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1989 Buick Reatta

Classy Coupe

3800 V-6/Overdrive Automatic
Touch-screen Control Center
Digital Instrument Panel
4-wheel Disc Brakes w/ABS
Power Everything
Electronic Climate Control
Fog Lights
AM/FM Cassette
Cruise Control
Leather Interior

June 4, 2017- After sitting for most of the past month and a half, I took the Reatta for a nice long drive .  She ran great, though she left a little power steering fluid wherever I parked.  The new dash unit had cleaner buttons than the one in the car, so I made it the main unit and put the other back as a spare.  No time to get the seat cover replaced yet.  Another project.
May 21, 2017- Not much to report on the Reatta - it has been mostly sitting the past month.  However, I did get in some nice parts.  The driver's seat leather is worn and the seams are coming apart in several places.  I was able to get a really nice upholstery set off eBay that is very clean for $95.  Then I saw a good digital dash for $100 including shipping - given it took five to find a working unit last time, I decided to snag this as a spare.  It works great.  The power steering is starting to lose fluid - the racks are known issues since these cars were new, but it is a relatively cheap and easy fix.
April 8, 2017- The Reatta rolled down to Charlotte NC and back with no issues and 28 MPG - more than 700 flawless miles, and it got its High Percentage Original Features award at the Southeastern Spring National Meet.  The car got a lot of attention, and one former Reatta owner said he had a bunch of parts and literature for the car leftover from a Reatta he sold that he plans to bring me when he comes to Norfolk in May!  As an added bonus, there turned out to be a separate display of ten Reattas at the Speedway!  I got to talk with a number of owners and look over the cars.  It was a great trip and I was very impressed with the comfort and performance. 
March 25, 2017- A big step this week - I registered the Reatta  for the Southeastern Division National AACA Meet in Charlotte just two weeks from today.  It's a five-hour drive one-way, but I have had no issues with the car in over 2000 miles.  So it is time to get busy cleaning.  Wheels were first - I used the same steel wool, brake cleaner, and polish technique I used on the center caps, and they came out really nice.  Then I cleaned up the engine bay - the paint under the hood actually washed off!  I guess it was just primer.  I'll repaint it so it has some protection.  A check of fluids was encouraging - not a drop of oils used since the oil change, transmission fluid is clean and to the level, and brake and coolant levels are right on.  Today was 80 degrees, so I was able to checkout the climate control as well - nice cold air from the vents.  Oh, I also had a slow leak in the left rear tire fixed - a long nail in the center of the tread.
January 29, 2017- I gave the Reatta a bath today and took some Maguire's Plastic Polish to the tail light assembly.  This is a single piece that spans the width of the car and has no less than 14 individual bulbs.  The outer shell is clear, and had dulled due to 28 years of exposure to the elements.  The plastic polish got it smooth and shiny again. The carpet really came out well - I got rid of some overspray using alcohol and a rag.  I also picked up a neat item on eBay that arrived this week:  a dealer promo solar calculator in the original box, with the Reatta logo on the cover.
January 25, 2017- The Reatta's carpet had faded to a grey-blue with some stains, and some unseasonably nice weather today prompted me to redye it.  The water-based permanent dye (GM Dark Sapphire) came from Leather Magic (https://leathermagic.com/).  The 16 oz bottle just covered the entire carpet surface and the floor mats.  It took about an hour to do the entire interior including floor mats. I am very pleased with the results.  The color is even and looks correct, even over old stains and uneven fading.  What looks like streaking in the photos is just brush strokes where the pile is not all going the same way.  It is not quite as good as all new carpet in the correct style, but way cheaper and very effective.  You can see the difference in the back cargo area, and the before/after picture of door carpet.
January 18, 2017 - The longer days are finally allowing a little more light for me to work on the car outside during the week, and I took care of an overdue and important job - changing the oil!   In fairness, the oil was not all that dirty, but I have no idea how long it has been in the car.  Given the roughly 16K miles driven from 2004 to 2016, the car has hardly been put to hard use.  Anyway, I have had the Castrol 20/50 and filter in the trunk since the day I bought the Reatta, so it was time to get the job done.  No issues - the old filter and drain plug were easy to access once I got the car up on ramps and both came loose with just right amount of effort.  Five quarts filled it right to the level mark, and I took the old oil to a recycle tank just around the corner.
January 11, 2017 - Two months and five Instrument displays later, I finally have a complete working dashboard!  The original unit had a dead upper half, the first eBay replacement had a dead upper left side, the second eBay replacement had a dead lower half, and a junkyard replacement was totally dead.  The third eBay unit showed up Friday, but a blizzard delayed attempts until today, when 30 degrees suddenly changed to 69 degrees!  The latest unit had a scratched-up face and worn buttons, but it all worked when I plugged it in!  I simply swapped out a good face from another unit and took care of the worn buttons with some carefully applied magic marker.  The Reatta finally has everything working on the dash - and the results are pretty impressive for a 28 year-old car.  I put the car to the test during our bad weather - my neighborhood was iced in until today, but the Reatta never slipped or slid once and the four-wheel disc brakes were smooth and even. 
January 4, 2017 - The left front turn signal indicator bulb went bad and I thought it would be an easy fix.  Ha!  First of all, the bulb was not available from any local supplier (890 halogen) and I had to order it from Amazon.  The actual 890 was not available, but I found an 880 with the same specifications and got that instead.  Then I went to install it and read in the shop manual that you pull the parking light assembly.  The diagram showed two bolts (7mm!) but the disassembly instructions indicate five.  I found the two shown, but not the other three, and the parking light assembly still seemed pretty solidly in place.  Instead, I raised the headlights and pulled the headlight surrounds.  This gave me barely enough room to check the parking light bulbs .  The turn signal indicator was accessible from under the car.  So all my lights are working again.  Phew!  Buick sure made a challenge out of simple light bulb replacement.
December 31, 2016 - The interior rear-view mirror had a bad spot in the middle that bugged me, so I bought a generic replacement that did not really work right.  I found the correct (and unique) Reatta mirror on eBay for $20 with shipping.  The mirror is perfect and both reading lamps work fine.  After almost 300 miles with no issues, the Engine Control error code started coming up again.  It will pop on several times, then go away, and other times it does not show up at all.  Also, the front turn signal bulb went out, and I discovered it uses a special 890 that none of the local parts places carries and costs $7.99 each!  I found the same bulbs for $6.99 a pair with free shipping on Amazon, and got those instead.  The car is great to drive - very comfortable and smooth.
December 26, 2016 - Replacing the plugs and wires seems to have added a little pep to the Reatta's performance.  Rather curiously, the Engine Control Code error that has been plaguing me since I got the car has not shown up once in the 200 miles I have driven it since the plugs were installed.  It runs great and rides will.  I took some time tonight to clean the carpet, which was badly stained with what looked like old coffee spills.  It looks much better now, and I will eventually recolor it with the Leather Magic water-based carpet dye I used on the 1976 Aspen Wagon back in 2010.  The console cigar lighter outlet got fixed as well tonight - the connector plugs were dirty and had to be cleaned and bent back into position.  Now I can plug in the GPS or USB 12-volt adapters for phones and other items.  It's been 40 days since I bought the Reatta - seems like I have had it a lot longer than that!
December 23, 2016 - I replaced the plugs and wires today - recommended plugs are AC Delco Rapidfire Platinum, and I got those plus a set of 8mm wires from Rock Auto in just a few days.  The original plugs had been in a long time, as evidenced by the rust, but the electrodes were in amazing condition.  Looks like the Reatta is running really well - no signs of oil or mixture issues.  Plug wires may have been original - they were Delco with the often-misplaced heat shields for the back plugs still in place.  I did remember to get 1995 plug wires to accommodate the converted coil pack setup.  The car started right up and idled fine - I did not drive it around, but there should be minimal difference given the pristine state of the original plugs.
December 7, 2016 - I returned to Triple Decker Auto Salvage today and snagged the taillight assembly and wiring harness for $65.  My plan is to use the salvaged wiring harness to install sequential turn signals, which have been ordered.  I also picked up a good door sill plate, passenger side door gasket, trunk lock solenoid, and a scrap dash trim piece i hope to use to restore the one in the Reatta.  New headlights came in and I installed them and got the right side lowered a bit - it has been aimed too high.  The new lights are much brighter than the ones that were in it.  I also got in the plug wire identifier tabs, which I installed on the plug wires.  I am still getting an intermittent engine control code warning on the built-in diagnostics, but it doesn't last long enough to identify.  I suspect a bad vacuum hose.  Whatever the issue, it does not cause any other symptoms.  The engine runs smooth ands strong.  I'll keep working out possible causes and eliminating them as best I can.
December 4, 2016 - Another cheap and easy fix with some nice surprises.  First of all, it really was cheap ($20.13) and easy (7 minutes total).  Second, the special O2 sensor socket that made the job easy was not only already in my toolbox, but in the drawer for special tools!  The old unit came out with no fuss, and the new one went right back in just as easy.  It may not actually fix anything, but the sensor is key to a lot of the engine operations, and for $20 I am happy to have a new one in place.
December 3, 2016 - The Reatta's ignition setup came from the factory as a one-piece unit from Magnavox.  Although it contains three separate coils, the assembly has to be replaced any time there is trouble.  In my case, the prime suspect for my 'no start' condition last weekend was either a bad Ignition Control Module (ICM), which sits under the coilpack or the Magnavox setup.  As soon as I bought the Reatta I joined the Reatta Owner's Journal (ROJ) online support group - a terrific group of folks who have provided invaluable advise and also provided some hard-to find parts.  When I posted a note about the car not starting, one of the members provided an excellent upgrade suggestion.  It turns out that the Delco ICM and coil packs used up through the 2000s are a direct swap-out for the trouble-prone Magnavox.  You have to use the mounting plate from a 1991-95 3800 engine, but pretty much any GM 3800 ICM/coils will fit.  In addition to being more powerful than the old coils, the Delco unit is a lot easier to find parts for.  And best of all, I got a complete setup out of the junkyard for $34.  Granted, the first setup had a bad ICM and I had to go back for another, but the second one works great and cleaned up very nicely.  It is a strange quirk of self-service yard pricing that the entire setup, which included the base plate, ICM, and three coils, was $34, while one coil by itself would have been $20.  Oh, following another suggestion from the same ROJ member, I used three thick washers to isolate the ICM/coil assembly from the engine mount, which should greatly reduce heat transfer.  While there is no guarantee that the Reatta's issue is solved, I have high hopes.  And even if that is not the issue, I have taken care of three potential known issues: the fuel pump relay, the oil pressure sending unit, and the coil pack.
December 2, 2016 - The polished aluminum hubcaps on the Reatta have gotten cloudy over the years as the clear coat discolored.  I attacked them tonight with 0000 steel wool and brake cleaner to remove the old clear coat and then a good polish with NevR-Dull metal polish.  The difference it pretty amazing for less than 15 minutes a cap.  I also got in the new fuel pump relay, along with new relays for the brake pump and ABS system.  The old relays were held in place by zip ties, and may have been original to the car.  Since Delco replacement relays were only $7.40 each, I replaced all three.  The plan is to hit the junkyard tomorrow and locate a good late-model Delco ignition coil pack on a 90-95 3800 - it is suppose to be a good upgrade for reliability and performance.  So far the car has started every time I tried it since Sunday, but I will replace the coil pack before I actually take it anywhere again.
November 28, 2016 - Hagerty Insurance paid for most of the tow from my parent's.  I met the truck at my house and backed the Sonata out so we could push the Reatta up in front of the garage.  As I was getting out of the Sonata, the driver hopped in the Reatta and backed it off the flatbed and drove it up into position.  It had started right up for him at my parents' and seems to be fine now!  The most likely suspects are the fuel pump relay ($7.50 new) and the coil pack ($33 from Pick n Pull).  The relay is on its way, and I'll look for the coil pack this weekend.  While I would have preferred to identify the actual issue, it is nice to have the car running and home.
November 27, 2016 - I had a few hours this afternoon to tinker, and got a couple of things done on the Reatta.  First I replaced the oil pressure sending unit - it has been identified as a common problem and cause of intermittent engine fault codes that I have had pop up recently.  The part was easy to install, so I moved on to the power antenna.  By combining parts from the car's antenna and the one I was given, I now have one that works perfectly, going up and down automatically with the radio being turned on and off.  Buoyed by success, I drove the car to my parent's house, over to Cracker Barrel for dinner, and back to my parent's.  However, when I tried to start the car to show my mom the electronic dash, it just cranked.  Either no spark or no fuel.  Ah, the joys of old cars!  There is a slim chance that the new oil pressure sending unit, which includes a safety switch for the fuel pump, failed, but I think the car would at least start and then die.  More likely the fuel pump or the coil packs gave up the ghost.  At least it died at my parent's , where I could push it out of the way and leave it safely.
November 26, 2016 - No luck with the salvage yard - the Reatta was crushed a long time ago and the listing had not been removed.  Oh, well.  Bill, the seller of the second IPC came over to refund my money, and brought a bunch of parts with him.  Both knowledgeable and generous, he sold me an excellent hubcap for $20, a set of front ABS brake leads for $20, and a complete spare power brake pump and master cylinder assembly (unique to 1989-90 GM luxury cars) for $60.  He then gave me a power antenna assembly he had put a new mast in but that appeared to have a bad motor, a dome light cover, and the defective IPC unit in case I wanted to try fixing it!  The motor in my antenna works fine, so I can probably combine the two into a working unit.  Overall, an excellent day.  My only regret is not feeling up to buying the nice taillight assembly he offered for $175 - it was an excellent deal, as they are huge assemblies that take up the entire back end.  However, I am reluctant to spend that much on a part I may never need, especially when the whole car was $900!  It is already on eBay for $200, and I hope he gets it.
November 23, 2016 - I located another IPC (Electronic Dash) for the Reatta on eBay, this one within 20 miles!  The seller met me close to my house, and has other parts as well.  Unfortunately, this unit is also defective, with the entire bank of indicator lights on the bottom not working.  On the plus side, the odometer reading came up and I finally found out that the Reatta only has 136,196 miles on it.  That is within 1000 miles of my wild guess used for the title, and very low for a 28 year-old vehicle!  I would rather have the indicator lights than the odometer and clock, so I pulled the unit back out.  The seller is looking to see if he has another.  And the seller of the first replacement gave me a full refund.  A local salvage yard lists one and I can install it on the spot to check it out.  The license plates came in today, so I also put them on.  The car has developed an intermittent engine fault warning on the diagnostic screen that pops in and out.  The car continues to run great - a member of the Reatta Forum said it is probably an oil sending unit error.  I ordered one that should be in Friday - cheap and easy to install, so it is worth a try.  Ah, the joys of retro-tech!
November 19, 2016 - A very busy day for the Reatta. I started off replacing the electronic dash, which was scratched up and dead.  The one from eBay looked very nice and came to life as soon as I plugged it in.  Unfortunately, the left side is not working, though that only shows the odometer, clock, and cruise control indicators.  The CRT and dash have a great retro-tech look.  Then it was on to the right headlight, which needed to have the raising mechanism rebuilt.  eBay provided the rebuild kit, and I provided the labor.  Lastly, I repainted the front bumper rub strip with bumper paint - much improved.  Most of the Reatta's issues are now fixed - parts cost was about $200.
November 18, 2016 - Some small victories tonight.  The power windows are working (OK, maybe a medium victory).  Turns out the switches are worn and need to be depressed further in than normal.  I'll try to pick up another one.  Then the trunk lock cover and door came off Wednesday night.  The outer cover is held on by a couple of dimples and you have to disassemble half the back end to get the lock cylinder out.  I repainted the outer cover satin black and put it all back together from the outside using some Superglue.  Seems to be holding fine, and it is not a high-stress location.  Lastly, the center console cigarette lighter socket was not working - I replaced the fuse and solved that issue.  Lots of things coming in for the car now, including shop and owner's manuals, another electronic dashboard assembly, sales folders, headlight motor rebuild kit, and even a remote key fob.  I am hoping to fix the dash and the headlight tomorrow.
November 16, 2016 - The issue with the heater fan was the climate control module - running $140 used, and over $300 rebuilt and warranted.  However, it turns out that the same module was used on almost all of the big GM cars of the period.  A visit to our local Pick N Pull salvage yard turned up a 1987 Cadillac DeVille with the correct module, which took about five minutes to remove and cost $6.  Another five minutes got the module installed in the Reatta, and the HVAC system is working great.  The replacement dashboard arrived today, so I may have all the major issues cured this weekend.
November 12, 2016 - Many people do not realize Buick built a two-seater touring sports car.  The Reatta was a hand-built luxury car that was the most expensive Buick sold from 1988-1991.  Powered by the popular 3800 V-6 front wheel drive package used for big sedans, the much lighter coupe had good performance and decent fuel economy.  I have always liked Reattas, but was not seriously considering another car until I spotted this during a casual search on eBay.  Two things caught my eye - the $900 Buy It Now option, and the location 20 miles from my house.  It was listed as being in excellent running condition, garage kept, but having a bad instrument cluster.  Reattas were very advanced at the time, with touch-screen CRT controls for most of the car's systems, and a digital dashboard.  It was an excellent deal, and more importantly, I had that 'feeling' I get about certain cars.  This car has pretty much all of the options except for the sunroof, which I did not want because of the reduced headroom.  I was heading out of town for the weekend, and had to make a decision based on gut instinct.  Questions posed through eBay had gone unanswered, but purchases made through PayPal are guaranteed, so there was not a lot of actual risk.  I used the Buy It Now option two days before I had to leave, figuring I could get the car home.  No contact from the seller.  I tried more messages, with no reply.  I contacted eBay after 4 days and they gave me the phone number, which was good but had a full message box.  After 6 days, I researched the seller's address and drove over.  The car was there, but no one was home.  As a last resort, I wrote a letter and mailed it to the seller that afternoon.  Two days later, he called!  The letter had made contact where electronic communications had failed.  We made arrangements for me to pick up the car this morning. It was filthy inside and out, but sounded great.  He bought it in 2005 from the original owner, and drove it occasionally  as a fun car.  When the dash went out this past summer, an electronics shop told him they could not get the part to fix it new and they would not use secondhand parts.  The parts are readily available on eBay, and I can handle the work.  The Reatta drove home great, feeling tight and strong as new.  Sure, there are some small electrical issues and the dash to sort out, but it cleaned up really nice and most of the options work, including the touch-screen CRT.  I need to fix the right headlight popup mechanism, the power windows are not working, and the heater fan stays on even with the ignition off.  Next step - ordering a repair manual off eBay!

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