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Speed and rust have taken the lives of most

The Ford Capri came first, and when the Manta came the following year, it was possible for everyone to own a sports coupe for the same price as a regular passenger car. The European counterpart to the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro. The Manta A came in 1970 and was an incredibly beautiful car, not as sporty to drive as it looked, but nevertheless a smart sports car for the people. It shared a technical platform with the Ascona, so it was not a technically advanced car. It was robust technology taken from GM European models. The engine selection was not large either, 1.2 OHV engine from Kadett and 1.6 and 1.9 CIH engine with an output from 54 - 90 hp. That's what there was to choose from to begin with. However, the model also got a top model in the form of SR AND GT/E models with up to 105 hp. It was a lot for such a light and aerodynamic car, and with the black bonnet and speed stripes it spoke to the speed lovers. The sporty models were equipped with additional instrumentation, sports seats, front spoiler, and as an option they could even be supplied with a limited slip differential.

There were clearly many who dreamed of owning a sporty car with 4 seats that didn't cost a fortune. In the 18 years the Manta was in production, over two million of the model were sold. Divided roughly equally between the A and B models. Common to both models was the Coupe shape with the long bonnet and the frameless doors. The B model that came in 1975 remained in production for 12 years and thus became one of Opel's longest-lived models ever. Although the B model initially had the same engine range, the body was longer and wider and, not least, somewhat more robust, with a roll bar firmly positioned between the b-pillars. The B model had a 40% stiffer body and more precise driving characteristics. The Manta B survived the sister model Ascona B by several years and was only replaced by the Calibra model in 1988. The Manta thus became the last mid-range Opel with rear-wheel drive. By 1988, the Manta was hopelessly out of date, and it's a wonder that Opel didn't build a modern Manta, because the Manta had become a bit of a legend for at least a couple of generations of speed-loving boys and girls, and so many Mantas were rebuilt and tuned beyond recognition. The combination of speed-loving owners and rust has taken the lives of most. To such an extent that an original Manta is a rarity. Manta came in a number of special models. The B model even came as both an i200 and an i400 version. The CIH engine accommodated the possibility of boring, so the CIH block laid the foundation for many variants. The version with 2.0 and 100 hp was introduced in 1979, and the 1.6-liter version disappeared from the Manta program at the same time. The most common engine in the B model was the 2.0 engine, with injection it produced 110 hp. After the facelift in 1981, the model got four front air gills instead of two, and the more modern 1.3 and 1.8 liter OHC engines became available in the Manta. Especially the 1.8 GT with the fine Getrag gearbox was popular in this country. Why the 118 hp 1.8 GT/E engine from the Kadett or the 160 hp GSI engine never found its way to the Manta, one can wonder. On the other hand, the i400 was a very interesting car. With a 2.4 liter 16 V engine and 156 hp, it was a wild affair. It had reinforced bodywork, disc brakes all round, locked differential and ZF gearbox. It was a technical treat where nothing was spared. The I400 was at the forefront of rally sport's most distinguished class for many years. All top models had a nice Recaro cabin, this, combined with the legendary driving position found in both Ascona and Manta, gave the car a rare form of raw driving pleasure, which is difficult to describe, but which everyone who has driven these cars remembers. A Manta is so easy to drive. Despite the slightly primitive undercarriage, a Manta drives very well, and especially on loose surfaces, it is an enjoyable car to drive. A slightly funny thing about the Manta and Ascona is that the more modern engines from front-wheel drive models fit on the gearbox, so it is possible for the dexterous to enjoy a modern machine in a Manta. So a 16V converted Manta is an option, and it's even possible to get conversions of that type sight if you spend a little money to upgrade the brakes so they can rein in the engine.

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When I bought a new Opel Kadett City in 1978, the dream was a Kadett C Coupe GTE or Manta B. But the money wasn't enough. Such dreams have a tendency to linger. In 2005, my daughter got her driving license, and of course she also had to experience a "real" Opel with rear-wheel drive. When she moved away from home, it was in my older brother's old Ascona B, which I had renovated a few years before. She liked it, but I started looking for a slightly more modern car for her (read: a Manta B 1.8 GT).

The Opel 1.8 OHC engine was a much better machine than the old CIH engines, and with the ultra-precise 5-speed Getrag gearbox, a Manta B drives better than you'd think. But by 2005, snaps were getting a long way when it came to an original Manta B. I did find a few, but the people who owned them thought they were worth a fortune, and I didn't agree, so it instead became a Golf GT.


One of the Mantas I was out looking at in 2005 was in Tåstrup and was a one-owner car that had driven 69,000 km. But even though it was 100% original, it was rusty and stained beyond all limits. In 2008, the owner called me and said that now I could buy it for what I offered for it in 2005. She was getting too old to drive and the Manta had to go. In a moment of weakness I took the plunge and now for the first time in my life owned an Opel Manta.

I picked it up in Copenhagen and drove it home to Grindsted. On the way home I sat and rejoiced at how well it went. A shame it was so rusty! I knew it had to have the whole trip and what that entailed in terms of time and money. It was rusted in the fender edges in the back, rusted in panels, had a thoroughly rusted door post. It had to have a new door and a couple of new fenders. The rust work had to be done properly and therefore took its time, the painter also took his time. In fact, it took until December 2011 before I could start assembling it again. I enjoyed assembling it, and in April 2012 it rolled out of the workshop, into the spring sun.

It always takes some time to fix all the minor mistakes and get an old car running as it should again. Those who had serviced this Manta had not done their job properly. It was so neglected! so the full service was due, this included: brakes, exhaust, springs and shock absorbers. Much had to be changed, then a frost plug blew in the engine block, which had rusted through, and then the head gasket blew. But when it was fixed, the driving pleasure was back. Of course it had to have ATS rims, this time in 14 inches, which I think suits it. Last update was new original rubber bushings in the undercarriage all round, found on eBay. Since it got back on the road, it has covered 30,000 km. To say I enjoy driving this car is an understatement. When it went out of production in 1988, it was hopelessly out of date compared to cars such as the Toyota Celica. But the indefinable driving pleasure that this car gives me outweighs the age-old technology rooted in the 70s.

I could spend a long time describing my joy in driving this car, but I won't. It is difficult to put into words how happy I am with this original car. There are not many original Mantas left. And some will think a Manta is a bit of a bad style, burdened by the many broken and screwed-up examples you saw on the roads in the 90s. I totally don't care. I remember the Manta's heyday, when it was every healthy boy's car dream. I am happy to own one of the last originals!

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