Buy & modify
The Manta B was conceived with one purpose in mind; to beat Ford at its own game and steal as many sales from the Capri as possible. By the time the Manta B arrived in 1975 the Capri had firmly established its place in popular British culture. Unfortunately, in the UK the dynamically superior Manta never managed to capture the public’s imagination in the way the Capri had but it still established a loyal following. The Manta B was kept fresh throughout its production with a facelift during the 1980s and considerable motorsport success to boot. The cars had a reputation for strong performance in the early ‘90s and many have been tracked, thrashed, crashed or pinched over the
PERFORMANCE VAUXHALL years, though that does mean that the cars that have survived tend to be well looked after (unless you’re looking at an oxide coloured project of course!). Prices have increased but the car’s inherent character, keen handling and decent performance still remains.
The Manta came in two body styles, a coupe and a hatchback. The coupes generally fetch higher premiums owing to their obvious link to the mighty rally cars. By the time the Manta arrived on the scene GM had decided to merge Vauxhall and Opel in an attempt to save money and rationalise the European arm of their empire, hence the Manta, the Ascona B and Mk1 Cavalier shared a chassis and many panels and trim pieces. Power was provided by a range of trusty CIH engines in a variety of states of tune and capacity; buyers initially had the choice of a 75bhp 1.6-litre or 90bhp 1.9litre, followed by a 2-litre version with 100bhp. These early cars are very rare, so our main area of interest is the facelifted 1981-onward range. The 1982 model year saw the launch of the facelifted Manta, the B2. The engine options were either a 1.8-litre OHC unit (the trusty GM 8v found in pretty much every Vauxhall from this period) producing 90bhp or a 110bhp 2-litre CIH, as fitted to the new GT/E model. The rubber bumpers were replaced with body-coloured plastic, front and rear spoilers, sideskirts, a re-styled grill and a new bonnet. The GT/E also got Recaro sports seats, low profile tyres and uprated sports suspension. A steel sunroof appeared in 1985 and the range was facelifted again in 1986 with new interior trim. The final notable revision was the GT/E Exclusive model which had twin headlights.
Production of the Manta ceased in 1988 and the last cars are on F-plates. The final car to roll off the line was a white GT/E destined for Opel’s museum. During its thirteen year history 550,000 Manta Bs were sold, making it the marque’s longest running production car.
Since then the car has developed a large following and its exploits in group B rallying have become stuff of legend, meaning that prices for all Manta Bs - from the scabbiest bare shell to the cleanest GT/E - have increased dramatically in the last ten years. As such you have to be prepared to either pay a premium for a good example or put the graft into restoring one that’s