Michigan. It was tiny Jap novelties that had to work their foot in the door.

        All GM had to do to keep that door closed was build cars that weren’t awful. Not cheaper cars. Not longer warranteed cars. Just not never-buy-a-GM-again awful.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        Then explain the growing market share and stupendous profits of the Volkswagen family of companies.

      • 0 avatar
        FromaBuick6

        @ aspade: Amazing, isn’t it? Until the early ’80s, how many working class families wouldn’t dream of buying anything that wasn’t a Chevy or Pontiac? How many affluent buyers wouldn’t be caught dead in anything less than a Ninety Eight or Electra? How many people dreamed of owning a Cadillac when they retired? At least 40% of the market wouldn’t touch a car from Dearborn or Highland Park, much less Japan or Europe.

        The bar couldn’t have been placed any lower for GM in the ’80s, and they still managed to tunnel under it. Yet, after chasing away 2/3rds of their customers with some of the most godawful, uninspired products this market has ever seen, the remaining third still won’t buy anything but a GM. Other companies should be so lucky.

  • avatar
    supremebrougham

    You can tell that the last owner obviously didn’t care anything about it, and that’s a shame.

    These were from what I understand, semi-hand built at the “Reatta Craft Centre” in Lansing, MI.

  • avatar
    nickeled&dimed

    This one is in prime condition compared to the Reatta I saw driving around Detroit back in February. I had to ask a co-worker what on earth that thing was. Now I know!

  • avatar
    mjz

    Even more rare is the convertible version of the Reatta.

  • avatar
    zbnutcase

    “with pushrod V6s based on late-50s technology” That being said, the 3800 was one of the best engines GM ever had. Phil Bowser remembering the V6 while on vacation in Florida, and buying it back from AMC has to rank as one of the SMARTEST decisions (and they haven’t made many!)GM has made in the last 40yrs.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Pushrod 1950 tech? Who in the world cares? It actually WORKS! Very well, too.

    I added my comments over on “CC” on a Reatta that actually runs, so not much more to say about this particular specimen – except I wanted one 20 years ago! I still think they’re beautiful. A missed opportunity, to be sure.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Yes the 3800V6 and the 4-speed auto FWD transmissions that it was attached to are generally the best part of any car that GM blessed with those motors. My father (who is no stranger to the various small block V8s spit out by the Big 3 during the 60s and 70s) got his first experience driving a 3800 equipped car when the redesigned and lengthened Park Avenue was introduced in 1991 (one of his friends had purchased one. He drove the car for about a half hour around town and on the highway and then parked, shut off the car and pulled the hood release. His friend asked him what he was doing, my father replied; “I’m looking under the hood for the small block V8 that obviously must be there.”

      In fact I would have more love for the W-body if more of them had contained 3800s. I would go so far as to say that in durability the 3800 is the successor to the mighty slant-6 of Chrysler fame.

      • 0 avatar
        BigDuke6

        My Dad had one of these for a while after he sold his ’63 Riviera. I have to say that the torque of the 3800 V6 is what made the Reatta fun to drive. The unique looks and the engine. Other than that, it was kind of forgettable. He didn’t keep it long. The touch screen was still working when he sold it.

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe it worked, but when you’re trying to go toe-to-toe with Mercedes-Benz and BMW, your potential customers— most of whom read all the future-worshiping car magazines— care very much about having modern running gear.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        Murilee, I’ll admit that yes you were never going to poach MB or BMW customers with that engine but although GM may have articulated that ambition in the press, I’ve never really believed their heart was in it. (Not until practically the dawn the millennium anyway.)

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        “Maybe it worked, but when you’re trying to go toe-to-toe with Mercedes-Benz and BMW…”

        Well…OK, I guess, I’ll give you that, but it just goes to show I don’t play anywhere NEAR that sandbox – just a basic work-a-day Chevy/Ford/Chrysler guy at heart.

        About the 3800-series: I like my 3400, too, but I agree the 3800 is a better motor, but I’m cheap, remember, and I hate spending money on gas!

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        The weight of the iron 3800 relative to aluminum engines from Japanese manufacturers was the problem, not the push rods. I was bribed to test drive an Oldsmobile Intrigue and still remember how it drove with all that mass hanging out in front of the front wheels.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        @Geeber:

        The Reatta wasn’t all that different than the Legend mechanically – FWD, V-6 powered, all that. Clearly the Acura had the more advanced engine, but the 3.8 V-6 was probably better tuned for the kind of relaxed driving Buick drivers were doing back then – Honda engines were screamers after 3500 RPM, but at low RPMs, they had very little torque, meaning that a Reatta would feel a LOT faster from a standing start than a Legend, particularly if the latter had an automatic. Just depends on your driving style, I guess.

        I actually look at the Reatta as a kind of turning point for Buick – before that, their products suffered the same reliability and badge engineering issues as other GM products, but after that, the cars were much more reliable and managed to be fairly distinct from other GM products. They earned themselves a decent business with large cars in the ’90s and early 2000s.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        It didn’t have the right stuff to go up against the Acura Legend, either, which was a superior vehicle in every way, and for about the same money, if I recall correctly.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        As nice as the Acura Legend Coupes might have been, there wasn’t enough demand to justify a third generation model. Perhaps the Legend Coupe was a competitor for the Eldorado, Riviera, and Mark VII LSC, but the Reatta was odder than any competitor in that it was a 2 seat coupe. Even Porsche didn’t bother with 2 seat coupes at the time, they were all 2+2s.

        Much is made of the rental car drivetrain having no place in such an expensive car, but that wasn’t the only problem with the Reatta. Combining the utility of a 2 seat sports car with the chassis dynamics, weight, and performance of a medicare sled was unlikely to find a large audience. It is like nobody involved in the project had ever thought about why people buy cars.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Who in the world cares?

      As evidenced by the bankruptcy of GM – new car buyers.

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    Bought a 1990 for $800 at an ADESA auction and retailed it for $1750 + a ’95 Sedan DeVille in trade. Completed the interim with the fulfillment of one childhood dream and one more ride off my old car bucket list – driving the beauty for 2 months.

    For my type of driving preference, this is as ‘sporty’ as a car should be. Wide stance, composed suspension with a touch of firmness when necessary, and a ridiculously managable size. The occasional convertibles that leave snowbirds’ garages this time of year still get all the eyes, especially any in the glorious Maui Blue. Only the pop-up headlamps date this beautiful 2-seater – they still get looks and appear contemporary today.

  • avatar
    Birddog

    “The luxury competition on the other side of the Atlantic wasn’t building a lot of cars with pushrod V6s based on late-50s technology”

    The luxury competition on the other side of the Atlantic still isn’t building a lot of cars with pushrod ANYTHING based on late 50s technology..

    Yet GM and Mopar are still plugging along.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      Uh GM and Mopar are building engines more advanced than anything Honda or Toyota are building for 2012. Those two haven’t even migrated over to direct fuel injection yet and still use 4 speed automatic transmissions in there Corollas and Rav 4′s and out dated 5 speeds in many current Honda products.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Wrong ocean. Thanks for confirming stereotypes about American geographical ignorance.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        CJ – you are correct about the geographical question. However ponchoman makes a valid point about the technology.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Does the Cruze automatic with direct injection and turbocharging get better mileage than the Civic? Not even close. Will it cost as little to own? Will it last as long? What makes it better? A longer spec sheet and an ignorant audience.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Actually, CJ, I’d say that whether buying a car designed by Daewoo makes you ignorant is highly questionable – every piece of evidence indicates it’s a well made, reliable car that has proven to be very popular.

        Then we have you, who makes generalizations about peoples’ intelligence based on their car buying habits, with nothing to support them besides zero facts and an unending, politically motivated stiffy about GM. Now THAT’S ignorant.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Nope. It is ignorance to buy a car engineered by Daewoo and built by GM in the US. There is ample evidence to dissuade anyone who knows about cars. See Daewoos. See Suzuki badged Daewoos. See cars built by GM in the US. Same goes for costed out DI systems.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        What makes it better?

        It’s quieter, smoother and more more solid feeling. That is important to some people you know.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        I’d say that whether buying a car designed by Daewoo makes you ignorant is highly questionable – every piece of evidence indicates it’s a well made, reliable car that has proven to be very popular.

        If you’re referring to the Cruze, then that isn’t the case. Consumer Reports’ owners survey is turning up problems, while the JD Power Initial Quality Survey ranks it with its lowest ranking of two stars, and also gives it a two star rating for powertrain reliability.

        So far, not so great. I’d be skeptical about buying one if top-notch reliability is a priority. It might be more nicely packaged than the Civic, but I’d be wary about the possible repair bills.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        @PCH101:

        The survey I saw predicted average overall reliability for the Cruze. Now, if it showed below average overall reliability, maybe CJ has a point. But as things stand, 1) average reliabiity these days means a car IS reliable, and 2) the VW Jetta, Hyundai Elantra and Nissan Sentra get the same mark for predicted reliability as the Cruze, and you don’t see him calling peoples’ intelligence in question for buying those cars.

        People have different buying preferences. Some might want a car that is an A+ student when it comes to reliability and MPG, and for them, a Civic is an excellent choice. But they’ll have to put up with with that car’s deficiencies, which include awful styling, a low quality interior, and lots of road noise, and the Cruze is strong in all those categories. The tradeoff is a car that might not be quite so reliable – but certainly not unreliable – and a few less MPG. That’s hardly an “ignorant” tradeoff. Then again, I don’t see the car through CJ’s all-encompassing, Limbaugh-lite political lens either.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Birddog, I defy you to drive a Cadillac CTS-V or Chrysler 300c and tell me there’s much wrong with the bad old pushrod engines in either car.

      And as for bleeding-edge Teutonic technology, I offer six simple letters: IDrive. ‘Nuff said.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        GM has made its V-8s work well (although one can’t help but note that the CTS-V basically uses a Chevrolet engine – how can Cadillac be the Standard of the World when it’s not even the Standard of GM?). But, having driven the 3.8 V-6, I can say that it was NOT competitive with the ohc V-6 units from Toyota and Honda. And, again based on personal experience, it’s not the reliable, either.

        GM fans tend to make “easily repaired with cheap parts” synonomous with “reliable.”

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        @Geeber:

        I think it depends on what your buying priorities are. I own a 2003 LeSabre with the 3.8, and while I’m an enthusiast at heart, I bought the Buick because I needed something cheap and reliable, which it has been. It’s a damn good car, even if it revolts at the idea of being driven hard.

        Given that, I can tell you that the 3.8′s strength is feeling effortlessly fast at around-town speeds. It literally rolls you off in a wave of torque. Not a bad thing. If you change out the intake manifold, it’s good for high mileage. The 3.8′s weakness is that at higher RPMs, it’s clearly inferior to a Honda/Toyota multivalve V-6 – the power tails off and the engine gets far more coarse. As far as the “easily repaired with cheap parts” argument goes, I’d agree, but then again, would you rather have that, or “infrequently repaired with horrifyingly expensive parts”? You pays your money and you takes your choice.

        If I’d had another four or five grand to spend, I’d have probably chosen a used V-6 Accord or Camry, but I didn’t, so I chose the Buick. My next car – hopefully bought when I’m clear of all the financial issues my divorce caused – will be a LOT sportier (I’ve been looking at a Hyundai Sonata with the turbo 2.0L), but I really do have to tip my hat to the Buick – it’s a damn good car.

        As far as the CTS-V having a Chevy engine is concerned – that’s like looking at a picture of Scarlett Johanssen in a slinky nightie and second guessing whether it came from JC Penney or Victoria’s Secret. Who cares?

      • 0 avatar
        Birddog

        It wasn’t meant as a slam to pushrod engines. It was meant as a slam at the quoted text.

        By 1987 there was very little relation between the odd fire buick engine of the 60s and the 3800 of the 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s aside from the materials they were made from.

        The Hemi and the LS are excellent engines and their engineers have proven what can be done with “late 50s” tech. Just like the solid axle up under the rear of the Mustang. Gripe about it all you want, but it works.

        (Yes, I should have worded it differently)

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        FreedMike,

        My parents had a 1999 Park Avenue that they traded when it had 158,000 miles on it. The engine had died at 113,000 miles (faulty intake manifold gaskets) and the car was requiring $500-700 repairs on a regular basis when they finally traded it. They weren’t unhappy with it – to them, anything above 100,000 miles is a gift – so they bought another Buick (Lucerne) and are happy with it. It was a roomy, comfortable car, and did get great gas mileage for its size, but the reliability was nothing special once the miles piled up on the odometer.

        A friend bought a used, babied Park Avenue Ultra, and it has several things wrong with it (although nothing related to the engine as of yet). None of these problems prevent the car from being driven, but they are annoying in a car that was supposed to be a premium competitor to the various near-luxury imports.

        As for the engine used in the CTS-V – yes, it works, and I have the utmost respect for the GM ohv V-8. But Cadillac needs to overcome its reputation as a GM car with a different name and some gold-plating, and having an engine lifted from the Chevrolet line-up isn’t doing it much good in that regard. Cadillac once really was the Standard of the World, but too much component sharing with other GM divisions helped wipe out that image in short order.

        I’m hard on GM because I remember, as a kid, that Buick, Cadillac and, to a lesser extent, Oldsmobile, were the default choices of upper-middle class buyers. When the Reatta was built, GM was in the process of frittering away that brand equity (and customer base). The Buick 3.8 did have its virtues, but, over the long haul, it ended up as a drag on Buick’s image, and helped hand over that customer base to Lexus.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        @geeeber:

        I think most cars get more unreliable as they get older. But at least the repairs on that Buick were only $500-700 a pop. Repairs for high mileage import cars are notoriously expensive. You could fund a pretty sizeable third world army with what I spent keeping my ’92 Volvo running.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        Our 2003 Accord EX sedan (four cylinder, automatic) has 163,700 miles on the odometer, and our 2005 Focus SE sedan (automatic) has 135,500 miles on the odometer. Neither has experienced a major problem at this point, and every accessory still works on both cars. (So this isn’t necessarily an “import versus domestic” comparison.)

        They may not LOOK the greatest, but both are still running, and running well.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    The Buick V6 was actually introduced in 1962 as the Fireball V6 but shares nothing other than the pushrod design and external oil pump feature albeit with much greater pressure with the newer 3800 V6 engine which debuted in 1988 with a counter rotating balance shaft for smoothness. It won Wards yearly 10 best engine list many times and finally got the coveted 10 best engines of the 20th century award. It was a very popular engine with well over 25 million sold and proved to be the modern version of the famous Slant 6. I personally have seen friends forgot to tighten down there oil drain plugs and all of there oil went on the ground with the motor still running, overheating, coolant in the cylinders causing the engine to hydro lock from sever owner neglect and still the little engine that could ran for many years there after. I doubt the pushrod architecture was every noticed or comprehended by 90% of the public back in the late 80′s and FWD was very much still a popular choice with many families hence cars like the Accord, Camry, Corolla and Civic became popular right after the turn of the decade along with sport utes.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      But as others have mentioned, price comes into this. The Reatta was an expensive car, and its pushrod motor and FWD (as well as blighted proportioning) marked it as agricultural grade and therefore uncompetitive, no matter how much of a used car sweetheart it is regarded as now.

      This car did NOT compete with Camrys, Accords, Civics or Corollas. People who could afford this car chose not to – in droves

    • 0 avatar
      dvp cars

      …..poncho….the “3800″ has a storied past. It’s crowning achievement is the 233.1 mph pole position at Indianapolis in 1996, a Tony Stewart record that still stands today (John Menard took over the Buick V6 race program and renamed it the Menard V6). It was the “spec” motor in Indy Lights racecars for years. The pre-balanceshaft 3.8 was used in the Buick Grand National and the fabled GNX, among others. All GM brands but Cadillac used it in everything from Camaros to TransSport minivans, and it’s replacements, various three and a half liter multicams, manage to barely equal it’s fuel economy in real world driving.
      All this from a motor that GM practically gave away in the 60′s (they sold the molds to Jeep, where it was used for a few years in Cherokees. When the next fuel crisis came along, GM bought it back, and stuffed it in all kinds of mid-sizers). Those 1988 balance shafts transformed it from a decent motor with a huge vibration at idle (the 3300 was even worse, people spent fortunes trying to tune the shake out…….nothing worked), to a smooth modern motor …….it lived on another 20 years. But it never really got a nickname like the “Iron Duke”.

  • avatar
    mjal

    The small block Chevy V8s are still pushrod technology yet are still preferred in many circles to the counterpart OHC variety.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Junkyards often buy cars based on weight. Throw a couple bowling balls in!

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      That’s what I was thinking as well! You see everything including the kitchen sink stuffed into dead cars at boneyards. Judging from some of the cars that I have seen, they are cleaning out the property and stuff every piece of garbage within a 300′ radius of the vehicle into it before it gets hauled away.

  • avatar

    Eyesore need to forget the Brat and go rescue that, it is the perfect LeMons car……

  • avatar
    ajla

    The luxury competition on the other side of the Atlantic wasn’t building a lot … based on late-50s technology.

    The English luxury car makers of 1989 feel very conflicted by this statement.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    Perhaps the owner was planning to attend one of the general full-auto shoots in AZ’s hinterlands and was bringing along some extra ammo for the bowling ball mortar.

    • 0 avatar
      dvp cars

      ….felis…..never thought of that. Real ordnance is getting pricey these days. Never thought of the Brunswick people as arms dealers, though. Do marbles work in muskets?

      • 0 avatar
        Felis Concolor

        As a disarmament weapon, it is very effective; the first time I saw it in action I giggled for a good 10 minutes and it’s always a crowd pleaser whenever one shows up. Until they split, the projectiles are easily recovered and reused.

  • avatar
    tced2

    I notice that it may have a touch-screen, but there were “climate”, “radio”, and “gage” hard buttons. This probably made the interface workable. What is interesting is that this touch-screen was a CRT (a giant glass tube) – not the LCD variety. It must have required lots of space behind in the dashboard.

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      When the touchscreen was first introduced in the Riviera for 1986, there were no buttons for it at all. Buick got so many complaints and negative reviews about the poor ergonomics that they quickly worked up some buttons for 1987.

  • avatar

    I guarantee you that some Reatta fanatic is going to find this post on a Google search in about 18 months and start pleading with me to sell him the CRT off “my” Reatta. Happens every time I post about something like this.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    As a former owner of a 1988 Buick Electra T-type which shared the same underpinnings with the Reatta, let me echo what others have said regarding the reliability of that motor. I sold the car with 221K miles on it, with original engine and transmission operating as new (this was well before GM made the colossal mistake of using the plastic intake manifold, I did change the intake manifold gaskets at 212K miles).

    Now, had this been a Honda or Acura engine, I would have had to replace the timing belt (and usually the water pump, maybe the idler pulley/tensioner) not one, not two, but three times! Being that the pushrod 3800 had a timing chain (which I’ll admit might have been due for replacement) instead, that alone saved me around $1500 in normal maintenance over the car’s life.

    And I’ll also add this for all Honda lovers out there (note: I have owned 10 Hondas and still have two) – my 1988 Buick had the original exhaust system and front axles on it when I sold it (221K miles, 21 years old). I have never, ever seen any Japanese car of that vintage be able to claim that!

    And yes, somebody should snag that CRT (for $25 or so) from the dash and put it on Ebay! There is a real business doing that, if you know which parts are worth what.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @redmondjp: You bring up a good point about the Buick V6, the lack of timing belts and etc., keep the overall operating costs low. I have a 2.2 L (pushrod) Cavalier with 251K miles on it, and yes it’s probably about time to do a major rebuild on the motor, but it’s about to enter service for my younger daughter’s travels.

      After 14 years of upper midwest winters, the body is about to fall off the chassis, so I probably won’t spend more than resuscitation money on the car, if anything happens. Like you noted, I can’t imagine how many timing belts, water pumps, idler pulleys, axles and exhaust systems if we’d had a Civic or some other type of car. I can’t complain, the car has only had one bad issue (self inflicted), and even at this mileage still returns 25 MPG mixed driving and 37 MPG on the freeway.

      In many regards, I’d like to find another Cavy like this one, but they’re pretty much gone now.

      • 0 avatar
        dvp cars

        …….those 2.2 cav/sunfires are hidden treasures, especially in Z-24/GT/5 speed/sunroof format. Even the odd quick-fix head gasket doesn’t stop them from being great little drivers……they’re not all gone, and even low milers go fairly cheap.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        @dvp: Yes, the ecotec J bodies are fairly plentiful right now. I was really referring to the 2.2 pushrod motors, while lo po, they take a lot of abuse and seem to run forever. The ecotec ones late in the production run were the best of the breed…

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      I really wish I had been the guy to buy your Buick Electra T-type. Back in my broke high school days I used to deliver “penny saver” type advertisements house to house. There was a black with rocker panels accented in grey Buick Electra T-type on the route with 16 in aluminum wheels on it. I lusted hard after that sucker for an entire summer.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    David e Davis referred to the reatta as “the question to an answer that was never asked.”

  • avatar
    volvo_nut

    I see one of these cruise by in the morning, while I am waiting for the bus. Driver seems to keep it fairly well sorted.
    I want it.

    • 0 avatar
      dvp cars

      ….volvonut….Reattas are still out there, and they’re not expensive….I follow “classic” car auctions, and pretty good ones trade for $5000-8000. Easy to maintain, Pep Boys can keep one running indefinitely….just hoard a few of those neat touch screens……..I understand Murilee has at least one for sale.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        I have seen them for even less than that, ones in fair to vg condition for $1-3k. I actually considered one a few years back but went for another T-Bird. No one in the thread had mentioned the durable plastic composite body. Put that together with the industructable 3800 and it’s not a sports car GM’s Chrysler/Maserati a poor mans wanna be SL.

      • 0 avatar
        rentonben

        I ordered two touch screens from Murilee. He’s keeping several for himself, but he could probably be talked out of them for the right enthusiast.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert.Walter

        Talk about great service! Murilee sent me my touch screen replacement by express mail at no extra charge along with a 10% rebate and an original Buick Indy 500 pace car keychain!

  • avatar
    50merc

    I wonder how many years of pickup truck profits were gobbled by the Reatta and Allante financial disasters. And I wonder if anyone in GM was penalized for green-lighting those projects.

    Nice to see all the compliments paid the 3800 Series II. It was darn near perfect for the intended purpose. Even a supercharged Park Avenue Ultra can deliver better than 30 mpg at freeway speeds.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      Yes, darn near perfect EXCEPT for that #^&**#@#$%$ plastic intake manifold. Besides the well-known failures due to the EGR tube heat causing coolant leaks, there was another problem not as well-known: the 3800 had a tendency to backfire while attempting to start cold if you let off the key too soon (I did it a lot with my ’88 but I had the all-aluminum intake) and that could blow a hole in the plastic intake.

      This to me is one of the biggest failings of GM – the tendency to let design problems stay in production for many years too long.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert.Walter

        Reatta Craft Center in Lansing was a bone thrown to the UAW to make-up for all the loss of Olds business over the preceding decade.

        All ante was Cadillac’s attempt at a halo car to build the brand and the Northstar engine.

  • avatar
    chris724

    The CRT touchscreen reminds me of the old ATMs. Monochrome awesomeness.

  • avatar
    Morea

    I was confused by all this talk of balance shafts until I looked on Wikipedia to find that it is a 90 degree V6! Guess they had to keep the V8 lines busy so a 60 degree V6 was not in the cards.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    I really haven’t figured out what the big deal is about OHC engines anyways. Other than you’ve got a timing belt to change. I’ve owned more than one vehicle with them. Me, I’ll take the roller cammed V8 in my GMC over any of the OHC V8′s offered in the imports. Less maintenance, better pull down low for towing, and better fuel economy to boot.

  • avatar
    Nick

    Pity you didn’t hook it up to a battery. I remember parking by a Reatta back when they came out and the car warned ‘You are standing to close to this vehicle’ or something like that. It sounded like Rick Perry.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    That car is exactly where it belongs.

    Reattas were junk when new, and everyone knew it. Maybe a name that didn’t sound a lot like “rat” would have helped.

  • avatar

    GM was the first manufacturer to offer a CRT display in any car. The vehicles that featured the CRT screen where the E-body luxury cars that first appeared in 1986. The Models included the Riveria, Tornado/Trofeo, Seville/Eldorado, and Reatta. The Reatta as we all know is now a sought after classic.

    For some reason the foreign makes have pulled far ahead of the US carmakers in this technology.

  • avatar
    bikegoesbaa

    What foreign cars ever had a CRT?

    Edit: This was supposed to be a reply to the above comment. I don’t think anybody really “pulled ahead” in automotive CRT technology as much as the industry abandoned it entirely.

  • avatar
    Whuffo2

    Wow. I made my living restoring classic cars for a number of years. Much of what this group declaims as junk was actually pretty well engineered and a pleasure to work on.

    But not a Reatta. They had so many bad ideas; I had the misfortune of being contracted to restore one of these. Nobody here mentioned the Teves antilock brakes; what a nightmare. Imagine power brakes where the power comes from pressurized brake fluid stored in an accumulator and pressurized by an electric pump. That’s not the worst of it; the antilock computers are failure prone and good replacements for them are incredibly rare. The master cylinder assembly tends to leak like a sieve; changing one of these will spoil your day in a big time way.

    How about that cam sensor? They mounted a magnet in a plastic holder and clipped it into a hole in the cam gear. This triggers the cam sensor mounted in the front cover of the engine. Wrong plastic; it gets brittle and crumbles and drops the magnet into the bottom of the front cover. The really bad news: it clips into the back of the cam gear; you’ll have to pull the cam gear to install a new magnet assembly. Got a code 15 check engine on your Buick V6? Have fun.

    For extra bonus fun, change the serpentine belt. See that motor mount that passes through the middle of the belt loop? Yup, have some more fun. WTF were the engineers thinking of?

    Fortunately the one I was cursed with working on was a ’91 and it didn’t have the touch screen. Those are a nightmare, too.

    I spent a huge amount of time and effort putting that mess back into order – the owner knew it was going to be expensive. He ran out of money before the job was done, though. Don’t lust after one of these unless you have more money than sense; they’re a nightmare.

    Fundamental rule: DON’T BUY OLD LUXURY CARS. Don’t do it, you’ll be sorry.

    And I’d strongly recommend that any vehicle with the early Teves hydraulic-boost antilock system be immediately banned from the roads. It’s horribly unreliable, failures lead to no rear brakes and no boost on the front disk brakes, and good replacement parts are almost impossible to find.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      If you grind down the little rim on the cam magnet you can install it through the cam sensor hole without pulling the front cover.

      And, even if you decide to pull the front cover, it’s still one of the easier engine-related jobs.

      • 0 avatar
        Whuffo2

        Yes, I know about grinding down the rim and installing it through the cam sensor hole. You forgot to mention JB Weld – and it’s not exactly easy – but it’s possible. That’s fine for a fix, but a restoration doesn’t allow this kind of stuff – it’s all about putting it back in the condition it was in when it rolled off of the assembly line.

        Pulling the front cover on the 3800 in a Reatta isn’t really any easier than any other engine job. Because of the way the engine sits in the cradle on those cars, you can’t pull the front cover unless you pull the engine first. May as well change that serpentine belt while it’s out; saves trouble later.

        I’m simplifying a lot – you have no idea how badly these vehicles were designed. They’ve got the “multiple computers talking across a network controlling everything” like modern cars do, but they were using version 1.0 Delco electronics to do it. Yow; headlights wont’ turn on? The “body control module” is mounted on top of the “transmission tunnel” close to the firewall; you’ll only have to pull the dashboard to get to it.

        Looking for the Teves antilock module? It’s screwed to the inside of the left rear wheel well; in the trunk, pull the trunk lining to find it. There’s all kinds of bad in late 80′s GM products, but you can’t find so much bad in one place as you can in a Reatta. Just say no; you’ll avoid a terrible experience.


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