USA TODAY’s Chris Woodyard searches for unique, interesting and rare rides across Southern California, including finding a restored 1972 Opel Manta at a car show in Valencia, Calif.
Video by Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY

VALENCIA, Calif. — Chris Alviani has a thing about Opels.

Today, he is the owner is a gorgeous 1972 Opel 1900 Manta, the Rallye version, that he restored to perfection. It created with autocross and rally events in mind.

“They are super strong. They just run forever,” says Alviani, of Agua Dulce, Calif.

But if he didn’t have a practiced eye for Opels, having owned several of them, ┬áthe car might have eluded him.

When he found his latest Opel in Denver online about three years ago, the car was largely in pieces. The gas tank was in the trunk. There was no radiator. After about a year of restoration, Alviani has it back in first-class shape — new paint, upholstery, air conditioning, sound system and all the parts back in the right places.

“It needed a lot of work, but everything was there to do the restoration,” he says.

Opel is one of those European car brands that was part of the American automotive landscape. They were little German imports, bought in by General Motors. GM eventually stopped selling Opels in the U.S., but the car continued to arrive branded as other models in various General Motors divisions.

Alviani says his hot little Manta was imported by GM to compete against Ford’s own foreign-made Mercury Capri in the early 1970s. Both cars found a following with weekend racers.

“This is one of the cars that I looked back and said, ‘I really liked that’ and wanted another one,” he says, showing off his Manta in its original orange colors at a car show here.