Imagine a six-year old, curly-hair girl in pig-tails standing on the car lot holding her dad’s hand. She’s looking around at what seems like an endless amount of shiny, brand-new cars, yet she spots this small, “bubble” looking white convertible and exclaims, “That’s what I want when I get big!” Now, fast forward ten years to that same girl, now 16, and her squeals of delight, beaming smile and huge hug for the dad that just bought her that white, Buick Reatta convertible, when she got big!
The Buick Reatta was a hand made, 2-seater, luxury sports coupe. When it began production in 1988, it was Buick’s only sports car and the only 2-seater they had made since the 1940 Model 46. This vehicle was built on the shortened GM E platform that was used on the Cadillac Eldorado, the Oldsmobile Toronado and the Buick Riviera, which the Reatta shared parts, advanced electronics and interior furnishings with. This vehicle used Buick’s 3800 V6 engine that produced 165-170hp and allowed the vehicle to top out at speeds of 125mph. Each vehicle came with individual suspension, 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS, and was front wheel drive. Another unique thing that came with the car was a leather book that held the owner’s manual and a pen. In the 90/91 cars, there was a zipper folio, “Craftsman Log” with the signatures of the supervisors who assembled the car, a pen, a flashlights, and a tire gauge also included. These things were supposed to make the mass-produced vehicle seem as if it was produced with individual care.
The Reatta was unique in many ways. First, its body style was unique with its hidden headlights, bubbleback rear window, and attention to hand finishes which were so uncommon. The way it was assembled was also not common because it was not produced on a typical assembly line. There were craft stations; each with their own team members, set up in the Lansing Craft Centre in Lansing, Michigan; when one team would finish their job, a robot would take the vehicle to the next team/center to do their job. Also, it included a touch screen computer system (like in the Riviera) called an Electronic Control Center (ECC). The ECC was used for radio and climate control, diagnostics, a trip computer, and a date reminder. This was off-setting to some of what Buick called their more “mature” buyers, so the ECC became optional in 1990 and was replaced by push button stereo and climate controls and an optional CD player.
Other options that became available in later years were, in 1988’s older models, a sunroof became an option in the hardtop. There was a keyless entry option as of 1989. In 1990, a convertible option was offered and a driver’s side airbag was offered. On all vehicles, there was the option of a 16-way power driver seat and after the first year, leather seats became the only option.
Though the Reatta was expected to do really well, due to a change in the way GM decided to promote Buick (they decided to promote it to more “mature” buyers), the Reatta failed in sales. Only 21,751 cars were produced in 4 years. With that, GM pulled the plug on Buick’s only 2-seater sports coupe of its time.