German Buick: 1975 Opel Manta – SOLD!

Dec 2020 | Classifinds, Malaise Monday

January 3rd, 2020 Update – The seller of what may be the nicest survivor Opel Manta on the planet already deleted their Craigslist ad, so we’re officially calling this Manta “Sold!”

Throughout the seventies, several domestic manufacturers reached out to their European and Asian counterparts to provide domesticated versions of their small cars to help them compete. Buick famously relied on importing German Opels to help increase showroom traffic among consumers who might not otherwise visit the dealership.  One such example is this rare 1975 Opel Manta 20K mile survivor we spotted in December 2020 on Craigslist for the asking price of $13,500.  Referring to the Collector Car Market Review as a price guide, the private seller has their 20K original mile survivor priced about $2,000 that this guide’s #1 “Excellent” appraisal of $11,550. 

The Manta A was released in September 1970, two months ahead of the then-new Opel Ascona on which it was based. A competitor to the Ford Capri, it was a two-door “three-box” coupé, and featured distinctive round taillights, quite similar to those on the Opel GT and which in fact were used on the GT in 1973, its final model year. It took its name, and a few minor styling cues, from the Manta Ray concept car (1961), which also famously influenced the 1968 Chevrolet Corvette C3 (both Chevrolet and Opel had General Motors as their parent company).

The sales approach for the Opel line in the U.S. market was unusual. The Manta A was one of only a few Opel models sold in the U.S. Opels were imported by GM and sold through Buick dealerships and not their own dealership network, so they were limited in what makes and models they could sell there. Other Opel models sold in the U.S. were Rekord P1 and Rekord P2 (1956–1961), Kadett A (1964–1966), Kadett B (1967–1971), GT (1968–1973), and the Manta / Ascona A (1971–1975). The Ascona A was the saloon version on the Manta A chassis and was sold in the U.S. under the “1900” name as a two-door and four-door saloon, and as a two-door “sport wagon”. The only difference between the Ascona and Manta was exterior sheet metal, glass, and trim. The frame, mechanics, dash, front seats, and many other parts were shared between the cars. The Manta was even sold as the “1900 Sport Coupé” in 1971 and 1972, rather than as the “Manta”. In 1973, the Manta nameplate was added to U.S.-spec Mantas, but the Ascona’s kept the 1900 badge throughout their model life. The last year GM imported European-made Opels into the United States under the Opel marque was 1975. In that year the only Opels imported were the Manta and Ascona A.

The Manta was normally equipped with a 1.6 or a 1.9-liter CIH engine, although in Europe, a small 1.2-liter motor was also offered. All Mantas sold in the U.S. had the 1.9 L and larger heavy-duty radiator (an option on European models). It came with either a four-speed manual or a three-speed TH-180 automatic. The Manta was known to be one of the best-handling cars in its class and went on to win a large number of rallies in Europe and the United States.

In the U.S. market, there was a sport model known as the “Rallye” from 1971 to 1974. The Rallye model was, overall, an appearance and gauge package, the most noticeable difference being the addition of a black hood, and on 1970–1973 models, fog lamps. Mechanically, the only difference was the gear ratios in the models with manual transmissions, and the Rallye model came with standard stiffer suspension, a tighter turning radius, and very aggressive front caster adjustments. Both had dual rear sway bars, providing exceptional handling.

In 1973 and 1974 there was also the “Luxus” model, which included refinements like corduroy seats, color-coded interiors (blue or burgundy), and faux wood paneling. The only special edition Manta ever produced for the U.S. market was the “Blue Max”, in 1973. This amounted to a blue 1973 Luxus model, with a unique dark blue vinyl roof, mechanical sunroof, and automatic transmission.

In 1975, all Manta and 1900 models were equipped with the Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection system in the United States due to emission regulations. Yet in Europe, this feature was only available on the high-end GT/E models, which also sported fog lamps and lower front spoilers, which were not offered on any of the U.S.-spec Manta models. Also of note is that the 1974–75 Manta models had large aluminum 5 mph (8 km/h) bumpers to comply with U.S. crash standards of the time; European Mantas did not receive the large bumpers.

With the Deutsche mark becoming stronger, and with other costs also rising, U.S. imports of Opels ended in 1975. Instead, the Isuzu Gemini version of the T-car was imported from Japan and sold by Buick dealers as the “Opel by Isuzu”, and later, “Buick Opel”. The Opel name was last used in the U.S. in 1979.

We came across this Dealer Information Video Provided to Buick Dealers in 1974 about Opel Models:

If you always wanted an Opel Manta back in the day but couldn’t afford it, now’s your chance to own a 45-year-old new car. Good luck with the purchase!

Here’s the seller’s description:

“If you ever wanted one of these or just want something that NOBODY has period , this is the one . Original 20k miles , documented , with every piece of original paperwork since new including the window sticker and bill of sale. NO RUST on car , never wrecked or repaired , al4 jacking points are perfect . The dash is perfect with no cracks , all gauges and lights , horn, wipers , heater, blow fan , warning lights , key buzzer , all working properly . Has the factory tachometer , gauges , rally wheels with original matching spare and jack in perfect original shape . Trunk is dead new . Interior is outstanding . Starts right up , last driven back in 2009/2010 but garaged since and started and moved around . Never rusted or rotted , just as honest of a collectible car you will ever find , has ben stored at an expense of 175.00 a month for last 11 years , so selling price does not even cover that . Has a clean NY title ( Was sold here on L.I. new at Shore Buick in Bellmore ) .”

Do you have an Opel Manta story to share?  Comment below and let us know!

2 Comments
  1. AnalogMan

    Two “Malaise Monday’ cars today that I once owned, both back in my lost and misspent youth in the early 1980’s. Back then I had the same car as this, a 1975 in red though with a manual transmission. At least on the east coast, you would see these cars periodically back in the day, though they were never ‘common’. They were built to a MUCH higher quality standard than the comparable U.S.-made small cars like the Pinto or Vega – there was no comparison.

    It was fun to drive, not really a ‘sports car’ but certainly ‘sporty’, and comfortable and practical as well. Pretty easy on the eyes as well, again not ‘beautiful’, but a nice looking car. The sense of quality, reliability, and solidity was palpable throughout the car, like other German cars of the time (but so much less expensive).

    It was a good car as only/primary transport, fun enough to look forward to driving, but low maintenance and easy to own. Most of them have long since rusted away (like most cars of that era). There’s a following for and interest in these cars. I periodically peruse the classifieds, looking for one mostly for nostalgia reasons. If the mileage on this is real, it’s almost certainly the nicest one left (maybe one of the only ones left). For me personally the automatic kills any interest I’d have in it. Even assuming honest mileage, the price seems high to me.

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  2. tbm3fan

    Nice car as I always liked the Manta. However, this being a smog era engine with an automatic kills it for me. Consequently I also feel it is over priced for what one gets. At 77 hp and a four speed you are looking at 13.5 0-60 so imagine a 3 speed auto. Ugh! Any similar car from this era like a Capri or Celica are so much better with a manual.

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