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Transcript for ‘Manic GT - Automobile 2010’

In the 1960’s, Jacques About, a French-born Montrealer dreams of putting together a team of Canadian race car drivers. Sponsored by Gitanes cigarettes, the team uses a new prototype, a Formula B one-seater that quickly sets speed records at St-Jovite and Mosport racetracks.

Meanwhile, About wants to deliver a new Canadian-made car that can handle any type of road and, that would combine an elegant body with sturdiness, affordable maintenance and adequate performance. The car would be designed for young people, could be a great second car for middle-aged driving enthusiasts, or an ideal car for women who dreamed of driving something other than a Volkswagen Beatle.

The cost was to be around $3,000, which was a lot of money at the time. And what would this car be called? In Quebec, the Government of the Union Nationale had just inaugurated the Manic hydro-electric project, built on the Manicouagan river, an exceptionally powerful waterway. Thus the Manic GT was born. Borrowing its frame and mechanics from the Renaud 5, the European styled Manic GT has a 1.3 litre engine. The fiberglass body is unique, but the windshield is from the Renaud 8, and the rear window from the Renaud 16. The Manic is equipped with a four speed manual transmission, with a fifth speed option, disc brakes on all wheels, and independent front and rear suspension.

Depending on the choice of engines, one could reach top speeds of 169, 193 or 217 km\h. As for fuel consumption, the Manic used between 35 and 42 miles per gallon. Technically, it was as good as the best models available in 1969. That year, the Manic made appearances at the Montreal International Auto Show where it received rave reviews, as well as at the Quebec Pavilion in Osaka.

The company, which seems to be on its way up, moves its factory from Limoge Street to a larger space in Granby, in January 1971. At this point, the plant is producing 3 cars per day, and there’s hope to turn out 120 units per month, eventually reaching 2,000 cars a year.

But then, everything starts falling apart. Five and a half months later, on May 20th 1971, the company has to close down. Barely 100 cars are assembled, and there are still 60 bodies (frames?) that will end up being sold for recycling.

According to Jacques About, the lack of cooperation from Renaud, which was supposed to supply the parts, was at the root of the collapse. According to Renaud, however, payment for the parts was never received. So who is telling the truth? Today, the Manic GT has all but disappeared. A few collectors, including one Montreal resident, own the last remaining models to have survived and are still in running condition.

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