Rüsselsheim Riviera: 1974 Opel Manta

If the Opel GT is a mini Corvette, some have said the contemporary Manta coupe is kind of like a mini Camaro—but I think it’s more like a pint-size Riviera, considering that its character leans more towards luxurious than sporty. It was even sold in the U.S. by Buick dealers. Here’s a ’74 Manta that has just emerged from a 29-year garaged slumber and is ready for a little attention; it’s here on eBay in Maple Heights, Ohio, with no bids on its reserve-free starting price of $1,800.99. Why the 99 cents, I’m not sure.

Designed under future GM vice president of design Chuck Jordan, with distinct BMW overtones to the frontal aspect married to a very GM-chic semi-fastback rear, the Manta was a very handsome little car with which Opel took aim at Ford’s Capri. At $3,275, the Manta was $291 cheaper than a Capri in 1974, although its 75 horsepower was also down five from the Euro Ford’s output with its smaller engine. The true elephant in this room, however, is the pair of big, anodized bumpers that mar ’74 and ’75 Mantas; pretty much everyone had trouble meeting the 5-mph impact requirement gracefully at first, but Opel’s new bumpers, designed to be used interchangeably on both the Manta and the related Ascona/1900 sedan, might have been the worst.

Not surprisingly, given its long rest, this Manta needs a good amount of work. Encouragingly, the seller states that the 1900-cc inline-four starts and runs, but needs work to be drivable. Opel parts aren’t the easiest to find in the U.S., but they’re far from impossible, and these are fairly simple, rugged cars. Probably more worrisome than any mechanical needs is the rust remediation needed on the body and undercarriage; the truly worrisome part is that the rust is noted but not pictured or detailed.

The true unobtanium is in the interior, and here, a buyer will be very lucky—the interior looks like the cleanest, most need-free part of this Manta. The seller describes this car as being great for restoration or parts; if the rust or mechanical issues prove too severe, this interior alone is worth buying this as a parts car. Unfortunately, this is a base car with very heavily grained vinyl, not the Luxus model with its impossible-to-find, quick-to-deteriorate corduroy, which would really make this a find. I really love the looks of the Manta, but as with most Opels, values are generally very low. What do you think of this one’s $1,800 (don’t forget the .99!) starting bid, considering its needs?

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Comments

  1. John T

    Back in the day, Opel in Germany (left side drive) and Vauxhall in England (right side drive) represented the European arm of GM. For a few years back in the 70’s, Opels (Remember the Kadett?) were exported for sale in the U.S. With apologies to the seller, I can not imagine a German car with anything but a stick shift so this Manta with the automatic doesn’t work for me. There is still a day left in the auction so hopefully someone will step up and bid.

    3+

  2. sparkster

    Had a chance to drive one of these in the mid 70’s. What a blast. The one I drove was a stick. Never understood why folks buy these with an automatic. The one I drove had the deep red ” burgundy ” cloth interior. Fast ? No . . . Fun ? yes

    5+

    • John T

      That’s what I’m talking about!

      1+

  3. Jubjub

    I had a white ’74 with a red interior. Very decent little garage find, well past it’s sell by date when I had it. Ended up selling it to an Opel guy up around Columbus Ohio.

    I had a photo of my Manta signed by Chuck Jordan. He really lit up when I showed him the pic and asked for his autograph. I just need to figure out what I did with it!

    2+

  4. Miguel

    You lost me at “Manta coupe is kind of like a mini Camaro”.

    0

    • ed the welder

      in Germany that’s exactly what they are considered…

      1+

    • ed the welder

      in Germany that’s exactly what they are considered…and the same for the owners

      2+

  5. Carol kapp McKnight

    I raced a 1975 Manta SCCA Show Room Stock B San Diego Region

    4+

    • BillyT

      Carol, I remember the days when the 1900 Sport Coupe/Rallye/Manta ruled SCCA Showroom stock to the extent that they outlawed it to make the series more diverse and competitive. Of course, they still allowed the Ascona/1900 Sedan to compete, which although not as aerodynamic, stepped up and was almost as dominating as the Manta. While not making as much power as some of the other cars in the series, the suspension was so well balanced as to be able to use its available power to its fullest.

      0

  6. ed the welder

    I had a ’75 fuel injection manta…finally parked it after 230,000 miles…great handling super cool little oddball…haven’t seen one since ’92… the battery box was directly over the fuse panel and rust was a big problem…and no , actually this was one of the best of the big bumper cars in 75…extruded aluminum clear coated bumpers with black plastic in between the bumper and the body…a damn good looking little German sporty car…mine was signal yellow with a four speed…

    3+

  7. Paul

    I had a 75. That replaced a 71 Capri (1600 engine). The Manga was a much nicer car. I liked the Capri a lot, but its transmission couldn’t stand up to me learning to drive a clutch; self taught.

    Anyway, on the Manta the return radiator hoses had a incoming hose from the heater core,as well as it having 2 different size ends. When I was home from college for a weekend, I was flushing the radiator and that hose came off in pieces. That was an unobtsinium part then (1982 or so). I had to leave the car at home and get a ride back with a guy who was picking up his Firebird (1st gen). I’d given him the ride home.

    My Dad had to go to the Buick dealer to get the hose and I came back home again the next weekend.

    Sold that to a friend to buy my first MG.

    1+

  8. Ken Carney

    My father in law bought one used in the fall of ’84. His was a weird
    shade of green with a black vinyl top and interior. Pop bought it from
    his brother, who was selling it for $150.00 because he thought that the
    reverse gear had gone out in the tranny. Pop waited until after the
    paperwork and cash changed hands before he fixed the “problem”
    right in front of us. Turned out that the gearshift ball was screwed on
    too tight and wasn’t allowing the reverse plunger under the gearshift
    ball to travel upward and engage the reverse gear that allowed the car
    to back up. Suffice it to say that his brother was pissed off about the
    whole affair, but a deal is a deal. The next funniest thing that recall
    about him buying the Manta was my 7 foot tall brother in law folding
    himself up in that thing and then drive it some 1,200 miles from Illinois
    to Florida when the family migrated here less than a month later. They
    said that the Opel was a great little car that was good on gas. Just
    couldn’t get past that green paint job though.

    0

  9. Jack Homen

    Discharged from the US Navy in 1975, my girlfriend now my wife had a 74. Of course it was green, she called it Frog. It was a fun little car with the four speed and great handling for the time period. One day my wife lost her wedding ring, several months later while cleaning the interior, I found it in the leatherette wrap of the gear shift. Hero for a day! Drove that car for years and then traded it in on a Pontiac Firebird Formula 400. What. A mistake, poor fuel mileage and constant repairs. We wanted Frog back.

    2+

  10. Caveman

    I bought one for a hundred bucks that smoked like a downed fighter plane and was chalky white. Replaced one rocker arm and passed emissions with flying colors. Buffed it out and it was a deep canary yellow, with a perfect black interior. Drove the hell out of it for two years, loved it.
    One extremely cold morning i went out to start it and the clutch made a loud bang and went to the floor. Below zero weather I said the hell with it and sold it to a guy that had been bugging me for a while.
    Next day his daughter drove up in it. it was a simple c-clip at the firewall holding the clutch cable….aaaaagggggghhh!

    3+

  11. angliagt

    I think the smaller bumpers look so much nicer on these.
    I love the Rallye version of these.

    0

  12. Howard A Member

    Opel “Mantra’s” were hot in the 70’s.( I never thought they looked like a Camaro, but I suppose) Asian small cars hadn’t quite evolved, and still had that “tinniness” to them, but here was a quality German car, do 100 mph and sold down the block at Frascona Buick ( anybody remember Frascona Buick in Milwaukee?), although, there were rumors, Opel owners had terrible times at dealers, as Buick, I heard, never wanted them to begin with and hurt sales of their own cars. I had a couple,( and several Kadetts) and several people I knew had Opel Manta’s, they were good cars. The 1.9 engine is a good motor, save for that awful Solex carb, and they needed a 5 speed. Asian’s were killing everybody with mileage. Rust is a major concern, the stubs to mount the front suspension rust, deeming the cars death. Many, MANY were junked. It’s so odd to see one pop up here. Thanks for the memories, Nathan. 🙂

    1+

  13. Derek

    The Mantas that we had here (Scotland) had a little manta ray badge on the front wing just ahead of the door.

    1+

  14. Peter

    If the cross-engine bay photo showing the top of the left, inner fender is what it looks like, then the inner fender has largely rotted free of the outer fender.

    If so, I’d expect the degree of rust throughout the car to be equally terrible, leading me to see this as a parts car.

    I’m guessing that Manta’s (and Opel GT’s and Kadett’s) were of unibody construction, and not body-on-frame. Will someone kindly clarify?

    If that’s a unibody car from the salt belt, with typical damage (like my ’71 Audi 100LS Coupe was–1st college car, and free) the rust remediation would far surpass the lower values these cars bring, as was mentioned.

    Which is too bad–I like Opels:
    GT–favorite Opel
    Manta–cool, especially yellow or lime, with black “racing” stripes
    Kadette–what’s not adorable about a little, two door, Teutonic “Nomad” Wagon? https://www.google.com/search?q=Opel+Kadett+Wagon&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjyr5DSva7VAhXDcD4KHaroAgoQ_AUICygC&biw=1011&bih=596

    Yes, the Kadette’s wheels, and wheelwells, are visually too small, and other design aspects appear somehow…stunted on the Kadetts, but they’re rear drive, usually stick shift and uncommon cars. And cheap, like me.

    I would much rather have a GT, but would consider a Manta–despite the alleged Camaro- homage, of which I’d not heard until today. (I’m definitely not a Camaro fan, so I must really dig the Manta’s.)

    0

  15. Gerry in Ohio

    I had an identical red ’74 Manta in the late ’70’s – great car until it was hit in the rear and totaled. It replaced a ’72 1900 wagon with severe structural rust problems. I preferred the wagon’s automatic transmission, and I think the wagon handled better. The grille from the Manta has been hanging has been hanging on the wall ever since.

    0

    • BillyT

      Back in the day when automatic transmissions in imports were not very reliable the Opel automatic was as close to bulletproof as you can get. Being a GM subsidiary they used a Turbo-Hydramatic 180 (3L30) which was a tough light duty automatic which ended up being used in a lot of small cars: both GM brand vehicles and others. They also used it in the US Postal Service mail delivery Jeeps and the type of use it got there was a testament to its durability.

      1+

  16. John T

    Auction has ended … No Bids, No Sale.

    0

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