In the GitHub release pages, there's the "Source code (zip)" and "Source code (tar.gz)" buttons, in light grey. Those are automatically generated from git by GitHub, and are equivalent to just using git (it won't run any scripts, it's really just the files, in a zip/tar.gz).
The ones in green, though, are files that I made and uploaded.
With automake, there's a "make distcheck" that will build the source tarball, check that it can be uncompressed and built, all automatically. When it does this, it generates the "configure" script, among other things, so that you do not need to have autoconf or automake on your system (of which autoreconf is a part of).
I might have screwed up, but back in the days, you could do something similar to "rpmbuild
tb quadra-1.3.0.tar.gz", and it would just spit out the binary RPM. :