There have been plenty of electrifying performances by Opel Mantas over the decades – Russell Brookes winning the British Rally Championship in a Manta 400 in 1985 comes to mind. But there’s never been a Manta quite as electric as this before...
It’s the latest, and possibly the coolest, attempt yet by a car company to give an electric car a heritage by plucking a favourite model from the back catalogue and bringing it bang up to date with an electric powertrain and contemporary design cues.
The electric Manta is not a restomod, it’s an ElektroMOD, according to Vauxhall’s German sister brand. The back-to-the-future point behind it is to mark the 50th anniversary of the Manta with a one-off that showcases both the 1970s coupe’s style and the firm’s latest electric technologies.
While the tech underneath that signature black bonnet will be destined for an Opel or Vauxhall soon – all their new models will be electrified by 2024, Opel say – the style is destined to remain out of reach. That’s a little sad because Opel’s 1970s answer to the Ford Capri was a bit of a looker, in a rather petite, feminine way. With its front-engined, rear-drive layout it was also a tuner’s favourite.
Opel insists the Manta is an “icon” in Germany, but while it was sold here as an Opel in the ‘70s it is less well known in the UK (where we had to make do with the Firenza). Of course, we are talking here about the first-gen Manta, not its successor from 1975 that turned into the Manta 400 rally winner and which also spawned a Vauxhall Cavalier Sports Hatch equivalent. It was really only this first Manta that boasted some style.
And the Opel team behind the Manta GSe ElektroMOD have done a good job keeping that style while shoehorning in the latest tech. The four-pot petrol engine has been swapped for a 147PS (108kW) electric motor, but interestingly it’s been hooked up to the original four-speed gearbox. A 31kWh Lithium-ion battery offers a range of around 124 miles. No great claims are made for its performance but then they weren’t in the Manta’s heyday either.
The design has been updated with the brand’s pixelated Vizor front end and LED running lights, although we are pleased to see the round lamps (a la Opel GT) at the back have been kept, albeit in LED form. Yellow body and black bonnet is a winning combo and the 17-inch Ronal alloy wheels look good, too. Inside it’s gone all digital with touch screens instead of round dials but at least there’s a three-spoke steering wheel and sports seats.
It’s frustrating all this is look but don’t touch. If you are desperate for an electric Manta there’s any number of independent aftermarket firms that can convert classic cars to electric power for everyday use. But while the car companies are increasingly looking to their heritage models to sell electric technology, their creations are destined to remain one-offs.
However, cars like this electric Opel Manta, the equally enticing and electric Peugeot e-Legend honouring the gorgeous 504 coupe and even the more recent electric Hyundai Pony all have a role to play. In the electric car wars, “heritage” is one thing they can do that Tesla can’t.