The Opel Manta
was a rear-wheel-drive sports coupé motor vehicle built by
Opel, a subsidiary of General Motors, from 1970 to 1988.
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The Manta A was released in September 1970, two months ahead of the then new
Opel Ascona on which it was based. A competitor to the Ford Capri, it was a
two-door "three-box" coupé, and featured distinctive round tail lights, quite
similar to those on the Opel GT and which in fact were used on the GT in 1973,
its final model year. In the UK market, the first Manta was sold only as an
Opel: there was no Vauxhall-branded Manta (or Ascona) until after the launch, in
1975, of the Manta B1 and Ascona B. (In the UK the Ford Capri niche was till
1975 contested, with only limited success, by Vauxhall's Firenza, based on the
by now aging Vauxhall Viva.)
The sales approach for the Opel line in the U.S. Market was equally odd. The
Manta A was one of only a few Opel models sold in the U.S. Market. Opels were
imported by GM and sold through Buick dealerships and not their own dealership
network, so they were limited in what makes and models they could sell here.
Other Opel models sold in the U.S. market were the 1956–61 the Rekord P1 and
Rekord P2, the Kadett A (1964–66), Kadett B (1967–71), GT (1969–73), Manta /
Ascona A (1971–75). The Ascona A, was the saloon version of the Manta A chassis
and was sold in the U.S. under the 1900 name as a 2 door and 4 door saloon and 2
door "Sport Wagon". The only difference between the Ascona and Manta was
exterior sheet metal, glass and trim. The frame, all the mechanicals, dash,
front seats, and many other parts were shared between the cars. The Manta was
even sold in 1971 and 1972, as the 1900 Sport Coupe, not the Manta. In 1973 the
Manta nameplate was added to the U.S.-spec Mantas, but the Asconas kept the 1900
badge throughout their model life. The last year GM imported European made Opels
into the United States, under their marquee, was 1975. In that year the only
Opels imported were the Manta and Ascona A.
The Manta was normally equipped with a 1.6–1.9 litre CIH engines, although in
Europe a small 1.2 litre motor was offered. All Mantas sold in the U.S. had the
1.9L and larger heavy duty radiator (an option on European models). It came with
either a 4 speed manual or an optional 3-speed TH-180 automatic. The Manta was
known to be one of the best handling cars in its class and went on to win a
large number of rallies in Europe and the United States.
In the U.S. Market, there was a sport model known as the Rallye from 1971-74.
The "Rallye" model was overall an appearance and gauge package, the most
noticeable difference was the addition of a Black Hood and on 1970-73 models
addition of fog lamps. Mechanically the only difference was the gear ratio in
the models with manual transmissions, and the Rallye model came with standard
stiffer suspension, tighter turning radius, and very aggressive front caster
adjustments. Both had dual rear sway bars, providing the best in class handling.
In 1973 and 1974 there was also the "Luxus" model which included
"refinements" like corduroy seats, colour-coded interiors (blue or burgundy),
and faux wood panelling. The only special edition Manta ever produced for the
U.S. market was the "Blue Max" in 1973, this amounted to a blue 1973 Luxus
model, with a unique dark blue vinyl roof, mechanical sunroof, and automatic
In 1975, All Manta and 1900 models were equipped with the Bosch L-Jetronic
fuel injection in the United States due to emission regulations. Yet in Europe
this feature was only available on the high end GT/E Models, which also sported
fog lamps and a lower front spoiler, which was not offered on any of the U.S.
Spec Manta models. Also of note is that the 1974–75 Opel Manta Models sported
large aluminium 5 mph (8 km/h) bumpers to comply with U.S. crash standards of
the time; the European Mantas did not receive the large bumpers.
With the Deutsche Mark becoming stronger, and with other costs also rising,
US imports of Opels ended in 1975. Instead, the Isuzu Gemini version of the
T-car was imported from Japan and sold by Buick dealers as the "Opel by Isuzu",
later "Buick Opel". The Opel name was last used in the US in 1979.
The European market had a number of different versions of their own. Most
were basic trim packages, the most popular being the "Berlinetta", which was
similar to the "Luxus" but included rubber trim on the bumpers (standard on all
1973 U.S. Opel Mantas), vinyl roof, and other misc. features. The one major
exception being in 1975 Opel offered the GT/E and a number of special editions
based on the GT/E. The GT/E was a fuel injected version of the European 1.9L and
the performance figures were very impressive for the time. Most notable special
editions models based on the GT/E were the "Black Magic" (with black and plaid
interior), and the "Swinger" edition in white with an equally odd interior
Manta A-series cars
There were two different special models made of the Manta A. The primary
objective was to up the power of the car. Both projects started approximately at
the same time (around 1972–73). There was the Turbomanta and the TE2800.
The Turbomanta is the rarer of the two. Production was a total of 33
cars ever made, whereas the 5 of them were the prototypes, and the ones used for
The Turbomanta is actually a 1973 SR with a 1.9 litre "S" spec engine,
originally putting out 90 bhp (67 kW). The British company "Broadspeed" was
chosen to build the turbo cars, and eventually started building 5 left hand
drive cars for the German Opel AG. These cars were meant only as prototypes.
Broadspeed came up with a somewhat special solution, and used a combination of a
Holset 3LDG turbocharger, and a carburettor mounted inside a big plenum chamber.
The engine itself was fitted with a thicker copper head gasket, and as such the
compression ratio was lowered to 7.6:1. The outcome was a 1.9 litre engine which
put out a staggering 156 bhp (116 kW), and more impressive was the acceleration.
0–60 was done in only 7.6 seconds, faster than most "supercars" at the time like
the Porsche 911.
All 5 cars were in GM "signalgelb" sunflower yellow, and had a large black
stripe on the side, where a sign said "TURBOMANTA". The downside to this was
fuel consumption. The turbocharger had halved the economy of the car, and
building it was also a thing that cost a lot. Therefore Opel closed the project,
leaving the 5 cars as the total production number. However a British engineer at
the D.O.T (Dealer Opel Team, which was the British importer and builder of Opel
cars in Britain) was so enthusiastic about the cars that he had D.O.T. build an
additional 28 cars.
The cars were all based on the 1974 Berlinetta model, which was the luxury
model, with a full gauge pack, automatic transmission, and alloy wheels. All 28
cars were black, with vinyl roofing. The only thing identifying that the car was
indeed a Turbo Manta was a small sign at the rear quarter of the rear wings
saying "turbo". Very few of these cars still remain today. the car also had
The TE2800 was a totally different project. Actually the TE2800 wasn't
really an Opel as Opel had nothing to do with the project. A Belgium company
called Transeurop Engineering also wanted to up the engine power of the Manta A.
Opel had previously tried a 6 cylinder engine layout already in 1971 and 72, but
with no success. The cars were rendered too expensive to build, and the market
was overwhelmed at the time with big engine cars. But Transeurop Engineering did
not agree. They basically took a 2.8 litre CIH type engine from the Opel
Commodore 2.8GS model and fitted it into the engine bay of the Manta 1.9SR. A
lot of problems occurred. The radiator, the bonnet, the entire front end of the
car, the rear axle, the transmission, it all needed to be changed. To solve this
fast Transeurop Engineering tried to get Opel to join the project using Opels
earlier experiences with the transformation, but with no luck.
Even worse Opel didn't even want the Opel brand on the cars, if the project
ever became a success. Transeurop Engineering therefore turned to Opel's number
one tuner of the time Steinmetz. Steinmetz supplied the new fibreglass bonnet
with a large bulk on it to give room to the engine, a set of widened arches, and
a special front bumper integrated with the lower front spoiler, to make room for
the dramatically changes that needed to be made to the cars front end
construction. Several of this was cut out and replaced with other parts being
mounted further to the ground to give room for the radiator.
A closed radiator system was installed so that the radiator had a water tank
in the engine bay (like we know it from modern cars today). The engine was still
the 2.8 litre unit from the Commodore GS and this was originally fitted with 2
Zenith carburettors. The output was 142 bhp (106 kW), and with the Commodore 4
speed manual gearbox and a 3,18:1 rear axle the car went from 0–60 mph in just
7.5 seconds. A total of 79 cars were made and sold through Steinmetz in Germany
branded not as an Opel but as a TE2800. All Opel brands was removed from the
cars and replaced by the logo "TE".
Steinmets offered a tune-up for rally and motorsport use. The tuneup
consisted of porting and flowing the head, higher compression ratio, a race spec
camshaft, and triple carburettors, giving the car a total of up to 230 bhp (172
No doubt that the TE2800 is the fastest Manta A ever made, even though
officially it isn't an Opel. It could outrun cars like the 911 Carrera of 1973
and the BMW2002 turbo from 1973, even though those cars had more engine power.
The low weight of the Manta bodyshell, and the combination of the right gear
ratios, was what gave the car its success. Unfortunately Opel was right though.
The cars were too expensive costing almost twice the price of a 105 bhp (78 kW)
GT/E in 1975. Very few of these cars exist today, as most were used in rally and
motorsport events, approximately 24 were made.
Opel Manta 1970-75 Road Test Limited Edition)
Manta was introduced as a result of public demand for something other than a box
on wheels. This is a book of contemporary road & comparison tests, model intros,
extended use survey, owners survey & buying second hand. Covers the 1.6, 1.9,
2.8L Rallye, Luxus & Coupe"
1975-1988: Opel Manta B
The second car to use the Manta name was launched in August 1975.
This two-door "three-box" car was mechanically based directly on the then newly
redesigned Opel Ascona, but the overall design was influenced by the 1975
Chevrolet Monza. The Manta had more "sporty" styling, including a droop-snoot
nose not seen on the Ascona, although it was standard, on the UK version of the
Ascona, the Vauxhall Cavalier. There was still no "Vauxhall Manta", with the car
remaining an Opel in the UK. However, a Vauxhall Cavalier was available with the
same coupé body shell.
Engines where available ranging from the small 1,2 litre OHV engine, the 1,6
litre CIH and the 1,9 litre CIH. Also in 1976 the GT/E engine from the Manta A
series was adapted into the Manta B programme spawning the GT/E Manta B series.
In 1979 the GT/E had the engine replaced with the new 2,0 litre CIH and with a
new designed Bosch L injection system. Power output was now 110 bhp (82 kW). The
1.9 litre engine gave way to the 2,0 litre S engine which was aspirated by a
Varajet II carburettor. This engine was the most used engine by Opel at the
time, and was to be found in several Opel Rekord cars.
In 1977, a three-door hatchback version appeared to complement the existing
two-door booted car. This shape was also not unique, being available on the
Vauxhall Cavalier Sports Hatch variant.
Both Manta versions received a facelift in 1982, which included a plastic
front spoiler, sideskirts for the GT/E and GSi models, a small wing at the rear
and quadruple air intakes on the grille. Also the 1.2, 1.6 and 1.9 litre engines
were discontinued and replaced by the 1.3 litre OHC engine, the 1.8 litre OHC
and the 2.0 litre S and E CIH engines. The GT/E was renamed and was called the
GSi from 1983.
Production of the Manta continued well after the equivalent Ascona and
Cavalier were replaced by a front wheel drive model "Ascona C". In 1982 the 1,8
litre OHC engine from the Ascona was fitted in the Manta B making a more
economical Manta B to drive. It could run 14 km per litre and use unleaded fuel.
The 1,8 was very popular and was in production for 5 years (1982-1987). The 2,0S
models where discontinued in 1984 and only the GSi was available with the
"large" engine. In 1986 Opel released the last Manta B model the Exclusive,
giving it all of the best in equipment. Recaro seats with red cloth, grey
leather like interior and the full body pack known from the i200 models.
consisted of twin round headlights in a plastic cover, front spoiler and rear
lower spoiler from Irmscher, side skirts and the known 3 split rear spoiler of
the Manta 400 (producing 80 kg (176 lb) of weight on the rear at 200 km/h). Opel
finally ceased the production of the Manta B in 1988, only producing the GSi
exclusive the last 2 years. Sales continued in 1989 until the Manta was replaced
by the Opel Calibra (known as the "Vauxhall Calibra" in the UK).
Today, these cars are hard to find in an original, good condition;
consequently the value has risen considerably over the last few years. It has
again become popular, because of its good looks and well-respected handling.
From 1979 until 1983 Opel offered special "homologation" rally versions of
Manta, the Group B Manta 400. This model was produced in very small
numbers in a variety of special Rally specifications. This variant used the
two-door body for its strength and was fitted with a 16 valve 2410cc engine
supplied by Cosworth, coupled to a five-speed gearbox. For lightness Manta rally
cars came with Kevlar body panels and special wheels fabricated by Ronal.
GM, from 1978 until 1979 offered the Cavalier Coupe in convertible format
called the Centaur. Only 118 of these where made and less than 30 are
believed to survive today (2007). About a quarter of these conversions used
Manta Coupes. The cars were developed by Magraw Engineering and sold through
Vauxhall dealerships on behalf of Crayford.
More Photos of Opel Manta Autos
Manta 400 rally car driven at the Race Retro 2008.
Opel Manta - A
Opel Manta 1972
Opel Manta GT-E 1983 Rallye Catalunya - Costa Brava
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Opel Manta GT/E B2 from the 1980's
Comments, Questions & Answers
a nice sporty little number !