Ronnie

What do you like and/or dislike about the Reatta?

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The first time I saw my Reatta it was on a used car lot sitting up on one of those ramps that have the car sitting up higher than the rest of the cars. As I drove by it reeled me in with it's good looks. I turned around and went back to have a second look. I had no intention of buying it but I wanted to look at it since I'd never seen one up close. Once I got to looking at it up close I liked it. The salesman backed it off the ramp so I could get a better look at it and sit in it. Once I sat in it I liked it even better. I'm a big man and this was the first two seat car that I really felt comfortable in.  The salesman knew me well and allowed me to take it home to check it out as much as I wanted. On the way to my house the ride and nice interior sold me on the car. I knew I was going to buy it unless I found something wrong with it that I couldn't easily fix. Ten years latter it still brings a smile to my face.

 

I'll tell you, I'm not a fan of front wheel drive vehicles but you can't hardly avoid them anymore unless you drive a truck. I don't like that about the Reatta but at my age it's something I can live with in order to get all the features the Reatta has to offer. When I was younger I was more performance minded and I probably wouldn't have bought a FWD 2 seater. The other thing I dislike about my Reatta is not having any Reatta owners near me to get together with and talk Reattas.

 

What's your Reatta story?

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My wife and I were empty nester's by the early/mid '90's and we bought an existing small wholesale/retail craft store for my wife to run. This also required a lot of my time as well. I worked full time but in order to make the business go, I spent a lot of time after work and on weekends. I reasoned that the one thing I had time to do is drive, and I thought that was the one place I deserved a treat. I started looking for a suitable Reatta after I saw a couple on the street and was intrigued by the design. The nice red/tan '88 I tried from a private party at a golf course community had the dreaded shudder at about 50mph. At the time I imagined serious transmission trouble so I passed. The few I found on car lots all seemed to have small flaws or were colors I disliked. Ironically my Claret '90 coupe was on a Saturn dealership lot, off my normal route home, but less than a mile from my full time employment. This was in early '94 and the car had 59k miles on it. The only real flaw was the paint on the front had lots of small chips. I contacted the first owner who told me he was a salesman and put lots of miles on it on one of our major east west roads also used by dump trucks and such which explained a lot. The one serendipitous  item was just as we were pulling back into the car lot after a long test drive, the IPC blanked out and electrical problem popped up. That was a lucky bargaining chip, plus they had to repair it before it would sell. 24 years later, I still have the car. 

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Well you know, I'm a young guy and my first car was a 1998 Buick LeSabre, which I still daily drive. And honestly when I got it I hated it, I was one of the people in the crowd who booed Buicks becuase of people who bought them, but fastly that car grew on me, it's ride quality is superior compared to similar cars of it's era, it had adequate acceleration with its 205hp V6. I fell in love with buicks, which I think I am the ONLY 18 year old in a 100 mile radius that is like that.. But on a long road trip I was looking at all past Buick makes and the Reatta came up, I had never heard of it, and everything about it fascinated me. I quickly became obbsessed with the little Reatta. I HAD to have one. So I started to save and save and save up money so I could get lucky enough to find one. Around Senior year graduation, I found the one, 200 miles away in Bowling Green for only 2,300 dollars. But I had maybe 40% of that money, so my parents made a deal with me, for my graduation present they would cover the rest of the cost of the car, and we made our trek to get the car. Man that poor car (which is now mine) was owned by this young woman that had no idea about the history of it, and it was grimy, and so un-attended. But I saw the vast potential in it, so we got it. But I agree it's not a perfect car, I found out this car is the most challening piece of electronic wire ever put together in the 80's. My dad who is a mechanic, didn't even know how to operate these electronics. But, this car has brought me utter joy for the past year, and hopefully many years to come. I truly love my Reatta no matter how big of a pain it the butt it can be sometimes!

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Hopefully this year- I plan on doing many various projects on my '89. Total system part replacement of the entire non-functioning AC system, and renewal of the heating system components- with small but important upgrades. Various upgrades and improvements to Craft Centre and GM designs. A few of the upgrades include components of the fuel system, instrument/infotainment systems, exhaust system, outside lighting, and the engine lubrication system. A HUGE complaint of mine- has always been the lack of visibility of the rear windshield- especially the High Mount Stop Light in Winter. The addition of extra defroster grids for the rear window- top and bottom, and through the 3rd brake light area are a "must do".

Edited by 89RedDarkGrey (see edit history)
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There are two things that most new owners need.........CUPHOLDERS.........POWER OUTLETS

Do a search and lots has been written about various cupholder options.

for some reason not as many complaints about power outlets probably because they just buy an adaptor that plugs into the lighter socket and they have power for their phone, and other electronic devices such as GPS and laptop.

My solution was to add an adaptor with a cord......mount it in the storage compartment under the arm rest and attach the cord to 12 V source inside the console.

The photo shown is the '90-'91 compartment....the '88-'89 does not have the little shelf at the back.

Also, since I did mine, there are newer versions with more USB ports.

I have  extra storage bins if anyone is interested......the problem is the shipping cost more than the storage bins are worth

12V outlet.jpg

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7 hours ago, RetroJohnny said:

But I agree it's not a perfect car, I found out this car is the most challenging piece of electronic wire ever put together in the 80's. My dad who is a mechanic, didn't even know how to operate these electronics. But, this car has brought me utter joy for the past year, and hopefully many years to come.

I agree with that. When I got my Reatta and found out about all the computers it had and the weird brakes I thought about getting rid of it before something major went wrong. I probably would have if I hadn't found this forum with people who were so willing to help if I had a problem.

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Before I retired we drove '96 and '97 Riviera's as daily drivers.  So, I knew about Reatta's but had never seen one up close.  After I retired, I purchased a '92 Riviera to restore and take to car shows/cruise-ins...joined both the BCA and ROA at that time.  Wife like it so much I bought another '92 (ruby red) for her to participate with.  She soon got bored with driving to car shows/cruise-ins, etc., so I sold her '92.  A couple of years later I decided to get into another car resto project and started looking for a Reatta.  I wanted a '91 since I liked the 16" wheels, majority of part interchange with my Riviera, and no Teves brakes to deal with!  I bought my current '91 Reatta in 2013...joined the RDiv.  Again, wife liked it so much I bought another '91 (polo green) for her.  Again, she got bored with driving it so I sold it.  Don't get me wrong, wife is very supportive of the "car scene" but as a passenger, not a driver. 

 

So all be told, I expect to keep both my Riviera and Reatta for quite some time.  I have no dislikes with either one.  Also, I'm proud that I'm usually the only Buick Riviera and/or Buick Reatta person amongst a sea of iron at the cruise-ins I attend, which is three to four /week during the season.    

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I like the body style. Second, the visibility afforded by the rear window with respect to what is normally a "blind spot" is great for safety. The biggest negative for me is that the engine is missing about 50 ft lbs. of Tq, and there's no easy upgrades to perf.

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I was surfing Crags when I came across the Reatta I now own. I bought it with the intention of flipping it for a profit. I went out to see the car and it didn't look to bad but the IPC was out the brakes where as hard as a rock the engine was only running on 5 cyl's the car had been repainted (white)  and was flaking off. But the more I looked at it the more interested I got in the challenge of fixing it. It is now my daily driver. The one thing I don't like about the car is the dash, It's not ergonomically correct. The steering wheel blocks most of the controls on the head light switch and parts of the wiper switch and all to often I push the wrong button  which causes me to take my eye off the road and the CRT also is distracting.  I'm thinking of extending the head light wires so I can install the switch in place of the wiper switch and moving the wiper switch to where the A/C vent is.    

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25 minutes ago, retiredmechanic74 said:

The one thing I don't like about the car is the dash

I'd forgotten about the dash. I have always wished my '88 had the IPC like the '90-91 models. I would hate to give up the functionality of the CRT but I love the look of the later model IPC. It would be nice to have both. :)

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The Reatta was nothing more then a learning experiment to see if it was feasible to incorporate these systems into other products and it was all done at the expense of the person who bought it and it ended with a bad reputation for those who had to work on it. GM had a great car in the Reatta (If they would have left most of these systems off of it)  So far I have removed most of these systems the only ones left are the ECM, BCM, and the A/C Controller and, I even bi-passed some of the responsibility's of those units. If the controller goes I plan to replace it with a push button vacuum and cable system from a Chrysler.

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I really like the look of the Reatta, I find the styling of the body and interior were very well done. The quality of the interior could be better in some respects. The door panels haven't aged so well due to the vacuum formed vinyl over closed cell foam (and pressboard forms that warp easily), and the fit/finish on some parts could've  been improved some, particularly the upper rear quarter trim. But, I excuse these shortcomings as it was a low production car so they didn't spend top dollar making some of these parts, understandably. It was also the 1980's, an era when GM was known for rather poor quality interiors. By comparison, the Reatta is pretty decent in that regard.

 

As to the electronics, I'd respectfully disagree that they are unreliable,  or that GM was selling an experiment to the public. The electronics in the Reatta debuted on the 1986 Riviera, so had two years of refinement by the time the Reatta came out. They were a fully developed system that did exactly what they were supposed to do, when everything worked as it should.

 

Generally, this setup was reliable and to judge them as poor on cars that are now 3 decades old and have - in many cases -  been through multiple owners and who knows what sort of maintenance and repair is rather unfair. I have to give Delco a great deal of credit.  For comparatively primitive electronics (versus the current state of automotive control systems) they not only made a system that worked well for it's intended purpose, the individual components have proven remarkably resilient considering the operating environment and abuse they are subjected to. Does anyone here still run an IBM PS/2 model 80 tower with a 16Mhz 386, 70MB ESDI fixed disk and expect 100% reliability day in and day out in 2018? Heh, didn't think so.

 

Undoubtedly, the systems on the Reatta taken as a whole, are complicated. For those who lack the ability - natural or learned - to troubleshoot, it can be enormously frustrating. I'm in my element on this stuff, so don't mind chasing down a periodic problem so much. Just part of the cost of keeping a bona fide vintage car on the road anyway. 

 

Barney has pointed out the lack of cupholder and adequate power accessory outlets (for current needs). I'll concur with both. The cupholder issue isn't easily solved to my satisfaction (many attempts have been offered up, but none are truly ideal) while the power outlet issue is quite easily solved. Ronnie mentioned the 88/89 IPC not being as nice as the 90/91, and I'd agree with that. However, the early IPC no longer bothers me so much as it did when I bought my first 88. I do very much like the CRT,  and miss it when I'm driving the 91's.

 

Overall, the Reatta is my ideal car. Rides nice, plenty of room and comfort/convenience features. The slight lack of power compared to current standards and expectations  has never bothered me. I've never felt it lacking to an extent that made it unable to coexist safely with other newer, more powerful vehicles for normal driving. It is a great car for highway and scenic cruising, and perfectly adequate and enjoyable for workday commuting in city traffic. Sure, there is always room for improvement, but that is true of any car.  There's no such thing as perfect.

 

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15 hours ago, 89RedDarkGrey said:

 A HUGE complaint of mine- has always been the lack of visibility of the rear windshield- especially the High Mount Stop Light in Winter. The addition of extra defroster grids for the rear window- top and bottom, and through the 3rd brake light area are a "must do".

i put one of those backup cams with the replacement rear view mirror/screen on my pontiac.it works great except when the sun is too bright.

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We are not wealthy people.  I was an Xray tech and my wife was a school principal.  

When we retired and moved from Michigan to Arizona  2 years ago we had to sell my truck and revert to her SUV as our only transportation.  Also in preparation for the move I sold my hobby car which was a 91 Corvette.  It was only worth about $5000 but I loved to tinker with it.

After we got settled in Arizona I started looking for a 2nd car.  Since most of the vehicles out here are rust free I decided to get an older one that I could again tinker with.  I started my Craigslist hunt.  I did not get another Corvette because I have the bad habit of spending too much money on hop up and restoration parts!  I needed something less expensive.

I remembered the Reatta that an ex co-worked had during the early 90s and started to search for them.  I remembered that they always looked nice and had the 3800 engine.  I knew that they were not a high horsepower street rod but that stage of my life had passed me by anyway.

I found one nearby for $3,300 with around 115,000 miles on the clock.  It had been purchased in Phoenix and spent its entire life in the SW desert.  I brought it home and have been maintaining/fixing things on it ever since.  The ROJ and AACA sites have helped a lot!

Likes:  Styling, comfort and the CRT system.  Dislikes:  Somewhat underpowered.  The Teves brake system.  With help here and from the ROJ I have gotten it sorted out and it now works fine.  Finding someone to work on the big things.  The local Buick dealer does not have a mechanic who ever worked on one.  The local shops do not know how to work on the electronics or the Teves system either.  I just have to take the plunge, listen to everyone's advice here and go for it myself.

 

DSCF1985.JPG

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If I had to look for something that I wished was different it would be the pop up headlights. I never liked the idea of pop up headlights. Most everything else was well thought out and for the miles I have driven these are really well built and designed cars. 

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1 hour ago, DAVES89 said:

If I had to look for something that I wished was different it would be the pop up headlights. I never liked the idea of pop up headlights. Most everything else was well thought out and for the miles I have driven these are really well built and designed cars. 

Agree with Dave on the headlights although they were not uncommon during the era. I keep toying with alternative ideas but the latest segmented LED lights on some modern cars may have some possibilities.

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I don't like the side mirrors and I just don't think they go with the car. Maybe if they were painted the same color as the car. It looks like they took Buick Century mirrors and used them for the Reatta. 

I don't like the stock rims. Last year I got a set of Regal chrome rims and it's a huge difference. 

Everything else I love 

 

19250548_10211067111771942_7021494680016085711_o.jpg

Edited by Finfan1 (see edit history)
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7 hours ago, AZVET said:

I was an Xray tech

Hey Ron, I use to work for Varian X-Ray tubes but yours that you worked with were probably from GE ;)

 

My story was a bit of happenstance, I really wasn't looking for another car at the time. I was just browsing the car classifieds out of shear boredom when I saw this unusual car, a 1990 Buick Reatta. It was in really good shape the owner said it had always been garaged, and only driven on long trips, no accidents or issues. So I thought I have got to check this thing out, I called the guy and made an appointment. I then made a 50mile trek to see it ONLY, so I thought, I really had no intention to buy the car, I just wanted to see it. When I got there it was still in his garage, which was a car guys garage, covered in car posters and stuff hanging everywhere even from the rafters, there was even rubber mats on the floor. First thing he said was "I just waxed it the other day, in fact I waxed it every month whether it needed it or not and changed the oil". Now here is this 70 year old guy doing all this stuff with a passion. My first impression was, he's not going to sell this even if I wanted to buy it, he was too attached.

I then started looking at the car on the outside first and wham it hit me then and there, I was hooked just by the sleek design and looks of the car. Meanwhile this guy was telling me his life story about the car, like what trips they went on with it and what all was done to the car (Minor Repairs) he even kept all the receipts, which I still haven't gone through all of it yet. Then the guy says that his son is the one that posted the ad and wants him to sell it because he was getting old and his back wouldn't allow him to do those things anymore. I then told him that I am really interested in the car and would like to take it for a test drive, keep in mind I still haven't seen the inside. He said sure so he goes in and gets the keys and he starts it up and drives it out of the garage. I then am able to see the inside and sit in it, my heart was racing, then he says take her for a spin. Once I sat in the seat and put it in gear I decided that I had to have this car, I barely took it around the block because I just wanted to get back and buy the car, it was like I was a boy getting his first puppy.

So when I got back I told him that I wanted to purchase the car, he hesitated and told me that he needed to talk with his wife, which he did for a while. Then he came back out (he went in his house) and told me I don't want to sell the car...at that moment my heart sunk, then he said, but my son was right. The rest is history, after what seemed like an eternity at the bank I was able to buy the car, but then I realized that I had no way to get the car home, I was so caught up in this car that it didn't even occur to me. Anyway after a long day of juggling transportation I finally was able to get the car home with the help of several family members...hahaha!

 

My Likes: Sleek design and the sporty look, sophisticated interior, the bullet-proof GM 3800 engine, and many other things.

My Dislikes: At the time when I seen it and had it for a while, there wasn't anything I didn't really like, and as for now I can't think of anything to dislike. Maybe something will eventually come up but for now I am satisfied with my Two Reatta Twins, maybe I should change my user name to '90Twins.

 

The other Reatta story will have to be for another time.

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9 hours ago, Finfan1 said:

I don't like the side mirrors and I just don't think they go with the car. Maybe if they were painted the same color as the car. It looks like they took Buick Century mirrors and used them for the Reatta. 

I don't like the stock rims. Last year I got a set of Regal chrome rims and it's a huge difference. 

Everything else I love 

 

19250548_10211067111771942_7021494680016085711_o.jpg

 

 Those wheels look great on the Reatta. My mom had a Regal and I always thought they would look good, but I never tried. I am glad you did. I also agree on the side mirrors being color matched to the car's color. So when I had the Red redone I had that done. In my opinion it looks much nicer.

 You have a beautiful car.

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The black mirrors have been painted by several owners........some of the early Reatta prototypes had mirrors painted body color, but some of them were mounted on the door.

For the new owners.....the red car pictured above has the side molding painted body color.  That was a no cost option, if the proper box on the order form was not checked you got black side molding.

This also comes down to preference......black or body color?  Some colors look better with black, others look perfect with body color molding.

In 1988, before most dealers knew much about the cars, most of them were built with black side molding....so early on seeing a Reatta with body color molding was rare...

However by 1991 the trend had reversed and most had body color molding and the black side molding were the exception.

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38 minutes ago, DAVES89 said:

 

 Those wheels look great on the Reatta. My mom had a Regal and I always thought they would look good, but I never tried. I am glad you did. I also agree on the side mirrors being color matched to the car's color. So when I had the Red redone I had that done. In my opinion it looks much nicer.

 You have a beautiful car.

i might have mentioned how much i hate the factory reatta wheels.they are in the attic in case these cars are ever collectable.

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14 hours ago, 2seater said:

Agree with Dave on the headlights although they were not uncommon during the era. I keep toying with alternative ideas but the latest segmented LED lights on some modern cars may have some possibilities.

i like conceiled headlights but the whole front end of reattas is kinda cheesey.just my opinion.

Edited by handmedownreatta (see edit history)

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I like the mirrors and side moldings painted the color of the car better. Below is a photo for comparison. My car is on the left and Dave's car is on the right. They are almost twins other than his has painted mirrors and side moldings.  I think his car looks much better than mine because of that. I think thats is the way GM should have painted them all.

 

IMG_20170917_122548601.jpg

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