A review of The Marcos Sports Car, covering development, important features, and technical data of each model in the range, from the GT1800 to the Mantaray.
In this Article, I offer a nostalgic look at the Marcos Sports Car, one of an elite group of classic cars, which was manufactured during the period 1964 to 1998.
Marcos was founded in North Wales in 1959.
The first sports car, called the Xylon, had gullwing doors, a high roof, and a split windscreen.
It was given the nickname “Ugly Duckling”, and was powered by Ford 1 litre and 1.2 litre engines.
Targeted at competition events, only nine were built between 1959 and 1960. Production models were built up to 1963.
It achieved racing success when driven by Jackie Stewart, and others.
In 1961, there were design changes to the original car, making it sleeker and more attractive.
The plywood chassis and gullwing doors were kept, and the car was now renamed the Marcos Luton Gullwing sports car.
A total of thirteen were built. It was mostly used for racing.
A convertible version, known as the Spyder, was launched with the gullwing doors removed.
The Marcos GT 1800
In 1964, the Marcos GT 1800 sports car made its debut at the London Racing Car Show.
Presented as a road car, it was well received. It retained a wooden chassis, which was encased in a glass fibre shell.
It originally used a 1.8 litre, 4-cylinder, Volvo engine. However, in 1966, this was replaced by a range of Ford engines, from 1.5 to 1.65 litres. Finally, in 1969, a Ford V4 unit was used.
In 1969, the plywood chassis was replaced with one made of steel.
This allowed more powerful engines to be used, such as the 3 litre, Ford V6, or the 3 litre, Volvo straight 6-cylinder.
Cars exported to the US used the Volvo engine to cover exhaust emission regulations.
The Mini Marcos
In 1965, the Mini Marcos was launched.
It had a glass fibre body, and used the sub frame and A-Series transverse engine from the Mini to produce an affordable sports car.
It was successful on the race circuits, and was the sole British entry to finish the 1966 Le Mans race. It was sold as both a production and kit car.
The Marcos Mantis
In 1968, the Marcos Mantis XP was introduced. It was, in fact, a racing car powered by a mid engine BRM V8. Only one car was made.
In 1970, the Marcos Mantis M70 was launched.
It was a 2+2 sports car powered by a 2.5 litre, fuel injected, 6-cylinder, Triumph TR6 engine.
The luxurious interior seated four in comfort.
Marcos Post Receivership
Marcos went into receivership in 1972.
In 1981, Marcos re-emerged from receivership.
The Marcos 1800 GT, from 1964, was marketed in kit form.
A range of engines was available, including the Ford 3 litre V6, 2.8 litre V6 and 2 litre V4, as well as the Triumph 2 litre, and 2.5 litre, straight six.
Up to 1989, there were about 130 kits sold.
The Marcos Mantula
In 1983, the Marcos Mantula was launched.
It was based on the Marcos 1800 GT from 1964, but with a body desighed to be more aerodynamic.
It was powered by the more powerful and lighter Rover 3.5 litre V8 engine.
Its light weight made it a match for other Rover V8 powered cars, such as the TVR and Morgan.
Later Mantulas were powered by the Rover 3.9 litre engine.
In 1986, a convertible version, called the Marcos Spyder, was introduced, powered by the Rover 3.5 litre V8 engine.
It would eventually outsell the coupe versions. Some 170 coupes and 119 Spyders were built.
The Marcos Martina
In 1991, the Marcos Martina was launched.
Looking very similar to the Mantula, it was a lower cost version, and used the Ford Cortina, 2 litre, 4-cylinder engine. Nearly all were kit cars.
Some 80 Martinas were built.
The Marcos Mantara
In 1992, Marcos decided to leave the kit car market.
That same year, the Marcos Mantara was launched.
It was powered by a 3.9 litre, Rover V8 engine, although a 4.6 litre unit was offered as an option.
There was little difference between the Mantara and Mantula.
With the return of Marcos to GT racing, a range of modified Mantaras was produced as LM (Le Mans) versions, including:
- LM400 – using a Rover 3.9 litre engine
- Lm500 – using a Rover 5 litre engine
- LM600 – using a Chevrolet 6 litre engine
Road going LM cars built numbered about 30.
The Marcos Mantis
In 1997, the Marcos Mantis was launched.
It was offered as a two seat convertible, and a fixed head coupe based on the LM series of Mantaras.
The Mantis was powered by the four cam, V8, Ford Cobra engine, developing 370 bhp.
In 1999, a 500 bhp supercharged version became available.
The Marcos GTS, a version of the Mantis, introduced in 1997, was powered by a 2 litre, Rover engine.
An alternative version of the GTS was the Marcos GTS Turbo, of which only one was built in 1997.
The Marcos Mantaray
In 1998, the Marcos GTS was further developed to produce the Marcos Mantaray.
It was powered by one of three Rover options: 2 litre, and 4 litre or 4.6 litre V8 units. Only 17 were ever built.
This marked the end of the classic Marcos sports car.
Beyond 2000, Marcos produced a number of exciting sports cars which, sadly, falls beyond the time frame of this review.
Perhaps this stroll down memory lane might have answered, or at least shed light on, a possible question:
“Which Marcos Sports Car Is Your Favourite?”
However, should this question still remain unanswered, I will be reviewing, in some detail, in future articles within this website, the entire range of Marcos sports cars which were featured in the memorable era spanning 1964 to 1998.
I hope you join me in my nostalgic travels “down sports car memory lane”.