This section will contain submissions from visitors to this site. Feel free to send me any stories you have relating to Mantas, whether it was the first time you fell in love with the Mantas, your first ride in one, an experience buying one, or anything else like that. To contribute to this page, email me.
Remembering Brad Lovette
In 1969, when I returned from Vietnam, I shared a house in Manhattan Beach, California with two other guys…one was Brad Lovette. Brad was a great, easy-going guy to room with and we shared many common interests…the beach, young women in bikinis, sports cars, etc. And the fastest, most exciting sports cars of that time were Cobras and Can-Am race cars.
As I remember, Brad was very talented with fiberglass and fabrication and happened to have a shop next door to a guy who was involved with racing McLaren Can-Am cars. The guy asked Brad if he could make him spare body parts for his McLaren M8 and that's how Brad happened to get molds from a real McLaren body. (Some say the Mirage evolved from an M8C, but I think it was an M8B.)
One day I mentioned to Brad that my dream was to get a Lola T70 coupe and convert it to a street car. A few weeks later, Brad took me down to his shop and showed me the first prototype for the Manta Can-Am (later renamed the Manta Mirage). It looked awesome…a shiny, gel coated, McLaren Orange body sitting on a plywood platform waiting to be engineered into a street-legal car.
The Manta Mirage body is very similar in shape and overall dimensions to the McLaren M8B except for the major change from an open roadster to an enclosed coupe. Brad also engineered an extra 12 inches into the cockpit seating area by narrowing the doors and eliminating the plexiglass faring. Other subtle changes can be seen in the front and rear design and the inverted side air scoops. Also, on the McLaren race car, the rear body was in two pieces which could be unclipped and lifted off (two man job!). The Manta's rear deck is one piece and tilts up. This is much better for a street car, but presented problems on my car, which has been converted back to a McLaren style roadster when I added a Can-Am style wing mounted to the chassis (see Manta Registry).
There is an enormous amount of engineering and detail work when you develop a kit car from scratch, even when you use off the shelf parts and pieces. From time to time Brad would give me progress reports and bring home new pieces for the car, like the "Manta" air cleaner top, etc. My recollection is that the first windshields were made in Mexico, but the quality was not consistent enough so they found a U.S. supplier. When he told me he planned to run the coolant through the frame tubes to save weight, as in some race cars, I told him I didn't think that was a good idea. (Has anyone had rust-out problems?)
Time passed and we went our separate ways. Brad and brother Tim started Manta Cars which was very successful in marketing the Manta Mirage and Montage. (As an aside…Kit Car magazine made lots of money off of Manta advertising and sold lots of copies with testosterone-inducing pictures and stories of Mantas - today, in my opinion, they hardly mention or picture Mantas, because they no longer generate advertising revenue for the magazine.)
I was truly saddened to learn that Brad had been killed while racing. (I think it was club racing a Formula Ford.) Brad had always wanted to drive race cars and when he began to make some money in the kit car business, he followed his dream. I missed him, not because of our car connection, but just because he was a nice guy.
I went on through the usual life cycle of career, wife and family, but never lost my urge to turn a Can-Am car into an outrageous street car. When I retired in 1999, I decided it was now or never. I searched the internet for Lola T70's, but soon realized that real Can-Am race cars were well out of reach, price wise. (A tube-framed replica is better for the street than a monocoque chassis anyway.) In the process, I found a very interesting Manta Mirage for sale…actually I researched several that were for sale, but bought the one that most closely resembled the original Can-Am car.
I have provided pictures and the story of my car in the Registry, but I wanted to post this story here as a way of remembering Brad Lovette and thanking him, and Tim, for helping me live my dream.
It's never too late, Jeff!
The First Manta
My father had an office in Costa Mesa many years ago, next door to Manta Cars. He would come home from work and I would pester him about how the "race car" next door was coming along. He would always say, "Well, it's hard to tell, but from what I can see it looks wicked." Finally, one day, he came home and took me back to work with him. I met Brad LoVette, and he walked me around the back of the office to show me the most radical looking car I had ever seen. It was so low and so wide, it definitely looked out of place in that office parking lot. Opening the doors, first the gull wing and then the flip-out side door, he picked me up and sat me inside of the first Manta ever made, a yellow one, that tragically was lost in a fire later that year. He took it pretty easy on me, ripping around the parking lot at modest speeds. But that was all it took. I promised that one day, I would own one of these machines. I had gone back to Manta Cars several times, even when they relocated to Santa Ana, after Brad's brother Tim took over (that must have been tough for him after losing his brother), just to get another eyeful of that Manta, and the newer Montage. The Montage was a pretty car as well, but not nearly as evil as the original Manta. Well, 25 years later, here I am...married, baby girl, another on the way, and for some reason I thought I'd check the internet to see if anyone out there had one of these cars. I was very happy to find your sight! I live near Knott's Berry Farm, Huntington Beach to be exact, and have gone a few times to the Fun In The Sun shows. I regret not talking to any of the owners before. Hopefully some will show up for the next one this spring, and I'll be able to meet some owners. I still have an original brochure for the Manta, the one with the Hot Rod article printed inside, showing the original yellow car along with the red pin-striped car on the front cover. I'd sure like to see one of these cars again.
Jeff Jones, California
Working With Tim Lovette
I lived in Orange County at the time and had already purchased my Mirage. While I was building it slowly, I often spent Saturdays at Manta with Tim (Lovette) as a kind of "non paid" sales person. We became fairly close, but not what I would call really close. Tim was pretty quiet about his personal life.
I did meet Tim and Brad's parents on several occasions and watched the rebuilding of the Lola (T70) that Brad had pruchased wrecked just prior to his death.
A friend and I were instumental in getting Tim to put the GM/Citation engine in the Montage. We based our argument on the fact that SMOG was starting to be required on all cars and this was a way to get a NEW and CHEAP power plant as GM was building a ton of these cars, and this was the new layout for all their new car design.
I was a work one day and Tim called me and said "You got to get over here this afternoon... Can you stop by at lunch?"
When I did he had a Citation V6 in the shop, with the engine out of it. I ask "Where did you get the Citation?" He stated "I rented it..."
He then took me around the corner and showed me the rolling chassis, the first V6 powered montage, with the V6 from the rental car....
When Tim was creating the brochure for the V6 Montage, he showed me the artwork, and it said "Our team of engineers .....". Laughingly I asked him where did he get an entire team of engineers? He replied with "From many sources, you were one of them!"
On the propane-powered Montages: These are the only 3 cars that were assembled at Manta Cars, by Tim. While he "did not" assemble them, as to keep his amateur, and "kit car" status, he did hire two mechanics to assemble them per specification. They were completed at manta Cars, and then were transported to the customer in Canada. One was in their transport van, another was on a trailer, behind
the van, and Tim drove the third car. I do not know the where abouts of these vehicles; but was watching them at the time of construction.
Life Got in the Way
I went to see Brad and Tim soon after they started producing Manta cars. I drove a bright red one they had at the time. It blew my mind the way it handled. Then life happened as they say and I had other things come up and I did not get a kit. Then later they sent me some info on a 1953 Corvette they were going to produce. About this time I lost track of them and the kits.
Thanks for your site, I just happen to find it while trying to track down any information on"the rest of the story".