Rüsselsheim Redux: 1973 Opel Manta

By Nathan Avots-Smith

A couple of weeks ago, we featured a ’74 Opel Manta project car. The comments were full of fond memories about Mantas that readers had owned or experienced, but opinions of that particular example coalesced around three objections: rust, the big, 5-MPH bumpers, and the automatic transmission. We’re nothing if not responsive to our readers’ needs, so in that spirit, here’s a redo of sorts: a ’73 Manta (smaller bumpers, check), with a four speed (check), and a claimed lack of rust (check). Let’s take a look at this Teutonic beauty, offered on craigslist in Riverside, California for $4,000 and see how it stacks up.

That last Manta we featured sported a vinyl roof; this one has a sunroof instead. I’m not saying I would turn down the full combo platter, but if forced to choose between the two, I think this is the route I would go. I might be a glutton for punishment, though—the panel doesn’t seem to be seating correctly in any of the photos.

Where that ’74 was rusty and crusty outside but incredibly clean inside, this rust-free ’73 is a little rougher in the cabin. This perforated vinyl looks and probably feels more luxurious (and breathable) than the heavily grained elephant hide upholstery used in the later car, but it clearly wasn’t as durable. The California sun has also taken its toll on the dashboard of this original blue plate coupe. Still, there is the all-important third pedal, and the blue-over-blue color scheme is pretty fetching.

While the interior and exterior have their share of bumps and bruises, things look reassuringly tidy underhood, other than an air cleaner that’s MIA. Although mileage is undisclosed, the car is said to run great, and it looks like some original documentation comes with it, usually a good sign of an owner that cares.

So this time we have a Manta that shows some wear and tear, but is straight and rust-free, wears much more graceful bumpers, runs and drives, and does so with the fun of a four speed. That ’74 was listed at a starting bid of $1,800.99, didn’t sell, was relisted at $1,425 and appears to have again failed to sell. This one’s more than double the price at $4,000, but it checks all the right boxes; any takers this time?

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  1. CJay

    Had a 1974 I paid $400 for. The story goes.
    We closed the bar that night, my cousin was sleeping in the back seat, using the fender well as a pillow.
    When the right rear tire exploded and proceeded to beat the h*** out of the rear quarter panel!
    “Aren’t you going to stop?” she hollered over the racket.
    I said “Why? I know its flat! and I don’t have a spare!” And so we drove it the 15 miles home. Wasn’t much left of the rim.
    Fun little car, shame it rusted away.

  2. Howard A Member

    Spray can rebuild, and that’s not the original Solex on there.( probably why no air cleaner) It’s Pinto carb. Helped immensely. I did the same thing with my Opel’s. It’s gone, so someone grabbed it fast. This and the last Manta are the only ones I’ve seen in years. They were so common at one time. Junked them all, except these 2, apparently. Great cars.

  3. Pete

    A really cool-looking compact. I preferred these over the GT, automatic or not.

  4. Chris A.

    I had a ’73 dark blue Luxus in upstate rust belt NY. The Ziebart protection both outside and inside panels really worked well. GM’s Opel shop manual made it easy to work on and it was a reliable and quiet car. However the sun baked out the Luxus interior which was replaced under warranty. Once the original tires were upgraded with Michelin slightly larger tires it was a great road car. These have a huge usable trunk because the spare sits upright in the fender well. All it needed was a bit more power and a 5 speed. “More Opel” could supply all you needed to upgrade and get more power. I think you could also source a 5 speed through them. Interior trim wasn’t anywhere near the quality of the chassis and body.

  5. tje

    I had a 75 – with the ugly bumpers. 1.9L with fuel injection and a 4 speed. Drove it for 9 years and sold it for $200 – that’d be around 84.

    Enjoyed it, but I’d not want another one.

  6. michael

    post was deleted

  7. chuck

    I had a Manta with the flat black hood. Silver, black interior. The Road & Track sports sedan comparison showed it to out-handle any of the competition. Not as powerful and quick, but it scrubbed off so much less speed in the turns, that it won. German handling! Loved that car!

  8. Rolf Poncho 455

    O yes what a nice shape car I like’m
    here is mine getting it ready for paint

  9. Diego

    Now this baby blue 1973 Opel Manta is in my driveway. It’s all original 1 owner car with documentation. 0 rust! It has a very rare factory sunroof. I’m ready to start restoring it!
    I am also about to close another deal with one already restored burgundy 1972 Opel Manta.

    • Nathan Avots-Smith Staff

      Congratulations! Glad this car found a good home.


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