About a mile up Route 27 from my street, there’s a cleared area of land that hosts a number of businesses including a gas station, auto body shop, carwash, sand and gravel business, and some other big industrial warehouse. Further behind the gas station is a fenced-off area that appears to house salvaged vehicles. But located in the brush between these areas is a pair of ’88 Buicks that often catches my attention when I drive by nearly every day.
The more interesting of the two is this first-year Reatta roadster. One of only 4,708 examples produced in 1988, the Reatta was one of the more unusual vehicles sold under the Buick tri-shield. Despite its sports car looks, the Reatta was mostly certainly for show rather than go.
Originally meant to be a performance halo model for Buick, by the time it finally hit the market, the Reatta was an apple among oranges. Sharing both the E-body and most mechanical components, the Reatta was little more than a shortened Riviera without rear seats, wrapped in sportier sheet metal. Sales never took off as Buick and its customers alike didn’t know what to make of the car. It would appear that whoever currently owns this car doesn’t know either.
As an early model, this red hardtop is equipped with the rather infamous Visual Information Center touchscreen and full digital instrumentation. Although the interior looks better than I expected from the exterior, I’m still willing to bet its plethora of electronics have gone haywire over the past 25 years.
The second 1988 Buick is an Electra Park Avenue. Its condition appeared slightly better, with four inflated tires, and cleaner body panels. While these two Buicks may appear very disimilar from each other, they are both powered by the ubiquitous Buick 3800 V6, coupled to the same 4-speed automatic.
Unlike the Reatta though, Electra Park Avenues were scooped up by the droves of buyers who were looking for a soft, plush, and unpresuming sedan–in other words, what Buick was best known for. Compared to the base Electra Limiteds, like the ’89 Electra Limited I spotted a few miles up the road last fall, Park Avenues added even cushier velour seats, bright lower body moldings, tiny electroluminescent coach lamps, and a few additional convenience features.
Despite the cigarette burns and damaged driver’s door trim, the rest of the interior wasn’t bad. I can only imagine how much worse it would have fared if it were a leather-equipped Ultra model.
While neither of these Buicks appear to be complete goners, they have not moved in the three years I’ve lived nearby (their inspection stickers indicate they’ve been off the roads for even longer). The fate of each Buick is uncertain. Will I drive by one day to find them gone, sold for scrap? Or will they be left here to wither away? It certainly appears that they both have some life left in them. Hopefully someone will find it in their hearts to give them a little TLC. Only time will tell.