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Our vintage cars disappearing


DAVES89
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 I just got back from Gibson's. I was looking for the cassette stereo version of the "Bushwacker" that is considered an upgrade to the 1990'91 stereo found in our Reattas. Most guys want the CD version, but as I use an MP3 with a wiring set up made for me by Mc_Reatta [ he is missed] the cassette style is what I went looking for. This particular unit has a 5 slider graphic equalizer and I needed one to replace the one I have that is starting to fail. At any rate Gibson's has thousands of cars, a couple 100 Buicks and after looking through Roadmasters, then Olds '88/98s I started in on LaSabres and Park Avenues. After looking through I found less then 20 cars that were the vintage [1990-1993] I needed, and only 1 had the radio that had what I wanted.

 I guess what I am trying to say if you need anything start looking as time is running out...

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Same down here, around the turn of the century there were always 2 or 3 at the pick-a-part, now have not seen one in years. Of course since I have a spare almost everything, it does not matter a lot.

 

Guess the common cars in the yards are 10-15 years old and not so many past 25.

 

That said, M&R has quite a stock of radios and guarantees them.

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Have to figure the yard wants to buy and keep cars likely to generate the most profit in the shortest time. A Reatta doesn't do much for them in that regard; just over 21,000 made the last of which rolled off the line 25 years ago and now a sub 70% overall survival rate which leaves under 15,000 in existence.

 

In a country as large and spread out as the US, and the number of yards around, unless you are in one of the sweet spot states for the Reatta (Michigan, Florida, California primarily based on where they sold heavily when new) a yard won't likely have a lot of demand for parts from these cars, so they can sit taking up room for months or even years. A large yard can sustain some slow movers but most want to maximize the value from a salvage car and turn it over in 6 monts or less. Heck, the only yard I've ever seen a Reatta in was Gibsons when I visited Dave, and I see the ones that yards are parting via ebay but there aren't that many on there even. Yes, the day is coming where we'll be on our own in trying to keep these cars viable. Rather like the Cuban situation and what they face in trying to keep 50's era cars going there.

 

I have [over] prepared for that eventuality by stockpiling many things that will be hard to find like glass, weather stripping, interior pieces and some body panels. Also have several tail lamps, though some are marginal in their condition. I keep a storage tote full of good modules (ECM, BCM, CPS, CRT, CRTC, EBCM, RIM, ACP) as well as extra IPCs. I have complete headlamp assemblies, seat parts, door hinges - these will be a big issue eventually as all 2 door GM's get the coffin door sag - and door panels.  Also have extra MAF, TPS, IAC and ICMs on hand in case one dies. Have extra ABS leads, blower motors, cooling fans, seatbelts, emblems, moldings, bumpers and wheels. Even have a spare front and rear cradle and a full set of good control arms. Oh, and lots of miscellaneous parts. With four of these cars,  there is always something that needs work. I'd say better than 60% of the time I can repair from my own inventory  rather than going to buy something now.

 

I don't know how long I can keep them all road worthy, but am planning on driving a Reatta for the long haul. Hopefully another 20+ years, if I can keep the scourge of rust away.  I have the skills to keep up the electronics which will be one of the bigger issues going forward. I do expect the era of easy pickings for parts is about to end for the Reatta. So many of the used up cars have now been culled, and many that remain are well maintained so will be slower to be relegated to parts cars. The past 5-7 years or so has been the sweet spot as there were a lot of these cars scrapped since I first got heavily into them in 2008. Now the supply is noticeably thinner than it was even just a couple of years ago. Which is all to say: plan for the challenge, it is coming.

 

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Guys........we see them every day when we walk into the garage, but to the rest of the world they are 25+ year old cars.

Unless someone has the same disease that we have, they are not looking for a 25 year old V6 two passanger car....either as a collectable or second or third vehicle.

The information we get from R.L. Polk  (last update was fall of 2014) showed a noticeable drop in Reatta registration from the previous report.

Of the 21,751 built (we know some of those were test cars, etc and not sold)  in September 2014 only 8310 total Reattas were registered in the US.   That is 38% of the total build remaining.

Note that the Polk data is "registered" cars,  so there could be some number of Reattas in storage, museums, and unregistered still out there .....bottom line they are going away.

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Guest HuevosRanchero

definitely a disease...I have 3 unpopular unloved hard to find parts for cars...The Reatta being the scariest of course, and yet I love them all. 

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I consider my situation sonewhat unique. I decided to commit to the Reatta as my preferred car, and now own four of them. There are other cars I'd like to own but cannot due to their price tag. The Reatta is a modestly (hell, bargain really) priced car that SHOULD be a collectible. Whether it is ever recognized as such doesn't concern me at all. I like it, and I do what I like irrespective of what anyone else thinks. Most people don't  get it, that's fine with me.

 

I'm not selling any of mine unless I find one I like more, or I'm starving and need to raise quick money. So, being that I intend to stay in Reattae as daily drivers for as long as possible, it is in my interest to be able to keep them decent without relying too heavily on others for parts. I want my cars to be safe, reliable, and look good as well. Sure, I could avoid stocking so many cosmetic items, but then as things break or get worn, if I can't find replacments the car starts to become a beater even if it still runs well.

 

I drove a beater when i was a teenager, and at the risk of sounding a bit conceited, I don't intend to go back to a beater if I can avoid it. Since these are my daily drivers (aside from a work truck which is a bit rough) and I take pride in driving a nice  (not necessarily expsensive) car I have put aside a lot of parts for future needs.

 

Yes, I've probably overdone it, but it is my nature to have spares of and parts for things I really like that give me enjoyment. I do the same thing with vintage stereo components, and have a collection of amps, tuners, turntables and the like that most would consider obscene.  I do a lot of listening to music and consider these things indispensible to my quality of life. May be an unusual habit, but it works for me.

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I only drove one beater [age 18] and hated every minute of it, so much so I sold it less then 2 months after buying it. All my cars have to look good.

 Interesting that we are down to less then 10,000 Reattas left. I had no idea it was so low. Thanks for the update Barney.

 There is a guy near me that has 3 damaged Reattas but he seems to think they are worth a lot, so we haven't done business, but may someday. I still see about 5-6 Rivs of our vintage on the road around here so I think the "farm system" will still work for a number of years yet. 

 Most of the yards in the area will not buy cars over 10 years or so and avoid "junkers" so they end up at Gibson's which is fine for me. I also have to say that my interest in "shopping" at Gibson's has gone down as I too have stockpiled parts [not body parts] as Kevin has, so the urgency to get more and have more is not much of a priority anymore.

 I also have decided that age 60 I am on my last cars and the car of choice for me is the Reatta [and whatever car my wife wants to drive] and most likely the last Reatta I will have is the 'vert, although I will do almost anything to keep the Red on the road. The Black has served me well, but was bought cheap to be my winter driver and that is all. It is still a nice car but will be my parts car if anything "big" [body parts, windshield, engine, transmission] is needed. I just wish it had a tan interior, then it would have been the perfect parts/driver car.

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I too have been stock piling parts for my '91 Reatta since a majority of the mechanicals (like 80%) will fit my '92 Riviera.  I haven't gone as far as storing big body parts, though.  I figure at 67 years old, I most likely will not be restoring anything else...just replacing what's needed on these two Buicks as needed.

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We are at the the point where we separate the men from the boys......

I have seen it with other cars.   When they were plentiful and reasonable in price (both for the car and parts) people buy them, like them, and drive them. 

As they age (both in time and mileage) decisions need to be made and a few carry with what they have but most will buy a newer or lower mileage Reatta as theirs starts to show age and needs repairs........others just jump ship.

The dedicated ones have already set a plan...accumulating hard to find parts, maybe a parts car or two, and always looking for one better than they have.

I recently had a call from a Reatta owner saying he loved the car but things keep breaking, or needing replacing and whining about his 25 year old car needing service.

I suggested if he wanted a reliable car go buy a Honda......but if he liked the Reatta, he must realize that all old cars need service  and maintenance.....decision time, get with the program or jump ship.

There will be fewer Reatta owners in the future, that does not mean this site will see less traffic or that the Reatta Div will get smaller, quite the opposite, those that choose to stay in the Reatta business will circle the wagons and support one another with parts, wisdom, and advise.

I suggest that if you are reading this and like your Reatta, start planning, if you are thinking about getting rid of your Reatta(s) what will you buy that will satisfy your need and pocketbook and will it be any different when it reaches 25 years than the Reatta?   You can continue riding the wave of different cars for years to come, or if you really like the Reatta then plan for the future.  

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For a lot of us stocking up on spare parts is a hit or miss proposition. I don't have the room to store all the parts I may need even if I had them. I think the best option for spare parts is to have a spare Reatta sitting behind the house that has good mechanical and electronic parts, but due to subdivision rules, that's not an option either. Thanks to Dave and a few other people on this forum, I have some of the obvious parts on hand, Teves unit, some silver boxes, etc. but the fact is I'm probably just one unexpected failure away from having to park my car for an extended period or for good.

 

For instance if the turn signal flasher in my '88 failed I don't have one. That part is no longer available and it can't be replaced with something from another car as far as I know. Without it my car would be unsafe to drive on most highways. Yeah, I know I should get one of those flashers and have it on hand but what if something else like that goes bad that I didn't think about and I have to park the car anyway? Then I will have spent my money a used part that I may never use and still not have the correct part on hand. What I really need is a crystal ball so I could see into the future to know what I need to have on hand.

 

Due to all the above I can see a time coming when the failure of a hard to find part needed might force me to be a one parts car vendor instead of a Reatta enthusiast. With Reatta parts quickly becoming hard to find, (and horded by those who have them), who knows how soon that time will come...

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1 hour ago, Ronnie said:

For a lot of us stocking up on spare parts is a hit or miss proposition. I don't have the room to store all the parts I may need even if I had them. I think the best option for spare parts is to have a spare Reatta sitting behind the house that has good mechanical and electronic parts, but due to subdivision rules, that's not an option either. Thanks to Dave and a few other people on this forum, I have some of the obvious parts on hand, Teves unit, some silver boxes, etc. but the fact is I'm probably just one unexpected failure away from having to park my car for an extended period or for good.

 

For instance if the turn signal flasher in my '88 failed I don't have one. That part is no longer available and it can't be replaced with something from another car as far as I know. Without it my car would be unsafe to drive on most highways. Yeah, I know I should get one of those flashers and have it on hand but what if something else like that goes bad that I didn't think about and I have to park the car anyway? Then I will have spent my money a used part that I may never use and still not have the correct part on hand. What I really need is a crystal ball so I could see into the future to know what I need to have on hand.

 

Due to all the above I can see a time coming when the failure of a hard to find part needed might force me to be a one parts car vendor instead of a Reatta enthusiast. With Reatta parts quickly becoming hard to find, (and horded by those who have them), who knows how soon that time will come...

im depending on ebay for things that are hard to find.

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That too is an option [Ebay]. 

 Ronnie, from what I know you have in parts and the willingness of a couple of guys on the forum to help, you should be in pretty good shape. From what I remember from a long ago post is that the turn signal box is very simple and be rebuilt. Maybe Kevin might know.

   

  

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Have no plans for more cars unless an XLR shows. At least parts for Reattae are available from vendors. This rescue GTP is a different story, very little is available for the W-body or the "Twin dual cam V6" and not even that for the Getrag 284 (yes, 284) or AQ9 seats.

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The turn signal module (88/89) should be repairable. A minimum of IC's in it, mostly discretes (transistors, resistors, capacitors and diodes) and not a terribly complex circuit. I have one with one side bad (won't blink) apart here but haven't bothered to fix it since I have working spares.

 

I expect the day will come when I will repair these and other simple modules like the CPS as no one is offering repair service for them like they are for IPCs and CRT's. Eventually good used spares will be hard to source, and these are often overlooked so many have gone to the crusher in junk cars already. 

 

An added note, I'm shocked that the survivor (registered) rate is that low now. I don't remember the last update Barney provided  (in a post last year) being that low, I thought it was in the high 60% range yet averaged across all four years. By my recollection of that thread, 88's had dropped a lot relative to the other three years but not under 40%. Am I just remembering incorrectly, or are Barney's numbers in this thread a typo?

 

Sheesh. Under 10,000 left explains why Craigslist and (to a lesser extent) Ebay have dried up so much versus say 5 years ago. I did personally take two off the road permanently in the last 6 months. While both were parts cars not worthy of restoration, it does still bother me knowing I killed off two more. I guess the reduction to the hard core devotees may be here sooner than I thought with those numbers.

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First credit to where it is due......

I make contact with R.L.Polk at SEMA several years back and one thing lead to another, discovered the guy I had contact with, his boss had a Driftwood convertible and R.L.Polk (a company that accumulates all sorts of data) has been supplying me with the numbers.   After my post above, I contacted them for an update and I will post that if they choose to continue supplying the information.  These are not my numbers....they come from Polk

 

From the report I received 9/14.....registered Reattas in the US (they also supplied them by states)

1988 = 1370 .....29%

1989 = 2291.....33%

1990 = 2517 (coupes) ...39%

1990 =1374 (convertibles) ...64%   in 2010 this number was 77%

1991 = 601 (coupes) ...49%

1991 = 157 (convertibles)...51%

 

When I published this in the Reatta newsletter I also pointed out that the percent remaining is calculated using the original totals published by Buick

We know that in 1988 20-30 cars on the front end of build were early production models and were not sold to the public and most likely scrapped, if we knew the exact number that could be deducted from the total and it would make the percent remaining go up a little.

1991 convertibles is the other fluke....Buick scrapped and donated some of the 305 convertibles.   My best calculations indicate that about 238 were sold to the public but there is evidence that some of the cars Buick said were scrapped are/were registered so if you use those numbers as the number made, the percent remaining goes up like this.... using 238 the 9/14 number would be 66% or if 247 is used the  number is 64%

Another observation...the first year Polk supplied data was 2008 and the 1988 number was 2743 (58%) the 2014 number of 1370 (29%) is almost exactly a 50% reduction of registered cars in 6 years and that is close to the trend for all 4 years of production for the coupes..... convertible survival rate is better.

 

Edited by Barney Eaton (see edit history)
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Well, thank you for your kind remarks.  i should clarify that relative to their age and moreso still to other cars of the same era, the Reatta survival rate isn't bad. Actually it is surprisingly good considering that this car does not get mainstream respect or interest as a collectible yet, if ever. There is a core group of Reatta enthusiasts and collectors like those of us here who will keep them going and enjoy them but we are rapdily reducing the number of casual owners who cannot sustain the expense and challenges of owning a car like this at nearly 3 decades old. 

 

These are the owners who have only the Reatta as a daily driver and simply can't deal with downtime searching for parts/making repairs and the cost of keeping them drivable when so many age related things go wrong. These are also the owners who typically purchased the neglected Craigslist cars inexpensively because they "look neat" and then get nicked with repairs that cost twice or more what they paid for the car. They are the ones getting out and that can be seen not only by the lesser number sighted out driving around these days but also by the reduced participation in this forum from such owners - and there used to be a number of them here when I first joined. Many have likely thrown in the towel and settled for something boring but practical.

 

That leaves the true admirers, or as Barney stated, seperates the men from the boys. This was inevitable as the ongoing challenges of ownership made these cars unsuitable as an only vehicle/daily driver for someone with limited funds and expertise to do their own work.  With four in the stable, I always have one to drive though there have been times when all of mine had something broken all at once. Also have my DeVille which has been a great car and is still reliable but is beginning to suffer advanced age problems that will become impractical to keep fixing in the next 3 years most likely. My brother just ditched his 99 DeVille for the same reasons, repair costs were starting to kill him and it was just time to say enough  already. He bought a new Ram 1500 Laramie edition pickup. It's really sharp and I was briefly envious until I thought about the money he now owes.

 

I will have much greater tolerance of problems with the Reattas than I will for the Cadillac (as much as I like that car) so the Caddy will get sacrificed when it gets too costly to keep decent where the Reattas will get as much as I can throw at them for the sake of preservation. Of course, there is a limit for them as well where it makes more sense for me to find a nicer one than to keep feeding the money pit.

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Have always been a generalist but also find that if the car is interesting then vendors will appear. We already have more sources than 90's W bodies but even there other than needing to find a parts car with a nice AQ9 interior, Rock Auto, eBay (all five parts and service manuals, about 40 lbs, were less than $40. Delivered.) Must admit that a total production of 47 cars with LQ1/M27 piqued my interest which does not make some things easy.

 

One issue I am running into a lot is major parts suppliers (e.g. GMParts...) that list many parts but when ordered turn out to be discontinued. Annoying.

 

Another is available parts that are rong. This has two bad effects:

1) many returns

2) the real part is discontinued because there is no demand.

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