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

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 Total Vauxhall.

Retro Cars
Total Vauxhall  May 2006
Total Vauxhall
May 2006
Total Vauxhall
Staying Power

The old Manta never seems to lose popularity, and it's not hard to see why looking at this black beauty.

Words: Dougie, Photo: Michael Whitestone

Vauxhall and Opel in the '70s, before becoming fully integrated, produced some of the best-styled cars of the era: the Firenza, Magnum, Reford and Manta were A were all fantastic-looking 0 scaled down versions of American '70s muscle cars. Unfortunately they were slightly overlooked due to Ford's Escort and Capri escapades. That's not a measure of how good he GM products were though, as proven by their competition success and the fact people are still modifying them today. Take Simon Peckham and his sleek black XE-powered Manta as a case in point.
The best word we can find to describe the way this car looks is 'sinister'. With its shark nose, glowering twin headlights and low stance, Simon's Manta doesn't need any bulging arches or big spoilers to single it out. When you look this cool why attract attention to yourself? Sitting squat on its 17s, there's definitely shades of Dodge Charger about the original Manta. It looks like the bad guys' car from sone'70s thriller, lurking menacingly in the corner of the disused factory we're doing the photoshoot in.
Total Vauxhall Simons's story starts back in the late '80s, when he was just getting onto seriously modifying cars with air cooled VWs and a notable 200 bhp Fiat 131 Miraflori which did 8 mpg (ouch). His first modified Opel though was an Irish import Manta Luxus 2.0 which ended up liveried with period Vauxhall rally stripes, headwork, an exhaust and a set of twin 40s. Nice. The example you see here came into Simon's possession in quite a sorry state. He and his mate Daniel found it round the back of an industrial estate in 1997 with grass growing through the floor. The owner was convinced to part with the partially organic Opel for the sum of £250 and Simon had himself a new project.

The car was registered in 1975 on the P registration and Simon thinks it's one of the last 30 sold in the UK. It wasn't in good condition. "I had no idea how long it had been sitting for. Nothing worked at all. I drove it home late one night down back roads using a windscreen washer pump to supply fuel and only the handbrake to stop it!" He'll never sell the car. As the £250 he used to buy it was loaned to him by his dad who passed away shortly afterwards. His remarks upon seeing the car for the first time, quite understandably, were:"Oh, what have you gone and bought now son?"

Rotten or not, Simon had his new project and set about improving it. Obviously there was lot of rot to cut out and replace. He fabricated a new floor, inner wings, bootfloor and valance. He worked on the car for about two years stop-start, generally getting quite frustrated, Thankfully his mate Richard, was on had to lend encouragement and soon Simon really started to get stuck in. Once the bodily restoration was complete he got hold of a 2.0 CIH Manta engine and fitted that, which was a fine performance upgrade. At least it was for the first 29 miles - it blew up on the 30th. Handily though, there was a chap who at exactly the same time, was stacking his Astra GTE 16-valve. The XE was quickly purchased but didn't stay standard, even though this would have provided plenty of grunt. It was rebuilt with ARP bolts, a SBD lightened flywheel and a set of SBD 208 throttle bodies. "SBD were great, I got everything I needed and did it all in one hit."

If that wasn't enough, a 50 bhp Nitrous kit has been added and Simon has made a set of sandwich plates to fit the jets between the manifold and bodies should he ever wish to remove the kit. It's a really smart feature. He also made the exhaust system himself. The engine was mated to a half Cavalier Turbo, half Manta clutch, then a Manta 1.8 five-speed Getrag gearbox and modified Carlton Two-piece propshaft, which Simon reckons in only a temporary solution. "The ratios on the box and crap for what I want but it does the job at the moment. In the future I'm going to fit a Ford Type". The engine was fitted at the same time as the car was re-sprayed in its original black paint. Firing nigh on 200 bhp through a chassis originally designed for about 90 bhp probably isn't a good idea long term, so Simon cam up with a new system designed to reign in all the extra horses. The Manta runs a liver rear axle as standard so Simon removed this and created a home-made independent set-up for a 1991 ex-police Carlton. This car also provided a rear axle which contained a limited slip diff. The Carlton front hubs were also used, along with Carlton 2.2 brakes and a set of sliver 17 inch wheels for the first year the car was on the road. These were then junked in favour of big Carlton GSi 24-valves discs with Wilwood four-pot callipers and a set of discs and tow pots on the back for good measure.

The wheels were changed for the black Kosei Snipers items you see here tucked tightly up under the arches thanks to modified Koni springs and shocks on the front and Koni coil-overs on the rear. The servo assistance was never up to scratch, so her made up system using a VW Jetta servo and the suction pump form a Sierra diesel, which runs off the pulley normally utilised on the XE for power steering. That's a meaty set-up for a car that weighs only a tonne and Simon reckons they works very well, which is probably a bit of an understatement. It also gives much more clearance for throttle bodies! The standard Manta interior has been lift mostly intact, but Simon has made a few changes. In order to remove all switches from the dash he has fitted an Alfa 33 steering column - a mod he first did on a VW Beetle. This means that the lights and wiper controls are now all on the column as opposed to the dash. The seats are Cobra Suzukas using three-points harnesses which were a presents from wife Natalie one Christmas after they were spotted at the Autosport Show.

Apart from the seats and the six-point Safety Devices cage that's about it for the inside, the car doesn't even have heater as it's only used in summer. You don't want to mess too much with such magnificent '70s minimalism anyway. Gotta love the steeply angled dash and recessed dials.

Total Vauxhall
By the time 2004 had rolled around the car was effectively complete but a twist of fate saw Simon move from working on his own cars in his spare time, to actually working on Mantas full time for a living. After working as an agricultural engineer for 15 years he was made redundant in March 2004, at the same time people were asking him if he could carry out some work on another A-series Manta. Simon took the plunge and went self employed, working on Mantas. Current projects include a 'street-rod' Manta with massive V8 engine and what is believed to be the first Ecotec-powered Manta. Next on the agenda for his own Manta is respray to fisher it ups again, and possibly removal of the vinyl roof, but he's not sure. A somewhat more extravagant job could possibly be a 4x4 conversion using parts from a Sierra but at present Simon is very pleased with car and the way it drives, reckoning it to be easily on a par with the local Jap stuff. It'll be out at Billling this year on the Opel Manta Owners' Club stand - Simon is an area rep for East Anglia region - and taking to the strip at the Retro Cars show at the Pod. Oh, and possibly in a film involving dodgy deals on disused airfield and chases with Rover SD1s. Just need to get the funding sorted out and we're away. Donations to the usual address.
 

A SHORT HISTORY OF THE MANTA A

A lot of people don't even know there was a Manta before the B-series so here are a few details, courtesy of www.mantaclub.org. Check the site out for information on all variants of Manta.

The Manta was previewed at the Paris Show in September 1970, initially in three variations: base, Deluxe (L) and Rallye (SR). Only the last two were sold in the UK. There were three engine options, two 1.6-litre units of 68 and 80 bp and a 1.9-litre engine with 90 bhp. Later, in Europe, the 1.2-litre OHV Kadett engine was also available but it wasn't sold in the UK. Most of the driveline components were derived from contemporary Opel cars such as the Rekord. Front suspension was new, using double wishbones and coil springs and they had rack-and-pinion steering. At the rear was a live axle, trailing arms and a panhard rod and progressive rate coil springs.

The wheelbase is only slightly longer than the Kadett and 5 inches less than a Capri , yet the front and rear track is increased by nearly 3 inches, matching the Capri very closely. It is an inch longer, an inch narrower and 2 inches higher. A total of 498553 A-series Mantas were sold.

Contacts
Suffolk County Mantas, Unit 9 Shepards Grove Ind Est, Stanton, Bury St Edmunds. Suffolk. IP31 2AR 07720288928

Thanks
Richard, Pete, Dave and Henryk at V-Tuning, Simon at SFS, all at Vauxhall Sports Car Club and Cavalier Turbo Owners' Register. Mum, Dad and Terri

Total Vauxhall

TOTAL VAUXHALL SPEC

ENGINE
Rebuilt 1989 20XE, SBD 208 throttle body kit, MBE programmable management, SBD 4-2-1 exhaust manifold, 50 bhp NOS fogger kit
TRANSMISSION
Getrag five-speed Manta 1.8 box hybrid clutch using Cavalier turbo and Manta parts, modified Carlton propshaft, Carlton 24-valve rear axle with LSD
SUSPENSION
Koni adjustable front shocks and modified springs, Koni rear coil-overs.
BRAKES
Front:Carlton 24-valve 300mm discs, Wilwood four-pot callipers. Rear: Carlton 24-valve discs, Wilwood twin-pot callipers
WHEELS AND TYRES
7x17 inch Kosei Sniper wheels, 205/40 Toyo Proxes tyres
EXTERIOR
Factory bodywork, vinyl roof, resprayed original black.
INTERIOR
Cobra Suzuka seats, six-point Safety Devices cage, six-point Saftey Devices 3 inch harnesses, Alfa 33 steering column, dash switches blanked off.

 
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