There are probably not too many of us who remember the Opel Manta, but 50 years ago it was a sporty coupe that the ordinary family buyer could aspire to, writes Brian Byrne. Which was Opel’s design brief similar to another car which became an automotive legend, Ford’s Mustang.

The design was by Opel’s American design boss George Gallion and debuted in September 1970. It was to be an immediate success after launch in 1972, with clean sporty lines being a big attraction. The original 1.2 60hp engine was later joined by a 105hp 1.9 fuel-injected motor, as the Manta GT/E, and eventually the 144hp with a 2.4 engine, limited to 400 units for Group 4 motorsport homologation. One of these won the 2-wheel drive class of the 1984 Paris-Dakar Rally, piloted by Guy Colsoul and Alain Lopes.

The Manta went through two and a half generations before it was retired in 1988. I would have liked one, but the family was too big …