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Simon Peckham - Opel Manta Series A
 
Simon let us know that his Manta has been featured in Retro Cars, see below and Total Vauxhall

Engine 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.

Comments: Very simple kit to fit. I have had this setup in the car for 5 years now and still running good.

The article has been reproduced by kind permission of Retro Cars.

Retro Cars March 2004
Total Vauxhall May 2006
HOW TO MODIFY: Opel Manta Series A

Words Simon Charlesworth, Photos David Wigmore

Think ’70s blue-collar coupé and most people will jabber on about the
Capri, but there is an alternative from the GM boys — the first Opel Manta.
Retro Cars March 2004
Pros: 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.
What 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 project.

Opel denied it was a knee-jerk reaction to Project Colt, saying that their own marketing brains had come to the same conclusions as Ford’s. 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 wasn’t 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.

When 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-speed’s 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.

Other 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 Opel’s 2.8-litre straight sixcylinder engine which pumped out 142 bhp (a 230 bhp, triple carb’d 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 UK’s Dealer Opel Team. Sadly, only 28 of these black, bespoilered creatures were ever built. Although nearly five million Series A’s were built for markets all around the world, it’s a rare sight in the UK. This is a crying shame because, unlike many of GM’s 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.

Engine
The 1600 didn’t perform very well at all. The valves weren’t 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 doesn’t 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 engine’s breathing and power. Take your head along to someone who knows what they’re doing. For GM motors, this means Bill Blydenstein.
As well as gasflowing the ports and combustion chambers for his B Pack conversion, Bill’ll 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 doesn’t tackle the engine’s core problem. Bill recommends retaining the standard camshaft for road use because it’s more capable of producing the goods (he’s 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 you’re sticking with the stock twin-choke carb, then there’s 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 there’s 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.
Retro Cars March 2004 Engine Swaps
The A is blessed with a large under bonnet area which has been home to lots of different motors. Let’s 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 BMW’s 3-litre straight six engine will also fit. Yes, it’s going to cost you more than a GM motor, but then it produces impressive torque and power figures straight out of the scrapyard.
Moving back to more conventional ground and Auntie Rover’s 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 Rover’s V8, you can’t 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 it’s 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 better.
Brakes
Aside from fitting twin brake servos, uprated fancy fluid, pads and braided brake hoses to the A’s stock disc and drum set-up, there are other ways to go about helping the Manta’s 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 we’rein the area, if you have gone for rear discs, then it’s probably wise to leave some cash aside for a set of 14 inch wheels, because 13 inch ones won’t clear the callipers. Anyway, they should be shown off and not hidden behind pokey 13 inch steels.
Suspension
Heavy-duty fiddling with the Manta’s 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 you’re 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 end’s not great, so this one features all-independent set-up. Uprated brakes available, but you need bigger rims.
Transmission
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 BLMC’s Maxi). Neither countries had flat-out autobahns either. It’s a travesty, but never mind, because it’s one which is easily sorted. Even if you aren’t bothered about nice relaxed motorway cruising, the original four-speed is a bit of a clunker. Don’t 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.

The 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 you’re 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.

Retro Cars March 2004
Although you may have a problem with getting a final-drive ratio which you are happy with, there’s 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 you’re 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. It’s 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.
Exterior
You’ve 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 Hasselhoff’s fan-base). Still, if they float your boat then check out the Continental websites and you’ll 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
car’s design, they suit the car and they’re cool in a retro style.
Interior
Things are normally left pretty stock in here because it’s 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 can’t 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 that’s even more different — Vauxhall Carlton components will go in.
Wheels And Tyres
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 the car.
This One’s Mine
You have to agree — doesn’t this car give you a big dose of the hubba-hubbas? A sort of Dodge Charger Mini-Me. Yet, if it weren’t 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 didn’t 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 won’t make any money on that.’ I told him I didn’t want to make any money out of it, it was my next project.” Next project? Clearly this wasn’t Simon’s 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 won’t 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 Simon’s mate, Terry White. Incredibly, this car lives outdoors and the paint was done three or four years ago. In fact, Terry’s already talking stripping down ’cos he reckons the Manta needs another coat. The man is clearly a perfectionist — I’m 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, there’s 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 you’ve 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 it’s a bit soft at the moment, but then it doesn’t 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.
Retro Ford March 2004

Manta Series A Tech Spec

BODY
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.
ENGINE
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.
TRANSMISSION
Four-speed, all-synchromesh manual gearbox (three-speed automatic optional). Final drive: 3.67:1.
SUSPENSION
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.
BRAKES
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.
INTERIOR
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 to model.

Sources
Bill Blydenstein 01763 272866
Terry White, TMW Autos 07790 808189
Dr Manta (Wolgang Wüster) 00 49 2064 32887 Fax 00 49 2064 39600 www.dr-manta.de
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

Thanks
To Simon Peckham, Charlie Middleton, Chris Collier and Mark Kinnon.

Club
Manta Owners’ Club www.mantaclub.org

 
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