Hagerty.com

Is the Buick Reatta a hidden gem of ’80 GM style?

With the infamy of the Pontiac Fiero and Cadillac Allante, it’s easy to forget that General Motors made another two-seater in the 1980s (in addition to the Chevy Corvette). That car was the Buick Reatta, a curvy two-seat coupe and convertible hand-built in Lansing, Michigan, from 1988–91. With fewer than 22,000 units produced, the Reatta belongs in the special class of unintentionally-rare cars from high-volume manufacturers. And while less than perfect at the time, affordable prices today mean you can capture the quintessential late-1980s GM styling vibe on the cheap.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/05/23/buick-reatta-hidden-gem-80s-gm-style

My neighbour drives one all for seasons, as his daily driver.

Not to steal the thunder from the Reatta, but I own a second generation Isuzu Impulse. I consider this car an automotive mutt. If you google 1990-1992 Isuzu Impulse and compare it to the Reatta, you will see some General Motors characteristics. That is because it was designed by GM. It has a FUJI Motor Industries engine, and most interestingly, a suspension designed by Lotus’ Colin Anthony Bruce Chapman. Needless to say, both the Impulse and Reatta are becoming all the more rare and are a fun car to drive!

If only their stance was like the red one pictured at the top, they would have looked much better. Instead, in typical GM fashion, they sit so high.

There is a man in my town who owned the local Buick-Pontiac dealership in the 80s and 90s. He had other business investments too so he was able to purchase a new Reatta in each of their model years of 1988 thru '91 including one each of the coupe and convertible in’91 since it was the last year for a total of five cars.

And he has held onto those cars all these years. I’m sure he bought them because he liked them but I can’t help but think he also bought them as investments. Oh boy, was that a bad move.

I give him credit though. He does drive them a lot.

I love the red coupe at the top. I love convertibles, but I always thought the Reatta coupes were better looking than the convertible.

Colin Chapman died in 1982, or at least vanished from public life to avoid charges related to misappropriating public funds. The engine was the work of Isuzu according to the sources I can find. Fuji Heavy Industries is known as Subaru, and you really wouldn’t want one of their engines in your car. I do agree that the 2nd generation Impulse had some common elements with the Reatta, which makes sense since Isuzu and GM are closely tied. The Duramax diesels used in Chevrolet and GMC trucks today are Isuzu engines.

To me, the Reatta is “blandly competent”. All the styling rules apply, but it has no snap. No soul. Unmentioned in the article is that the Reatta design went head-to-head vs. the Allante for the top Cadillac. It came in second, which is all your really need to know. BTW, the Isuzu Impulse was a Guigaro design, and extremely tidy one at that.

A hidden gem? Just like with K cars there will be a few that will consider this a gem. In the big scheme of things…No.

The Reatta was based on a prototype called the Centurion

Fuji Heavy Industries is not known as Subaru. It is a large parent company with many divisions, Subaru being just one of them. Having both worked for Subaru and owned many of their cars I can say from experience that there is nothing wrong with their engines. Did some of them have issues? Sure. But plenty of Subaru’s are roaming around with 200,000 or more miles.

I spent 2017 and 2018 running a shop that all but specialized in Subarus. That’s because they’re the only popular cars that still require regular engine work. That “Subaru Cooling Conditioner” they put in every new car they sell is also sold as, “Holt’s RadWeld.” They are such horrendous engines that stop leak is standard equipment. A good rule of thumb is never put stop-leak in something you plan on owning for more than a month.

A friend’s son has a 2018 WRX that needed an ECU and VVT control solenoids at 11,000 miles. When it turned out that the dealer had failed to talk my friend into the ‘high performance reflash’ that Subaru uses to void its warranties on their turbocharged offerings, Subaru then went on to try and find some non-existent evidence of missed maintenance on an 11,000 mile old car to deny warranty repair on an ECU. He won’t make the same mistake next time.

I have zero tolerance for people telling others that a Subaru is a reasonable purchase. Right now I’m dealing with head-gasket failure on an ex-gf’s Outback. She told me that the dealer said it was a freak occurrence, that they never fail. I told her the truth at which point she finally looked at the internet and saw the trail of the best-selling head-gaskets in the world.

We worked on plenty of Subarus that had 200,000 miles or more. They are a counter-culture status symbol, and the people who weren’t crossing their fingers while driving with deferred reseal jobs at 100,000 mile intervals were spending more money in upkeep than it would have cost them to lease a new RAV4. I could write a book about the things Subarus does worse than anyone else where head-gaskets are just a chapter.

I’ve owned many Subarus and so have numerous friends and relatives. Overall they’ve been reliable. I’ll continue to recommend them.

I agree with cj1. Subaru and head gaskets are terrible. But more than that, what is it with Subaru’s love affair with the pancake four engine? Is that the best they can do? Every other manufacturer has produced various engines in different configurations so why not Subaru? At least with an upright straight four you can pull the head without pulling the engine first.

I agree; Subaru is a cult following. If you don’t want the flat four and AWD in EVERY model sold then you are forced to go somewhere else. Why would a buy a Subaru when I live in Florida? So I can use the AWD, that I will pay extra for, to drive on the snow and ice?