Friday, July 17, 2015

Friday Car Pr0n #88

Today's car is one of those coulda shoulda woulda cars. We've only got one more 1980s car after today, but we'll be quite ready to leave the 1980s after this guy.


1988 Buick Reatta. Next to perhaps the "revised" Ford Thunderbird, it's hard to think of another car that should have done well but cratered into the ground on fire. At least in the case of the T-Bird, it wasn't the car so much as the marketing. In the case of the Reatta, it was a little of both.

Had GM done a couple things differently - started out with a convertible and made it rear wheel drive - they would have completely stolen the thunder of the Mazda Miata. Instead, they released the Reatta as a two-seater, but with front wheel drive (lackluster performance). They added the convertible option in 1990 - after the release of the Miata - looking like they were playing catchup.

It's quite similar to the Cadillac Allante, actually. The first few years, the Allante was grossly underpowered compared to the Mercedes 500 and Jaguar XJS, against which it was expected to compete. In the very last year of its existence, GM did the only smart thing they did with the entire car and dropped the fire-breathing Northstar V8 into the Allante, instantly making the 1993 model the only one worth owning.

But I digress. How bad was the Reatta? Let's put it this way: GM expected to sell 20K units a year. They would up building (which is not the same as selling) 21,000 - over its four year lifespan. A few simple changes and they would have replicated the success of the Gran National, if not even more - imagine the turbocharged V6 (thanks!) of the GN crammed into a rear-wheel drive, convertible Reatta. They might have staved off both the Miata and the BMW Z series with that...

But it's GM - Government Motors - so their ability to fail naturally doomed this from the start...

That is all.

6 comments:

libertyman said...

My Dad had one, and it was a very nice car to drive. It had the touchscreen dash which was an innovative thing in 1988, and had the Buick v-6 with fuel injection. It had a lot of room inside for a two seater, but I would say that it was not a competitor to the Miata. It is hard to know who made some of the decisions at GM and why they did what they did.
By the way you made a typo in your description of the Grand National, as it had the Buick V-6 not V8, and yes that would have made the Reatta quite a car. Probably the Corvette camp forbade competition from Buick, though.
Nice post, and it brought back some memories of my Dad and his varied car purchases through the years.

Armed Texan said...

GM was designing this crap while John DeLorean was sitting at home twiddling his thumbs. Of course they would have taken anything he designed, put in a crappier engine, soften the suspension, detuned it, and replace any one-off parts with off the shelf components, so maybe it was best they didn't rehire him.

Angus McThag said...

Anything with pep, handling or power from GM has to get past the gatekeeper of Corvette.

Nothing is allowed to be faster or handle better.

Some do slip past, but they rarely last long...

GM is also the master of finally getting a model right in the last year of its production.

Old NFO said...

Gotta agree with Angus... dammit...

MrGarabaldi said...

Like the 80's...

Another car that had potential but wasn't allowed to clear the corvette gatekeeper was the Fiero. they finally put the V-6 in it and turned it into a nice car...at the end....

libertyman said...

Here is a succinct history of the marque.
http://ateupwithmotor.com/model-histories/buick-reatta-history/