Market trends 1970s German Coupes Capri rivals from Opel, Audi and VW

Market trends 1970s German Coupes Capri rivals from Opel, Audi and VW

With muscle-bound pony cars stealing the limelight in the US market, it was inevitable their mix of stylish bodywork and simple mechanical underpinnings would arrive on the other side of the Atlantic. And just as Ford had set the trend in America with the Ford Mustang in 1964, it got the jump on rivals in Europe too, releasing the Capri in early 1969. The Capri was built in Britain at Halewood, but also in Cologne in Germany. Before long, Audi and Opel had got in on the act, and Volkswagen was set to follow. The result was three German coupes based on the underpinnings of more mainstream models, all of which have become increasingly sought-after as classics.


OPEL MANTA

If the Capri was Ford’s mini-Mustang, then the Opel Manta was GM’s mini-Camaro. The first-generation Manta A came along in September 1970, two months ahead of the Ascona on which it was based. Unlike the Capri it was never offered with anything more substantial than a four-cylinder engine, with the Opel brand’s relative obscurity in the UK meaning it lagged well behind the Fords in terms of sales.

To help boost its appeal, GM badged its successor as both an Opel and a Vauxhall. The droop-snooted Opel Manta B arrived in 1975 as a two-door booted coupe and was followed two years later by a Capri-rivalling three-door hatch, with both models also sold as the Vauxhall Cavalier Sportshatch and Coupe respectively. The Vauxhall versions disappeared in 1981, but the Manta soldiered on until 1988, outlasting the Capri by a couple of years.

In 2010, £2500 would’ve bought a nice Manta B, but in the last seven months we’ve seen two exceptional late examples crack over £20,000 at auction and an excellent base model GT top £14,000, serving to double the £5000 average value of five years ago to around £10,000. The A is a little more under the radar due to a lack of survivors, but the best examples can reach £15,000 as opposed to around £10,000 five years ago. However, news of Opel’s reimagined Manta GSe ElektroMOD EV could spike new interest.


AUDI 100S COUPE

A more premium option was the attractive Audi 100S Coupe, which was launched in 1969 and arrived in the UK during 1971. Like the others here it has mainstream underpinnings, being based upon the competent 100LS saloon – one of the first models to be launched under the ownership of Volkswagen. There was a facelift for 1974, but essentially only one model was available during its seven-year run, with a Mercedes-designed 1871cc four-pot driving the front wheels.

It’s reckoned that fewer than 3200 made it to the UK, no doubt due to the high cost. It was £700 more than Capri 3000E and only had a 1.9-litre motor, but was a step up in quality and quite the looker to boot. Squint and you’ve got a pseudo Aston Martin DBS.

A decade ago, good Coupes were changing hands for £2500 or so, with best selling for £4500. Nowadays you’ll need that £2500 for a total basket case, with decent ones more like £15,000 and the very best concours examples well above that. In the UK, you’ll also pay a premium for right-hand-drive cars.


VW SCIROCCO

Volkswagen’s Scirocco was built on the same platform as the Mk1 Golf, and as with the Manta and Ascona, it was introduced first – this time six months ahead. Arriving in 1974, the front-wheel-drive Karmann-built Volkswagen was smaller than the Manta or Capri but pitched as a more premium vehicle. It was good to drive, was extremely pretty to look at thanks to its Giorgetto Giugiaro design and boasted a practical hatchback, although early cars were pretty basic inside. Various engine options were offered, including the GTi motor from the Golf. Over 500,000 Mk1 cars were built before the arrival of the facelifted Mk2 in 1981, which survived until 1992. Sadly rust has consumed many Mk1s, and coupled with VW ‘Scene Tax’, has seen a hike in prices. In 2015 an early TS would’ve cost £7000, a Storm £8000 and a later GLi around £4000- £5000, but you can realistically add at least another £2000-£3000 to those figures now if you can find one for sale, and more for the best examples. Mk2s are more affordable but prices are undoubtedly on the up, so be quick if you want one.

Manta: a Camaro for Europe?

Audi’s 100S looked exotic but only ever offered four-cylinder power. Scirocco is rare in Mk1 form.

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