Throwback: Buick Reatta
It is often forgotten that General Motors has made two-seaters for most of its brands. Part of that reason is that the Chevrolet Corvette has been so successful for so many decades. So, now people automatically think of the Corvette and have to stop and think of what other two-seaters they made. But it is true, in addition to the Corvette, GM produced the Pontiac Fiero, the Pontiac Solstice, Cadillac Allante, Cadillac XLR, and the often overlooked Buick Reatta. Wait, the Buick what?
The Buick Reatta was a short-lived model. Production began in 1988. Coincidentally enough, that was the same year that General Motors told Pontiac to kill the Fiero. Or, was it a coincidence at all? In either case, the Reatta production ran through May of 1991.
The Reatta was built off of a shortened Buick Riviera chassis. But, it had only dual seating positions, a sloped nose with pop-up headlights, and was very distinctly different from the Riviera. The Reatta was also designed as a convertible from the outset. Although, the convertible did not actually become available until later in production.
For the duration of the Reatta’s lifetime, it was motivated by a 3.8-liter V6 that was mated to a four-speed automatic. That was good enough for 165-170 horsepower and 210-220 pound-feet of torque. Depending on how it was equipped, it weighed in at a hefty 3,392 – 3,593 pounds. This meant zero-to-sixty times were only okay, though not blistering. The Reatta posted 9.2-second averages when under testing with Motorweek.
The Buick Reatta was an early adopter of touchscreen technology in the dash. The control center in the dash of the vehicle was a touchscreen cathode-ray tube, or CRT, display monitor that interfaced with the stereo, climate control, trip computer, and other systems. This was ahead of its time. Sadly, it was buggy. Buick ended up revamping the Reatta’s interior design in 1990, including removing the touchscreen and replacing it with more traditional components, buttons, and dials.
A Dose of Reality
Buick had big plans for this little roadster. It anticipated selling 20,000 units of the Reatta each year. However, reality is a special case. Only a total of 21,751 Reatta units were produced of this low volume, luxury, niche vehicle for the entirety of its four model years. Lack of marketing, awkward styling, the absence of a manual transmission, and the introduction of the Mazda Miata in 1989 have all been argued to have contributed to the Reatta’s quick demise. Interestingly, the Reatta outsold the Cadillac Allante corporate family member. Although the Allante had a three year longer production run than Buick’s little roadster, the Reatta still managed to outsell it by about three hundred units.
The low volume of sales, along with the short timeframe the Buick Reatta was available, makes it a relatively rare vehicle to see out on the roads today. That is why top-of-mind recall is often not there in conversations when discussing two-seaters that General Motors has created. So, one can be forgiven for forgetting it entirely. But, Reatta fans would probably disagree.