Home » Buick Reatta or Eagle Premier: Which Forgotten Failure Deserves A Second Chance?

Buick Reatta or Eagle Premier: Which Forgotten Failure Deserves A Second Chance?

Sbsd 5 11
ADVERTISEMENT

Welcome one and all to the Wednesday edition of Shitbox Showdown! We’ve got a couple names you haven’t heard in a while today, but before we get there, we need to figure out who you’re all going to be for Halloween:

Screen Shot 2022 05 10 At 5.34.12 Pm

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Break out the hubcap helmets, because it’s David by a landslide! Maybe the vote would have been closer if I’d been able to find a Nissan Pao, but I shudder to think what a $2500 Pao would look like. Probably full of spiders.

[Editor’s Note: I was robbed. DT going to hold this over my head forever. Crap. – JT ]

You know what probably isn’t full of spiders? The cubbyholes behind the seats of a Buick Reatta, or the center armrest of an Eagle Premier. (But can somebody check for me to make sure? Spiders freak me out.) Yes, that’s right – today we’re going to look at a two-seater Buick with a primitive touch-screen, and a Chrysler-ish product from the late ’80s that isn’t a K-car.

ADVERTISEMENT

1990 Buick Reatta – $1,900

00t0t C393ex187saz 0ci0hs 1200x900

Engine/drivetrain: 3.8 liter V6, 4 speed automatic, FWD

Location: Borrego Springs, CA

Odometer reading: 178,000 miles

Runs/drives? So they say

ADVERTISEMENT

In the 1980s, every GM division had a cool 2-seater except for Oldsmobile and Buick. Chevrolet had the Corvette, Pontiac had the Fiero, and starting in 1987, Cadillac had the Allante. Buick got in on the action in 1988 with this car, a stubby little coupe (and later convertible) based on a shortened Riviera platform, and called it, in the grand GM tradition of making up words for car names, the Reatta.

00d0d Cc9uo9suntzz 0ci0hs 1200x900

The Reatta was meant to be Buick’s halo car, and as such, was stuffed to the gills with modern technology, most of which worked: independent suspension all around, four wheel disc brakes, the ubiquitous ’80s digital dash, and in the center console, a primitive version of a touch screen – called the Electronic Control Center – which included the audio system, climate controls, a basic trip computer, and access to vehicle diagnostics, all at the owner’s fingertips. Customers hated it, and after a couple of years Buick abandoned the touch screen in the Reatta (and Riviera, which also used this system) in favor of a standard-issue Delco stereo and conventional climate controls. How times have changed.

[Editor’s Note: Mark is leaving out the most important part about that touch screen: it was a CRT! Yes, as in cathode ray tube, not the thing weirdos are freaking out about in schools even though there are probably more Trinitron CRTs in elementary schools than the other kind. Anyway, here’s an old commercial featuring one and when I went through an old Buick Apple II floppy disk, they had a full rundown of what that CRT setup did:

ADVERTISEMENT

Hey! My first Editor’s Note with a video! – JT]

The fact that this Reatta has the old digital dash and touch screen leads me to believe it is listed incorrectly and is actually a 1989 model, since all the info I found says that 1990 was the first year of the conventional dash. An incorrect listing, you say? On Craigslist? Perish the thought.

00l0l Ctqfjxi01ksz 0ci0hs 1200x900

Overall, this car looks pretty good. There is some wear and tear in the interior, and a couple of dings outside, but it’s a good ten-footer. The seller says it runs and drives great, but the flat tire makes me wonder how out of date that information is. Being a California car, there is also that worry about non-op status and the possibility of back registration fees. This car has the same good old 3.8 liter V6 and overdrive automatic as a zillion LeSabres, Electras, Delta 88s, Bonnevilles, and half of the rest of GM’s lineup, so parts aren’t a problem, nor is reliability.

00f0f Fjimqtjipsyz 0ci0hs 1200x900

ADVERTISEMENT

00808 Fgzk9jzw2pez 0ci0hs 1200x900

I always thought these cars looked sharp in white. A Reatta De Blanc, if you will. Just don’t get pulled over by the Police. (I had to. It was right there.)

1989 Eagle Premier – $2,500

00y0y 3v13ni879bwz 07k05o 1200x900

Engine/drivetrain: engine not specified, 4 speed automatic, FWD

Location: Greeley, CO

ADVERTISEMENT

Odometer reading: 136,000 miles

Runs/drives? Presumably

First, I apologize for the tiny photos on this one. They were taken by a used car dealer in Greeley, Colorado, using their state-of-the-art digital camera. Two whole megapixels! The clerk at Circuit City said that’s all he’d ever need. But it’s not like I’m likely to find another Eagle Premier to feature instead, so it is what it is.

And what is it, exactly? It’s a French-engineered sedan, styled by an Italian, with an interior by an American, built in Canada, sold by Chrysler, alongside rebadged Mitsubishis. (Make sense?) There’s no indication in the ad of which engine is under the hood, but it’s either an AMC 2.5 liter inline 4, or a 3 liter version of the Peugeot-Renault-Volvo V6, infamous for underpowering the DeLorean. If I had to guess, this one has the 4 cylinder; it sure looks like a base model.

00707 Bcbjjtdfqfpz 07k05o 1200x900

ADVERTISEMENT

Whichever engine it is, it’s backed by a column-shifted 4 speed automatic, even though there’s a perfectly good center console between its bucket seats with a massive expanse of gray plastic where a floor shifter could go (and does, in fancier versions). The Premier’s exterior styling was done by Giugiaro in Italy, but the interior is all Dick Teague of AMC fame, and I gotta say, it does look inviting and comfy in there. Too bad about those idiotic motorized seatbelts (they’re disconnected in these photos, but trust me – they’re there.)

00r0r 1113hzv8stez 07k05o 1200x900

The ad is terse, to put it mildly. All we have to go on besides the photos is “good condition.” We have to assume it runs, I guess, if they’re offering test drives, but c’mon guys, throw us a bone here.

01111 9vb2nypcnxoz 07k05o 1200x900

00a0a 2nxyraybnuuz 07k05o 1200x900

ADVERTISEMENT

Bizarrely, Chrysler also sold this car as the Dodge Monaco. Chrysler was under contract to use up those awful PRV lumps, so slapping a Dodge badge on the Premier and forcing it to compete against their own Dynasty sedan was one way to do that. Probably not the best way, but I can’t come up with a better answer, even with 30 years of hindsight. They managed to move nearly 140,000 of these over six model years, but I haven’t seen one in ages, and even when I worked at a service station in the mid-1990s, these were few and far between. You can take it to Radwood and be fairly certain you’ll have the only one there. (Probably not true of the Reatta, even though Buick only sold about 20,000 of those; they have a following, and the Premier… doesn’t.)

So those are our choices for Wednesday: a failed sporty halo car, and a family sedan flop. Which one deserves to be rescued from the scrap-heap of history?

Quiz Maker

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
78 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
StillPlaysWithCars
StillPlaysWithCars
2 years ago

I’m going Reatta assuming the CRT is in fact working. I own a Buick of this vintage and while parts of it are broken, hell parts were probably broken before it left the factory, it refuses to die. It was “on deaths door” 8 years ago when I bought it and just keeps chugging along. AC works, Cruise works, Heat works, Power antenna works, Power seats work, sure it leaks every fluid from its anemic V8 but it still runs.

Matt Sexton
Matt Sexton
2 years ago

Uh… The Premier was garbage when it was NEW. Parts were nearly nonexistent in the 90’s, I can’t imagine now. It’s tempting for the sheer WTF factor at the local cruise-in, if we were in a vacuum, but we’re not…

Because your counteroffer is a Reatta, and those I’ve always liked. It’s a GM parts-bin special with a 3800 that will be running when only the roaches are left. Maintenance will be a breeze. The only sticking point might be the touchscreen but I believe there’s enough cult to these that there are refurbish services available for them.

RootWyrm
RootWyrm
2 years ago

This is a genuinely tough one.

The Eagle, when it works, is fine. It’s even more comfortable inside than it looks. And if it has the 2.5 instead of the PRV, the engine is nigh unto bulletproof (because it’s so completely unstressed.) The ZF 4HP isn’t bad at all either. These cars were so good that Bob Lutz himself declared the Premiere superior to the competitor Chrysler had been developing, and axed said competitor. The fact is that the Premiere truly is a luxury sedan that was very competitive with it’s contemporaries. Superb handling and fantastic ride quality in fact, just somewhat underpowered. So good that the LH cars were developed from the Premiere.
And having worked on more than a few (relative to production, so like… 5 or 6,) the 2.5 really isn’t half bad. It doesn’t have problems. The suspension components don’t have problems. It doesn’t mark it’s territory like the PRV. (God, those were miserable.) It’s certainly not quick, but you don’t fear for your life merging onto the highway. And remember, the 2.5’s a lopped off 258. So it’s stout but, uh, pretty harsh.
The interior materials certainly aren’t ‘super-premium’ but they are many miles away from cheap. I mean just look at the dash pad – it’s not cracked. That’s proof enough of quality, now isn’t it? Switchgear isn’t terrible either – I actually liked the Renault switches. They had very clear actuation and wore incredibly well. All in all, the interior’s actually a pretty nice place to be. Aside from some NVH complaints.
But finding parts for anything but the engine and transmission, whoof. However, this one really does look well sorted. The paint’s shot, but it’s probably looked like that since 1991.

The Reatta was not a direct competitor – the Reatta was Buick’s halo car. (The Premiere competed with the Century and Park Avenue depending on trim.) But it’s still got your moon-mileage-on-it’s-worst-day 3800, albeit with the 440T4 instead of the 4T60. But it’s okay as long as you understand the 440T4’s infinitely more sensitive to maintenance. (Miss a fluid change or run low on fluid, and you will have a box of neutrals.)
The flat tire doesn’t worry me at all – those fucking wheels were a bitch, and nobody ever mounted correctly. What worries me is that there’s no proof the CRT is working. But there is evidence it isn’t – a photo of the security light on, with no other lights. And let me explain something to you about the CRT Reatta’s electrical system:
(Insert sixty lines of Zalgo-text interspersed with screams here.)
In summary, if the CRT isn’t working, NOTHING is working. And I mean nothing. It’s not just the IPC, it’s also the transmission, the engine maps, absolutely nothing. And it is a horrifically common problem on these. It could be the driver’s side megasplice. It could be a bad CRT. Or it could be one of the other 30+ splices from hell, because if you’re gonna hand-build the body, why not hand-build the wiring with the worst splices known to man while you’re at it?
Plus why else would the seller falsely try point out that the Reatta market is heating up? It’s not. A well sorted Reatta in excellent running condition with no leaks can be yours for less than $10k. Easily. It’s only the Reatta convertibles and documented garage queens in true concours condition that are seeing prices above that. The Reatta is the very definition of ‘rare doesn’t mean desirable.’

So which?

Eagle Premiere, presuming the 2.5.
Look, that Reatta in fantastic shape would fetch maybe $10k on a good day. The flat tire’s a non-issue, I’m sure it’s just bead sealing. But even assuming it runs and drives, they all have electrical problems eventually. Every last one.
The Premiere might not be the nicest looking ride with that paint, and it sure could use a dusting, but it’s the one you can get in and drive off without the least worry, and one you genuinely won’t hate to be in. BTW, it’s a Premiere LX, so should be the 2.5/ZF. Identifiable by hubcaps; the PRVs got alloy wheels. If it’s a PRV? Neither.

Bob Jablonski
Bob Jablonski
2 years ago

Reatta no contest

JohnTaurus
JohnTaurus
2 years ago

140K sold in 6 years. Well my goodness. Ford sold almost 350k Tauruses in 1989 alone.

Ex had a premier. She (yes I dated a female, once) wrecked it and he spent untold amounts of money having it repaired. Meanwhile, she got a 1989 Escort and when the Premier was done, she kept the Escort. He sold the Eagle for around $1,500 I think. I’m sure he spent many times that having it repaired. It also had multiple mechanical issues while she had it, so in total, he probably could have damn near bought her a new Escort for what he had in that piece of shit Eagle.

It’s goes against my Ransom E. Olds blood to vote for a flip-up-headlight BUUUrick, but there it is, it’s reliable 3.8L engine and two door bodystyle winning me over. Would I have picked a Cutlass Ciera with a Buick engine over it? Yep. Would anyone in my circle notice the difference? Probably not.

JohnTaurus
JohnTaurus
2 years ago
Reply to  JohnTaurus

By “he”, I was referred to her dad.

RootWyrm
RootWyrm
2 years ago
Reply to  JohnTaurus

Sounds like a PRV. Those things were a bucket of fail. All the reliability of a crippled antique Peugeot engine coupled to the cheap to maintain Audi AR4 transmission.

An engine so great, they sold it to literally anyone who walked in off the street with $20, and a transmission that was just so, so fantastic that the company that made it never used it in a single car they built.

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
2 years ago

This would have been a perfect day for the “Neither” option. I’ll say you should let the Eagle soar because that Reatta looks used up and neglected. I don’t think it has much value left unless you need a parts car for the nicer Reatta you already own.

I was going to reference the Steve Miller song with fly like an eagle, but then I remembered John Ashcroft’s horrible crooning in Let the Eagle Soar. If you are a Zoomer and have no clue what the hell I am talking about, go hit up Wikipedia to find out who Ashcroft is and the search for his song on the YouTubes. You are in for a treat.

StillPlaysWithCars
StillPlaysWithCars
2 years ago

That Reatta will continue to run far longer than you give it credit for. I own a Buick of this vintage and you couldn’t kill it if you tried (which I have).

Citrus
Citrus
2 years ago

I’ve actually seen a Premier up close – in 2007, no less, though it’s probably scrapped by now – and it is more interesting than you expect. The styling is clean and attractive and the interior is actually fairly quirky and unique when you get up close. But it’s in the Talbot Tagora category of things that are only really interesting because you never see them.

Gimme the Reatta and a map to one of the weirder internet retro tech people’s house.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
2 years ago

The Reatta is the clear winner. It’s a nice car all around.

And if you stumble across a supercharged GM 3.8 at your local used parts dealer, you might end up with something much more interesting than you started with.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
2 years ago

I am proud of always voting with the minority in these polls. There is a reason that any business I support goes belly-up within 18 months. I believe in Rivian, too. Startups should pay me to stay away from them.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
2 years ago
Reply to  Vetatur Fumare

I hear you. I’m flying like an Eagle today.

Of course, I also killed SAAB and Suzuki in America.

cgeorgemo70
cgeorgemo70
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

Oh man I loved Firefly.

Jalop Gold
Jalop Gold
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

Firefly FTW!

Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
2 years ago
Reply to  Vetatur Fumare

I’m normally in the minority as well, and it’s fine, these people are crazy. Who would pick a fucking Reatta over a Premier? One of… I’m gonna guess sixteen, give to take, that somehow got sold? The Premier, and to be honeste, the Medallion and all other USDM Renaults are definitely on my bucket list if I ever get crazy rich.

CatMan
CatMan
2 years ago

Too easy, the Reatta without a doubt

Gene1969
Gene1969
2 years ago

I had to pick the Reatta. That Eagle is just too dowdy.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
2 years ago

As a disciple of the Church of 3800, Buick it must be. The funky ancient touchscreen makes it even better.

TriangleRAD
TriangleRAD
2 years ago

One interesting tidbit about the Premier/Monaco, they serve as a preview of the Cab Forward design philosophy that became such a big deal a few years later with the Intrepid/Vision/Concorde “LH” cars.

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
2 years ago

I went for the Buick for the price vs what appears to work.

Also what are these back registration fees of which you speak? In my state, I only owe my registration. Any fees, tickets, etc are the responsibility of the previous owner.

05LGT
05LGT
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

So, Umm… I won’t register it in a state I don’t live in?

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
2 years ago
Reply to  05LGT

Or sell to a friend for a “buck” and buy it from them? Out of state registration loophole?

Christopher Glowacki
Christopher Glowacki
2 years ago
Reply to  Arrest-me Red

Gotta go with the Buick in this instance. I once owned this cars kissing cousin, an Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo coupe in bright red with a black interior. Mine was a 91. Phenomenal first car for teenaged me. No CRT driver diagnostic touchscreen in my car though(was still an option, even on top trim Trofeo)

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

That stinks. I can see whacking the owner who did that with the fees.

However you want me to pay for them? HAHAAHAHAAHA..Wait your Serious? Let me laugh harder…HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Footlongcone
Footlongcone
2 years ago

Gave the Premier the nod for 1 reason. Bad ideas should be remembered and shown so that they aren’t repeated. The Reatta has a following, and several solid examples still out there, the Premier has neither.

Anne Wheeler
Anne Wheeler
2 years ago

Not really, but kind of related, I remember the sense of “ooooh noooooo” creeping up my spine in any of our Buicks when the car would die and the lights on the dash would seemingly randomly display.

(My dad was a GM mechanic so we drove many, many GM shitboxes with interchangeable parts.)

Acrimonious Mofo
Acrimonious Mofo
2 years ago

There’s a reason that the Reatta has a following and the Premier does not.

Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
2 years ago

My parents had a Premiere and they couldn’t keep it working in the 90’s with a full equipped Eagle dealer a mile away

Segador
Segador
2 years ago

The Reatta could potentially be kind of nice.

The Eagle will forever be a rusting pile of shit.

Tacofan
Tacofan
2 years ago

That Reatta could look good at some point. At no point will that Eagle ever look good. I’m throwing my hard earned fake money to the Reatta.

Mr.Asa
Mr.Asa
2 years ago

The Reatta just looks better. Also, 3.8. C’mon.

Civic Boy
Civic Boy
2 years ago

Well I’d go for the reatta, which is still good looking today and its digital dash over the rebadged Renault 21 with big overhang to look more like an american 25.

ToyotaTaxPayer
ToyotaTaxPayer
2 years ago

I always like the reatta. My father in law went to buy one and came home with the first redesigned caprice on the lot. Base model. Just because it was new. Wtf?

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
2 years ago

Oh yeah, this is what I come here for.

You guys have no idea how long I’ve waited for an Eagle Premier to show up on this. I mean, it’s probably the best French-in-America-but-built-in-Canada car you could get. You’ve got sensual Euro/Franco styling with the reliability of AMC. Look at that interior! Look at those barca lounger seats! Behold, the stealth wealth design that will slip under the radar of anyone, including the police. This is the French connection I want, no…need to make.

Dar Khorse
Dar Khorse
2 years ago

No contest today, Mark. The Premier is boring, boring, boring, and dull, while the Reatta is perhaps the most beautiful American-made coupe ever built. For all it’s faults, Buick at least had the balls to try something different and forward-looking. I mean, just look at it! If you didn’t know any better, you might think it was just a concept car. Don’t just take my word for it, let Doug DeMuro tell you all about it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pq2PSLdc8rA&t=793s

10001010
10001010
2 years ago

Maybe I’m biased but Eagle only ever sold one model worth buying and the Premier ain’t it.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
2 years ago
Reply to  10001010

I, too, am a Eagle Summit Wagon man.

JohnTaurus
JohnTaurus
2 years ago
Reply to  Vetatur Fumare

I did find an AWD/manual combo in one of those not long ago. Sort of a Japanese successor to the original Eagle 4wd wagons.

I always prefer the Mitsubishi, “Expo LRV” just sounds so much like a product of its times, it wins on that measure alone.

Beasy Mist
Beasy Mist
2 years ago
Reply to  Vetatur Fumare

If I was in my 30s in the early 90s I absolutely would have bought one of those things. My friend’s mom had one when I was a kid and I thought it was neat. Now that I’m older the practicality and quirkiness of it makes me want one real bad.

Citrus
Citrus
2 years ago
Reply to  10001010

I’m more generous, they had the Wagon and SX/4, as well as two generations of Talon.

But I agree that the Premier ain’t it.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
2 years ago
Reply to  Citrus

The Vision wasn’t bad either. In fact, I think it is the best design of Chrysler’s original cab-forward Concord/Intrepid/Vision triplets.

78
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x