Abandoned: Rare American Market Opels
Opel sold enough Mantas in the US for this one to wind up abandoned in the Georgia woods
I recently visited the eclectic junkyard-turned-roadside-attraction Old Car City USA in White, Georgia. This has been my custom for 3 yeas now as it combines relaxing hiking with the thrill of exploring an overgrown car graveyard. You can find my review here. Upon reviving this series, we've most recently seen a stupendously uncommon example of the very first rotary equipped model Mazda sold in the US. Today, we view testaments to the forgotten history of Opel in America.
Opel has managed to move quite a large volume of cars in the US, but the brand name never made much of an impression on US shoppers. It was only from 1958 to 1975 that you could actually buy Opel badged vehicles in the US. But we've received plenty of vehicles from Opel as captive imports from the fantastic Regal TourX to the miserable Chevy Chevette. Most of Opel's US cars have been sold through Buick's division though.
During Opel's run of selling cars as Opels, things weren't too complicated. Other than the maddeningly named 'Buick's Opel Isuzu' (which was made by Isuzu off an Opel design), they mostly kept their global names, occasionally replaced by a trim level or displacement. They sold plenty of Kadetts as low cost budget transportation but those have mostly long since vanished from the roads. They rusted severely and were not prized by their owners, being junked as soon as their value proposition was compromised by increasing maintenance costs.
The most penny pinching cars in GM's lineup for many years have often had Opel DNA from the Chevette to Saturn L Series. However, the Kadett B of the 1960s was the absolute cheapest of the cheap. The handful of Kadetts at Old Car City USA were in particularly derelict condition but I was still able to document a sedan and a wagon.
With the Kadett as a forgettable transportion appliance and the GT as a novelty item, being perceived as nothing more than a 2/3 scale Corvette for those that couldn't afford a real Corvette, there was room for a midrange sporty offering. This was the Manta. It struck a sweet spot between sportiness and being cost effective but few took notice of it. It was always a rare sight on the road and an even rarer one in junkyards, having had a short 4 year run between 1971 and 1975.
However, by my count, three different Mantas are laid in their final resting place next to each other. We shall ignore the one with rear end damage and move to the more interestingly specced example haphazardly shoved on another car's roof.
This isn't just any Manta. It's a Luxus trim Manta with an automatic transmission befitting the badge.
Nearby sits a sporty Opel 1900, essentially a trim level of the Manta A sold in 1971 and 1972.
The lightning bolt badge is not a symbol that means anything in the US and few even remember the US Manta at all. It's a real shame as they were affordable light sporty coupes in an era of increasingly heavy and slow neutered muscle cars.
What do you think of the forgotten remnants of this storied marque's failed foray into the US? These cars weren't truly appreciated by the handful of US Opel aficionados until a much later date and still aren't appreciated by those outside of that select circle. They didn't stand a chance, but it's still hard to see them rotting away.
Note: This article was also posted to Oppo's other home on The Hyphen.