Junkyard Find: 1989 Buick Reatta

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1989 buick reatta

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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  • Bikegoesbaa Bikegoesbaa on Oct 27, 2011

    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.

  • Whuffo2 Whuffo2 on Nov 01, 2011

    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.

    • See 1 previous
    • Whuffo2 Whuffo2 on Nov 01, 2011

      @ajla 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.

  • Cprescott Very expensive all terrain golf cart.
  • 56m65711446 ALL AEB systems should be tested using a SES executive from DoT as the test dummy.
  • TheMrFreeze Wife and I bought just bought new (to us) daily drivers...both have manual transmissions and neither has any kind of "new" safety nanny technology in it. By choice. That's how we roll.
  • IanGTCS Where I live safety inspections are only required when transferring ownership except between spouses. The ministry or police can in theory pull unsafe vehicles off the road but I haven't heard of that happening. Commercial vehicles over a certain weight required annual inspections and I've seen unsafe ones removed from the road a few times. I'm honestly fine with no regular inspections. A ball joint or bearing can go from fine to goodbye wheel in less time than a year anyways. Can't say I see too many total wrecks driving around so it would be kind of pointless.
  • IH_Fever No. I'd rather that money be spent to enforce vehicle laws on an as needed basis. The 10 year old car with a check engine light on for some sensor is a danger to no one. The crapbox with 5 different color body panels, paper tags and saran wrapped windows is more of a concern.