Thursday, January 6, 2011

Guilty Pleasure: 1971 Manta Montage

From a purely anthropological view, the era of fiberglass American kit cars in the late 1960's and early 1970's was a time of entrepreneurial innovation and wild excess. It bucked the notion that car design be dictated to the consumer by corporations and safety regulations, and offered the layman a chance to drive (if not build) something expressive and exotic.

Some of the best (and worst) of that lot lifted designs from existing automobiles- with Ferrari being a particular target. I believe the proliferation of Ferrari Dino rip-offs depressed and diluted the market for real Dinos for years. People wrongly judged the appeal of the real cars by their cheaper knock-offs, and no Ferrari owner wants to be asked, "Is it real?". Gazelle SSK replicas similarly diluted values of Excaliburs (SSK replicas in their own right) which were in fact factory built cars. Cobra replicas of course have become so numerous that they have become their own sub-species, with lesser and superior phylum and genuses. However, replicas of GT40s and McClaren M6GT's -like the Montage shown here- did no harm as those cars were never available to the proletariat. Therein lies the charm.

This Montage offered out of Washington State impressed me with one simple selling tool: the video. The images of peeling out and ripping down the road in great aplomb and the view from behind the wheel had me smiling. The dual Weber VW motor makes a great sound. The fact that things like the wipers and blinkers worked (just imagine!) let me know its reasonably well sorted. And that the owner was willing to get the car up to speed on a winding road gave me confidence. How many units could Manta sold in period with such marketing?

Thankfully, the VW powerplant has been worked over and offers enough of the period "go-fast" stuff that makes it evocative and interesting to me. Some of the other touches could easily go: the chrome dog dish wheels and older rubber could be updated to great effect, and I'd lose the cheesy steering wheel for something more vintage.

As an aside I have to admire the seller, who goes by the YouTube I.D. of Schmitty1944. His video collection reveals a past history with seemingly well-heeled replica and eclectic cars. Apart from living on a great driving road and being an interesting videographer, he seems to not give one whit about so called "legitimacy" and owns these cars solely for their driving experience. Check this video of him flogging the Montage on a road rallye: Granite Falls Vintage Rally or this one of his garage, appropriately set to James Horner's theme from the movie "Aliens": Schmittys Sub Level 03. Viewing this concludes that this particular fellow either married a saint or is a lifelong bachelor!

At the current bid of $6600 with No Reserve and multiple bidders, I say no harm here. It is always best to pay a fraction of the builder's investment..however eccentric his tastes.


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