The Ones That Got Away, Part I
My automotive history is littered with almost-acquisitions, some potential purchases, some attempted trades. I’ll be the first to admit that my affections for one particular car, or model of car, or even a make in general, are very fickle. Also, I have a sizable appetite for the Next Big Thing™, especially for unique or rare cars that “just need a little TLC” (though they often need much more than that). Knowing myself, and trying to keep the big picture in mind as much as possible, my impulsive car buying streak is something I’ve had to work to suppress. I’ve tamed it (or it’s been tamed for me) significantly, but I can’t say it’s an urge I’ve entirely overcome.
Also, I’m a fan of the what-ifs. I like to imagine the possible, whether it be looking forward with my penchant for sci-fi, or looking back with an interest in alternate history. Revisiting the cars I’ve almost owned fits with that fascination; I visualize how I would have been perceived by others, or the resources that would have been directed to different places had a different decision been made, and the car acquired.
The one that I come back to most often is the little ’75 Opel Manta pictured above. Near the end of ’04, I had just sold my ’88 Supra Turbo, and was driving my little silver ’86 Audi 4000. The Z had suffered the engine fire and was parked (and is still parked). I was on the cusp of applying to Piedmont Baptist College’s pilot program; I hadn’t done it yet, but the intention was certainly there, so there was some direction in my life, a larger goal, which usually stands in opposition to the kind of idle noodling around that leads to random car purchases/trades. However, I had been direction-less for a couple of years at that point, so my “automotive eyes” were very used to wandering.
The owner lived in Michigan, just outside of Detroit, and wanted to trade not just the Opel, but also his ’95 Ford Escort wagon for my Audi—a two-for-one deal. No cash involved. I’ve no idea how I would have gotten them both back down here to NC. The logistics would have been crazy, or expensive. Probably both.
It was tough to turn down the proposition. I love look of the car, and its rarity. Here’s what I wrote at the time:
I can see myself cruising around in such a car. Mechanically it’s dirt simple and reliable, so it would be easy to maintain. But it’s the coolness that really latches onto me and won’t let go. The Audi is cool to me because I appreciate all the design details and mechanical elements that are just done right on the car, but to most anybody else it just looks like another sedan. The Opel has visual character in spades, style, and to my eye a certain amount of class as well (though class is a more nebulous quality than the other two). It turns heads, it provokes comments. It’s classic, really, especially since people notice it and don’t really know what kind of car it is.
In the end, though, my rational side won out, and I kept the Audi, probably saving myself a lot of headaches. There were downsides to the Opel that went beyond just the hassle of getting it here—the driver’s side floorpan was rusted out, and it was an automatic. Swapping in a manual transmission would have been fairly simple, but repairing the rust would have really taxed my resources and abilities at that time.
I still think about the Opel, though. If nothing else, because of that experience, I’ll always have a soft spot for the rare little coupes.
Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series relating stories of cars I almost acquired, whether though purchase or trade. Read the other installments here: