Jump to content

My Reatta Journey


stall
 Share

Recommended Posts

I wrote this for our local Car-Club newsletter, Thought it might be of interest.

 

My Reatta Journey

 

I had considered the possibility of using an Antique car as a “daily-driver” vehicle for quite a while, I’m not a truck person but the “Old car Daily-Driver” idea percolated in the back of my head for a while. My situation is that I spend winters in the South and there my old car fun is replaced with lots of beach time and golf. By the time I return in late April I want nothing more than to get behind the wheel of one of my antique cars. Alas, as you might know, Upstate New York weather isn’t always conducive to driving our shiny, pampered “show” cars hence my search for a “daily” driver.

 

At a Fall Carlisle show I tripped across a car that I saw as a perfect “Daily-Driver” but didn’t quite pull the trigger on it, a Reatta convertible.  My last car purchase at Carlisle was my Mid-year Corvette roadster, part of a delayed-onset-midlife-crisis and also a spur of the moment thing. I guess I’m an impulse buyer guy but I needed to spend a bit more time considering my everyday old car idea.

 

As with most things in life you must weigh a number of factors before picking your “daily-driver”. In my case I knew I wanted a presentable car that was different than today’s bland, lookalike new cars; it had to stand out from the sea of sameo-sameo we see on our roads today. Of course, it had to be safe and my minimum criteria was radial tires, seat belts, a dual brake master cylinder and the ability to cruise the Interstates at 70 MPH; keeping up with traffic flow on any tour is a major safety concern in my opinion.

 

While I presently have two GM collector cars it’s no secret that I’m a great admirer of the offerings from the little independent car companies and I was very taken with a friends little Rambler. It was the right size and configuration to fit into today’s driving, fast enough for traffic and just a bit outside of the “popular” collector car market. What you're then faced with is a brand outside of the big-three, kinda commodity cars, I’m good with that because like most antique car guys I’m already a neighborhood curiosity, that odd guy who prefers driving old iron; I’ve had Hudson’s, Austin-Healy’s and presently have a nice Studebaker Speedster.

 

Of course, the economics of driving an antique car every day are important.  There is always the economic reality of car ownership. Using an antique car daily avoids the financial tragedy of depreciation. Buying a new car is a major transaction that differs from buying a home; a home is expected to appreciate even while it’s in daily use. A new car though is a rapidly depreciating asset. Using an antique car on a daily basis instead of a new car upends the depreciation scale as you drive a car that is unlikely to depreciate; if you would rather drive an Antique car, this rationale might impress the wife.   As I surfed the net one night, I tripped across a 1990 Buick Reatta located at a Dealers showroom in Indiana. It was a red Convertible (I have 2 red cars already) and looked just so “neat”.  I pulled the plug and put a deposit on it.  A couple of Studebaker Forum buddies were good enough to take it out for a test drive and give it a good inspection. I purchased it on their recommendation; the ultimate “Blind-Date.”

 

The car was a low mileage, one owner car that must have lived its life in a garage; there isn’t even surface rust underneath it. Everything worked and even the pessimist in me couldn’t find a single issue.  As I started the research that I should have done before buying the Reatta, a few surprises showed up. I didn’t know that the car was essentially hand built in a makeshift warehouse on wooden pallets, designed as a very upmarket, luxury 2-passanger coupe, that explained the $37K price in 1990. It wasn’t a sales hit as people didn’t see a need for an expensive Buick that could only accommodate 2-people. The running gear was off the shelf GM, tried and true except for the brakes. I wanted a drop-top and the Miata was too small and Mustangs too common.

 

The Reatta sported a way, over-complicated Teves braking unit combined with a very new Anti-Lock brake system. The Teves system uses a pump that pressurizes an accumulator through various switches and sensors; the unit originated in England, think Lucas, what could possibly go wrong?

 

On the AACA Reatta forum I noticed that most questions involved the brakes and lack of replacement parts. I actually reconsidered my purchase, better to admit a mistake than live one. I was used to Chevelle’s and Corvette’s where vendor catalogs were a couple of inches thick and offered every conceivable part you could need; the Reatta wasn’t in this class. Yet, I couldn’t deny that the car was simply a delight to drive, a good looking, air conditioned, antique car.

 

The convertible top needed only a couple of minute drop time, didn’t require an Engineering degree to operate and the braking system worked great. On the Reatta Forum I found that most brake problems were due to high mileage, many over 200K. and that the system was peculiarly prone to fail if one didn’t change the brake fluid every year or so. As for parts the Forum had many very helpful people who had spare parts like brake pumps and switches, for not a lot of money I put together enough parts to pretty much replace anything on the Teves system. After 4 years (9K miles) I haven’t had anything that required repair on the car. I did spring for 1991 style rims only because I liked them.

 

In short, I guess the Buick Designers would have been better served by just staying with a Vacuum Power Brake system, they actually went back to it in 1991, but I suspect that they didn’t plan for the cars to be on the road for 30+ years. I find it funny that my Nephew owns a Buick Dealership and none of his mechanics will touch the Teves braking system.

 

All that being said, I love the car and I’m glad I bought it.

 

When I first registered the car, I just added it to my Antique car policy but I’ve since rethought this and put it on my State-Farm policy. The difference in cost is very slight because we are two drivers that now have four cars insured with them. By the way, there is a very significant price break on car insurance if each car is driven 7500 miles or less. I found that out by receiving an e-mail from my Wife’s new Buick saying, “I’ve noticed you're not driving me much; if you go to your State-Farm agent you’re due a discount.” You have to wonder how my Buick knows I’m insured with State-Farm? I won’t be getting any e-mail hints from my Reatta.

My first outing I got caught in the rain and panic set in. Riding in the elements made me reflect on the original owner of the car. These original folks typically owned this car as their daily transport; that means that people drove these cars in the rain and yikes, even in the snow. There was no choice. The rain made me think about causing rust. But then I considered that in 30+  years no sign of rust top or bottom, has yet appeared and I’m personally well into my seventh decade so I resolved to drive it and just enjoy the ride whether in sunshine or rain; that didn’t work as I fell in love with the car and try never to be out in the “weather.”

So, there it is, for very small bucks I’m driving a 30- year-old, distinctive, hand-built automobile that transcends the jelly-bean shaped cars of today. In just the few years, I’ve been using the car I cannot believe the amount of interest it has drawn in gas stations and parking lots. It seems that everyone loves a, old car. Drive an interesting old car in good condition and people will stop, look, and engage you in conversation.  It’s all for a very good reason, new cars are massively competent, capable, fast, efficient and reliable but many people are coming to the conclusion that they lack a soul, they are a transportation conveyance like an elevator and won't tug your heartstrings like a well-sorted antique car will.

 

There is also a certain joy in driving a car that’s perfectly content to let you have the controls, you're the driver and the car won’t correct you; it’s great to motor along secure in the knowledge that if you pass wind there won’t be an annoying chime to announce it.

 

Yes, It has all been great fun, motor on, relax, and enjoy the ride!

Murray



 

 

 

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Coupla things:

1) The Teves is the second generation and widely used in Europe by everything from Rovers to Jags to Saabs. Here it was used by Pontiac, Buick, and Cadillac as well as Ford. My only wear items have been front sensors and the accumulator. Have heard of people converting to a non-ABS Riviera system but never been tempted.

2) Rain is not an issue, salt is. Any car I take near the beach gets an immediate pressure wash.

3) A factory service and a parts manual are necessities. It will do most of its own diagnostics.

4) Personally reprogrammed mine to run cooler (180 thermostat) and reprogrammed to bring fans in sooner. I find everything lasts longer.

5) Magnavox ignition is a weak spot. Converting to a delco ignition and platinum plugs are good.

6) '91 rims were 16x7", much better than 15x6. I run 225x60x16s and like BFG Comp-2 A/S at the moment. Are great in the rain.

7) Headlights will probably need rebuilding. is easy/inexpensive. I like Sylvania Silverstars.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

43 minutes ago, padgett said:

Coupla things:

1) The Teves is the second generation and widely used in Europe by everything from Rovers to Jags to Saabs. Here it was used by Pontiac, Buick, and Cadillac as well as Ford. My only wear items have been front sensors and the accumulator. Have heard of people converting to a non-ABS Riviera system but never been tempted.

2) Rain is not an issue, salt is. Any car I take near the beach gets an immediate pressure wash.

3) A factory service and a parts manual are necessities. It will do most of its own diagnostics.

4) Personally reprogrammed mine to run cooler (180 thermostat) and reprogrammed to bring fans in sooner. I find everything lasts longer.

5) Magnavox ignition is a weak spot. Converting to a delco ignition and platinum plugs are good.

6) '91 rims were 16x7", much better than 15x6. I run 225x60x16s and like BFG Comp-2 A/S at the moment. Are great in the rain.

7) Headlights will probably need rebuilding. is easy/inexpensive. I like Sylvania Silverstars.

 

I agree with you on everything you said except perhaps the Teves. I have had zero problems with mine but lordy,  just looking at the sensors, motors and such that comprise it then comparing it to the simplicity of the standard system makes you think of Rube-Goldberg.  More parts to accomplish the same thing isn't consumer friendly and I think a great contributor to the Reatta 's reputation as unreliable.  I guess we agree to disagree.

Murray

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great article.  Thanks for sharing.  Buicks are meant to be driven.  Especially so for the Reatta.  I can't wait to get back on the road again.  These are may daily drivers.😊

I also agree with folks here re the Teves brake system; learn about them, simple to maintain and most important of all they stop the car on a dime.🚙

IMG_2447.JPG

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for sharing your story.

My first Reatta was a 1988 that I bought in 2002. I drove it trouble free until 2005 when I decided I needed a convertible. I purchased a 1990 Allante with 65k miles, drove it for five years and sold at 111k miles. The 200hp 4.5 was really a nice motor for this car, but I found a ’93 with the 4.6 Northstar…Wow! What a fast car, ahhh but head gasket problems. That moved me into a 2000 Mercedes SL 500. A really nice car, never should have sold it but I got tired of removing the hardtop, so I thought I needed a hardtop convertible. Sold the 2000 after 6 years and purchased a 2003 with the retractable hardtop. A really nice car until…..The ABC hydraulic ride system started failing. Every few weeks a leak then the hoses started bursting. What a nightmare.

At 71, I thought maybe my convertible days are over. I really enjoyed each one, and used them as a daily driver. Then, looking at Craigslist a week after selling the SL, I find a ’90 Reatta convertible listed with only 77k miles. Second owner since 1997. He had purchased with 55k miles and kept it in storage most of the time. Two trips to California from Oklahoma. He kept a gas mileage log and had recorded ever fill up since the day he purchased. From 2011 to the day I purchased he had only driven the car 2100 miles. The tires were date coded in 1998. Great tread but I replaced the second day I owned the car.

He was asking $5500 which seemed reasonable, but the A/C didn’t work. He had a repair estimate from 2017 that stated the compressor was bad.

So, I offered $4000 and he took it. Good price? Bad price? I don’t know. Seems good to me.

A trip to the shop and $803 later the A/C was repaired plus an electrical problem fixed.

Now everything works like a charm. I’ve had the car about four weeks and put about 1500 miles of driving around town. The only negative I see on this car is the horsepower. It should have had the supercharged motor. Getting the power up over 200 hp would have been great.

Plan to drive it about 250 miles today for a small day trip.

This may be my last convertible, who knows, but I do plan to enjoy it every day.

Edited by Ronnie (see edit history)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Similar just in a different order. Have never felt comfortable without a convertible. Had Fieros (multiple) in the '90s but then decided I wanted a larger Fiero so after studyin '01 I bought the 88 Triple Blue sunroof Reatta that will probably be in my estate sale. Had a Corvair convertible, then a succession of convertibles. Just sold the last last year. Meanwhile had a Crossfire coupe and then a succession of Mercedes SLKs, a R171 sold for more than paid, then a couple of R170s: SLK320 automagic and a SLK230 five speed. Recently someone wanted the 320 more than I did and began looking at XLRs. Two problems: cannot put top up/down in my garage (would hit the door track) and current owners are too proud - prices have jumped $5k since march. Which started me looking at Allantes (actually looked before but just wasn't right). Found a local 89 (4.5 and no airbag) with 70k miles,  both tops, clean carfax, and should bring home tomorrow. Turns out many Reatta consumables fit and there is a great source for parts just a few miles south. Couple of minor issues that kept the price reasonable and can put on my antique policy. Wonder how hard it will be to design a hoist in the garage for the hardtop...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 6/8/2020 at 9:03 AM, okhmbldr said:

Thanks for sharing your story.

My first Reatta was a 1988 that I bought in 2002. I drove it trouble free until 2005 when I decided I needed a convertible. I purchased a 1990 Allante with 65k miles, drove it for five years and sold at 111k miles. The 200hp 4.5 was really a nice motor for this car, but I found a ’93 with the 4.6 Northstar…Wow! What a fast car, ahhh but head gasket problems. That moved me into a 2000 Mercedes SL 500. A really nice car, never should have sold it but I got tired of removing the hardtop, so I thought I needed a hardtop convertible. Sold the 2000 after 6 years and purchased a 2003 with the retractable hardtop. A really nice car until…..The ABC hydraulic ride system started failing. Every few weeks a leak then the hoses started bursting. What a nightmare.

At 71, I thought maybe my convertible days are over. I really enjoyed each one, and used them as a daily driver. Then, looking at Craigslist a week after selling the SL, I find a ’90 Reatta convertible listed with only 77k miles. Second owner since 1997. He had purchased with 55k miles and kept it in storage most of the time. Two trips to California from Oklahoma. He kept a gas mileage log and had recorded ever fill up since the day he purchased. From 2011 to the day I purchased he had only driven the car 2100 miles. The tires were date coded in 1998. Great tread but I replaced the second day I owned the car.

He was asking $5500 which seemed reasonable, but the A/C didn’t work. He had a repair estimate from 2017 that stated the compressor was bad.

So, I offered $4000 and he took it. Good price? Bad price? I don’t know. Seems good to me.

A trip to the shop and $803 later the A/C was repaired plus an electrical problem fixed.

Now everything works like a charm. I’ve had the car about four weeks and put about 1500 miles of driving around town. The only negative I see on this car is the horsepower. It should have had the supercharged motor. Getting the power up over 200 hp would have been great.

Plan to drive it about 250 miles today for a small day trip.

This may be my last convertible, who knows, but I do plan to enjoy it every day.

To get to about 200 HP is easier then you think. I bought a ultralow mileage 1988 3800 engine and with advice from 2seater added 9.0 higher compression pistons and a little porting and polishing of the intake/exhaust and with the 1988 cam shaft you get right about 200 HP and no worries about overloading the tranny. Glad I did it 4 years ago. [I'm 63 now].

Edited by DAVES89 (see edit history)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...