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Reatta convertible story


Barney Eaton

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Back in mid December, Nic Wacker was looking at a 1991 Maui blue convertible in Florida and he sent me some info on it along with the owners name and phone number. The main reason I want to talk to him ... the owner had worked at the Craft Centre since the beginning of the Reatta and this car was one of the 1991 convertibles sold to employees.

Yesterday I got an email from a lady in Florida with a 1991 Maui blue Reatta convertible. Her husband worked for GM and had passed... she want to sell the car. So I called and talked with her. This is not a posting for the car for sale but it will be soon. If you are interested I can put you incontact with her. It has 10,000 miles. Blue interior and white top.

The crazy part is they live in the same area (The Villages, FL) and the cars are three vin number apart. The car Nic told me about is 900247 and the ladys car is 900250.

The car that Nic was interested in has been sold to a couple in Sarasota but the 10K car will be for sale when the lady decides what she wants for it.

I called and talked to the first fellow, Mr. Havens and during the convertible build, his job was installing convertible tops. He said they came to the Craft Centre ready to install in the car. He could not remember the name of the supplier but all they did was set them in place and bolt them down. I suspect they checked operation and clearances etc, but like all of us he is retired and the memory tends to fade. I ask about top colors (the 1990 product manual says that blue and red tops were available) but he does not remember any.

I plan on calling him again, maybe he will think of more stories.

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Guest bpmattress

I could be interested in the blue reatta. If you could let me know if and when and how much, I'd appreciate the heads-up.

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Guest squiretom

hi barney

i live about 20 miles south of the villages in leesburg.

i would be happy to make any contacts regarding the car that are needed.

i would be interested in the name and address , to just be able to see the car. it has never been in any of the Villages car shows that i have attended.

squiretom

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That makes three Maui blue verts in the Villages, the 90 from last year (60k), Mr. Havens' 22K '91, and 250.

Glad to hear someone is close, is about a 100 mile round trip for me. May not see them at shows because in the case of at least one it was not titled/registered in FL.

Just a note, TTT (tax, tag, and title) has gotten not only difficult (everything must be filled out properly which is rare on an open title, also the DMV requires a bill of sale) but also expensive ($160 for a $200 Honda). Many insurance companies are now going to a salvage title because a COD (not rebuildable) title is only $8.

Can say that a very low milage car, if it saw even minimal winter driving in the midwest when new, may show signs of it today that another car with many more miles does not.

The Villages are/is something of a Florida phenominum. A dense, theme based community, in the middle of nowhere & an hour from a decent airport.

Before I-75 went in, US 441/US 27/US19 was a major route from Miami to Atlanta and US 301 did the same from Tampa to Washington/Baltimore. They cross just north of the Villages.

Once I-4, I-75, and the turnpike went in, that area became "off the beaten track" though the infrastructure was still there. A few years ago, a visionary picked the area up for a song and developed it as a number of zero-lot-line retirement homes and the major transportation form is the golf cart. It has proven popular with retirees, very popular.

Edited by padgett (see edit history)
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Guest tempest6cyl
He said they came to the Craft Centre ready to install in the car. He could not remember the name of the supplier but all they did was set them in place and bolt them down.

The tops, along with the convertible specific structural and trim parts were designed and produced by American Sunroof Company (ASC). They had a plant in Lansing maybe 10 minutes from the Craft Centre that assembled the tops and made most of the trim. The quarter panels were the only convertible parts still made by GM. They inserted the coupe stamping dies so they could make either coupe or convertible quarters on-site, in the stamping plant.

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Guest tempest6cyl

The tonneau panel came from ASC also. The engineering and manufacturing of the convertible parts was all by ASC. If I remember correctly, all the stamped parts (except quarters) were shipped to their Lansing plant as a distribution point and sent to the Craft Centre from their. The Lansing plant also did the assembly of the topstack and most of the interior trim. The topstack build buck was matched with the assembly tooling in the Craft Centre's bodyshop that installed the topstack mounts so that the top would just drop-in in Trim. The drawings were released into the GM system. Major testing was handled by GM at their proving grounds but smaller testing was done by ASC also.

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tempest6cyl........ I take it you worked on the Reatta program. We have met a few pople that worked on the program. I have a fellow Hugh Bowen that was the manufacturing engineer that lives within 3 mile of me... we met at a car show.

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Guest tempest6cyl

Yep. I was the ASC body engineer from the beginning to near the end. Some of the groups pictures and comments bring back memories, and I throw my 2 cents worth in once in awhile.

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love to have more details about the ASC/Reatta connection. In particular, what happened with the power pull down? All Buick litrature indicates the power pull down would be on the 1990 model but for some reason it was manual and the power version did not appear until 1991

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Guest Richard D
That makes three Maui blue verts in the Villages, the 90 from last year (60k), Mr. Havens' 22K '91, and 250.

Glad to hear someone is close, is about a 100 mile round trip for me. May not see them at shows because in the case of at least one it was not titled/registered in FL.

Just a note, TTT (tax, tag, and title) has gotten not only difficult (everything must be filled out properly which is rare on an open title, also the DMV requires a bill of sale) but also expensive ($160 for a $200 Honda). Many insurance companies are now going to a salvage title because a COD (not rebuildable) title is only $8.

Can say that a very low milage car, if it saw even minimal winter driving in the midwest when new, may show signs of it today that another car with many more miles does not.

The Villages are/is something of a Florida phenominum. A dense, theme based community, in the middle of nowhere & an hour from a decent airport.

Before I-75 went in, US 441/US 27/US19 was a major route from Miami to Atlanta and US 301 did the same from Tampa to Washington/Baltimore. They cross just north of the Villages.

Once I-4, I-75, and the turnpike went in, that area became "off the beaten track" though the infrastructure was still there. A few years ago, a visionary picked the area up for a song and developed it as a number of zero-lot-line retirement homes and the major transportation form is the golf cart. It has proven popular with retirees, very popular.

About 10 years ago I was flying my 210 from Sarasota home to Miami when I noticed a grid below me. It is north of alligator ally and east of FT.Meyers in the middle of the state and it is about 3 miles by 5 miles of perfectly paved grid of roads, complete with water hydryants and nothing else. I guess it was going to be the next big Florida retirement city that went broke after the utilities were installed.

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Guest tempest6cyl
love to have more details about the ASC/Reatta connection. In particular, what happened with the power pull down? All Buick litrature indicates the power pull down would be on the 1990 model but for some reason it was manual and the power version did not appear until 1991

Somewhere along the way I think I've read in the history the group has collected, you know that GM had Hawtal Whiting engineer the Reatta coupe. Hawtal Whiting was and engineering company based in the UK. ASC's typical business was to develop and assemble small volume specialty cars for the OEM's. Niche vehicles basically that just didn't fit into the OEM's assembly operations. It could be simple things like striping or trim packages up to the more complex programs like converting a coupe into a convertible and usually done at an ASC facility. In the Reatta's case, ASC was contracted to engineer and supply parts specifically needed for the convertible and it was to be built in the Reatta Craft Centre. I don't recall it ever being discussed as a conversion program. GM had a specialty vehicle group that was our interface to the rest of the GM system and in design, we worked with GM manufacturing engineering to fit it's assembly into their plant. By the 2nd or 3rd underbody assembly station in the bodyshop, you could tell whether a coupe or a convertible was in the works.

The answer on the power pull downs is easy, they weren't ready for 1990. They were didn't make it through the necessary testing. I don't recall whether it was performance or durability but they were not quite right so they were delayed.

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Guest tempest6cyl

Your picture seems to show the underbody rail extension. It's made of two pieces and only on the convertibles. If you look under a coupe, the front underbody rail starts in the engine compartment and ends under the seats. The rear rail starts under the stowage area and continues rearward. On convertibles the rails are capped with a deeper section and joined together basically putting a frame under it. The arrow is pointing to the rear portion. You can see the overlap joint about 6"-8" to the right.

By "tonneau latch and pin" I believe you're talking about what I know as the 5-bow or rear topstack latch and pin. ASC designed and and was building the Corvette topstack at the time. I'm pretty sure we used the same latch or a variation of it that it could be a source of internal parts. The pins are similar but I'm 90% sure the Reatta ones are specific to Reattas. Seems like the Reattas are longer and have a collar on them just above the cone head of the pin. If you're currently relying on duct tape a bailing wire, Corvette parts would be worth a look. If your talking the latches to keep the tonneau closed, those are the same as the decklid except I think we had to change the emergency release handle on it. A visual will confirm my memory. For me it's been 20 years since I messed with them.

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My issue probably stems from the wrong replacement vinyl top with a plastic window. Unless I loosen so far that there is about 1/8" gap under the rubber seal, when I hit a bump the pin pops out of the latch on the driver's side. Swapped pins and problem stayed on driver's side but once one pops the other is not far behind.

Some of the issue is that I rarely put the top up (garaged and if weather is bad I drive something else). Have had over a year and put less than 2,000 miles on it.

Looks like we may have a record low tonight. 10 pm and already 32F at my back door.

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Guest tempest6cyl

I'd agree, it sounds like the top covering is way too tight. You may be able to drop the 4 bow abit and give yourself some slack. Usually the bow is an aluminum extrusion. Out at the ends it will be attached to a steel link that attaches it to the rest of the mechanism by a pivot. Usually the bow to link connections on convertbles were made with slots and screws to accomodate production variation in the mechanism parts. The 4-bow height was important on the Reatta so that the glass backlite would fold past. Since you have a plastic one you shouldn't need to worry about that. If you're lucky, you'll have enough left in the slot to pull the bow down.

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Tempest: First, thank you very much for sharing your insights!

Second, any idea why, when raising the top, the various owners manuals recommend clamping it at the windshield first, then pushing down the 5th bow into the tonneau cover? On my car it is basically impossible to do it as recommended. I have to do the reverse.

FWIW, the top on my car is original.

Edited by wws944 (see edit history)
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Guest tempest6cyl

I don't remember for sure but, Barney did remind me earlier about the power pull down being in the literature. With that system you would lock the header and then let the pull downs do the work of tightening the top. Without the pull downs I think they followed the same path, fasten the front first and then use your body weight to push down the 5 bow last. With your method you work over your head to tighten the top material.

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When I latch the front, I stand next to the car (with doors open), rather than sit in the seats. I feel to make sure the top is correctly positioned over the pulldown augers, then press down with one hand and turn the auger latch with the other. Not sure I have tried it sitting in the seat.

In the rear, I have to feel the pin and make sure the 5th bow is correctly positioned so that the pins will go into the tonneau cover. Otherwise, my top seems to be offset slightly and the pins are not centered.

It really works much, much, better to do the rear first. (On my car it seems like the only way to do it.) Based on the above comments on the power pulldown being delayed until '91, it seems to me that the operating instructions for the '90s may have been written with the power pulldowns in mind. Then, at the last minute, someone simply changed the last step from something like 'press the power pulldown switch' to 'push down the rear bow' without reviewing the process.

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I have owned three convertibles (2 - 1990's and 1 1991) I used the latch the back first on the 1990's because of the difficulty I had latching them last.... it seemed abusive to slam the rear down as hard as it would take on my cars for it to latch... so I started latching the back first. I have owned the 1991 the longest and have always started the back first...leaving a gap you could see at the rear seal, then latching the front. If the car is being stored, I leave the back with an air gap so as not to compress the seal.

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Guest tempest6cyl

Having the body structure parts, all my parts were sheetmetal grey so I don't recall the color combinations available well. Once we we're in production, typically when I saw a vehicle it was leaving the bodyshop for paint. I do recall white, black, and tan vinyl tops making it to production. I think only vinyl was available the first year. I remember testing being ran on fabric tops of black, blue, and dark red. Seems like the plan was to have them for 1991 but I'm sorry I don't recall if or which of them made it into production.

As far as the Riviera, I came to ASC in the summer of 1985 so I missed that. I did see a few around though. During my time there, I remember convertible versions of the Corvette, Camero, Reatta (obviously), Cavalier, Porsche (928 or 944), Celica, Eclipse, Shadow, and Dakota pick-up (yes a pick-up truck). The ASC/McLaren connection had the Capri and Mustang, Grand Prix GTP, and my personal favorite, the GNX. Throw in some concept cars and other ideas that the public never saw and it was a fun place for car people.

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