Product Type: other cars
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A long-term relationship
Member Name: SaraL
Date: 26/10/00, updated on 26/10/00 (220 review reads)
Advantages: Great all-rounder
Disadvantages: No longer manufactured
Their manufacture has, now, of course, gone to that great production line in the sky - victim of the ever-increasing fixation manufacturers seem to have with 'modernisation'. But the fact that these were selling just as well, in this country at least, when production ceased some 8+ years ago, perhaps shows that those manufacturers perhaps aren't in tune with what their customers want?
Anyway, my Manta GT was, and still is, the only car I ever bought brand new from the showroom. 'A waste of money' people assured me, gloating over the instant depreciation my new purchase, which had cost more to buy than my house, had instantly suffered.
The new purchase was rapidly named Sebastian (for no especially good reason) and so began a long and intense relationship over almost 200,000 miles, with far fewer arguments and fallings-out than any other partnership I have ever encountered.
Mantas were slated in some quarters for being no more than glorified Cavaliers and while there was an element of truth in that, and many of the components were indeed the same, the two, as far as I quickly became concerned, were incomparable.
Sebastian fitted my requirements of sporty performance and practicality to a proverbial T. While he certainly wasn't as quick off the mark as the TR7 I'd owned previously, at least the Manta did start first time, every single day, come rain, shine or being left in a field for three weeks.
Acceleration was good though, and suffered very little for seeing the mileage guage go right round the clock - in fact very little suffered at all. A couple of overheating incidents (so typical Vauxhall!); a perished hose or two; a couple of head gaskets and th
e usual 'wear and tear' parts - and that was in. In 12 years. Bargain!
It's not as though the car was treated reverentially in that time either; three people learned to drive in it (and we know what that can do to a gear box); a fire-engine-chasing journalist borrowed it for several months while I had a company car, and it suffered the attentions of an outing with car thieves.
Sebastian took all these challenges in his stride - and many more. Thick snow - no problem! Flooded roads? this car wasn't going to be flustered in the slightest. Drive across deeply rutted fields to a campsite? This car with its sports profiling thought it was a 4WD!
Unlike so many cars, with pretentions to a sports pedigree, and despite being rear wheel drive, the Manta was remarkably easy to drive. One of those vehicles you can just get in and go, no need for a hesitant 'getting to know you' period in this relationship.
And, again, despite the somewhat sport looks, and the limited room for passengers on the back seat, the back seat did fold down to make a remakably versatile vehicle for transporting furniture; animals and even for sleeping in when torrential rain flooded our tents!
So there must have been a downside? Not really. Fuel consumption wasn't brilliant, especially at the 120mph the car was moe than capable of. The 1800cc engine could have been nippier, but this was a heavy solid car that one felt safe in and which was no dilletante on greasy roads.
Parts weren't cheap, and some were overpriced (especially exhausts, for some reason); but the fact that many Cavalier parts fitted meant that there were substantial savings to be had.
Body work after 12 years was still OK, if not perfect after 12 years (although the sills had had some welding); but the stereo that came with it was totally naff and was the first replacement.
I don't mind admitting that I shed more than a single te
ar when it was time for Sebastian to go. Not that there was much wrong - in fact, I was so confident about his future prospects I sold him to a friend.
So if you're after a second hand car that's both fun and reliable, look out for a Manta. You can pick them up very cheaply and, as long as they haven't belonged to a boy racer (in which case the gear box is likely to give out), you could be in for one of the biggest bargains around.