The Buick Reatta was a sport coupe designed by GM which was powered by a 3.8 liter V6. It was the first car Buick advertised as a two-seater since the 1940 Buick model 46. It was a handmade luxury sports coupe produced at the Lansing Craft Centre in Lansing, Michigan and sold by the Buick division of American automaker General Motors from early 1988 to 1991. Like the Cadillac Allanté, it was based on a shortened version of the GM E platform used by the Cadillac Eldorado, Oldsmobile Toronado and particularly the Buick Riviera, with which it shared many mechanical parts, advanced electronics, and interior furnishings. While a sport compact car, it was only offered with an automatic transmission. It was also Buick's only sports car at the time.
The Reatta sported its own unique body style and was crafted with an attention to hand finishing uncommon for a mass-produced automobile. The assembly was performed at a small series of craft stations - each with a specialized team of workers, rather than a conventional assembly line. After a team had completed their portion of the assembly, the car would be moved by robots to the next station in the series. All of the paintwork was subcontracted to PPG Industries personnel - who performed the work on site.
Initially offered for 1988 as a hardtop coupe, a convertible version was added for 1990. The Reatta used GM's ubiquitous transverse "Buick 3800" V6 with 165–170 hp (123–127 kW) and 210–220 lb·ft (285–298 N·m) of torque with the highest output in the last year of production. The car sported a fully independent suspension, 4 wheel disc brakes with ABS, and front wheel drive. Top speed was electronically limited to 125 mph (201 km/h). The Reatta was rated at 18 mpg (13.1 L/100 km) in the city and 27 mpg (8.7 L/100 km) on the highway.
The Reatta was conceived during a period in the early to mid-1980s when Buick was marketing higher performance editions of its vehicles (such as the turbocharged Buick GNX). However, midway through the development of the Reatta, GM decided to refocus the brand on a more traditional and mature image that was thought to be more in keeping with its core older buyer demographics. The resulting vehicle had a shape that carried performance car styling cues but provided little in the way of actual high performance. The lack of Buick's turbocharging is often blamed on the fact that GM, at the time, didn't have a suitable Hydra-Matic transaxle that could withstand the extra power.
The Reatta was intended as a halo car for Buick, but sales, originally planned to be around 20,000 units a year, were extremely disappointing and GM announced the end of Reatta production in early 1991.
During the first two years of production, the Reatta, like its Riviera stablemate, featured as standard equipment a touchscreen computer interface called the "Electronic Control Center", or ECC. The touchscreen controlled the radio and climate control functions and provided diagnostic access to the vehicle's various electronic systems and sensors, mostly eliminating the need for a diagnostic scanner. It also featured a date reminder, a trip computer, and a user-configurable overspeed alarm. This elaborate level of electronic equipment was off-putting for the more traditional "mature" buyers the Buick division was courting.
The 1990 and 1991 Reattas were equipped with a more conventional electronic push button stereo, optional CD player, and climate controls. The climate control buttons and display performed double duty to replace diagnostic scanner capability formerly provided by the touchscreen display, however the trip computer capability was lost.
Standard features and options
When the Reatta was introduced, it was envisioned as a well-equipped luxury car. The only option was for 16-way power seats - replacing the standard 6-way power seats. A sunroof option was added late in the 1988 model year. In 1989, keyless entry was added as a standard feature. In 1990, a driver's side airbag appeared with the more conventional instrument panel. An optional CD player was offered. In 1991, the engine and transmission were reworked with the "L27" 3800 and 4T60-E replacing the "LN3" and hydraulic 4T60, along with new 16" wheels, Twilight Sentinel headlight control, and a cup holder built into the armrest.
Every Reatta included a leather book containing the owner's manual and pen. In 1990 and 1991, a zippered owners folio was included. In addition to the owners manual, it also contained a "Craftsman's Log" with the signatures of the supervisors for the assembly of the car at the various craft stations, a pen, flashlight, and tire gauge, among other items. These slightly unusual items were an attempt to sell the mass-produced car as one built with individual care.
The convertible was designed by ASC, and placed into production for 1990 and 1991. The convertible top was available in vinyl or cloth, and featured a glass rear window with electric defroster. When retracted, the top was protected by a rigid tonneau cover. The 1991 models were improved with power pull-down motors to assist in tightening the rear bow of the top to the tonneau cover.
In 1988, approximately fifty five Reattas were designated "Select Sixties" and were specially allocated to the top sixty Buick dealers. These cars were all painted black, and had a tan interior. The only differences between these and a regular Reatta are a special Select Sixty hood emblem and a X22 marketing code. As the special emblems were usually sent to the dealer separate from the car, some Select Sixty cars were sold before receiving their emblems.
In 1990, the Select Sixty program was again run, with sixty five cars being built. These were white convertibles which previewed several 1991 features, including a flame red interior (instead of garnet red), white bucket seats, white 16 inch wheels, and the cup holder. Again, special emblems were provided for the hood.
Production is said to have begun in January 1988 and ended on May 10, 1991. However, various accounts of much earlier and later cars exist, and the handbuilt nature of the car and long development cycle makes accurately dating production difficult.