Buick Reatta
Buick Reatta. Click image to enlarge

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By Jeff Burry; photos courtesy General Motors

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Buick Reatta, 1988-1991

The Buick division of General Motors, better known for producing mid- and full-size vehicles, made a decision in the 1980s to manufacture a two-seater sports luxury model. The last time the folks at Buick decided to produce such a vehicle was in 1940 when it produced a two-door, two-seat business coupe. Five decades later, under the direction of Irv Rybicki, General Motor’s vice-president of design, another such vehicle was in the works that would proudly wear the Buick moniker.

The buying public had any number of choices in the 1980s when it came to purchasing a two-seater vehicle. Think of the Pontiac Fiero, Toyota MR2, Porsche 944 and the more upscale Cadillac Allanté, just to name a few.

Cadillac had just made the decision to outsource the Allanté design to Pininfarina of Italy, a task normally assigned to GM’s own Advance Design studio team. That decision spurred the competitive spirit within GM’s own Advance Design studio. It challenged its youngest designers to produce a vehicle that would offer sports car looks combined with luxury and performance. The end result was the Buick Reatta.

During the process, a mock-up version had been designed, but GM felt the design to be too rounded and too “soft.” Executives wanted a more “angled” look and assertive stance, one that would appeal to a broader demographic.

Upon attending a competitive product show (quite common to check out what the competition is doing), the design team took notice of a Porsche 944. In particular, they noticed the “stiff” lines of the Porsche that ran down the side panels. The designers immediately felt this look could be incorporated into the Reatta design. It was finally achieved by “creasing the metal” down the full length of the vehicle, thus diminishing the rounded look of the initial design.

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