The Buick Reatta Was a 1980s High-Tech Marvel

The Buick Reatta Was a 1980s High-Tech Marvel

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this is a 1989 Buick Reata and it's the rare interesting luxury coupe you've probably forgotten it's also filled with some crazy 1980s technology so get ready because today I'm going to review this car and show you what the future looked like thirty years ago at least according to Buick before I get started be sure to check out cars and bids which is my new online
00:34
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01:05
this Reata from a viewer here in San Diego and I'll start with the basics the Reata was a luxury sporty two-seater that was sold by Buick from 1988 to 1991 initially you could only get the Reata as a coupe but later they also came out with a convertible that was much rarer unfortunately the Reata wasn't much of a success Buick envisioned it as a halo car that would bring people to the Buick brand and set the direction for the
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company and sell 20,000 units a year but by the time production ended Buick had sold only 21,000 units in four years part of the problem was performance every Reata was front-wheel drive with a four-speed automatic transmission and a v6 that made about a hundred and seventy horsepower so it wasn't exactly thrilling but it was high-tech at least according to the standards of 1988 the Reata was intended to be the car that showed Buick buyers what the future had
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in store and this car had technology that no other General Motors vehicle had at the time frankly that no other car had at the time the thinking was that grandpa would walk into the Buick dealer and he would be wowed by the Reata sitting in the showroom floor with its cutting-edge technology and its elegant styling and he would be so impressed with the direction of the Buick brand that he would buy a regal or a LeSabre unfortunately that's not what happened in these days it's hard to find a nice
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Reata or frankly any Reata at all but today I'm going to take you on a tour of this one and I'm going to show you all of the interesting quirks and features from the hotbed of General Motors technology from 30 years ago then I'm gonna get it out on the road and drive it and then I'm going to give it a dug score alright I'm gonna start the crooks and features with the quirkiest feature one of the craziest things I've ever seen in a car and that would be the touchscreen
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this car came out 32 years ago but this is a factory installed touchscreen put in by Buick when this car was new and it works and it works well so let's go through it what you're seeing here is the home screen which Buick calls the summary screen and it shows your most important items for example your most frequently used radio controls you can raise or lower the volume and seek through radio stations and yes you can see that as I tap this screen it
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actually works and responds to my tap with pretty much no delay also on the screen you can do various other items you can switch between AM and FM radio for example and you can change the climate control temperature cooler or warmer all that sort of stuff that you might want to do the most frequently is on this summary screen you will also see lower on the screen is the date and this is indeed accurate this 32 year old car was programmed to be able to have this date still working in 2020 and it works beautifully
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but the summary page is just one thing this screen can do if you'll notice positioned around the screen there are six different buttons and each one of them pulls up a different screen for example in the upper left you have the climate button if you push that you have a more comprehensive climate control adjustment on here you can put on the defroster or you can choose where you want the air to go you can change the temperature all sorts of typical climate controls you'd normally have in a car but now they're in this touchscreen to me though the very best climate control maybe the best part of this entire
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touchscreen is the fan speed graphic you can see this fan is twisting in the upper right to let you know that the climate control is on if you put the fan on high the fan graphic actually speeds up to correspond with the higher fan speed if you put the fan on low the fan graphic actually slows down to correspond with the lower fan speed that is just great attention to detail in this touchscreen but of course there's more to this screen than that the button in the lower left is marked and if you press that it will pull up
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your gauges because this car doesn't have a traditional gauge cluster behind the steering wheel more on that in a minute but as you can see the gauges screen shows various different items in real time you have your oil pressure your battery voltage your engine temperature and my personal favorite your tachometer which updates in real time as you rev the engine it actually shows the engine speed climbing in this digital tachometer in your Reata touchscreen and next to move on to the button in the lower middle that one is called options and it is quite interesting when you press it you have
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three different options the first one is trip computer this doesn't function like a normal trip computer it's better than that when you set off on a drive you can enter how many miles the drive is and then whenever you visit your trip computer page it will tell you how many miles you have left to go you can do the same thing with time so you can tell how long you have left in your journey in the days before Google Maps and all sorts of math apps on your cell phone this was a pretty good idea to keep track of how much longer you still had
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on a long journey your next choice on the option screen was your trip monitor which would show you simple things like your fuel economy and your range until you ran out of fuel although my very favourite piece on here is the over speed alarm if you pressed on that you could set an alarm that would beep every time you went over the speed limit unfortunately this car does not have traffic sign recognition like modern high-tech cars instead you entered the speed limit manually and that way it knew when to start beeping and that was
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your over speed alarm then finally the last thing in the options tab is a reminder this one is very unusual you press on that and you can choose like three letters that best sum up a reminder that you want to set then you can choose how often you want to be reminded once weekly monthly yearly whatever and then you could program it to remind you every week month year whatever on a specific date so maybe if you were prone to forgetting your spouse's birthday your wedding anniversary or some weekly tasks you had to do set a reminder in your Reata touch
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screen and your car will remind you and next up the button in the lower right of the touchscreen was your status but nothing particularly interest here it just allowed you to configure various different general settings like for example you can go in here and set the clock if you want to - whatever the current time is pretty standard you can also set the date in here and that's how the car knows what day it is this also gave you the option to set the brightness of this center screen you can make it dimmer or brighter of course depending on what you wanted to see nothing crazy you could also set the tone for the screen if you wanted it to
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beep or not beep every time you push it and using the status menu you could also run a diagnostic check and the car would check various systems and let you know if everything was good pretty standard but in my mind the best of these screens is controlled by the button in the upper right and that would be radio now if you push that you go on to the radio control screen and you'll see some familiar items in here you have volume you have seek for the track you have your radio presets along the bottom nothing particularly crazy but this car came with a cassette player pretty standard
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from cars from this era but if you look down at the cassette player you'll see there's no way to open it how do you insert a cassette in here well the answer is you press eject in the screen when you press a jekt in the screen the cassette player below the screen actually opens up which I just think is an amazing touch this car was way out of its time in terms of touch screens and infotainment but it wasn't only the center screen that was interesting in this car you also had a screen behind the steering wheel where the gauge
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cluster would be in a traditional vehicle from this era and there are quite a few interesting items in here now in its natural position this gauge cluster screen just showed you the stuff you expect you have your odometer or your trip odometer or your fuel level your current speed all the normal stuff you'd expect from a gauge cluster but it went further than that for instance you can press the test button in the lower left of this screen and then for about a second all of the lights in the gauge cluster light up to let you know that they all work but it also has the function of showing you what all the
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lights are my personal favorite is the one that simply says eat electrical problem that's one you probably don't want to have light up on you considering how much of this car is electronic but probably the most interesting warning light in there is the one that says C Diagnostic Center check this out I open up the door and then I put the car in drive and try to drive away instead of having a door open warning light in the gauge cluster it says C Diagnostic Center with an arrow and points to the screen which tells me that the door is
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open so that C Diagnostic Center warning light actually alerts you to go look in a different place for the actual warning very interesting idea and you can see that the gauge cluster screen and the Diagnostic Center screen really do talk to each other it's very unusual now next we have to move on to all the interesting buttons in the Reata and I'm gonna start to the left of the gauge cluster at the top you have a button marked light so you press that and the lights turn on pretty simple the interesting thing here is that this car has pop-up headlights so here are the lights popping up and then here are the
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lights popping back down not that unusual for a 1980s car but it has them and they're worth mentioning a couple of interesting things about the headlights when you turn on the headlights the reminder in the gauge cluster that lets you know they're on says halogen headlights on it doesn't just say the lights or have a picture of a light it actually says halogen headlight so I'm not sure why but it does another interesting thing about the lights over on that row of buttons to the left you can see there's a separate button to turn the lights off and it is marked simply lights off now below that you
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have a little dial that says Sentinel with three options off delay and hi this was what General Motors called the Twilight Sentinel and it was a feature that basically measured how dark it was and then the headlights would turn on automatically when it got dark we today call this automatic headlights General Motors called it the Twilight Sentinel now you may be wondering what the delay feature on that is for if you had it on delay the Twilight Sentinel would operate like normal but there would also be a delay in turning off the headlights
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when you park your car so that you could walk into your house at night and the lights would still be on to provide a little extra security but over on the right side of the gauge cluster things get unusual again most of what you see on the right is your wiper controls high-low wipers off one thing I like is the intermittent wipers are controlled with this little switch that says pulse min Max and then you have to push the tiny little switch part to adjust the pulsing of the wipers very unusual control but that's what I guess they did one interesting item in that area though
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below the gauge cluster you have a button with a fuel pump and it says gauge if you press that button it will zoom in on the fuel gauge the last quarter tank of fuel so if you're really getting low on fuel you can press that button and see how low you really are and if you absolutely must make it to a gas station the old fuel gauge zoom button and next up couple of other interesting buttons in the Reata at the base of the center control stack on the left you have a button marked fog lamps
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you can press that turn on the fog lamps it is not anywhere near the rest of the lighting controls it's by itself to the right of the fog lamps you have a button marked lamp retract now if you press that the pop-up headlights will pop up but not turn on the theory here is you would press this if for example you wanted to clean your headlights without turning them on or if you knew a big freeze or snow storm was coming and you wanted to open up your headlights before you park the car at night so they wouldn't be frozen shot the next morning now next I'm moving down from those buttons but in the same vicinity I want
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to talk dear lover this car has the famous General Motors gear lever with a button on top you pushed it with your thumb and went through the gears one thing I like is how they've explained what each gear is you have park at the top written out then reverse is next written out and then the rest are all abbreviated you have ND d 2 1 they only felt it was necessary to write out park and reverse not sure why now in front of the gear lever you have another very unusual control and that would be the power window switches these tiny thin silver switches will roll up and down
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the power windows very much unlike any other switches I've ever seen from General Motors vehicles from this era they're very unusual but they work reasonably well next to that you can see you also have the mirror control nothing particularly unusual there except for the fact that it's silver to make things a little more classy next up another unusual item in this car comes in the Sun visors you drop the Sun Visor that look pretty normal open or not the EV Emir nothing weird here except the Sun Visor mirror light has two positions you have bright and danmath so you could
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look at yourself or look at yourself a little brighter very strange place to have a 2-level lighting function but the Rihanna has it and next up another interesting item over on the door panel where you'd expect to find the power window switches you instead have the seat controls you can see there are a couple of different switches and a little joystick for the seat controls the joystick moves the seat forward backward up and down and these seats do still work you can use the joystick and move the seat as much as you want and next up another unusual item in the Reata is the horn to
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activate the horn you press the center of the steering wheel no surprise the unusual part is how it sounds take a listen indeed the Reata has the horn of a truck or maybe a cruise ship speaking of unusual sounds though put on the turn signal and a reminder chime sounds along with the regular clicking noise take a listen I guess they did this because so many old people in the 80s and 90s would just
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put on their turn signal and not hear the clicking sound and just leave it on so that reminder chime was to let you know hey your turn signal is on you should turn it off and next up another interesting item in the Reata if you open up the center console you can see there's this velvet lined piece with ridges that's four cassette tape storage that's where you'd stick your cassettes when you weren't using them you can also pull out this piece and just have a normal Center storage area where you can put more stuff and speaking of more stuff there's also another storage area in the glove box no surprise open it up and you could put stuff in there the
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most interesting thing about the glove box is probably the fact that it has the controls for the trunk and for the fuel door the reason they're in here is to hide them from valets or thieves you couldn't lock the glovebox and then no one who got into your car would have access to your trunk or your fuel door if they wanted to steal gas because those buttons were contained within your glovebox and next up another interesting Rihanna item is the brake pedal mainly because if you look at it it has printed on it the words anti-lock brake system I guess to remind your foot that you have
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an anti-lock braking system since you certainly won't be able to see those words when you're sitting in the driver's seat another interesting Reata item this is the factory key fob take a look at this thing it is pretty worn at this point you can't see what any of the buttons do but they all still work you can walk unlock open up the trunk and next up we move on to the area behind the seats in the Reata this is a two seater car but there's a fairly large space back here like in the mercedes-benz SL where you can put stuff and in the reata's case you could put
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even more stuff here because there are storage compartments you can see behind the passenger seat there's this little lockable storage compartment you can open it right up and stick stuff there same deal behind the driver seat a little lockable carpeted storage compartment you can put stuff in for additional storage if you want to keep more stuff out of the way now in one of these storage compartments I discovered the original owners manual for this car nothing particularly unusual or interesting and here accepted in the owners manual pouch there's a card where it says insert salesperson card here
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this is a pristine Reata owner's manual pouch never touched by the salesperson is card personally though when it comes to Reata literature I prefer this this is the original Reata sales brochure from when this car was new and it's pretty interesting to look through it on the first page it kind of explains the theory by the Reata I read all this and basically what it says is Americans love the romantic ideal of the two-seater but most two-seaters are hard to get in and to tighten too sporty and too expensive but
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the Reata solves all those problems it's a two-seater but it's comfortable and relaxed and easy to drive and not tremendously expensive and it's the antidote to all those annoying two-seaters the thing I really like about this original sales brochure though is if you keep turning you have original Reata artwork that shows the hand assembly team putting one of these together and it is really nice looking pieces of artwork that show the Reata team hard at work I like that and next up we move outside the Reata and I want
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to start with the trunk which I will open with the key fob and once you get into the trunk you will discover that it is quite large which very much goes along with Buicks theory of making a two-seat coupe that was more practical and luxurious than other two-seaters the one problem with the trunk though is access height because you have to lift whatever you're putting in here over this giant lip and it's hard to get stuff all the way in here and the reason it's such a challenge is this rear light bar this light bar
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goes across the entire rear end of the car it says Buick right in the middle and the owner of the car told me it has eat 11 different light bulbs in it in order to light up the entire light bar so those would eventually go out and you'd be changing light bar light bulbs all the time where you would just leave them burned out and there would be random dark spots in your Buick light bar interestingly light bars are making a comeback with modern cars so one could say the reata's design was ahead of its time at least in that aspect now next up
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another interesting item with the Reata was badging as you can see back here you have a Buick badge right in the middle but aside from that the rest of the car mainly said Reata you have front and center on the for instance in our which was the Reata logo and it mainly says Reata pretty much everywhere else throughout the exterior of this car and also when you open the door the door sill says Rihanna not Buick the center of the steering wheel has the Reata our logo and even the glovebox says Rihanna in large print
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and then by Buick in small print underneath the Reata was really intended to be kind of the next generation of Buick showing the way forward for the brand and leading with this new special Rihanna and speaking of the future of Buick let's talk to other important Rihanna items one is styling this car was supposed to be futuristic that was the intent Buick was going for with this look it was far more aerodynamic than anything else General Motors was making
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the time it had no grille in front it was a totally new look intended to signify a totally new Buick unfortunately things weren't new under the hood you had the typical General Motors 3800 v6 this engine was used in varying capacities and evolutions in literally millions of General Motors cars over the years and in the Reata it just wasn't very inspiring 165 to 170 horsepower made it to a four-speed automatic it just didn't really motivate
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this car very much the new styling and the futuristic technology in the marketing and the brand of Reata was all way ahead of the powertrain which was just simple old-school boring General Motors now - other interesting items worth noting up here both related to lighting one the pop-up headlights if for some reason they don't pop up you can open up the hood and there is an emergency little dial you can see that allows you to twist it and that will raise up the pop-up headlight manually
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just in case for whatever reason your headlight hasn't automatically popped it's like a backup manual headlight popper the other interesting lighting item up here is the cornering lights when you put on the turn signal take a look there's a white light that also goes on along with the turn signal they called these cornering lights and the theory was if you were signaling to left you were probably going to the left so maybe you wanted a little more illumination over on the left side to see what was there and so every time you
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put on your left signal the left cornering light came on your right signal the right cornering light came on this was actually a pretty good idea and modern luxury cars are starting to bring it back when you turn the steering wheel in some modern luxury cars there are little auxiliary lights in the bumper that light up just like these cornering lights did 30 years ago and so those are the quirks and features of the 1989 Buick Reata now it's time to get it out on the road and see how it drives all right
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driving the Reata unfortunately the driving experience of this car is the low point the technology is cool the marketing and the positioning of the car is cool the story of the car is cool the driving experience being a front wheel drive four-speed automatic 3800 GM from 30 years ago not really all that special what that said I am thrilled to be behind the wheel of this car I'm really happy that I was able to find a nice Reata to shoot this one is a little dirty on the outside because it rained yesterday but he is really the
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nicest Riata especially because that screen works obviously and a lot of them it doesn't anymore and one important component here the Rihanna is one of these rare cars where it was important for me to find an early model year because Buick later decided that the screen was too costly or too confusing and they removed it for 1990 so only the first two model years of the Reata even have the screen after that they just went with normal buttons and switches again so how does it drive on a floor
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it's actually not so bad it's not that slow 165 horsepower was the number later grew to 170 it's not a fast car certainly but it's peppy enough can keep up even with modern traffic no problem can drive on the highway not really an issue but it certainly is not exactly fun so for people who wanted a two-seater because they wanted to have fun this wasn't really the car and if you want a kind of a luxury car that was practical this wasn't the car either because there were only two seats one thing I must admit I am a little surprised about is steering and handling
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on the steering is vague on center but after that it's pretty direct and reasonably connected and I'm a big fan of precise steering feel and this car doesn't do such a bad job of it the handling is also not so bad it's a relatively small car they're gonna throw around corners like a rear-wheel drive mid-engine sports car but it's more fun than you might think when you drive around in it I also never really loved the look of the Rihanna it was intended to be futuristic or like an 80s persons take on what they thought would look good in the future frankly I
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don't think it does not really an attractive car and it definitely has not aged well definitely looks outdated and so that's the 1989 Buick Reata this is a rare and special car although not a particularly valuable one even the nicest of Miata in the world is probably only worth 10 or maybe $12,000 but it is nice to check this car out and see what General Motors thought the future would look like thirty years ago and now it's
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time to give the Reata a dug score starting with the weekend categories and styling I've never liked the look of the Reata it's fine but that's about all I'd say and it gets a 4 out of 10 acceleration it's quite slow does 0-60 about 10 seconds and it gets a 1 out of 10 handling is better than I expected but still not great and make it's a 4 out of 10 fun factor is fine it's not especially fun for a coupe but it's steers well it's acceptable enjoyable I think it's a 4 out of 10 cool factor is pretty low for yours these were uncool and old people car that failed but it's gaining more interest and it gets a 4
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out of 10 for a total weekend score of 17 out of 50 next up are the daily categories and features the Reata was advanced for its time and it gets a 4 out of 10 which is really strong for a car from this era comfort his average or a bit above and it gets a 6 out of 10 quality is only ok not great and it gets a 6 out of 10 practicality normal for a two-seater car like this and it gets a 2 out of 10 value is only ok these are cheap but they don't really deserve to be expensive they're not particularly fun or fast or even really all that rare still they're cool given the price and
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the reality gets a 6 out of 10 for a total daily score of 24 out of 50 add it up and the Doug score is 41 out of 100 which places it here against other somewhat similar cars from this era truthfully the Reata was a flop because of uninspired performance and odd styling and that still remains true today but oh man that touchscreen another futuristic tech it may not be an especially cool car but it's certainly fun to look back and see what the future looked like in the late 1980s [Music]

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