Peckham - Opel Manta Series A
let us know that his Manta has been featured in Retro Cars,
see below and Total
specification: Stock XE fitted with 208 kit lightened flywheel
and 4-2-1 manifold. 2 1/2 system. I have also made and fitted a sandwich
plate fitted between the inlet manifold and head to enable me to fit
NOS fogger injectors.
Very simple kit to fit. I have had this setup in the car for 5
years now and still running good.
article has been reproduced by kind permission of Retro Cars.
TO MODIFY: Opel Manta Series A
Simon Charlesworth, Photos David Wigmore
70s blue-collar coupé and most people will jabber on about
Capri, but there is an alternative from the GM boys the first
Affordable Euro version of the pony-car which out-handles the real thing.
Cons: Parts are getting rare and expensive, which is a pity because
these cars rust.
reason could General Motors have possibly had when they the decision
to build the first Opel Manta in 1970? Simple: the Ford Capri. Indeed,
looking at both cars' launch dates - 1969 for the Capri and 1970 for
the Manta, it was for any manufacturer to cook up a car in just one
year. However having seen the Capri's huge success there was no way
they were going to miss out on the action by axing their 2 + 2 coupe
denied it was a knee-jerk reaction to Project Colt, saying that their
own marketing brains had come to the same conclusions as Fords.
There was a hole in their range between the hum-drum saloon and the
sassy Opel GT. Just
before Chuck Jordan waved so-long to his buddies at Opel to join GM
in the US, he styled an attractive four-seat fastback which combined
the best of European GTs with American pony-cars. As far as styling
went, it wasnt compromised. It was a completely new design which
owed nothing to any other production Opel. It was also decorated with
the minimum amount of trim to accentuate those slinky lines. Yep,
as far as 70s man was concerned, it had everything he wanted round front quad-lamps housed in a
sloping nose and a fastback roofline that flowed down to the rear
deck and terminated in a kicked up Kamm tail, which also housed four
round lamps at the rear. Groovy baby.
the Manta hit the UK showrooms in 1970, punters could choose between
Deluxe (L) and the Rallye (SR) either the 68 bhp 1.6,
the higher compression 80 bhp 1.6, or the 90 bhp 1.9-litre engine
(which were all five-bearing, chain-driven OHV designs). The brakes,
meanwhile, came from the Rekord, as did the four-speeds gear
ratios (well, the Sprint model anyway). Steering was by rack and pinion;
the double wishbone coil-sprung front suspension was new; and the
rear tolerated a live axle sprung by progressive coils, located by
trailing arms and Panhard rod. On the Continent a 1.2-litre engine
was available. Joining the L and SR models in 1972, the Berlinetta
offered up some essential extras such as the 1.9-litre engine, a rev-counter,
sports wheels, a vinyl roof, and also a choice of sunroof (steel or
Webasto). Two years later, in 1974, the Luxus limited edition model
was launched. It was similar to the Berlinetta but was only available
in Signal red.
interesting Manta evolutions included the fuel-injected GT/E model
left-hand drive only, and the TE2800 Manta, which was brewed
up by Transeurop Engineering in Belgium. Under its fibreglass bonnet
lurked Opels 2.8-litre straight sixcylinder engine which pumped
out 142 bhp (a 230 bhp, triple carbd engine was an option too).
Suspension was uprated and stiffened, a ZF five speed gearbox was
optional, a front spoiler assembly was fitted and extended wheelarches
were among its list of features. However, just in case you thought
that the UK market was not invited to the tuning party, a turbocharged
model was launched, based on the 1.9-litre carb engine with a Holset
turbo stuck on the end. It was developed and built by Broadspeed and
the UKs Dealer Opel Team. Sadly, only 28 of these black, bespoilered
creatures were ever built. Although nearly five million Series As
were built for markets all around the world, its a rare sight
in the UK. This is a crying shame because, unlike many of GMs
current tinware, the original Manta is a good looking car which understands
what good handling is all about. The only problem is that big engine
bay. It certainly could do with some more power inside it.
The 1600 didnt perform very well at all. The valves werent
generous so it produced rather crap power and torque figures (making
you more thankful the UK never got blessed with the cheap-as chips 1.2-litre
beauty). The 1900 was a bit better, and is quite a relaxed tuner which
responds to the usual porting, polishing, and twin Webers. Nowadays,
the best way forward for the Manta A is to find a 2-litre engine from
a B. In fact, this engine is so good that it ended up being bored out
to 2.2-litres. Ultimately, in 2.4-litre form, it found its way into
the terrible Vauxhall Frontera. Of course, there is no substitute for cubes. Whether you stick to the 1900cc or
go for the 2000cc, it doesnt make all that much difference when
working on the head. They are identical even down to the standard
valve sizes. Talking of which, this is where a similar problem lies with
the 1.9-litre. The inlet valves are too small, which hampers the engines
breathing and power. Take your head along to someone who knows what
theyre doing. For GM motors, this means Bill Blydenstein. As
well as gasflowing the ports and combustion chambers for his B Pack
conversion, Billll take the inlets out to 45 mm, which will see
a power increase of between 12 and 14 per cent. The exhausts can be
fettled too, by 40 mm for the B+ Pack conversion which improves power
by 14 to 16 per cent. With this engine, there is no point just porting
and polishing a head, because this doesnt tackle the engines
core problem. Bill recommends retaining the standard camshaft for road
use because its more capable of producing the goods (hes
found that this is also the case with the 2.2-litre and the 2.4-litre,
because these are long-stroke versions of the same design). If youre
sticking with the stock twin-choke carb, then theres a lot to
be gained from working on the inlet manifold. Even more power can be
had by swapping the carb for a couple of sidedraughts yes, even
with the standard cam.
The brake servo does get in the way, so that has to be moved. Also,
the carbs need a lot of attention to stay in peak form, and then theres
the fuel consumption... For a day-to-day classic, the 1.9-litre can
be made to drive like a 2.1-litre with a standard carb and cam. It will
give a standard fuel injected 2-litre Manta a case of the hot flushes.
Incidentally, going back to 2.2-litre and 2.4-litre capacities, it is
possible to install either. You will have to fit the Manta sump because
of the front cross-member. The dip-stick will either have to be relocated
to the other side of the block or it will have to be shortened (which
can lead to problems checking the oil levels). Also, if you want to
stick to carb-fuelling, the inlet manifold will need some drastic modifying
before it will fit the 2.2-litre or the 2.4-litre. Therefore, just think
top and bottom, if you ever feel tempted.
The A is blessed with a large under bonnet area which has been home
to lots of different motors. Lets take a deep breath and
dive in. The 2-litre Vauxhall XE is perhaps one of the most obvious
favourites with good reason, but why stick to just four cylinders?
Vauxhall has produced some great six cylinders including the 2.5-litre
from the Vectra and the 3-litre from the Omega. Perhaps for something
a bit old school, try the 3-litre straight six from the Commodore/
Monza. It will eventually go in, and will start you out on the
road to a TE2800 replica. Even if you venture away from the General,
the choice of swappable engines is equally impressive. Fancy building
up a TE rep with a lot more go? Then BMWs 3-litre straight
six engine will also fit. Yes, its going to cost you more
than a GM motor, but then it produces impressive torque and power
figures straight out of the scrapyard.
back to more conventional ground and Auntie Rovers good
ol V8 can also be persuaded to move into the engine bay
of the A too. Of course, with the straight six, you are squeezing
in two more cylinders so sparks will have to fly if you
want to go in-line. Also, when fitting Rovers V8, you cant
afford to be afraid of grinding and welding. The engine is more
or less the same length, but it is wider. Count on fettling inner wings, trimming then
extending the chassis legs, moving the battery, and moving the
factory front crossmember ahead of the radiator. Oh, there is
one car which has been spied doing the rounds which will either
fill you with awe or puzzle the hell out of you. And its
got a twin-turbocharged Jaguar V12 engine in it. We can only ponder
how this monster went in there, but the thought of the fuel bills
should be enough to scare most off. Finally, if you are tempted
to fit a modern motor in your A then just make sure you get all
the lecky gubbins with it. The more black boxes and wires the
Aside from fitting twin brake servos, uprated fancy fluid, pads and braided
brake hoses to the As stock disc and drum set-up, there are other
ways to go about helping the Mantas stopping power. Up front, you
could either go for a set of Manta B callipers on the existing discs (or
even go for vented discs from a GT/E), because they bolt straight on and
offer a larger pad area. Alternatively, you can swap the discs for Carltonvented
components and fit four-pot callipers from the Volvo 240 (it had to be
useful for something). Meanwhile, astern, a rear conversion is relatively
easy to do. You could either fit some Vectra four-stud front discs or
Astra discs with a couple of Astra rear callipers putting the squeeze
on. Oh and while werein the area, if you have gone for rear discs,
then its probably wise to leave some cash aside for a set of 14
inch wheels, because 13 inch ones wont clear the callipers. Anyway,
they should be shown off and not hidden behind pokey 13 inch steels.
Heavy-duty fiddling with the Mantas suspension is a no-no because
the castor and camber are set in, well, iron. This is because of the length
of the wishbones unless youre a handy engineer who is not
afraid of ball joints and a lot of work. Of course, by lowering the car
(lowering springs are still available and a good move because the A is
a bit tail-endy and loose at the rear) you will end up with a small increase
in negative camber anyway. This should give you more front end grip, especially
with larger wheels bolted under the arches, but this will eradicate all
signs of understeer making it more of a point-and-go motor. Rear ends
not great, so this one features all-independent set-up. Uprated brakes
available, but you need bigger rims.
Who knows what Opel was thinking when they launched a cool, sporty
coup in 1970 with just four cogs swimming around in its gearbox?
Just think, the Italians had been using five-speeds in the 60s
and even some hatches were starting to pack five-speeders (even
BLMCs Maxi). Neither countries had flat-out autobahns either.
Its a travesty, but never mind, because its one which
is easily sorted. Even if you arent bothered about nice
relaxed motorway cruising, the original four-speed is a bit of
a clunker. Dont forget that even the youngest of these cars
is nearly 30-years-old now with an appropriately high mileage.
However, even with low-mileage, the gearchange is a bit long and
vague because it was developed from a unit which originally came
with a column change.
box from the Manta B and C-Series is a popular mod because it
mates up to the As motor without too much hassle. However, fettling
is on the cards you either have to set about modifying
the transmission tunnel or the gearbox selector mechanism, as
the gearstick is about 4 inches further back than on the A-Series.
At the moment, these are are not hard to find, but it is useful
to know that, if youre suitably wedged up, the gearbox from
the four-cylinder, BMW 3-series is the same unit but with a different bell-housing.
As far as choosing a gearbox for the Rover goes, the Manta B box
is more than up to taking the power of the old V8. You would have
to use an adaptor plate in order to get it to fit. Most people
stick with the Rover five-speed and modify the propshaft so that
it will mate up. At the other end of the propshaft, the axle is
fine and can cope with power figures up to and including 200 bhp.
|Although you may have a problem with getting a final-drive ratio which
you are happy with, theres a 3.67:1 or a 3.44:1. Opel used to do
a 3.18:1 in the Kadett, but these are rare and can cost particularly
if youre tempted by an LSD with a 3.18:1 crown wheel and pinion (they
go for around £500 in Germany). Limited-slip diffs are available
with the 3.44:1 axles from the later B/C Manta. Its a straight swap,
but the back axle casing is one inch wider than the A-Series so that will
affect your rear wheels offset by half an inch either side. Of course,
there is another way to avoid all these shenanigans, but it does take
a lot of skill, balls and ingenuity. Perhaps you could just get hold of
the owner of the Manta pictured here Simon Peckham, because this
man has fitted a limited-slip diff from a 24-valve Vauxhall Carlton.
Youve seen what big wheels mean rolling the arches, but
it is certainly the lesser of two evils because, yes, there are plenty
of bad boy body kits available. These are massively popular in Holland
and Germany (the land of the ever-cool mullet and David Hasselhoffs
fan-base). Still, if they float your boat then check out the Continental
websites and youll find something, for sure. So, unless you want
to go mad with the GRP, then the only decent body mod is to fit a smart
little front bib spoiler from the Turbo or modify one from a C-Series.
They subtly add more aggression to the
cars design, they suit the car and theyre cool in a retro
Things are normally left pretty stock in here because its such a
great snapshot of the 70s. Having said that, the one mod which is
quite common (in particular with Berlinettas because their crushed velour
trim falls to pieces), is to rip out those slidy front seats and fit a
set of Recaros from a Manta C. These can then be retrimmed to match with
the rest of the interior. As for the rear, things cant be uprated
from later Mantas because they are a wider car and no amount of effing
and blinding is going to see them fit. Door-cards can be swapped, however,
for Manta B and C items. If you want something thats even more different
Vauxhall Carlton components will go in.
Using 14 inch wheels is no problem, however, when you start sniffing around
15 inch or 16 inch rims then you are going to have to mess with the bodywork
in one of two ways. The first is the age old technique of rolling the
arches and the second is the more scary Continental approach of fitting
wheel-arch extensions which, depending upon your view, could ruin the
entire look of
You have to agree doesnt this car give you a big dose of
the hubba-hubbas? A sort of Dodge Charger Mini-Me. Yet, if it werent
for the efforts of Simon Peckham it would still be stuck in a field, doing
nothing apart from providing the local birds with something to crap upon.
I tracked down the owner, struck a deal and then drove it home using
an electric fuel pump off the washer bottle and the handbrake, while my
friend drove behind me because the lights didnt work. We had to
drive the long way around through the countryside, just in case,
says Simon. When my dad saw it he just said: What you bought
now boy? You wont make any money on that. I told him I didnt
want to make any money out of it, it was my next project. Next project?
Clearly this wasnt Simons first rebuild, although it was the
first one which was watercooled because he was, and is, a bit of a Vee
Dub addict. The bodywork was a pain and the floors, doors, valance, sills,
inner wings and bulkhead were looking a bit terminal. One gander at the
prices of parts from Germany was enough to persuade him to make up his
own panels/repair sections for the valance, sills, inner wings and bulkhead.
I wont tell you what Simon does for a living, but I will tell you
that he does have a talent for fabricating all sorts and there are plenty
of opportunities to run things up at work. The finished shell was left
more or less stock, and was painted by Simons mate, Terry White.
Incredibly, this car lives outdoors and the paint was done three or four
years ago. In fact, Terrys already talking stripping down cos
he reckons the Manta needs another coat. The man is clearly a perfectionist
Im not a blind biffa and yet when I gave it the once over,
it seemed hunky-dory to me. The original engine is long gone, but open
the bonnet and the mintiness of this car keeps getting stronger. Sitting
in here is a 2-litre 16-valve from a 1989 Astra GTE with one or two mods
mainly a lightened flywheel and SBD throttle body kit which takes
levels up to 208 bhp. Oh and should Simon need a little more juice, theres
a bottle of laughing gas in the boot too. The Nitrous puts power
up to about 250 bhp, reveals Simon. Cogs, meanwhile, are sorted
by a five-speed gearbox from a Manta B. The highlight of this car is underneath
and to see it youve gotta get down and dirty. Simon has designed
and fabricated his own independent rear suspension set-up which gives
a good ride, a low stance and comprises double wishbones, a 24-valve Carlton
limited-slip differential, lowered coil springs and Koni coil-overs. I
still think its a bit soft at the moment, but then it doesnt
spin, it just grips and goes like stink. I reckon 0 to 60 mph takes 6.5
seconds or just under 6 seconds with nitrous, Simon explains, packing
a cheeky grin.
Series A Tech Spec
Two-door 2+2 fastback coupé, all steel monocoque construction.
Length: 171 inches; height: 53 inches; width: 64.5 inches; wheelbase:
95.5 inches; kerb weight: 18.5 cwt.
Deluxe/L: 1774cc, chain-driven OHV four cylinder, five-bearing
crankshaft, Solex twin-choke carburettor. Bore and stroke: 85
x 69.8 mm; compression ratio: 9.5:1; power: 68 bhp @ 5200 rpm;
torque: 79 lbf.ft @ 3400 rpm. Rallye/SR: 1897cc, chain-driven
OHV four cylinder, five-bearing crankshaft, Solex twin-choke carburettor.
Bore and stroke: 93 x 69.8 mm; compression ratio: 9.5:1; power:
90 bhp @ 5100 rpm; torque: 108 lbft @ 2800 rpm.
Four-speed, all-synchromesh manual gearbox (three-speed automatic
optional). Final drive: 3.67:1.
Front: coil-sprung double wishbones, anti-roll bar; rear: progressive
coil sprung live-axle located by trailing arms and Panhard rod.
Track: 52 inches (front), 52 inches (rear). Turning circle: 31ft.
Steering: rack and pinion.
Dual circuit, front and rear disc/drum set-up. Mechanical handbrake
operating on the rear wheels.
WHEELS AND TYRES
Deluxe/L: 13 inch steels with 165SR13 tyres.
Rallye/SR: 13 inch steels with 185/70SR13 tyres.
Front and rear seat belt mounting points, impact absorbing steering
column, two-speed windscreen wipers, sports steering wheel, reclining
sports seats with headrests, padded dashboard with flush-fitting
safety switches, speedo, rev counter, clock, water temperature,
fuel gauge, oil pressure and ammeter. Specification varies according
Bill Blydenstein 01763 272866
Terry White, TMW Autos 07790 808189
Dr Manta (Wolgang Wüster) 00 49 2064 32887 Fax 00 49 2064 39600
Demon Tweeks 01978 664466 www.demon-tweeks.co.uk
Elite Wheels 0118 9504100 www.elitewheels.co.uk
Rally Design 01795 531871 www.raldes.co.uk
Safety Devices 01353 724200 www.safetydevices.co.uk
To Simon Peckham, Charlie Middleton, Chris Collier and Mark Kinnon.
Manta Owners Club www.mantaclub.org
Vauxhall Kits & Components
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