With the Manta A, Opel reacted lightning fast to the immensely popular Ford Capri, which was presented in 1969 as the ‘European Mustang’. Like the Ford Capri, the Opel Manta was an affordable family car with sporty looks, available with a huge range of engines. The offer started at a modest 1.2 and ran via various 1.6 liters to a 1.9 with ultimately a strong 105 hp.
Manta as a victim of the cap brigade
The Opel Manta A made many boys ‘and men’s hearts beat faster and with the Manta posters that adorned all Dutch boys’ rooms, you could fill up many football fields. But no matter how popular Opel’s sports coupe was, many classic enthusiasts turn their noses for the German ‘disco Ferrari’. This is mainly because the Manta A fell into the hands of the cap brigade at an advanced age, who found it necessary to ’embellish’ the car with all kinds of tupperware, wrong wheels and seat covers made of imitation sheep wool. A very dubious image was the result. The Manta B (1975-1988) awaited a similar fate, as evidenced by its role as the terror of Maaskantje in the various New Kids-films.
The big names behind the Opel Manta A are design chief Chuck Jordan, GM director Bob Lutz and designer George Gallion. In response to the Ford Capri, Jordan and Lutz came up with the Manta. They wanted to include the coupé in the program alongside the Opel Ascona A, which is already under development. In doing so, they made eager use of existing parts from the Opel Kadett and Rekord. This kept costs nice and low. The first prototypes of the Opel Manta still had the same nose as the Ascona. But Jordan managed to push through his own, much sportier front for the Manta. Nevertheless, the car was ready for production so quickly that Opel had to come up with a model name at the last minute. We will soon see a modern variant of that sporty front in the brand new Opel Mokka.
Where does the name Manta come from?
Again, it was Jordan who took the lead and called Giorgetto Giugiuaro. His design studio ItalDesign had built a car called Manta and Jordan got Giugiaro to sell the rights to this model name to General Motors for 10,000 marks (less than 5000 euros). And so the sporty Opel got the name of the manta ray. In the early model years, a Gallion-designed stylized metal mini-ray was placed at the bottom of the front fenders. Together with the various aluminum and stainless steel moldings, it is now one of the most difficult to obtain Manta parts.
What is the fastest Manta A?
The Opel Manta was regarded more as an elegant everyday coupé than as an ultra-sporty driving iron. The exception is the Manta 2800 TE, the most powerful Manta A ever. Only 79 of these were built by the Belgian company Transeurop Engineering. With pain and effort, this company spooned the 2.8-liter six-in-line from the Commodore into the engine compartment of a Manta 1.9 SR. With its 145 hp, it shot to 100 km / h in 7.5 seconds. Yet Opel did not want to hear about it; the car was not allowed to be sold with the Opel logo and is missing from all official Manta lists.
Opel Manta A almost extinct
Nearly half a million units of the Opel Manta A were produced between 1970 and 1975. Very few of them are left today. In the Netherlands this concerns a few dozen. Even with our eastern neighbors only 700 Mantas A are registered. Biggest culprit: rust. Most Mantas had rotted through within ten years. Their numbers had already been decimated by the mid-1980s. Especially after the introduction of the MOT in 1985, many Mantas A left for the eternal scrap fields.
Sporting successes Opel Ascona A.
With the civilian brother of the Opel Manta A, the Opel Ascona A, things actually ended even worse. Of the nearly 700,000 Asconas A built between 1970 and 1975, only a single copy is still alive. The house-garden-and-kitchen sedan (okay, it was also there as Voyage, an unsuccessful three-door station wagon) hardly had any enthusiasts who thought it worthwhile to keep it for posterity. Unjustified, because the Opel Ascona A also had the necessary successes in motorsport. For example, Walter Röhrl and his navigator Jochen Berger won the European Championship Rally in 1974 with the two-door Ascona SR.