Every country seems to have its particular cars that are the butt of jokes. Here in America, we have jokes about Mustang drivers plowing into crowds, for example. Or jokes about the creepiness of while Econoline vans. But I don’t think any particular car in America has generated such an enthusiastic and specific joke culture as the Opel Manta has in Germany.
If you’re not familiar with the Opel Manta, we did get them here in America, briefly, via GM’s Buick dealers. I always thought they were very attractive cars, clean and handsome without being overdone, all concepts that feel very much at odds with the Manta’s reputation in Germany.
Of course, it seems most of the stereotypical Manta jokes relate more to the second-gen Mantas, which we didn’t get in America, and even more specifically refer to ones modded so they look more like this:
The jokes seem to revolve around the idea that the Manta driver (Mantafahrer) is a “male driver of an Opel Manta, who is an aggressive driver, dull, lower class, macho, and infatuated with both his car and his blonde hairdresser girlfriend.” I guess it’s loosely similar to American stereotypes of mullet-topped Camaro drivers, but the whole thing seems to be a much bigger deal in Germany.
Here’s some examples of jokes, since I know you’ve got to be really curious by now:
A Manta driver goes to the garage: “Could you repair my horn?” “Your brakes aren’t working either,” notices the mechanic. “I know, that’s why I need to honk all the time.”
What is the shortest Manta joke ever? - Ein Manta steht vor der Uni (A Manta is parked in front of the university).
What does a Manta driver say after crashing into a tree? – Komisch—hab doch gehupt! (“Odd. I did honk!”)
How does a Manta owner take a family portrait? By driving his whole family at 200 kmh through photo-radar.
Why do Mantas have eight auxiliary headlights? So its driver can wear sunglasses at night.
A man comes to the Brain Transplant Clinic. The head doctor shows him some of the available merchandise:
Doc: ... and here we have the brain of a Physics Professor. It costs 1500 DM.
Man: And what is that one there?
Doc: That is something very special! It costs 8000 DM.
Man: What? Why is it so expensive then?
Doc: Well, that is the brain of a Manta Driver. Totally unused ...
Q: Why will mantas be built now that are 60mm higher off the ground?
A: So that they can be lowered even further...
An MD (Manta Driver) wants to sell his Manta and so puts an advert in the paper:
Opel Manta GTE 200,000 km DM 4500
One week later ... nothing happens.
Two weeks later ... still nothing.
In the third week a friend phones up and says, “Ey, are you daft? If you say the car has done 200,000 km nobody will be interested. Take a screwdriver and turn the mileometer back to 50,000 km, then try selling it again.”
One week later the advertisment is no longer in the paper. The friend rings up again and asks, “Hey, what’s up with your Manta?”
The MD replies, “Ey, man, do you think I’m going to sell a Manta that’s only done 50,000 km?”
Okay, some of those are pretty good, I gotta admit. I especially like that last one.
Still, I’m not sure we really appreciate how big a deal these jokes seem to be in German culture, at least compared to how car-based jokes are here. In fact, it’s such a big deal that there seem to have been at least two movies made about Manta drivers, Manta–der Film and Manta Manta. Here’s the trailers to both of them. First, Manta-der Film:
The fox thing is because the stereotype of Manta drivers is to have a fox tail on the antenna, it seems. I had our own German-speaking David Tracy translate some of this, and the old man says “Practically good, but theoretically, it need work” before he gets in that Manta, which I don’t think I understand at all.
Here’s Manta Manta:
David told me at one point in the trailer one guy tells another guy to use leaded fuel since it’s heavier, and will lower the car 10cm. That’s a pretty good gag, too.
The Opel Manta is a really obscure car here in America, so it’s kind of incredible to realize that it has such a specific and powerful image in Germany. I mean, I love it, because I love any kind of crazy specific car cultural references that somehow manage to migrate into mass popular culture.
I mean, two movies! About car jokes! That bonkers.