By on December 31, 2009

a manta washed ashore in Half Moon Bay

You never know what will wash ashore on the beaches of Half Moon Bay. Heading for the coffee/wifi cafe to send these dispatches, what do I find in the parking lot, but a pristine 1971 (or ’72) Manta. As you may remember, the best I could in Eugene was this ’74 in a carport that probably hadn’t been driven in some ten years.

CCSM 76 004 800

But this Opel is still taking its elderly driver on her errands. And it was a stick too. There’s no doubt in my mind that this is a one-owna’ Manta. Even has the after-market/dealer installed rubber side protection strip. Must avoid parking lot dings, and keep the old Manta looking good for another decade or two! Parts? Why there’s that Buick dealer in San Mateo…

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44 Comments on “Curbside Classic CA Vacation Edition: Super-Rare 1971 Opel Manta...”

  • avatar

    I love the look of this car.  Very classic.  The color even works for me.

  • avatar

    My Uncle Tim’s “old yellow car” that’s what the yellow one looks like.  I only remember riding in it once, but it sure seemed like Uncle Tim had an attachment to it.  Replaced it in the mid 1980s with the last generation of rear drive Pontiac Grand Prix coupe.

  • avatar

    I saw a Manta just the other day on my commute through Seattle on I-5. Nearly snapped my head off doing a double-take.

  • avatar

    A Manta was the first car (used) I ever shopped, back in about ’84. It had bumper-mounted driving lights and I loved the kicked-up tail and the comprehensive gauge package. But sadly, it was a rust bucket and I had to turn it down. It was the last running Manta I ever laid eyes on. I bought a Plymouth Arrow instead.

  • avatar

    An Opel Manta was my first car. I bought it new with a black hood and fog lights in ’71.
    Ran well, but  Buick dealer service consisted of trying to get me to trade up to a Buick.

  • avatar

    Soooooooooooooo Coooooooooool.

    I’d buy one in a heartbeat…

  • avatar

    I owned a 1971 Opel Manta. I loved it. I won many Autocrosses with it. BMW and Porsche owners hated me. Sometimes had FTD. Very fast and reliable.

  • avatar

    Does the grille opening remind anyone else of the new Camaro?

    • 0 avatar

      I sort of see it the other way around…I see reminders of the 1969 Camaro’s front end in the Manta.

      Which makes sense: GM did the same thing by mimicking the design of the ’68 – ’82 “Mako Shark” Corvette on the Opel GT.

  • avatar

    I like Opel Mantas, especially this one;

  • avatar

    Here’s a vintage ad:

  • avatar

    the McLaren F1, Mazda RX3, Narva truck tail lights are epic

  • avatar

    Just curious if anyone else sees a sleeker version of the BMW 2002 in this design?  Such a shame that save for a very few, most car designs today seem like they were penned by autobots rather than people.

  • avatar
    also Tom

    A lot of these got made into drag racing cars.

  • avatar

    I liked the 1900 wagon. We bought one from my wife’s boss and drove it for several years. Eventually we traded it to some younger friends just starting out. They wallpapered our house foyer in exchange. They got 2 or 3 years out of it until it wouldn’t pass inspection – rusty suspension mount point. Even when old and beat up, the steering  feel was so much better than the gudgeon and pintle level vagueness of my previous Motown rides – specifically a 66 Dodge Polara.

  • avatar

    Bought a 1972 Opel Kadette when I move to Boulder in 1976 for around $500. Drove it cross country and all around town. A great car! A bit similar to the Datsun 510 that replaced it a few years later.

  • avatar

    I had a co-worker who owned one of these (in blue) back in the day. The real memory that I have of the Manta is the one that I saw apparently blow it’s engine on NB I-15 approximately 35 miles north of Cedar City, Utah as it tried to keep pace with my  new ’74 Fiat X1/9.
    My heart went out to the driver and then I put the 8 track of Robin Trower’s “Bridge of Sighs” into the deck, fired up a fat one  and motored on.

  • avatar

    such timeless understated, styling

  • avatar

    I owned a ’74 model in the early 1980’s while I was a grad student. It was a great car. It wasn’t particularly “fast” and didn’t have “sports car” handling, but it was extremely all-around competent. It was fast enough (in its time) to be fun, handled as well as any European “sports sedan” (of the time), was rock-solid reliable, comfortable for long hauls (I drove it back and forth between school in Indiana and home in New York), and was easy to work on. And, it had character and personality – I looked forward to driving it. It was a very satisfying car, and ranks up there as one of the best all-arounders I’ve ever owned (until a middle of the night crash into a deer outside of Binghamton NY put an end to it).

    It’s a shame there aren’t more cars like it around today. Yes, a Corolla or Civic will beat it in any “performance” measure, but somehow, they aren’t as much fun to drive and are not as engaging. I still troll the e-bay and cragslist posts hoping to find another Opel like that one.

  • avatar

    If it’s a Manta, it’s a 1973 or ’74. (The JKI-suffix plate dates from then too.) In 71 and 72 they were called 1900 Sport Coupes. I had a gold 71, and I’ve already kvetched so much about it on this forum that I won’t add any more calumny now, other than to say that it was one of the better-handling POS’s I’ve owned.
    “Parts? Why there’s that Buick dealer in San Mateo…” Yeah right…the Buick dealer I bought mine new from didn’t know me after six months.

    • 0 avatar

      May have kept its license plate all these years, but somewhere, it’s original gas cap is sitting on top of the gas pump at a Sinclair station!!

    • 0 avatar

      The ’74s of all makes, including the Opel, had the huge bumpers.

    • 0 avatar

      Thought they had them for 73 as well, but think imports got a pass for one year IIRC. Plus the old ads don’t show them for 73. Memory going…only a matter of time before Depends Baby Boomer Speedo style incontinence pants I guess…

      73 was the year the regs started for those hideous bumpers. GM started with them in 2.5mph form in 72 on it’s larger cars to begin meeting the mandate early.

      A dark era. Think that’s why this Opel still looks so nice.

      Ever seen a 73 Maverick after seeing a 70 ? They really ruined the looks of a lot of cars with the federalized bumpers grafted on the front.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, it was 1974 when all our favorite road course cars got hit with the ugly stick. Everything we grew to love from Japan, Germany, UK, Sweden and more got whacked. The BMW 2002, Saab, and Volvo were some of the ones hit the worse.

      Good call the Opel shown is a ‘71 or ‘72.

  • avatar

    Hello all!
    I had a ’72 Opel 1900 Rallye, Fireglow, matte black hood, guages, foglights, etc.  Was a GREAT car!  Torque-tube rear suspension, cam-in-head engine, a few minor mods(weber carb, Capacitive discharge ignition, Bosch intermittant wipers and Blaupunkt stereo, Bilstein shocks, Michelin XVS tires, etc.
    As one of the pervios posters wrote, the Opel was the terror of the autocross, mine would kill the BMW2002s and Ford Capris of the day.
    Thing was, both handling and ride were excellent. The oem Solex carb was junk, hence the Weber conversion.
    Buick dealers hated this car, as it was everything a traditional Buick was not. Ironic now how Opel is a major force in the design of the cars that wear the “Buick” nameplate.

    • 0 avatar

      Wife’s ’74 (same color green) got the CD ignition, Weber carb, Blaupunkt stereo, 1600 head, soldered wire harness connections, Cibie headlights, and custom floor mats. Drove it for 15 years then sold it to a priest who drove it for five more.

  • avatar

    Its a really classic youngtimer. But I dont really like the color…

  • avatar

    Have you seen any Opel GT’s running about?

  • avatar

    BTW, I would be curious to know the back-story why GM would make this excellent little car (according to the first-hand accounts here), and then go on to engineer that shitbox known as Vega! 

    Seems so obvious that this shold have been a shared platform … anybody know why this wasn’t possible? 

    Was it due to culture, language, metric v. english, pre-CAD, pre-internet, etc., or was it something else?

    • 0 avatar

      According to John DeLorean, the Vega was a pure corporate affair and assigned to Chevrolet. Management made all the decisions. He documents it well in “On A Clear Day You Can See General Motors’. Pure corporate arrogance. The first test mules broke apart within 8 miles of testing….

  • avatar

    Indeed, these cars were great.
    BTW, do you realise that we owe this car to mr. Bob Lutz himself?
    It did help to get Opel a bit away from the bad roadholding image it had at that time.
    Actually I had more fun driving curves in this car than in my bosses BMW 2002.

  • avatar

    When my parents moved back to Germany in 1989, they were offered my mother’s cousin’s pristine, garage-queen 1974 Manta.  My father turned down the offer (instead, bought a 1980 Rekord).  I would have loved to have gotten that Manta…dark blue, low, low KM…such an understated, clean design.  Needless to say, Opels maintain a sweet spot in our family’s hearts (maybe that’s why I keep thinking of snagging a new Astra as a means of remembering my father and his love of those simple, rugged cars).

  • avatar

    I had one of those – a green 1971 Opel 1900 Sport Coupe. They didn’t get the “Manta” name for a few years afterward.  I bought it as a two year old and liked it well enough but it had its issues – I have a vivid memory of walking into the Buick dealer’s parts department, saying “water pump” and having the counterperson turn and grab one off of the big stack behind him.  The starter taking a few teeth off the flexplate was kind of annoying, too.
    Between that and the way the engine vibration caused the screws holding the carburetor together to loosen / fall out it was a car with “character”.  I don’t remember what I did with it – but I don’t miss it too much.

  • avatar

    The Manta’s contribution to German humor should not go unmentioned. There must have been thousands of Manta jokes. Think of the Manta driver as the blonde of automotive humor.


    A Manta stops at a light. In the passenger seat is a parrot. Another driver stops, rolls down his window and asks: “Can he talk?”

    The parrot answers: “I have no idea.”

    • 0 avatar

      Another one:

      The Easter Bunny, the Christmas Man, and a high school graduate Manta-driver all stand in a circle.  You drop a 1-Mark note into the center of the circle.

      Question:  Which of the 3 picks it up first?

      Answer:  No one, because none of these 3 exist!

    • 0 avatar

      German Humor?

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      Yes; the Manta had a very different image in Germany than in the US; it was a “mullet mobile” there, while it enjoyed an the rep of being an exceptionally well-handling import here, when that still meant something.

  • avatar

    I had one of these as my first car. Drove it to Canada on a trip, and its handling got me out of a few close calls. It was a 74 blue Luxus, the fancy model. It had blue velour seats, and fake wood grain inside on the dash and doors. The plasic  on the doors quickly buckled in the CA sun, and revealed real wood underneath. I sanded and stained it, and gave it a coat of poly. Looked sharp! Had a great german mechanic. Too bad he couldnt keep it from needing a valve job. I sold it for 800 bucks to an unsuspecting guy who practically bought it sight unseen. Took the cash and ran!

  • avatar

    These were real mountain goats in the snow.
    Adding to the very short list of shortcomings is the fact that it did not have a stiff body. Wife spousal unit would come home every so often with one of the doors popped to the safety latch. In tracking down where this was occurring, it turned out to be a curve where most sane drivers dropped about 15mph below the speed limit to negotiate.
    She, a normally sedate driver, found no need to in the Opel. The Opel tracked the curve with total sure-footedness but the body racked enough to pop one of the doors to safety catch from time to time.
    The biggest shortcoming was that it was sold by Buick.  In downtown Seattle, if you really, really, really, really wanted to look at one, they would take you down to a dingy basement, fumble around to find the light switch, then show you an inventory of about 7-9 cars.  They seemed to have a real distain for it.

    If a few minor things were made right and Chevrolet sold it instead of the Vega, it would have been a real game-changer.

  • avatar

    Fantastic find. Always liked these but always thought that the front and rear styling looks like its from different cars – perhaps even different decades (rear 60s, front 70s).

  • avatar

    I had a ’74 Manta in college. I called it the “poor man’s BMW” and it was a really fun and simple car to bang around in. Burgundy corduroy seats-chicks dug ’em…

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