Manta 400 Group B Rally Car
The Opel Manta 400 (Manta400)
Jimmy McRae came third in the 1983 RAC Rally, his best ever
result on this event.
Due to the FISA regulations which came into force on 1st January,
1982, the old Groups 1,2,3, and 4 became Groups A, B, and N with
Group B comparable to the old Group 4. However only 200 vehicles
were needed for homologation stead of 400. Opel's problem lay not
in developing the car, but in convincing the authorities that they
had in fact built the requisite 200.
The car finally made its debut in the 1983 Tour of Corsica driven
by Guy Frequelin. It lasted only 100 miles before the head gasket
failed. The same weekend, Jimmy McRae gave another Manta 400 its
debut in the Welsh Rally and was far more successful. He could have
taken second place until he went off the road. He finally finished
The Manta 400 was lighter than the Ascona
400, having Kevlar doors, bonnet, spoilers, boot lid, mudguards
and even lamp holders, saving 80 kg in weight. Other advantages
included a more favourable weight distribution with the engine located
6 cm further back. Homologation allowed the use of a Phase 3 engine,
which gave the car more power, up 20 bhp to 275 bhp, but it lost
some of its flexibility - an unpopular move with the drivers.
In its first outings, drivers complained of under-steer, but the
main problems came from the rear axle. The rash of axle breakages
was a mystery as lack of development money meant that the axles
were taken from the Ascona 400 where they had been so reliable.
The answer possibly lay in the fact that the axles could not cope
with the increased horsepower in combination with the lighter body.
Driving the AC Delco Manta 400, Jimmy McRae took the 1984 British
Open Championship for the third time in 4 years.
The conventional Manta 400 was still in the shadow of the Audi
Quattros and the Lancia Rally 037s, with the new developments from
Peugeot and Toyota making the situation even harder. Although a
four-wheel-drive version of the Manta was said to be under development
at Ferguson, the 1984 plans seemed to make it clear that Russelsheim
would be responsible solely for development work: competition work
being handled outside the factory by a new group.
A unique four wheel drive Manta did appear in Sweden before that
country's international in 1983 and was shown to a select gathering
of motoring press as something of a publicity stunt. its concept
was simplicity itself using the Ferguson System as the only modification
to the car's Group B specification. In the ensuing tests with Ari
Vatanen the car proved more driveable than a Quattro, but it was
unfortunately a stillborn project.