For example, if you drive an air-cooled Volkswagen, people may assume you are a hippie. If you drive a BMW, people will assume you are both affluent and inconsiderate – the type of driver who would change lanes without signaling. And finally, if you drive a Honda Civic or other “tuner” car, you might be associated with street racing punks.
I have recently learned that such car/driver stereotypes are not unique to the U.S. In fact, there’s a popular one in Germany about Opel Manta drivers: that they are dull, lower-class, macho guys who drive aggressively, love their cars, and have a blonde girlfriend who works as a hairdresser.
A common stereotype is that Manta owners are immensely proud of their cars, in spite of not being able to afford the BMW or Mercedes sports cars they truly want. Manta owners are notorious for decorating their cars with chrome accents, racing stripes, aftermarket wheels, and other flashy accessories.
Thankfully, I don’t think this stereotype carried over to the U.S. when General Motors began importing the Manta in 1971. Like the Opel GT I covered yesterday, the Manta was sold through Buick dealerships rather than through an Opel-branded dealership.
In a lot of ways, the Manta was a better version of the Opel GT. All Mantas sold in the USA came with a 1.9L engine producing 90 horsepower. They also had a heavy-duty radiator, which was an option on European models. The car did not have power-assisted steering, but with a curb weight of just 2,100 lbs, it wasn’t really needed.
The Manta had a vastly improved suspension over the GT and was known as one of the best-handling cars in its price range. The front suspension uses A-arms and coil springs. In the rear, a 3-link suspension with coil springs, a solid rear axle, and a Panhard bar and anti-sway bar help keep things planted. For the early 1970s, this was an uncommonly sophisticated setup for any car – let alone an economy car from Germany!
In my opinion, the Manta is a much prettier car than the swoopy GT. Its body lines are reminiscent of a first-gen Camaro, and that’s not entirely a bad thing. This one with its redline wheels looks pretty tasteful.
What do you think of the Manta? Share your thoughts by posting a comment below!