The two-seat Buick

1988 Buick Reatta ModelsIt seems that General Motors had a fascination with ambitious two-seaters in the 1980s and early ’90s. Think about it, all of their domestic brands except Oldsmobile had one.

Chevrolet offered Corvette, Pontiac the Fiero, Cadillac the Allante, speaking technically GMC had the Syclone, and Buick had the Reatta.

The Buick lasso
1988 Buick Reatta logoMaybe more fascinating than the proliferation of couples-only vehicles from GM across all those brands is the fact that none of them really shared anything with another. GM is commonly affixed with the “badge engineering” label, particularly in reference to the 1980s era.

However, here we have a set of vehicles from a roughly ten-year span that were quite the unique expression from each division.

1988 Buick Reatta sketch overheadEven though the Allante’s V-body was, in general terms, a shortened E-body, and the Reatta rode on an E-body platform (that had been shortened), their wheelbases are different. (Reatta’s is roughly an inch shorter, at 98.5 inches.)

My point is that GM was making very interesting and unique cars at the time, and Buick’s Reatta was no exception.

The word Reatta doesn’t actually mean anything; it’s made up. However, reata (with one “t”) is an actual word, in Spanish. It apparently translates to “lariat” which means: a long, noosed rope used to catch livestock; or lasso. Where is all this going? I don’t know, because I was unable to find out any reasoning behind the selection. The best I came across was a rumor that someone on the management team had a ranch and was familiar with the Spanish term.

In any event, I think Reatta sounds exquisite and even continued Buick’s “R” theme (e.g., Regal, Riviera). Reatta was introduced for the 1988 model year but Buick had been crunching away on the car long, long before that.

1982 Buick Reatta scale modelTo the right is a Reatta scale model from 1982. Think about what Buick’s production cars looked like at the time; mostly trending toward hard-edged, flat-surfaced wedges. This fluidic shape seems uncharacteristic and sort of prophetic for the brand.

Check out those wheel well curves on the hood and the wide, wheels-to-the-corners stance. This model is seriously attractive. It looks a little like Buick’s Questor concept car from 1983 but, I think, better.

From what I could find, this model, shown above right, is made of clay and the work of GM Advance Design Studio 2. Even at this stage, there are recognizable elements.

1983 Buick Reatta full size clay rear three-qtrAfter gradual changes, the project’s team produced this full size clay model in January of 1983, shown left.

I find it amazing that they had probably 85 percent of the design completed, nearly five years before consumers would even see it.

Below right is a subsequent fiberglass model with more detail built into it and looking evermore familiar.

1983 Buick Reatta full size fiberglass front three-qtrIn the larger gallery version of this image, check out the sketch in the background. I’d love to see a complete version of that drawing. It looks like Reatta meets Dodge Stealth.

A couple of interesting points in this picture. First, take notice of what the two guys are doing. They are removing a glass “targa top” roof panel.

The glass roof didn’t make it to production, and neither did the thick white walled tires, the other thing I wanted to point out.

1988 Buick Reatta front three-qtr on roadAs I’d mentioned above, the car was produced as a 1988 model. It ran through 1991, having gained a convertible version starting in 1990.

Stylistically speaking, I think it looked perfect for the role it filled. The Fiero was the entry-level two-seater from GM while the Corvette covered the all-out sports car scene.

Allante faced off against the more refined, international cruisers which left Reatta to find a sweet spot that incorporated a dash of each.

The image below shows the exterior colors available for Reatta in 1988. Although they are all fine colors, on this car, I think I prefer Bright Red the most.

1988 Buick Reatta exterior paint swatches


Continue below to the photo gallery.

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