Curbside Capsule: c. 1988 Buick Reatta – There’s A Disconnect

c. 1988 Buick Reatta. West Rogers Park, Chicago, Illinois. Saturday, October 10, 2020.

There’s something jarring about seeing an upscale car like a Buick Reatta in this sedentary state.  It’s not unlike seeing a childhood hero or heroine in a sad position in life after you had spent much of your time idolizing them.  It produces a feeling similar to seeing a wrecking ball hit a mall or large concert venue (like the Palace Of Auburn Hills in suburban Detroit) that you can remember from when it was new and the talk of the town.  How did this fancy, two-seat Buick end up here, looking like this?  The Reatta’s entire four-year production run between 1988 and ’91 yielded just over 21,700 cars, a figure only slightly above what Buick had hoped annual sales would look like.  There won’t be any new ones, and remaining examples will only get thinner on the ground.

1988 Buick Reatta brochure cover, courtesy of

My nature as an empath, my default setting of which I am increasingly and solidly aware, tends to want to rescue people and sometimes even inanimate things.  “This Reatta needs me!  I can make it all better and make it look and feel loved again.”  I could bring this red beauty back from this neglected state, shine it up, put some air in those tires, and make it appear, sound, drive, and be seen exactly as had been originally intended by Buick brass after it rolled out of the doors of the Reatta Craft Centre in Lansing, Michigan.

c. 1988 Buick Reatta. West Rogers Park, Chicago, Illinois. Saturday, October 10, 2020.

That kind of thinking can also lead to a sick cycle for an empath if one has little-to-no awareness of how we naturally feel compelled to operate, especially in the absence of healthy mental, emotional, and financial boundaries.  Assuming there’s not something terribly wrong, mechanically, with this Reatta, how much money, time, and effort would be needed to bring it back to something approaching its original glory, after it had been allowed to be parked for a long time (as evidenced by at least two flat tires) next to a non-functioning pay phone in the back of a gas station parking lot?

1988 Buick Reatta brochure photo, courtesy of

There was once a giant movie palace called the Granada Theatre built in 1926 in the nearby Rogers Park neighborhood that had stood within maybe ten minute walking distance from where I live.  It had stopped showing first-run films in the late 1970s, after which it acted as a concert venue, off and on.  It was well-maintained and a gorgeous and historically significant piece of architecture, even in what is arguably the architectural capital city of the United States.  Up through the mid-1980s, it stood proud, adjacent to the Lake Shore campus of Loyola University.

To make a long story short, a decision had been made in 1987 to no longer hire security to protect the big, ornate, empty theater, right around the time that production of the Reatta was ramping up and its rollout was imminent.  Maybe this was done to save some money.  The reasons are still not entirely clear to me, even after some deep diving on the internet that I’ve done on the Granada.  Literally, in less than two short years afterward, what had been a magnificent, palatial, pristine, and historic movie house had been gradually and steadily ransacked and plundered into a gutted, stripped, graffitied, and urban-mined eyesore that ended up being demolished right before the dawn of the ’90s.

Once ne’er-do-wells had found a way inside the Granada, it was all over, with no security to stop what eventually happened to that once grand theater.  It still makes me both sad and furious.  It was said at one point that even after major destruction was well under way, the Granada still could have been saved and renovated – but for a ton of money, when all that was needed in the first place was a continuation of the kind of security that had already been in force.  It’s sort of like the same thing with a car like this Reatta.  Even if there’s a lot wrong with it, how was a somewhat bespoke, halo car like this allowed to get to this sad state?  Who would spend the money to really fix it up now?  Similar to what happened with the Granada, if this Reatta has issues with intrusion but with water leakage instead of vandals, it could also mean lights out for this pretty, red coupe.

c. 1988 Buick Reatta. West Rogers Park, Chicago, Illinois. Saturday, October 10, 2020.

Curbside doesn’t seem to show a whole lot of love for the Reatta and cars of its type, like Chrysler’s TC by Maserati and the Cadillac Allante.  This doesn’t change the fact that it was still a very nice ride when new.  To adults like me who were car-loving adolescents when the Reatta began arriving at Buick dealerships around the country, this model has never really lost its halo.  Granted, this particular car doesn’t look as far gone as the Granada Theatre was prior to the latter’s demise, but this example just looks so sad (and so 1980s) sitting next to that busted pay phone.  My sincere hope is that on my next walking trip past this gas station, this Reatta will not be sitting there, and not because it has been towed off to the wrecking yard.

Chicago, Illinois.
Saturday, October 10, 2020.

Click here for some external reading on the Granada Theatre, and here and here for a couple of other Curbside resources on the Reatta.