The Opel Manta both created its own wave and rode it successfully without interruption from 1970 to 1988. The enormity of that achievement in an overcrowded and competitive market is obscured by the reality that when most people think of the Manta, in fact they think of the facelifted 1980s Manta B GT/E that was the top of the range model from 1982 to the Manta series’ demise in 1988.
The GT/E represented the refinement of the technical and stylistic credibility that had made the marque so popular for so long. Crucially, it also had the extra glamour of genuine sporty performance that set it above close relatives like the Cavalier or the Ascona. For a standard production car, its price and performance equation made it a worthy King of the Hill. It is sometimes called the ‘face-lift’ Manta B. The Manta A of 1970 gave way to Manta B in 1975; and thanks to various tuned versions, including the terrific Manta 400 limited edition, it was still very highly regarded when the GT/E was introduced in 1982.
The GT/E made new sense of the Manta’s familiar, low, sleek lines. The two bars of the grille became four, improving the cooling intake. Recaro seats offered better support to the driver, consistent with the uprated suspension with its stiffer springs and gas dampers. The addition of an integral deep front spoiler and a rear spoiler altered the classic Manta profile just enough to make it look like the grown-up version: it was noticed that the GT/E looked ‘more menacing’ in your rear-view mirror! One other thing: all the chrome had gone. Not only was the Manta B GT/E enormous fun to drive, it had The Look. It was, of course, an archetypal Eighties Car, and all its triumphs recall Eighties Triumphs. Proust would have loved it.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Germany
FIRST MANUFACTURED: 1982 (until 1988)
ENGINE: 1,979 cc OHV Straight Four
PERFORMANCE: Top speed of 120 mph (193 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 8.5 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW: The ‘Holy Grail of Manta Ownership’ is considered by the Manta Owners Club to be the Opel Manta 400, the ‘jewel in Opel’s crown’ during the 1980s. The Manta 400 was a rally car homologated into the FISA Group B race category, and in tuned rally mode its power could beat 400 bhp. The road-going version was widely regarded as the best normally aspirated rear-wheel drive of its generation.