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The GM Coupe New Zealand got, but Australia didn’t

Some motoring enthusiasts will never have heard of this particular coupe, but it was Opel’s ‘mildly sporty’ coupe and spearheaded the German marque’s rallying campaign during the early 1980s.

General Motors has experimented with a number of its brands in New Zealand including Pontiac, GMC, Vauxhall, Bedford and even Opel, but with this bought the introduction of the Manta.

By the time the Manta arrived in New Zealand it was in its second generation termed ‘B2’, which was a slightly modified version of the ‘B’ first launched in 1975 and introduced in 1982. Influenced by the Chevrolet Monza (of which Peter Brock grew a liking to in the mid-1980s and imported a couple in to weight up a potential Australian introduction), it was different due to the ‘deep-snoot’ front styling and by the end of the 1970s was four-cylinder 81kW.

A limited number of Opel Mantas were imported into New Zealand alongside other models including the Kadett GSi (which later became a Daewoo), the Ascona GT, Senator and Monza as prestigious models to the market.

A 1.8-litre variant was introduced in 1982 and became very popular in Europe, while the larger engine in the GT-E featured a 2.0-litre unit, however this was thirsty.

To end production of the Manta a special exclusive version was released in the UK during 1987 featuring the best of everything including Irmscher rims and Recaro seats.

Opel developed the Calibra as the Manta’s replacement, which was released in 1988.

Interestingly both Opel’s Ascona and Manta were developed for rallying, though the former was more successful.

As a result of Opel, Irmscher and Cosworth coming together the 400 was produced as a performance street variant in addition to a rallying beast competing in World Rally Championship, although it proved not as strong as the Ascona.

In a sidenote, one of the Nurburgring’s most iconic 24 entries is the Opel Manta termed the ‘Flying Fox’ due to the fox tail tied to its aerial.

In fact, the Manta will return in the near future as an electric coupe as part of Opel’s range.