The Marcos biography covers a succession of bankruptcies interrupted by interesting cars, starting with the company’s foundation in 1959 by Frank Costin and Jem Marsh. Their first effort was a GT that appeared in 1960 with then-fashionable gullwing doors and an odd four-piece windscreen.
Nine examples made in the next couple of years had assorted Ford engines teamed with Standard/Triumph steering and suspension. Their most unusual feature was the fact that the chassis was fabricated from laminated plywood — an idea suggested by Costin, who worked on the wood-framed Mosquito fighter bomber in World War II.
After the Adams brothers came aboard they refined the original design and in 1963 the classic 1800 GT coupe was introduced, with hints of E-Type Jaguar in its racy look and long body shape. This was a very pretty car that would continue to be produced for years, through various comings and goings of the Marcos marque. The engine was bought in from Volvo and was the same power plant used in the iconic Volvo P1800 of 1961. Later in the 1800 GT’s run various different engines were offered as options.
In 1969 the GT effectively became a different car as a steel chassis was introduced, enabling Marcos to fit a range of more powerful engines, including the 3 litre Ford Essex V6 or the similarly sized Volvo straight six. But production ended with the first ‘bust’ in 1971, when the money ran out as a result of problems getting export clearance for the USA coupled with the crippling development costs of the new Mantis.
Today, surviving Marcos 1800 GTs are prized as classic racing cars, with well-maintained track versions fetching high prices — for they are still great fun to drive and very competitive more than 40 years after they first burst onto the scene.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1963 (until 1968)
1,778 cc Straight Four
Top speed of 116 mph (187 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 8.2 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The Marcos 1800 GT named for its size should not be confused with the company’s other ‘1800’- the Mini Marcos of 1965 that had a wheelbase of just 69 inches (1800 mm) and proved to be popular in Japan and quite a little track star in Europe.