Buy/Drive/Burn: Mid-seventies Captive Imports

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
buy drive burn mid seventies captive imports

Today’s Seventies captive imports trio comes to us via suggestion by commenter MRF 95 T-Bird. He wants to see which of the Manta, Capri, and Arrow warrants a malaise era Buy. We’ll straddle two model years today, 1975 and 1976.

Ford Capri

The Capri is in its fifth model year in the North American market, after Ford began imports of its German-made European market coupe in 1970. For 1976 the Capri II arrives, with new hatchback styling and more refinement over its predecessor. Available engines this year include the 2.3-liter OHC inline-four and 2.8-liter Cologne V6, paired either to a four-speed manual or three-speed auto. Today’s selection is a 2.8 V6 (105 horsepower) with a four-speed manual. Rumor has it the Capri isn’t long for the North American market, as its sales continue to fall.

Opel Manta

General Motors has distributed select German Opel models via its Buick dealerships since 1956. Since 1971 the Manta and Ascona A have been available, the latter of which wears a 1900 badge domestically. Manta is the coupe of the two, and all examples use a 1.9-liter inline-four that produces 105 horsepower. Two transmissions are available, a four-speed manual (today’s choice) or three-speed auto. New for 1975 is a Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection system on all examples. 1975 is the last year for the Manta in North America, as rising exchange rates force GM to import the Isuzu Gemini and call it Opel by Isuzu.

Plymouth Arrow

1976 is the debut year of the Plymouth Arrow in North America. Dodge imports the hatchback as another entry into its captive Colt lineup, and aficionados know it’s actually a Mitsubishi Lancer. Engines on offer are two, a 1.6-liter inline-four or optional larger 2.0-liter I4. Transmissions have four or five speeds if manual, three if automatic. The 2.0-liter is our engine selection today and sends 100 horsepower through the five-speed manual.

Three fun to drive and economical two doors, which one goes home to your bi-level’s garage?

Have any suggestions for future editions of Buy/Drive/Burn? Leave them in the comments!

[Images: GM, Ford, Dodge]

Join the conversation
2 of 43 comments
  • Jo Borras Jo Borras on Dec 10, 2021

    Buy the Capri, Drive the Manta, burn the Plymouth, then put out the fire, restore the Plymouth, and burn the Plymouth again.

  • Pianoboy57 Pianoboy57 on Dec 10, 2021

    I actually had both in the same year, a'71 Manta and a '74 Capri. Both were manuals and both had 4 cylinders. The Capri seemed to be built more solidly but was slower than the Manta. The Manta was a lot more fun to throw around and it was more comfortable. Buy the Manta, Drive the Capri, Ditch the Arrow. We have a '78 RWD Colt. Not nearly as fun as the other two.

  • SCE to AUX Probably couldn't afford it - happens all the time.
  • MaintenanceCosts An ugly-a$s Challenger with poor equipment choices and an ugly Dealership Default color combination, not even a manual to redeem it, still no sale.
  • Cha65689852 To drive a car, you need human intelligence, not artificial intelligence.Unfortunately, these days even human brains are turning into mush thanks to addiction to smartphones and social media.
  • Mike1041 A nasty uncomfortable little car. Test drove in 2019 in a search for a single car that would appease two drivers. The compromise was not much better but at least it had decent rear vision and cargo capacity. The 2019 Honda HRV simply was too unforgiving and we ditched after 4 years. Enter the 23 HRV and we have a comfy size.
  • SCE to AUX I wonder who really cares about this. "Slave labor" is a useful term for the agendas of both right and left."UAW Wants Auto Industry to Stop Using Slave Labor"... but what will the UAW actually do if nothing changes?With unrelenting downward pressure on costs in every industry - coupled with labor shortages - expect to see more of this.Perhaps it's my fault when I choose the $259 cell phone over the $299 model, or the cheaper parts at RockAuto, or the lower-priced jacket at the store.Do I care about an ethical supply chain? Not really, I just want the product to work - and that's how most consumers are. We'd rather not know.Perhaps the 1990s notion of conflict-free, blood-free, ethically-sourced diamonds will find its way into the auto industry. That would be a good thing.