"With the help of Bob Lutz, then sales manager of Opel, we just crammed that thing right through," Jordan continued. "As it turned out it was the right thing to do. The new front end sheet metal made it pretty sporty for time. It was as low as we could go and still keep the headlights legal."
The Manta was also a lesson in space utilization. The trunk's capacity belied its 10' cubic, being square, and it could swallow loads that taxed an Impala. "The Europeans were a lot smarter about space utilization," Jordan said, "because of their experience."
Though there were standard Manta coupes, the most desirable was the Rallye (1971-1974), which came with full instrumentation, driving lights, rallye-style wheels, trick paint job, and a sporting exhaust. An alternative was the Manta Luxus (1973- 1974), which was color coordinated in blues, silvers, or maroons, and fitted with posh corduroy upholstery but had none of the Rallye's "doo-dasa." You could, however, order a Luxus with a tachometer and auxiliary gauges.
All Mantas came with the 1.9 liter engine, detuned for emissions by then, which put 0-60 times to about 13 seconds, as were all the other Opels. What the Manta could do though, was handle...It was introduced with a brand new front suspension design and with an upgraded GT style rear suspension. The new front suspension design eliminated the oversteer problem that had plagued the transverse leaf spring suspensions of the GT and the Kadett. Compared to the Capri, the Manta was more a grand tourer than sports coupe. The Capri goes into oversteer when pressed, but for aggressive driving the Manta is much more relaxed. Equipped with Koni shocks it is also considerably tighter.
Opel left the Manta alone until 1975, when the emissions mandate caused Opel to add fuel injection. The Bosch L-Jetronic electronic computerized system, which precisely measures the amount of fuel for each cylinder. This cut into the gas mileage somewhat, but also brought up the performance back toward pre-1971 models.
There was no Rallye or Luxus in 1975, just the solitary coupe. Alas, the riding DeutschMark and fear of competition with the small sporty Buicks caused the European opels to vanish from the showroom floors after 1975. This regrettably caused us to miss the "new generation" Mantas of 1976, which the Europeans enjoyed until 1988. And in the European form, their Manta Berlinettas have performance that makes our own cars seem slow.
Mantas have never been looked upon as collectibles and probably never will be, which means that you can find a Rallye or Luxus in decent shape for as little as $750, or pay about $1500 for a nice original with low mileage. A fault common to the early Luxus is its cloth upholstery, which did not stand up to North American summer sun. Buick extended the upholstery warranty two years, and most have been redone by now, but be sure that if yours has been worked over, the material is identical to the original (there are numerous modern materials which closely match Luxus corduroy).
Among the Rallye models, the only real drawback is that boy-racer paint scheme. The fuel-injected 1975 Manta is, however, the way to go if you don't like messing with carburetors. Carburetor 1.9's are tricky to tune. On the other hand, when the injection packs up, you're in for a big bill. But the fuelies do offer better performance than the carb models. Opel mechanical parts are still in reasonable supply, through aftermarket vendors. What you can't get much of anymore are body parts, unless you shop in Europe. (Note: The parts availability has improved greatly since this article was written, and the installation of a replacement Weber 32/36 DGEV carburetor greatly simplifies the tune-up procedure).
The Opel GT and Manta Luxus are good cars. They are by no means great cars, and no one should ever expect them to be looked upon as such. Their attraction for the car collector is the way they work. All of these components function so wonderfully well together, that it makes you wonder if we've learned anything since. And the Manta's hold up extremely well -- far better than Capri's. As for the intriguing 1.9 liter engines, a local mechanic tells me: "they're just hitting their stride at 100,000 miles." I hope he's right. I have that and more planned for my own.