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This car can be very much compared to the Opel Ascona 400. Not only for Manta 400 as well as Ascona 400 being heavily delayed for in-house politics and bureaucracy. In fact the Manta is the coupé version to the Ascona. So much so, in this generation Ascona and Manta were in UK called Cavalier and Cavalier Coupé. Both being in a 2-door layout, so is the Manta longer and lower (same wheelbase though, but lower centre of gravity) and having distinct coupé looks compared to the Ascona saloon car. In rallying terms, both cars were technically strong related. Both had the same 2420cc engine, although the Manta was 20BHP stronger through fine tuning. As well the glassfibre body panels of the Ascona, such as wing extensions and spoilers, have been replaced for ones of a Kevlar compound. Through this and again fine tuning the weight was reduced by 70kg.
All in all the Manta 400 was not much more than a fine tuned Ascona 400. One fun note however is that exactly 245 Manta 400 (base cars) were made. Did not 400 stand for the number of cars made? Yes! And 245 stands for how loved the Manta 400 was. 400 was the minimum number of cars to be made in group4, and so 400 Ascona 400 were made. The Manta 400 was very much on the same line, keeping the same name, but it started life as a groupB car, 200 would have been enough but demand lead Opel into a luxury that for most other groupB cars was a struggle: 245 was basically a minimum number as the order books filled quicker than Opel could watch.
The Manta 400 was the last truly conventional car homologated in the groupB era. It should have come much earlier than it did as plainly it wasn't the revolution Opel needed - and it would have come earlier wouldn't Opel have held it back for exactly that reason. They were wondering if the car was big enough a step and at one point they even considered turning it into a groupA car. Indeed Röhrl was promised to debut the car during his 1982 season, then it was Henri Toivonen to indeed compete with a Manta 400 on the French Rallye 1000 Pistes (where no homologation was needed) in summer 1982, that was still a full year before its WRC debut! Two Manta 400 in full Rothmans colours and with early, Ascona-like works regs GG-CJ 956 & GG-CK 620 were famously displayed at all sorts of German car shows during the Röhrl Ascona 1982 season. In the end Opel did probably the most sensible thing in their situation. A groupB supercar was still far away (read *note below) and if even a small one, the Manta was still a step forward from the Ascona and it wasn't even loads of money down the drain, so at long last they launched it mid 1983.
Despite its delayed launch and its similarity to the Ascona 400, the Manta 400 had surprising reliability problems in its first season, maybe indeed just bad luck. Especially considering Walter Röhrl's 1982 drivers title when driving the works Ascona 400 came through reliability and certainly not speed, the Manta 400 debut was surprising: Guy Fréquelin debuted it on Corsica 1983 with a blown engine, then in Finland (rear axles) and RAC (head gaskets) both times both lead cars of Vatanen and Toivonen retired with identical problems. It seems the driver problems named in the Ascona 400 (group4) story remained completely unchanged, too. In 1983 in their disastrous RAC (GB) Rally, Jimmy McRae made up for disappointment with a very fine 3rd place as the meat in a Quattro sandwich. And while Ari Vatanen still complained the Manta 400 was, if anything, even more understeery than the Ascona 400, Henri Toivonen won the BRC Manx Rally ahead of Vatanen! Sure conventional cars were nearly outdated anyway, and Ari Vatanen left the team for Peugeot in 1984, and that left Opel without a lead driver for the WRC. Eventually the Manta 400's closest claim to victory was also Rauno Aaltonen's closest he ever got to win his favourite rally: 2nd on Safari 1984. In Safari 1985 the Opel Manta 400 even was in 1st & 2nd position with a huge lead over the Toyotas until very unluckily once again minor problems bit both cars badly on the last day! Talking of bad luck and the Ascona 400 was so reliable, in the case of Safari 1985 on Erwin Weber's Manta we are talking a 20 pence screw that rattled loose and somehow found its way into the cylinder to damage head and valves, how unlucky can you be? The Opel team still performed miracles to take off and repair the cylinder head on a dusty Safari road side, and things did not become much more efficient when the second car pulled up alongside at that moment "I want some repairs too". It was a long repair and coming 4th and 5th is hardly any compensation when you were with both cars in a massive lead so close to the finish. What a huge shame! The Manta was the fastest Safari car out there and the Toyota Celica TCT only won after extreme last minute bad luck for both the Opels, but why would you want a Toyota...
...In the Manta groupA chapter I talk of the Manta cult car for a whole generation, of Manta jokes and Manta driver girlfriends would be the German name for your typical Essex girls. Well the Manta as a car is hard to explain why it had such a cult following, but for the fans of this sporty coupé a Safari victory would have just been perfectly fitting. The Manta was the coupé that could cope with anything anywhere and if their busty hairdo girlfriends cared or not about beating mud, dust, elephants, the Manta driver was a happy species of human being!
Indeed the Manta was a very capable car in the hardest conditions. Maybe it is my personal opinion that the Dakar adventure is overrated. It's very much straight on and by many called a "raid" rather than a "rally". And I am sure for Opel fans the Safari was much more followed and celebrated too, while hardly any of them will remember what happened Dakar 1985. As well Opel would have never started the Dakar had not Bastos paid the lot. But as it was Opel sent 2 Manta 400 for Erwin Weber and Bastos protégé Guy Colsoul to the Dakar raid 1985 and both finished, Colsoul in 3rd place. But more even, Colsoul led more than half of the event, which - like Dakar or not - is some going considering there were 3 works 4x4 Porsche 959 at the start and the Manta 400s were RWD cars that were not even specifically prepared for Dakar, basically Safari Rally specifications! But back to real rallies:
However in all that the Manta 400 became a big hit on national level. Especially in UK - even though that is Vauxhall territory - Opel Manta's turned up in all sorts of colours. Jimmy McRae (red & blue for AC Delco) won the BRC title in 1984, team mate Russell Brookes (yellow for Andrews) repeated the trick in 1985, while the French title 1985 belonged to Guy Fréquelin. At least the BRC was extraordinarily exciting in these days, as the Audi Quattro was minutes ahead of the Manta in forest performances, but as the BRC traditionally ended in the Ulster and Manx rallies the championship became an exciting close battle for bad Quattro handling and reliability and solid Manta asphalt performances. Ironically it was Opel's home market where the Manta 400's potential was put into perspective. A works Opel Manta 400 could win the German championship only once, and only after the older, private Ford Escort BDA was disqualified for a non performance related issue!
Talking rally car and groupB developments at Opel in that era, it is interesting that indeed a 4x4 version of the Manta 400 existed. This prototype carried the reg plate GG-CM 537, which bears an interesting similarity to the reg plate of the car used for the Manta 400's WRC debut (both registered at same time). However the 4x4 conversion was carried out by British company Ferguson for Opel. Why this 4x4 prototype was never a route followed further is hard to guess. Indeed it is only my guess, but since it had the same relative low torque 2.4 atmospheric engine, I doubt the Ferguson 4x4 (4x4 = eating torque, plus adding easily 150kg of weight) equipped Manta 400 was actually faster than the RWD one.
*note: As it seems Opel realised already before its launch that the Manta was not a big enough step forward, so not long after its launch Opel started working on a proper groupB supercar, called Opel Kadett 4S. Opel showed some fantasy with the car as - apart from 4x4 - it had a mid engine that was located behind the front axle rather than in front of the rear axle. Early versions had a 500BHP Zakspeed Turbo engine, but then the discussion of replacing groupB by groupS for the end of 1987 came and Opel replaced the Zakspeed engine by its known Manta 400 engine, making this an ideal groupS car. However the accidents in 1986 meant groupB was stopped and groupS never happened, such the Kadett 4S was a stillborn project. The groupB Kadett 4S actually even started one rally, the British national Audi Sport Rally, where Andrew Wood finished 4th behind 2 Ford RS200 and a Metro 6R4. Though I believe Wood had some niggling problems here. Because, while two Kadett 4S with the Manta 400 engine already started Dakar 86, Wood's Audi Sport Rally drive was with the 500BHP Zakspeed Turbo engine. This event was in October 1986, 2 months before the ban of groupB, which very much proves how unlucky the timing of the project was.
Model & Evo. (Activity)
|Manta (B) 400 (83-86)||275/7200||300/5200||4475.1670.1320||980 (3.6)||RWD (2518)|
Sorry, there are no photos.
This is an unofficial Car Results list and may be incomplete.
|11th.||1986 WRC Rallye Monte Carlo||M. Hero||L. Grün||#18||[UNKNOWN]||0:00:00|
|5th.||1986 WRC Rallye de Portugal||. "Tchine"||G. Thimonier||#20||[UNKNOWN]||8:13:04|
|11th.||1986 WRC Safari Rally||B. Criticos||S. Thatthi||#30||[UNKNOWN]||10:56:00|
|10th.||1986 WRC Rally Argentina||B. Criticos||S. Thatthi||#7||[UNKNOWN]||8:02:44|
|5th.||1986 WRC Bandama Rallye||S. Assef||C. Boy||#9||[UNKNOWN]||3:25:00|
|4th.||1985 WRC Safari Rally||R. Aaltonen||L. Drews||#2||[UNKNOWN]||6:12:00|
|5th.||1985 WRC Safari Rally||E. Weber||G. Wanger||#18||[UNKNOWN]||6:36:00|
|10th.||1985 WRC Rallye San Remo||. "Tchine"||P. Gandolfo||#18||[UNKNOWN]||8:28:56|
|14th.||1985 WRC Rally of Great Britain||P. Collins||R. Freeman||#42||[UNKNOWN]||0:00:00|
|8th.||1985 WRC Rally of Great Britain||R. Brookes||M. Broad||#11||[UNKNOWN]||10:25:50|
|6th.||1985 WRC Rally of Great Britain||J. McRae||I. Grindrod||#14||[UNKNOWN]||10:16:01|
|11th.||1985 WRC Rally of Great Britain||E. Weber||G. Wanger||#16||[UNKNOWN]||0:00:00|
|79th.||1984 WRC Rallye Monte Carlo||S. Servia||J. Sabater||#15||[UNKNOWN]||0:00:00|
|2nd.||1984 WRC Safari Rally||R. Aaltonen||L. Drews||#10||[UNKNOWN]||2:13:00|
|9th.||1984 WRC Tour de Corse||G. Fréquelin||C. Tilber||#3||[UNKNOWN]||14:08:53|
|10th.||1984 WRC Rally of Finland||K. Aho||M. Hakala||#24||[UNKNOWN]||4:36:51|
|11th.||1984 WRC Rallye San Remo||. "Tchine"||. UNKNOWN||#18||[UNKNOWN]||10:21:19|
|4th.||1984 WRC Bandama Rallye||A. Ambrosino||D. le Saux||#4||[UNKNOWN]||7:03:00|
|5th.||1984 WRC Rally of Great Britain||R. Brookes||M. Broad||#16||[UNKNOWN]||9:48:06|
|8th.||1984 WRC Rally of Great Britain||J. McRae||M. Nicholson||#4||[UNKNOWN]||10:07:01|
|9th.||1984 WRC Rally of Great Britain||B. Fisher||A. Frazer||#37||[UNKNOWN]||10:14:01|
|4th.||1983 WRC Acropolis Rally||A. Vatanen||T. Harryman||#2||[UNKNOWN]||11:35:11|
|8th.||1983 WRC Acropolis Rally||J. McRae||I. Grindrod||#9||[UNKNOWN]||11:56:23|
|4th.||1983 WRC Rallye San Remo||H. Toivonen||F. Gallagher||#7||[UNKNOWN]||8:59:49|
|6th.||1983 WRC Rallye San Remo||D. Cerrato||G. Cerri||#15||[UNKNOWN]||9:08:04|
|8th.||1983 WRC Rallye San Remo||. "Lucky"||. "Rudy"||#19||[UNKNOWN]||9:17:17|
|3rd.||1983 WRC Rally of Great Britain||J. McRae||I. Grindrod||#8||[UNKNOWN]||9:12:19|
This is an unofficial Car Model Retirements list and may be incomplete.
|Ret.||1986 WRC Rally of Great Britain||R. Brookes||M. Broad||#16||[UNKNOWN]||SS30 engine|
|Ret.||1986 WRC Rallye San Remo||. "Tchine"||G. Thimonier||#18||[UNKNOWN]||SS99 event disqualified from WRC - 8th|
|Ret.||1986 WRC Acropolis Rally||. "Tchine"||G. Thimonier||#18||[UNKNOWN]||SS5 rear axle|
|Ret.||1985 WRC Bandama Rallye||S. Assef||C. Boy||#7||[UNKNOWN]||SS10 crash|
|Ret.||1985 WRC Tour de Corse||G. Fréquelin||C. Tilber||#8||[UNKNOWN]||SS1 engine|
|Ret.||1984 WRC Rally of Great Britain||P. Collins||R. Freeman||#36||[UNKNOWN]||SS42 engine|
|Ret.||1984 WRC Rallye San Remo||D. Cerrato||G. Cerri||#10||[UNKNOWN]||SS48 crash|
|Ret.||1984 WRC Safari Rally||G. Fréquelin||B. Berglund||#6||[UNKNOWN]||SS63 engine|
|Ret.||1983 WRC Rally of Great Britain||H. Toivonen||F. Gallagher||#2||[UNKNOWN]||SS32 engine|
|Ret.||1983 WRC Rally of Great Britain||A. Vatanen||T. Harryman||#6||[UNKNOWN]||SS20 head gasket|
|Ret.||1983 WRC Rally of Great Britain||P. Collins||S. Harrold||#44||[UNKNOWN]||SS17 differential|
|Ret.||1983 WRC Rallye San Remo||A. Vatanen||T. Harryman||#4||[UNKNOWN]||SS50 crash|
|Ret.||1983 WRC Rally of Finland||A. Vatanen||T. Harryman||#4||[UNKNOWN]||SS35 rear axle|
|Ret.||1983 WRC Rally of Finland||H. Toivonen||F. Gallagher||#7||[UNKNOWN]||SS39 rear axle|
|Ret.||1983 WRC Acropolis Rally||H. Toivonen||F. Gallagher||#6||[UNKNOWN]||SS32 crash|
|Ret.||1983 WRC Tour de Corse||G. Fréquelin||J. Fauchille||#6||[UNKNOWN]||SS5 engine|