Buick’s first and only two-seater was conceived more than a decade before its birth. A new leadership team arrived at the brand in 1975 with direction to grow its product line, image, and sales. “I had specific ideas about what we wanted to do product-wise,” then-Buick chief engineer Lloyd Reuss told me in a 2005 interview. “Our volume was not where we wanted it to be, and we were too much like Oldsmobile. So there was a major decision to move away from Olds and more toward Cadillac. We wanted an upscale sportier image—call it sporty elegance.”
Read the full article on Hagerty.com:
I always thought of them as a very "milquetoast" design from an aesthetics perspective, and I think history has confirmed this. They languish at the very bottom of the collector car market, and nice, used examples can still be had at rock-bottom prices. A decent V-8 may have helped, but it was still seen as a "grandma's roadster."
To me, it seems the problem was that it either wasn't affordable and sporty enough, (a la Mazda's Miata,) or opulent and powerful enough, (the later Cadillac XLR.)
Styling-wise, it looks like a bland Toyota Supra.
My absolute favorite Buick convertible will always be the first-year, 1953 Skylark.
It only lasted one year in that form. Check it out. It sort of resembles an MG-flavored roadster on steroids.
Great article, by the way.
I recall the launch clearly and was an Automobile subscriber and recall the article referred to above, and that they had the Riatta on the cover. I recall being enthusiastic as it was more like the re-released Thunderbird two seater. Both failed for arguably similar reasons. Not sporty enough for the Miata/'vette crowd, not luxurious enough for the 'older' crowd. Its an odd niche and one I like and would like to have a convertible now that I am 'older' as well. Sadly there's nothing really like it out there now. My dad had the two seater Infinity with retractible roof. I guess that was close; also a failure.
I remember as a freshman at UM-Rolla School of Mines back in the fall of 1988, GM had brought one to campus to show off the vehicle from a technical perspective, and secured display square in the middle of the main campus engineering buildings and campus bookstore, ensuring the most traffic. I thought it was a visually appealing design at the time, and remembering the touch screen system being so advanced looking. I also thought it was an interesting way to target a demographic, they were either going to persuade purchasers by its engineering and snag the young single graduating seniors pre-marriage, but I also remember thinking it likely wouldn’t have the desired effect because UMR grads being engineers and critically thinking why would I buy such an expensive toy straight out of school with 4 yrs of student debt. Still was impressed by the overall package even though no manual option.
I always loved the Reatta, still do. I still have their '88 sales brochure, with an "innovative" animated, ultra-futuristic demo on 5.25" diskette! I wanted one with the digital touch-screen dash so bad (still do!), but back then to me, $25,000 for such a tiny, impractical car (that's $25,000 in 1980s dollars, mind you) was just nuts. That's what killed the Reatta for me, and probably a lot of people.
As a proud owner of an Allante, I always cringe when I read stories about American manufacturers trying to do something out of the box... then get criticized for not being in one of the right boxes... only later to be criticized for building boring cars that can't compete with overseas. The worst thing that ever happened to American manufacturers is American car buyers
An elegant car with potential wasted again by idiots at GM. Who has ever heard of a collectible / desirable car with front wheel drive? Who has ever heard of a collectible / desirable American car with only 6 cylinders? Who has ever heard of buyers of American cars who are impressed by and attracted to gadgets? Total idiots that have no clue what GM or Buick should be.
There is a man in our town who owned the local Buick-Pontiac dealership back in the years when Reattas were in production. He eventually bought five of them in various years and body styles and kept them, driving each occasionally.
I'm not sure how many he still owns but I see him driving a red convertible and a silver coupe with a black top every now and then.
I sure hope he didn't buy them as investments but I'll bet he did.