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    Customer Stories pt. 1: The perfect family car

    Customer Stories

    The owner: Kevin Rowland

    The classic: Opel Manta

    ‘Each time I go out in it, I still get the same feeling that I did when I first drove it home. People are looking at it more now that it’s nice and shiny. It was quite a journey trying to get here, but now that I’m here, it’s been well worth it.’

    Kevin’s Opel Manta has been with him for 34 years, even before he and his partner Jan had their three children. ‘It happened by chance,’ Kevin recalls. ‘My van broke down one day and while I was at the garage a red Opel Manta pulled up. I thought it was someone bringing their car in for a service, but it turned out that it was being exchanged. Bob, the mechanic, told me that I could take it for a spin and drop the keys back through the letterbox when I was done, just to get a feel for it. It was March 1988, so it was quite dark as I drove it home. I remember driving it and thinking ‘this goes well!’

    ‘When it was time to take back to the garage, I didn’t want to let the keys go through the letterbox. I wanted the car so much that I just couldn’t let go of them; I kept thinking ‘if I let these keys go and somebody buys the Opel before me, I’ve lost it’. I eventually dropped them, and at 8 o’clock the next morning I was straight on the phone to Bob to let him know I’d have it.’

    A cherished classic

    From then on, the Opel Manta became a treasured family car. ‘In 1989, I went to pick up my daughter for the first time from the hospital. She was my firstborn,’ Kevin says.

    ‘On Christmas day one year later, my son James was born, so I went to the hospital and picked him up in the Opel Manta, too. And finally, I picked up my youngest son Ben, who was born in 1993. From then on, there was me, Jan and our three kids in the Opel; it became a proper family car.’

    The Opel certainly served Kevin’s family well in the early years, taking them to regular holidays in Cornwall and trips to visit family. ‘We had a caravan too, which we used to tow on the back,’ Kevin recalls. ‘Believe it or not, we’ve still got that! I’m a strong believer in the saying ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.’ It’s the same for the Opel, why keep chopping and changing cars? That was my car, and I still love it as much as the day I bought it.’

    There was a moment of uncertainty in the family car for Kevin’s family during a trip to Longleat, however. ‘It was only around 8 miles away from home, and we had the caravan on the back,’ he explains. ‘Perhaps she didn’t want to be behind the caravan, but the young woman driving behind us tried to overtake us on a bend. As she rounded the corner, however, she crashed into a queue of stationary vehicles. It was awful, and a lot of people were injured, including children. Thankfully, we weren’t involved, but it did shake us, especially as Jan couldn’t get out of the car. The Opel is just a three-door,’ Kevin explains, ‘and there was a baby seat in the front, so Jan couldn’t get out of the back without help. It made us think that we needed to get a different vehicle, just to be on the safe side.’

    After the crash, Kevin decided to purchase a new set of wheels, this time a 5-door Rover. ‘It was a nice car with a nice Honda V6 engine in, which suited me down to the ground,’ he says. ‘The most important thing was that there was plenty of room in the back and the front for the kids and Jan. I did try selling the Opel, but when I told Jan how much I could sell it for, she said ‘if that’s what you can get for it, you’d do just as well to keep it.’ I thought ‘well, that’s not a bad idea!’