History of Marcos Cars
Marsh and Frank Costin, who took the first three letters of their surnames to
devise a name for the new company, founded the Marcos marque in 1959. Their
first cars drew on Costin’s aviation experience and were remarkable in their
use of wood laminates for the monocoque body/chassis unit. Lightweight and good
streamlining gave outstanding performance from the relatively modest 1 litre and
1.5 litre Ford engines they used.
with so many of the smaller British manufacturers spawned during this period,
Marcos earned its market pedigree on the racetrack. Notable early customers
include Jackie Stewart, who gained his first racing experience in a Marcos,
Derek Bell, Jackie Oliver and Jonathan Palmer.
first cars were no beauties but sold well on sheer capability alone. When Frank
Costin left the company in 1961 his creation was placed in the hands of Dennis
and Peter Adams. Their first challenge was to simplify the construction
technique. During 1963, and intended merely as a stopgap project, the Adams
brothers produced designs for the Marcos 1800. Though still relying upon wood
for the chassis this new model was clothed in an extraordinarily beautiful
fibreglass shell. Indeed this “stopgap” turned out to be so good looking
that it was acclaimed an immediate success following its launch at the Motor
Show that October and remains the inspiration from the Company’s top models to
1966 the Mini Marcos was introduced; a fibreglass-bodied car utilising trusted
Mini mechanicals, including the front wheel drive engine/transmission unit. It
sold extremely well, despite being described as “ugly as Hell” by one
correspondent. Subsequently the Mini Marcos earned its spurs and reputation on
the track, especially at Le Mans in 1966 when it was the only British car to
complete the 24-hour race. Over the years the Mini Marcos continued to earn its
place in the racing history books, it still holds four National Land Speed
Records, has twice won the Mod Sports Championship and its latest accolade to
win the 1991 Liege-Rome-Liege rally for Sports Cars beating Porsche, Alfa Romeo,
Mini Cooper and Austin Healey.
this time the Marcos GT remained a solid success but was still hindered by the
labour – intensive wooden chassis. In 1969 the Adams brothers were
commissioned to design a steel chassis, which appeared in the form of a square
section tubular space frame that cut some 15 hours off the manufacturing times
of every car. Power units were generally Ford (4 cylinder 1.5 litre and 1650cc,
V4 and 3litre V6) and Volvo (the original 1800cc and later the 3 litre straight
received excellent reviews from the press, where they compared very favorably with other specialist marques of the time, such as Lotus, Morgan, Gilburn and
ill fated Marcos Mantis M70 was introduced to the public at the 1970 Earls Court
motor Show, it was received favorably but did not sell in any great numbers, it
was the only move by Marcos past or present into a 2 plus 2 grand touring car,
acclaimed by some as being too futuristic the car was not a great success, only
32 cars were built between 1970 and 1971.
in 1970, encouraged by a healthy order book, the decision was taken to move the
manufacturing plant from Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire to a new factory nearby
in Westbury. Production volumes were intended to become 6 to 10 cars per week,
with a large proportion destined for the United States. Relocation to a new
plant interrupted output considerably which, combined with problems involving
the main US importer and a widespread collapse in the UK market, resulted in the
closure of the original company in 1972.
Marsh continued in business by establishing a spares and service facility for
existing Marcos owners, able assisted by ex Marcos employee Rory Macmath. In
1976 he re-acquired the Marcos moulds and name, though it was not until 1981
that Marcos GT manufacturing was re-launched. The 1982 Birmingham Motor show saw
the rebirth of the Marcos 3 Litre, to be sold predominantly in component form.
The decision to offer the car in this form was due to the very buoyant “kit
car industry” providing a DIY oriented car with a fine British pedigree.
Since then the car has been updated and revised several times, and with
various engine options.
In 1984 the Mantula Coupe was announced fitted with a 3.5 litre Rover V8,
and then in 1986 by the Mantula Spyder. Both versions of the car being updated
from time to time the last of these cars using the 200 bhp 3.9 Rover V8 engine
up until 1991.
1991, to satisfy a growing interest both at home and abroad, the Mini Marcos was
re-launched. A number of subtle alterations were made, though the main
reservations addressed the concerns of the 90’s through the provision of
lead-free engine options and catalytic converters. The 1991 Mini Marcos Mk V was
improved to feature wind up windows, 13 in wheels, later door handles and the
option of air conditioning and Walnut dashboard. Several of these quite
sophisticated little cars were sold to Japan in fully built form, the first
non-kit form Mini Marcos` to be sold.
Also in 1991 the Martina was introduced to provide a low cost Marcos for
the homebuilder. A body and chassis unit similar to the Mantula was produced to
take Ford Cortina mechanicals including engine, gearbox, front sub frame and
rear axle. To keep the costs as low as possible the body shell was available in
a self-coloured gel coat and various modules were available to let the home
assembler get stared for a minimal outlay. It was actually possible to build a
Martina for less than £10,000 whereas the Mantula started at £18,000.
proved to be a turning point for Marcos. The NEC Motor Show in late 1992 has
witnessed the launch of the Mantara. Though visibly related, this latest Marcos
was an all-new car that made use of the changes in UK type approval legislation
to permit low-volume production and sales through selected dealers. The car was
universally acclaimed, and following numerous road tests and reports, has
continued to meet with compliments and widespread admiration. Powered by the
latest derivative of the famous Rover V8 the Mantara offers outstanding
performance, sure-footed road holding and unrivalled practicality.
the 1993 Motor Show Marcos unveiled the GT Le Mans. Derived from the Mantara but
with a completely revised body shell and chassis, this is the Marcos that brings
the famous name back onto the racing circuits of the world. With a top speed of
over 200 mph, this is the company’s contender from the new GT class in the
BRDC GT Challenge and, ultimately, the Le Mans 24 Hours. Under the Team Marcos-Computacenter
banner the 1994-racing program proved hugely successful with the LM500 racecars
competing in the UK BRDC GT Championship, returning in 1995 with the brand new
LM600. Where the LM500 was impressive the LM600 was astounding. It took pole
position first time out, achieved a GT2 class victory in its next race and then
outright victory as an encore against all classes. The LM600 went on to dominate
and finally win the 1995 BRDC National Sports GT Championship. In June 1995 the
team went to France for the famous Le Mans 24 hour race, finishing the grueling event seventh in class quite an achievement for a small manufacturer.
and we see the next evolution of the LM series in the shape of the Mantis, not
to be confused with the four seater car of the seventies. The 4.6 quad cam Ford
V8 engine developing a full 325 bhp giving the car an acceleration time 0-60 in
around 4 seconds powered the new Mantis. The body styling was changed to an
all-new aggressive look with huge wheel arches and a massive power bulge to
house the new Ford engine.
Sales looked good. With the Mantis established and selling well in 1998,
the Mantis Challenge was launched, this was a one make racing series that was
designed to be an affordable way into GT racing, all the cars were built to the
same specification and used a 395 bhp engine. The Challenge was run by the BRDC
and turned out to be extremely popular and an excellent publicity engine,
gaining the company valuable television coverage.
compliment the Mantis in 1999 the much smoother and less aggressive Mantaray was
introduced, this was an all-new styling package mounted on virtually the same
chassis as the Mantis but using the well-proved Rover V8 engine of previous
models. This time the engine options included the 230 bhp 4.0 litre or the 290
or 340 bhp 4.6 litre. The main body changes were to the totally new bonnet and a
conventional style boot and luggage area. A very user-friendly car, only 18 of
these pretty cars were made.
last car to be produced was the outrageous Mantis GT this was powered by the
same 4.6 quad cam Ford engine but boosted to an amazing 500+ bhp by the addition
of a supercharger and charge cooling, the resulting power is awesome. The other
features on this model are 3in drain pipes purporting to be exhausts, the random
use of carbon fibre, huge racing brakes, racing rear wing, magnesium racing
wheels, roll hoop and all the luxuries you would expect at a massive £55,000.
Less than 10 GT cars were built before the final chapter of the Great British
The final chapter being the appointment of the receiver in early 2001,but this is not the end, merely a breathing space. Marcos Heritage secured the future by buying all the assets, which include the moulds, tooling and jigs going back in some cases to 1960. We have all the original drawings and individual car build files to enable us to reproduce parts to the correct specification and supply any information on any particular car. The Heritage team (all ex Marcos employees) are able to carry out all forms of repairs, upgrades, servicing, restoration, insurance work and paintwork on any Marcos 1959 to date.
( 02-02-02 DCM)
Copyright © 2007 Marcos Heritage Spares Ltd