Junkyard Find: 1988 Buick Reatta

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

The Buick Reatta is one of the many GM cars of its era that didn’t make a lot of marketing sense; the average age of Buick buyers in the late 1980s was about 113, and that’s not a demographic whose members tend to be comfortable with low-slung two-seaters full of intimidatingly futuristic electronic devices. You still see Reattas on the street now and then, and I found an ’89 in a Los Angeles junkyard last year. Here’s one that I spotted last week in a Denver self-serve yard.

The Reatta had a lot going for it, but it listed at $25,000 (about a grand more than the BMW 325i), it was sold under a marque associated with the elderly, and it was a front-wheel-drive car with no available manual transmission.

The Buick 3.8 liter V6 was a sturdy, well-proven engine, but it was a pushrod unit that made the kind of vacuum-cleaner-sucking-up-a-rubber-band noise under full throttle that turned off buyers of high-end European machinery.

It looked good, though, and some younger folks appreciate that. My fellow Alameda High alum, Kreayshawn, daily-drives a ’90 Reatta on the East Bay streets, and she says “Oh my God, I like love that fucking car!”

Someone has yanked the touch-screen instrument clusters out of this one, which means there’s some other Reatta that will benefit from this one’s demise.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Ol Yeller Ol Yeller on Nov 10, 2017

    I've owned 3 of these cars, 2 coupes and 1 convertible, all 1990's. To correct something in the article, the picture of the missing touch screen is actually a picture of the missing instrument cluster. The touch screen is surprisingly still in this car. You can see it in the picture that shows the console as they were positioned in the lower middle of the car, right above the console. Also the aftermarket has provided several kits to repair the pop up headlights. Things that are getting scarce now are weatherstripping, interior pieces particularly driver's side door panels, and ABS brake components. Windshields are also in short supply but available for $$$. The Reatta was made from 1988 through 1991. They are cousins to the Allante but share little to nothing with the Cadillac. 1991 models are the rarest. I think the number of cars produced that year was 241. Convertibles were only made in 1990 and 1991. In 1990 Buick did away with the touch screen and went to a more convention electronic digital instrument panel. All years had a very sophisticated self diagnostic system which made trouble shooting easier prior to the introduction of the OBDII system. The cars were pretty bulletproof when introduced but as they aged, the shortcomings of the rudimentary ABS system becomes more troublesome. Buick made around 24,000 of these cars during the run which does make the survivors quite rare. Please note rare does not equate to expensive or good investment. There are some Reattas that may become collectible at some point, early production 1988's or last production '91 convertibles. In 1990 Reatta had a Select 60 model which was a white convertible with flame red interior snd special 1991 wheels. Supposedly they only made 60 of these but that number is debated among the Reatta community. There was also a run of Select 60 cars in 1988. The 1988s were coupes and besides the hood ornament and serial number it is difficult to tell these from a regular Reatta. All of mine were fun cars to drive, unique in appearance and not without endearing quirks that you learn to overlook or go crazy chasing it down. They are a great example of a everyday driveable classic that gathers looks and complements wherever you take it.

  • Hector Hector on Aug 16, 2022

    How much for steering column?

  • Lou_BC Maybe if I ever buy a new car or CUV
  • Lou_BC How about telling China and Mexico, we'll accept 1 EV for every illegal you take off our hands ;)
  • Analoggrotto The original Tassos was likely conceived in one of these.
  • Lorenzo The unspoken killer is that batteries can't be repaired after a fender-bender and the cars are totaled by insurance companies. Very quickly, insurance premiums will be bigger than the the monthly payment, killing all sales. People will be snapping up all the clunkers Tim Healey can find.
  • Lorenzo Massachusetts - with the start/finish line at the tip of Cape Cod.