Opel Manta B and C buying guide (1975-1988)http://www.classicandperformancecar.comClassic and Performance CarClassic and Performance Car
Back in the 1970s the coupe was king. You could have your pick of stylish two-door machines, the most obvious of which was the Ford Capri. But for those who wanted to be different there was the Opel Manta and its cousin the Vauxhall Cavalier coupe and Sportshatch.
The problem for GM was that too many people didn’t care about being obvious, which is why the Manta was overshadowed by the Capri for all of its life. As a result, for many the Manta has been below the radar ever since it was launched.
But every cloud and all that; this near-invisibility means Manta prices are much lower despite the fact that the Opel is every bit as usable as the Ford, arguably just as stylish and just as good to drive – although there was never anything bigger than a 2.0-litre four-pot in the nose as standard, so there was no V6 option. But fitting later 16-valve engines (or ever Carlton GSI24v engines) and gearboxes is simplicity itself and tuning parts are easy to come by.
So if you want a smart piece of seventies history that’s quick, unusual, usable and affordable, look no further than the Opel Manta, or its even more affordable Vauxhall Cavalier coupé and Sportshatch cousins.
Which one to buy?
The Manta was offered with a 1.2-litre engine that didn’t come to the UK along with a 1.6-litre engine that did, but which was soon killed off because of its unpopularity. That leaves the 1.8, 1.9 and 2.0-litre powerplants, although the former unit is relatively unusual.
As is often the way, the earlier cars have a purer design but the later cars are the most sought after as they’re the most heavily developed. Pre-1982 cars are also getting very rare, which is why you’ll probably end up with a fuel-injected GT/E or GT/E Exclusive (later just Exclusive) that arrived in 1986. These final editions are the fastest of the breed but also the most rot-prone, so buy with care. Also be wary of modified cars; there are lots about and many have been upgraded to a superb standard. But once you’re into the realms of engine and transmission swaps, the potential is there for bodgery, so just check everything has been done properly.
Coupés are more popular than hatches while Opels are much more sought after than Vauxhalls; it’s not unusual for a spot of rebadging to take place. The bottom line is that all Mantas represent top value – it’s finding a minter that’s the challenge.
Performance and spec
Opel Manta GT/E Engine 1979cc, four-cylinder Power 110bhp @ 5400rpm Torque 120lb ft @ 3400rpm Top speed 120mph 0-60mph 9.0sec Consumption 29mpg Gearbox Five-speed manual
• No Manta was well protected from corrosion, whether it was built in the 1970s or the 1980s. It doesn’t help that panel availability is poor, so assume that any potential purchase will have some rust and don’t be too eager to take on a project.
• If water leaks into the cabin (via the frameless windows) will soak the carpets and rot the floorpans. The sills are also rot-prone and so are the chassis legs under the bulkhead, especially on sunroof-equipped cars. The ‘roof’s drain hole feeds water into the chassis legs from where it should drain, but the drain holes get blocked.
• Other weak areas include the jacking points and the A-post, the wheelarches and the door bottoms as well as the tailgate or bootlid. Frequently overlooked are the sections behind the headlights, the panel under the washer bottle plus the battery tray, behind the headlights and under the washer bottle.
• The most common problems with any Manta engine are blown head gaskets and oil leaks, but these can be fixed easily enough. If the engine is overheating, suspect a radiator full of debris.
• Manta engines will run for 150,000 miles between rebuilds if properly maintained, which in the case of the 1.8-litre unit means replacing the cam belt every five years or 30,000 miles. The other powerplants are chain-driven so you can expect reliability, but plenty of engine noise too.
• Most Mantas are fitted with a manual gearbox with either four or five ratios. There were some autos too but they’re not sought after which is why many have been converted to manuals. The five-speed gearbox fitted to all Mantas from 1982 is very strong but third-gear synchromesh wears, so check for baulking. Used gearboxes can be picked up but those for the 1.8-litre cars are significantly more expensive than those for the 1.9 and 2.0-litre cars.
• Expect at least 80,000 miles from a clutch and don’t be surprised if what’s fitted is sharp, as adjustment is awkward. Lavishing some time on it can pay dividends.
• The steering is reliable but broken suspension coil springs aren’t unusual. Standard replacements aren’t available but uprated alternatives are, and they’re not costly.
• The brakes are strong and reliable, but tend to seize up on cars driven only occasionally. If the brake pedal is hard the chances are everything needs to be stripped down and greased – it’s the front anchors that are the most likely to need attention.
• Electrical problems are relatively unusual thanks to the Manta’s simplicity, but a failed voltage stabiliser will lead to erratic gauge readings. New solid state alternatives can be fitted cheaply and easily though.
• The interior trim is hard wearing but if anything is damaged or missing you’ll have your work cut out finding replacement parts. It’s the same with the exterior trim; there isn’t much of it, but any missing parts will be hard to track down.
1975: Manta B arrives in coupé form alongside the identical Vauxhall Cavalier GLS coupé. There are 1.6 or 1.9-litre engines for the Manta; the former would be killed off in 1978. 1978: The 1.9-litre engine is replaced by a 2.0-litre unit and there’s now a hatchback, or Sports Hatch in Cavalier form – the latter would die in 1981. 1982: The Manta is refreshed in 1982 to become the Manta C in the UK (the Europeans retained the Manta B tag). The 2.0-litre engine is superseded by a 1.8-litre OHC unit. 1983: The 2.0-litre engine is reintroduced in 110bhp fuel-injected form. 1988: The last Manta is made.
Key clubs and websites
• www.mantaclub.org • www.mantaworld.com
Summary and prices
Prices are still relatively affordable, but the relative rarity of early models does mean you will pay a premium for top examples. For a concours example you could potentially pay £6000-£7000, however £4000 is enough to bag a highly presentable runner. Projects can still be picked up for less than £1000. The sporty Cavalier models are considerably cheaper – with £2500 enough to pick up a nice one – however these never got the upgrades fitted to the more desirable later Manta models.