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An Internet Rip-Off Was the Mother of This Invention
The only thing that kept this from being a 'Rolling Death Trap' was the fact that it didn't roll.
You can skip all the text and get right to the Manta photos below, if you'd like...

I've been building cars for most of my life. I've always loved the challenge of trying something different, and the sense of accomplishment that comes with doing it myself. I guess you could say that I love being Mechanically-Challenged... That is, until I was thrown into completely rebuilding a Manta Mirage kit car several summers ago – through my own stupidity – and a total scam on eBay Motors


I had just finished my longest project ever, the HydroCar, and it hadn’t performed even close to how I had hoped it would. Add to this the fact that I desperately needed a break from any type of fabricating, and I came up with a plan. No more projects!


Once the HydroCar was sold, and all debts were paid, I would buy a car that's fun to drive and didn't need anything – nothing – nada – I could just get in it and drive!


A friend of mine back in the 80s had built a Manta Mirage kit car and let me drive it a couple times. It was so cool! It was like driving a go-kart on the street! It weighed only a little over a ton – and with 350-400 horsepower, you could get into a lot of trouble real fast. So, when the HydroCar was sold, I began looking for a finished, ready to go, turnkey Manta Mirage.


There was one on eBay for $22,500.00 that was factory-built by Manta with only 5,600 miles on it – completely finished – untouched – turnkey – with a 480-hp roller-cammed small-block, tilt column, and on and on. Cool, but way more than I could afford. The car later showed up on eBay for $17,500.00 and again for $12,500.00 – so I bid on it – and won it for $14,501.00 - (only $1.00 over the second-place bidder.)  


At the time, I thought that winning it by $1.00 was lucky, but I soon realized that was the worst dollar I ever spent!


I attempted to hire an independent inspector through eBay, to look it over, but there was no service covering the portion of Arizona where he lived.  So I had many long conversations with the seller and asked him every question I could think of.


I asked specific questions from the paint, to the interior, to the engine, to the transaxle – and everything in between. I specifically asked him about the large gap around the deck and he said that he had forgotten to latch it before the taking the photos – stating that every body panel had a perfect fit and it was even water-tight for rainy day driving. He told me how the sound system 'really rocked'. He made the car sound like it was in showroom condition – after all – it only had 5,600 miles on it, so how bad could it be?


He went on to tell me of how the neighbors always called the cops when he took it out, because they thought it was a race car. He reminisced about taking it up near 150 mph one time and how there was still a lot left to go! He also mentioned how much he was going to miss it and he wanted to make sure that it was going to a good home. And there I was, like a little kid again – I was sold – hook, line and sinker...


I remember thinking that even if this guy was exaggerating a bit, and wasn't a Pathological Liar, this car has got to be the deal of a lifetime.


The only problem – It turned out that he WAS a Pathological Liar!


Well, I thought this could never happen to me... (wrong) and I thought that I could 'read' people... (wrong) and I thought I was smarter than one of those idiots that get taken on eBay... (wrong) and I thought that I was somehow protected by eBay... (wrong.)


I almost had a heart attack when it arrived – after paying another $1,500.00 for enclosed, fully-insured shipping.


How could this have happened? This scumbag had a 100% Positive Feedback score on eBay – then I remembered that Feedback only goes back for one year.


After I did some digging, I found he had also sold three other cars in the fairly distant past that had received Negative Feedbacks: 

  1. A 1966 Corvette convertible that sold for over $50,000.00. The frame was so bad that the car nearly split in half when the new owner opened both doors at the same time.

  2. A VW Bug with a completely rusted out belly pan.

  3. A Chevy Camaro, which was listed as a "Rust-Free Camaro".  I contacted the buyer, and he sent me the photos below.  (I guess the rust-free description meant that he didn't charge extra for all that rust...)  


OK, this fiasco, although not a bit funny at the time, was a great teaching point, now that I look back on it – since rebuilding his Manta Mirage is what got me seriously thinking about designing our Corvette Interface Adapter Kits.

Since the Manta was obviously going to be another long-term project, one of the upgrades I seriously thought about with the car was replacing the kit's original Corvair independent rear suspension, (IRS) with an all-aluminum, high-tech C5 Corvette IRS system. But, of course, when I researched the hassle of locating, designing and fabricating the mounting points, plus the time required to undertake such a swap, I just bought a couple suspension 'enhancements' for the Corvair system and sold the car – at a big loss.


Even after ruining a complete summer and losing several thousand dollars in the process, I still wanted a Manta Mirage, so when another one showed up on the Internet in Detroit at the right price, I bought it, after driving to Detroit and thoroughly looking it over in person.)


Once again with this Manta, I debated on whether or not to upgrade to a C5 Corvette IRS – and once again, I passed on the process, because I had more pressing things to do than spend a month or more on the conversion. So I made some minor changes and finished the car, had some fun driving it around, and sold it.


However – rebuilding these two Mantas got me thinking seriously about the IRS conversion. If it had been a simple swap, I definitely would have done it. I talked to some gearhead friends of mine and realized that there were probably hundreds of other builders in my situation that would love to upgrade to a Corvette IRS in their projects, but didn't have:

  • The expertise to do the job –

  • The tools to complete the swap –

  • Or the money to pay a reputable shop to do the conversion properly.


That's where our Corvette Interface Adapter Kits come into play – and I have to admit,

to this day, I have my eBay Motors Nightmare to thank for the idea.




Below is the eBay text for the Manta listing:

1900 Replica / Kit Makes MCLAREN M8



A very rare Mclaren M8 street version replica that was built by the Manta Corp in 1984, only a few in existence... This is a true untouched turn key survivor with only 5600 original miles... The Manta Mirage is equipped with its original 69 chevy 350 4 bolt main, 202 heads, 480hp, Manta headers, 303 roller cam, Manley rods, electronic Mallory distributor, aries pistons, steel crank, Holley 650 carb, fuel cell by manta, pedals by neil, tube chassis, mustang II front suspension, electric Moroso 110 fuel pump, posi trac on 69 Covair 4 speed transmission, 5 core cross flow radiator by Manta, full vdo cockpit gauges, heater, defroster, tilt steering, fresh air vents, wipers w/washers, Al reidner Interior, electric headlight assemblies, new tires, tune-up, etc... PLEASE BE SERIOUS AND HAVE ALL FUNDS AVAILABLE AND PLEASE MAKE AT LEAST ONE PHONE CALL PRIOR TO PURCHASE... THANKS !



Below is the original online Manta Registry listing for this Manta in 2001. Some of the info was carried over for the eBay ad, but the high performance engine and parts were long gone.

The guy I sold it to was a retired Sheriff in Florida.  He liked the car, so he went through it and replaced all of the brakes, had it painted and reupholstered.     


He was a big man, so when he had the upholstery redone, they removed the driver / passenger divider between the seats for additional shoulder room.  (This would become a real problem down the line...)

He even sent me a Christmas card with the car on it.

He told me that it was too difficult to get in and out of, so he sold it to another guy.  He added a few things, including a new set of wheels, a back-up camera, some stripes and numbers.

Believe it or not - its next stop was the 'Counting Cars' TV Show, where the crew added a very sophisticated Borla induction system and a one-off custom stainless steel exhaust system, also from Borla.


It was during these modifications that the builders noticed that there was nothing but a thin strip of vinyl upholstery material separating the driver's arm from the water pump pulley.

(As I mentioned earlier, the seat divider had been removed when the car was reupholstered in Florida - months after I had sold it.) 












The headlights were relocated to the front fenders, then the entire car was wrapped in black-satin.

From there, it was off to the SEMA Show in Las Vegas where the Manta was the main exhibit for Borla.
(Talk about a 'Rags to Riches' story based on a car...)

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