Return To Us Our Manta! It Shall Save GM!

Illustration for article titled Return To Us Our Manta! It Shall Save GM!

Call me "Ich-Manni." Here in the electron-bright pages of tha Jalop, I have often implored manufacturers to bring back a simple, lightweight RWD sports coupe. We collectively have bemoaned the lack of availability of certain European models built by American manufacturers but not sold on our shores. And of course, I have professed my love of the Opel Manta so many times that it borders slightly on the ridiculous. Kind of like the time in college when I used to piss off the guy in the Doobie Brothers shirt by playing "Louie Louie" incessantly on the guitar while he attempted to extoll the virtues of Dave Matthews. But I have hit upon an idea, and if General Motors does not grab hold of it and run like a 400-meter relay medalist with a lit roman candle protruding from his keister, they're hopeless. And here is what I propose: Mssrs. Wagoner and Lutz, bring back the Manta.

Think of it. Fuel prices are rising, but the hoons still need to play. You've got a small, RWD platform that you've already shown is somewhat extensible (the Chevy Nomad concept of a few years ago). There's a hole in the market for such a vehicle that comes in below the V6/V8 ponycars or tanklike Japanese iron in the form of the 350Z. You could easily build this car, GM. And what's more, we believe you should.

In Europe, Manta is a storied marque. Sure, it's got a kitsch culture attached to it, but so does the Camaro, and that didn't stop people from collectively flipping their wigs and requiring a change of undies when you decided to resurrect that nameplate, did it? The Manta is Europe's Camaro, and we think while Americans weren't quite ready for it in the 1970s (and given the atrociousness of the Kadetts that beat it into Buick dealerships a few years beforehand), there's a wide open market for such a car right now, and Hyundai seems like the only company willing to do something about it.


The current Ecotec mill is an evolution of Opel's "Family" series, developed by a global team of engineers from Rüsselheim, Detroit and Trollhättan. Referred to as "Family II," its lineage can be traced back to the the engine originally designed to power the Ascona B, which, of course, was the basis for the Manta B. And the Manta B, of course, begat the Manta 400, which of course, raced in Group B. What's more, the current iteration of the General's corporate four-banger is capable of making staggering amounts of power, having crested 200 numerous times at Bonneville. And die Mantafährer love tinkering with their rides.

And what of Oz? Clarkson absolutely loved the Vauxhall Monaro that you tried to sell us as a reborn GTO. Seems to us that fuel-price-conscious hoons with tired Silvias would love to slip into something like a new Manta. We know you've said that it isn't cost-effective to make Kappa in an RHD configuration. But if you had a world-beating, segment-defining car that the rest of the automakers have left behind, wouldn't it be worth it to make sure it was available around the globe? You'd need to stretch the platform somewhat to make sure Egon, his girlfriend, her parents and little brother could come along, so while you're at it, figure out a way to sell it to the wacky nutters who continue to drive on the left. After all, it's not a Manta unless we can see it on Irish roads.

As it's probably too much to ask in this day and age to sell the car as an Opel the world over, we will accept a Saturn Manta, which would make the Opelization of the Spring Hill Chicken brand truly complete. And we're sure the Aussies wouldn't turn their noses up at a Holden Manta. Just do us a favor and don't ever sell it as a Vauxhall Manta. Somehow, that's tantamount to sacrilege.


So what say ye? Come on GM, let's turn dining back into eating.

"Fast as a Shark" is a weekly electronic broadside aimed at what has been historically right and terribly wrong with the autmotive industry and culture. We wonder if the song was originally, "Fast as a Manta," but Udo decided that it worked better with a monosyllabic cartilaginous fish.


More Mantas; Manta - der Film: Total Geil!

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To further the awesomeness potential, I'd like to see a V4 mill under the hood. With such a stubby powerplant aboard, it'd be a snap to install it completely abaft the front axle, for a "front mid" layout. Lower polar moment of inertia = tossable handling (usually).

GM has gobs of experience building stout, reliable Vs. Lop the front two pairs off a regular 350, solder on a new front end, and off you go. It'd be a low buck parts bin special.