The Opel Manta Connection
I think I may have figured out my uncanny attraction to these. In a nutshell, the Opel Manta is the “cooler version” of my first car, Twinkie.
Twinkie was my 1982 Toyota Tercel. Commendably loyal, peppy below, say, 30 mph, and possessed of an endearing (yet dorky) coupe shape, Twinkie’s character forever spoiled me for anything so mundane as a boring transportation appliance. And the Opel Manta, I’ve determined, takes all the attributes that drew me to Twinkie, and amplifies them. Consider:
- Small-ish size: Check. The Manta is barely bigger than my old Tercel and checks in at a featherweight 2,100 lbs.
- Endearing coupe shape: Yessir. There’s nothing as appealing about the Manta as its beautifully-penned proportions, restrained and tasteful fascia and fetching teardrop profile. Lovely.
- Peppy below 30 mph: Got it. Only offered in the US with a robust-yet-indifferent 1.9l cam-in-head 4-cyl producing a ground-pounding 90 hp, acceleration was nothing to write home about. In its defense, smoky burnouts were never really in sync with the Manta’s delicate aesthetic, and furthermore, during its 1970-75 model run, its contemporaries’ power figures were taking emissions-choked nosedives as well.
- Snappy handling: Right on. The Manta improves on Twinkie’s admirably taut demeanor in the (low speed) twisties by being RWD and featuring rack-and-pinion steering, along with a rear sway bar and more European-style (read: firmer) suspension calibration. In its day, it was roundly praised for its chassis dynamics, and garnered quite the rally race competition pedigree.
Yes, I can say with a fair degree of confidence that my 5-odd year “relationship” with Twinkie primed me for my heretofore unexplained attraction to the Manta. I’ve written about it before, in the very first entry in my Ones That Got Away series, but hadn’t really figured out why I like it so much other than waxing effusive over how cool it is, and going on about how well it seems to complement my own self-image.
But now it all makes sense. One day…