So maybe the autoTRADER.ca Find of the Week goes a bit heavy on convertibles this time of year. But can you blame us? It's finally starting to warm up, and driving is just about always better when you're topless. And like Tennyson said, "in the spring a young enthusiast's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of convertibles. Spring is the season for open-air motoring."
Ok, maybe that's not quite right, but it is in our heads. So on that note, here's another one that you've probably forgotten about. Or had never heard of at all. It's part of the wave of two-seaters and roadsters from General Motors in the late 1980s: the Buick Reatta.
In the 1980s, domestic automakers were under assault in just about every segment. From Japanese automakers building cars that were more reliable and fuel efficient, if a touch dull, to the Europeans who had taken over luxury and sporting buyers.
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Buick needed to put its foot down firmly to let buyers know where it stood. Which it did to varying effect. See, it didn't really know where to stomp, so the brand put out all sorts of different ideas. One of those was aimed at the luxury two-seaters coming from the likes of Mercedes-Benz.
To compete with the large, rear-drive, powerful Mercedes-Benz SL, Buick came up with...a front-wheel drive, compact coupe with acres of glass. That's the problem with multiple brands under one umbrella. You can't ALL compete with Mercedes. So if Cadillac wants to (with the Allanté), then Buick needs to give them right of way.
Despite that corporate difficulty, Buick came out with a very good-looking car. It was simple, with clean lines and hidden headlights. In an era of styling that didn't age well, the Reatta still looks fresh today.
The Reatta shared a platform with cars like Buick's own Riviera and the contemporary Oldsmobile Toronado. But it was different enough underneath and on top that Buick decided it needed its own factory. Nothing as elaborate as the Allanté and its over the ocean assembly line, but the new plant, called the Reatta Craft Center, saw the cars assembled at a series of workstations. Instead of a normal moving assembly line, each car was largely hand-built.
It was intended to debut as a convertible, but internal objections lead to the car being pushed back. The hardtop two-seater came first, with the convertible following in 1990. The small car had a manually-operated top, designed by ASC, a company that had long been handling convertible conversions for a large number of automakers.
A car that was originally expected to sell 20,000 in a year sold just 4,708. In the car's best year, 1990, 8,585 were sold. Only around 2,400 convertibles were ever built, making this droptop somewhat rare.
As a halo car, the Reatta was loaded with high-tech features, like a CD player, digital climate control, and a digital dashboard. There was even a touchscreen climate control system available, though this car doesn't have it. Probably for the best.
Powering the Reatta was the ubiquitous 3800 V6. The 3.8L engine had gotten a thorough workover in 1988, adding balance shafts and a new ignition system. The engine produced 165 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque, which were good figures for the time. The gearbox was a four-speed automatic.
Interestingly, after Reatta production was ended, years earlier than expected, the Craft Centre wasn't closed. Instead, it moved on to a different project: the GM/Saturn EV1 electric car.
The Reatta was an interesting styling exercise that wasn't financially successful for GM, but we'll say it's definitely successful for us to look at today.
This car, for sale in Waterloo, ON, is a Canadian car since new. It has just under 81,000 km on the odometer and doesn't look to have seen much of the depths of an Ontario winter. If you're looking for a luxury convertible that isn't one of the usual suspects, then this 1990 Buick Reatta is an interesting option. Which is why it's our autoTRADER.ca Find of the Week.