Opel Manta: Crock or Classic?
Afternoon all, welcome back to my kitchen table, and to another episode of Crock or Classic, in which I look at previously overlooked cars that have the potential to be classics, or crocks, very soon. And in this episode, we’re going to be taking a look at the car that in my opinion, was the catalyst for the executive 80s coupe, the Opel Manta B2. When the first Opel Manta hit showrooms in 1970, it was met with harsh opposition from Opel’s middle-class, conservative market, and as a result it sold so poorly that Opel considered stopping production in 1973. However, by the dawn of the 1980s the social demographic had changed. The executive world was no longer full of stuffy, middle-aged white collar workers. There was now a new generation of young, high-flying executives, and they didn’t want a boring saloon or hatchback. They wanted a bit of fun, a sporty car with executive sensibilities. And the Opel Manta was just the car for the job.
The Opel Manta B2 (which is the car I drove recently) was released in 1982, replacing the rather dated looking Manta B, which looked like a Dolomite Sprint that had been at the pies, and sporting a wheezy little 1.2 litre engine. However, the Manta B2 came with a fiery 2 litre OHC unit, which combined with an optional fuel injection kit, brought the horsepower up from 108 on the old model to 123 bhp. The car also gained a racy new exterior, with more streamlined bodywork, a spoiler, and a more aggressive front end.
I had the pleasure of driving a genuine 1983 Manta, which had been restored to perfection by a friend. So on Tuesday, we went for a blast around some country roads. And that is where the Manta really comes into its own. The 5-speed transmission seems to read your mind, as the second your fingers reach for the gearstick, it responds immediately and changes gear without any lag whatsoever. The front end, while it isn’t twitchy or overly responsive, pulls around corners well and leaves very little oversteer, a good thing were you to take this car on a track day or circuit racing. The engine pulls well, unfortunately there are some throttle response issues. If you were to buy one of these, make sure to replace the throttle linkage, as it was an annoying problem when tackling tight bends.
One of the reasons why I like this car is because it instills a great sense of pride into the owner. Here’s an example; you drive to work one morning in your Manta. As you leave it in the car park alongside the gaggle of Cavaliers and dreary Sierras, you take a look back over your shoulder at your car, admiring it before you go inside. Once in work, you look out of the window regularly to appreciate your motor and make sure it hasn’t been vandalised or stolen. Once work has finished you drive home and just before you go back inside your house, you take another look back, immensley proud of your car. The particular Manta I drove didn’t even belong to me and I still found myself stealing glances back at it as we walked into the supermarket, just proud of the fact that I was the passenger in such a desirable car. It’s set apart from the other boring cars due to the fact that it looks racy and sporting and sleek.
Yet it blends seamlessly into a city environment. The looks are aggressive yet understated, which made it such a hit with young executive types. Honestly, this is a great looking car. This car was made at a time when understanding of aerodynamics and streamlining, and this was a transitional car, built between the times of square, slab-sided sensible cars and streamlined, aerodynamic cars. And it shows, but the slightly boxy bodywork gives a high posture while still looking sleek and streamlined. This all put together gives the car a look of understated aggression, like a sleeping black mamba. It could just be another executive coupe but there are subtle hints to tell you you’re dealing with something rather different, for example the small spoiler at the back and the protruding front lip.
My final thoughts on this car are this: get this while it’s still relatively unknown. This car is agile, quick, reliable, but most of all it is uber-cool, which is what makes it an instant classic in my opinion. However, prices are beginning to rise for cars of this age, so I advise picking one up as quickly as possible (the cheapest one I found online goes for a modest £6,300 but prices are rising), but all in all, this is a definite classic.
Thanks so much for reading guys, I really appreciate the support. I’ve expanded my account over to DriveTribe so if you wouldn’t mind checking me out there, that would be great. Stay tuned for the next article, and I’ll see you guys soon!