Today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe Buick represents a rare car and a failed experiment. Let’s see if this somewhat ill-conceived former range-topping two-seater is now priced to be in our range.
There was a lot to—ahem—dislike about yesterday’s custom 1988 Harley Davidson 1200 Sportster. The effort to imbue it with Café racer looks was mostly successful, however, the details—no fenders or instruments, and original foot-peg placement—meant the resultant execution was somewhat lacking. Also seemingly lacking was the $6,900 asking price for the beast. In yet another abject humiliation for the Harley brand, that fell in a massive 89 percent Crack Pipe loss.
In the business world, the phrase, “to think outside the box” has become over the years a hackneyed cliché. Yes, we all should be looking for solutions beyond the obvious ones, but these days that idea is, to use yet another cliché, just par for the course.
That wasn’t the case back in the 1980s, and in the automotive realm, General Motors was perhaps the greatest eschewer of square-cornered straight jackets. This gave rise to a mid-engine commuter car, a Corvette that was a technological leap forward over its stone age-like predecessor, and a small clutch of two-seat coachbuilt cars offered as halo models for their two most upscale brands.
One of those halo cars we know as the Cadillac Allante, a Pininfarina-designed and constructed convertible intended to run with the likes of the Jag XJ-S and Mercedes SL class. The other car is represented here today, by this 1989 Buick Reatta.
The Reatta was GM’s fourth domestic two-seater of the ‘80s after the Allante, the ‘Vette, and that mid-engined commuter, the Pontiac Fiero. This was a time of transition in the auto industry and at GM in particular where the brand’s various personal coupés were downsizing to meet both more aggressive fuel economy standards and changing consumer tastes which were trending away from behemoth boats.
GM had three big coupés that they needed to shrinky dink: The Cadillac Eldorado, the Olds Toronado, and the Buick Riviera. By the mid-Eighties, all three cars shared the same platform and faced the daunting task of projecting American elegance and presence in a smaller, more compact package. It’s sad to look back on this trio and realize just how unsuccessful GM was in the endeavor.
Enter then the Reatta, which for Buick would serve as a ranger-topping two-seater, well above the long-serving four-seat Riviera, but still likely cannibalizing the older nameplate’s sales. The Reatta was built on a modified version of the Rivera’s E-body platform and used the same 3800 V6 engine and automatic gearbox as the Riv.
The main difference, however, was in the body. Where the Riviera was a somewhat baroque landau-roofed coupé, the Reatta was a curvaceous and much sportier design. Dig the hidden headlamps, skinny pillars, and wrap-around rear glass. Pretty swank, huh? The Reatta also features a 10-inch shorter wheelbase than the Rivand and only two seats inside for a much more intimate package.
The Reattas were hand-built at the purposefully-named Reatta Craft Center in Lansing Michigan. That unique factor limited production capabilities and increased the cost to build the cars. A high price, along with the competition from the cheaper and more capacious Riviera sitting next to it on dealer lots, doomed the Reatta and it died an untimely death after just four model years and with fewer than 22,000 cars produced.
This is one of the cars that made it out alive, and from the looks of it in the ad, it’s a pretty good example. The color here is Sapphire Blue and that is matched with a reasonably elegant grey leather interior.
The bodywork looks to be in remarkably good shape and wears factory alloys that, aside from some brake dust, seem to be solid citizens. There is a missing bit of rub-strip trim on the curb-side and that might be a bit of a challenge to replace given the unique nature of the car. Other than that, there are no obvious boogers here.
The interior comes with power everything and is also seemingly issue-free. The ad notes that the A/C works as it should and even features multi-zone climate control.
One thing you’ll notice here is the amazing old school vacuum fluorescent displays in the dash. These are oftentimes problematic and are a major pain to fix if repair is even a possibility. The displays here look to all be in working condition so that’s a big win. An illuminated anti-lock brake lamp on that dash is a concern, however.
As noted, the engine is a 3800 LN3 V6. That gave it up to the tune of 165 horsepower this model year and did its talking through a 440T-4 four-speed automatic. That powers the front wheels in the normal fashion and should prove to be unflaggingly reliable and easy to maintain over time.
There haven’t been many miles added to the car over the time it’s already had. The odo reads a mere 98,520 miles according to the ad. That’s in a sweet spot of not too many to worry about everything being all loosey-goosey and still enough that you needn’t fret about all the seals having turned to raisinettes.
The title is clean and the price is $2,500. Even though it only seats two and is smaller than those pictures let on, that seems like a lot of car for the money. Of course, that’s just what we’re here to find out.
What do you think, is this rare and seemingly tidy Reatta worth that $2,500 asking? Or, is that too much for a car that nobody wanted when new, and even fewer may want now?
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