Opel’s electric restomod of an original Manta coupe is a fun one-off, but it’s also the touch paper for a battery-powered Manta return.
Opel, and by extension Vauxhall, wants to put the Manta name back into the minds of the car-buying public. It might not be a familiar name in Australia but with Opel/Vauxhalll now under the ownership of Stellantis after its run with General Motors Holden, anything is possible.
An all-new car, battery-powered and likely to have SUV-esque styling, is due to arrive in 2025 wearing the Manta name. In the meantime, Opel has dipped into its back catalogue and electrified an original Manta coupé to remind us of a time when the Opel lightning bolt and Vauxhall griffin were applied to cars other than humble family hatchbacks and SUVs.
Opel has preserved the original coupe’s delicate, simple lines for its vivified Manta but has, of course, entirely binned this 1974 car’s rather wheezy, 56kW 1.6-litre petrol engine in favour of a custom-made 108kW electric motor. Unusually, the front-mounted motor drives the rear wheels via a four-speed manual gearbox and a longer-than-standard propshaft.
Meanwhile, the lithium-ion battery, with a mere 31kWh of usable capacity, is sited in the boot, albeit mounted as far forward as possible to help balance the weight distribution. What’s left of the boot space is said by Opel still to be sufficient “for a fortnight’s holiday in Italy for four”. The company quotes a single-charge range of 200km, which, after a day of driving around the countryside outside Frankfurt, feels entirely plausible.
All up, the Manta GSe weighs a relatively trim 1137kg. That’s about 177kg heavier than the original petrol car but is still surely one of the lightest electric cars that’s ever been built. To cope with the extra weight, though, the front brakes have been upgraded and the rear drums have been replaced with new discs.
Inside, the original dashboard and dials have been replaced by the twin-screen instrument panel from the current Mokka and there’s a set of gorgeous Recaro seats, which have been pinched from an unloved Adam Grand Slam hatchback that someone found lying around.
The body colour, a lurid shade of highlighter-marker yellow, is actually Opel’s new corporate colour. The quad-headlight fascia of the original Manta has been replaced by a version of the brand’s new ‘Visor’ front-end styling (itself inspired by the styling of the original Manta). Ultra-slim LED highlights are separated by a black-panel screen that’s able to shine a 2D Opel ‘blitz’ logo, or whatever slogan has been programmed into it. Opel’s people responded with polite smiles when asked if it can be set up to read ‘Get out of my way’ in mirror writing…
Still, you’re unlikely to need such a message with this car. Its relatively languid 8.9sec 0-100km/h time is rapid by the standards of the original Manta, but slow by those of modern electric cars. The big surprise, though, is that the Manta GSe is actually quite well sorted.
I’d been expecting a sort of lashed-together show pony, but the unassisted steering is good – slightly vague around the straight-ahead but with lots of feel when you get lock on – and aside from a sensation that the brakes could do with more oomph, the electric Manta drives largely smoothly and with good manners. True, there’s lots of wind noise and the body shakes and rattles over sharp bumps (there’s no extra bracing or strengthening panels), but even at a 100km/h cruise, it feels fine.
The four-speed manual is odd, though. It’s almost like a pre-selector gearbox in that you select a gear, let the clutch out and nothing actually happens until you hit the accelerator. Changing gear does have an effect on power delivery, and it’s certainly quieter when you’re cruising in fourth, but ultimately you can leave it in third most of the time and treat it like a single-speed automatic.
Still, it’s more engagingly tactile than the leave-it-in-D, single-speed drive commonly used in electric cars.
For now, this is all a bit of fun but Opel is quietly having background discussions with suppliers about making a very limited run of electrified Manta GSe models, so fervent has been the response to this show car.
Would that whet the public appetite for the all-new 2025 Manta that much more? Or would it make us all disappointed that the new Manta won’t be a gorgeous, slim-pillared ’70s throwback coupe like this? Either way, we hope it happens.
Opel Manta GSe ElektroMOD specs
|Model:||Opel Manta ElektroMOD|
|Engine/Battery:||Front synchronous electric/31kWh|
|Transmission:||Four-speed manual, FWD|
|0-100km/h:||8.9 seconds (est)|
|Top speed/Range:||150km/h / 200km/h|