Some cars I remember so clearly from my youth that I am completely flabbergasted when I many years later face them in real life – without ever having seen one in the intervening years. And when it’s a Manta?
Well, when it’s an Opel Manta as the other day, then I wonder extraordinarily much. Especially because it was not a Manta 400, the famous homologation special that formed the basis for Opel’s tremendously successful rally car of that same name/number. Rather the number was exactly half that, as I faced an i200.
i200? Is that supposed to be something special? Who even remembers it – and why? Well, I for one do remember it – very clearly, because it was so praised in period for its handling and more specifically because a certain period Danish magazine was positively exalted about it. Granted, the Manta has probably always featured classic well sorted rear wheel drive properties, but the i200 had tuning firm Irmscher breathing a little upon it (hence the ”i” in the name), and the tuning of the suspension was obviously spot on.
It was the chassis that got almost all the accolades: The engine was also warmed over, but only to the tune of 125 horsepower, and even in the mid-Eighties that was not much. But the superficially simple and traditional suspension had already been perfected the seventies, and the chassis with rigid rear axle was very much tried and tested by the rally sport, where it had already proven its qualities. So perhaps it was not so strange after all, when Irmscher also hit the mark with the somewhat more mild suspension settings for the street.
If only one could say the same about the exterior, which can hardly be more Eighties-like: So innocently white that one invariably hears Madonna as accompaniment to the paint. And then add those outrageous go-faster-stripes – you almost have to cringe: This look is certainly not for shy people.
I actually don’t recall ever seeing one in period. I had almost forgotten it even existed. But suddenly, on this lovely day, right out of the blue, there it was right in front of me. And it was for sale.
Fittingly, the scene was at the Essen Motor Show, which is very much about modified cars. And the Manta was great. Really! All good things (mostly car related, of course) from my youth blasted through my head. Followed by the thought that I have never owned a Manta – but why? Surely it could very well be a i200.
But then I saw the price. 28,500 Euro. At first I was just shocked and thought the seller must have lost all sense. But when I returned to the office and read up on the subject, I found that there were in fact only built approximately 3000 of the i200. Aha. That sort of makes it a Poor Man’s Manta 400.
Just not for the poor. At this point it dawned upon me that my first Manta would clearly not to be an i200. But both naughty and nice, it most certainly was.
And when did you last see one?