Junkyard Find: 1988 Buick Reatta

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1988 buick reatta

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.

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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?

  • Jeff S I ignore the commercials. Never owned a Mazda but I would definitely look at one and seriously consider it. I would take a Honda, Toyota, or Mazda over any German vehicle at least they are long lasting, reliable, and don't cost an arm and a leg to maintain.
  • GregLocock The predictable hysteria and repetition of talking points in the meeja is quite funny. it does not divide Oxford into six zones. it restricts access at 6 locations , one on each road, to reduce congestion in the town centre. Florence, which faces the same issue, traffic and narrow historic streets, lined with historic buildings, simply closed the entire town centre off. Don't see anybody whining about that.
  • Jeff S I have rented from Hertz before and never encountered this but if I had I would sue them. Would not want a gun pointed at me and thrown in jail for renting a car.
  • Arthur Dailey I did use a service pre COVID to get the pricing that the dealers were alleged to have paid the manufacturer. It also provided 'quotes' from multiple dealers .
  • Arthur Dailey Has anyone else concluded that we may have a new 'troll' on this site?