Welcome to Used Car Face Off, where we find two similar or similarly priced used cars and ask you which one you would buy. Choose wisely!
If there was a dictionary entry for “failed roadsters” the Buick Reatta and Cadillac Allante would be right there. It’s not that they were especially bad cars, but they were compromised compared to what they were targeting (the Mercedes-Benz SL and the, um, whatever the Reatta was after). Bad marketing and a recession – not to mention rather insipid decisions likely made by GM beancounters – probably doomed these handsome cars, but that’s OK, because more than two decades on, they’re relatively rare and stand out in a good way on the roads. But really good ones aren’t exactly cheap.
Take this 1990 Buick Reatta convertible, 47,000 miles, fetching black-on-tan color scheme and great condition. The Reatta hardtop has to be one of the best looking cars to come out of the ‘80s, even before most of GM got curves and made really good-looking designs that didn’t look like they were competing with the Chrysler K-Cars for blandness. Of course, the Reatta was conceived at a time when Buick was churning out the sporty T-Type cars and then the all-conquering, truly special Grand National. But then someone decided to put in the boring-as-hell 3800 V6 from a LeSabre and turn the Reatta into a cruiser, rather than a bruiser. And it has pop-up headlights, so it's awesome, right?
Here’s the thing: take the top off of the car and it doesn’t matter. The Reatta works rather well as a poser vehicle, and there’s not a single Buick tri-shield on the exterior. When you’re going 20 mph though Beverly Hills, who cares if it’s got the engine from Gladys’ Century. People also tell me those 3800s are almost bomb-proof. Sure the dash lacks that crazy pale green touchscreen setup of the earlier hardtops, but the physical buttons are far more sensible. At $12,900 this one is on the pricey side, but there were only about 2,500 Reatta convertibles made, so it’s got the rarity thing going for it.
But we can’t talk about GM’s ‘80s roadsters without bringing up the Cadillac Allante. This was supposed to be the Euro-killer Cadillac so desperately needed during this time when it became clear the only person buying the General’s top car were old Floridians. A two-seat, Pininfarina-styled convertible sounds like just the thing to inject youth into the old brand. And then nobody bought it. Which makes this 1990 Allante extremely rare – but is it worth the $17,000 asking price?
It does have V8 power, though in this case it’s a 4.5-liter with 200 horsepower and a four-speed automatic. That’s only 30 more than the Reatta, which was also a couple hundred pounds lighter. The interior, though, is reasonably luxurious for 1990 and sports a pair of digital gauges so cool I should’ve included them in my roundup of awesome digital gauges last week.
Surprising even myself, I would pick the cheaper, rarer Reatta over the Allante. If I was looking at one of the final Northstar-powered Allantes, I’d think about it – maybe even in slight preference to a Jaguar XJS Convertible of the same vintage (Dear God, I must be getting old). But against this Allante to this Reatta, I’d have the Buick to go crusing. But will I look like I got loose from Leisure World?