From its inception in 1959, Marcos had been associated with the race track rather than the road. The company’s founders, engineers Jem Marsh and Frank Costin made a name for themselves among the racing fraternity by building cars that, although not always beautiful, performed outstandingly well.
Costin’s experience in the aero industry gave the company an edge in pioneering wooden-chassised unibody technology to produce remarkably powerful lightweight cars. The first Mantis was built in 1968: a mid-engine racer that was a one-off. It was an apt name – the futuristic design was reminiscent of nothing so much as a giant predatory insect. After racing it only once, Jem Marsh fitted it with a new engine suitable for road use before selling it in the USA.
But the name was too good to waste on a single car that had disappeared to the other side of the Atlantic so when Marcos decided to branch out into mainstream car manufacture with its 2+2 road tourer, the ‘Mantis’ label was recycled. The Mantis M70 was unveiled at the 1970 Earl’s Court Motor Show to be met with gaping stares. Nobody knew quite what to make of its startlingly brazen design – a fantastical long-nosed monster built in GRP and fitted with a Triumph TR6 fuel-injected engine.
Who knows whether the Mantis would have been a triumphant success under different circumstances but Marcos was plagued by production problems and financial difficulties which led to the company’s collapse after only 32 of these amazing sports coupes had been built. The Mantis M70 was the only four-seater car that Marcos produced. If you even glimpse one you’re lucky, and if by some amazing good fortune you get a chance to have a go in it, grab the opportunity for the rarity value alone.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: UK
FIRST MANUFACTURED: 1970 (until 1971)
ENGINE: 2,498 cc Straight Six
PERFORMANCE: Top speed of 120 mph (193 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 8 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW: Over the years the Marcos company was beset with financial difficulties and after two relaunches it finally folded for good in 2007.