Feature: A Marcos by Any Other Name
Most Filipinos are surprised when they hear there’s a legendary English sports car marque called Marcos. No, it’s nothing to do with the late Filipinopresident - the name is a combination of the first three letters of founders Jem Marsh and Frank Costin.
They founded the company in 1959 in Luton, north of London. 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 liter and 1.5 liter Ford engines they used.
A notable early customer was future F1 World Champion Sir Jackie Stewart, who gained his first racing experience in a Marcos.
The company designed and produced elegant, innovative and distinctive sports cars that were ahead of their time. Today they are treasured by their many fans and owners around the world.
The first real Marcos classic was the The Marcos GT 1800 launched with considerable acclaim in 1964 at the London Racing Car show. With its stylish lines and sleek looks, it soon became a much-sought after car. Later models, powered by Ford V6 and Volvo 3 litre straight 6 engines, achieved speeds in excess of 120mph (195kph).
A year later the company launched the Mini Marcos. This was sold as a kit car and used Mini subframes as an affordable GT sports car. Although not a great success as a road car it earned its spurs and reputation on the track and was the only British car to finish the 1966 Le Mans 24 hour race in France.
Production of the mini Marcos continued until 1975. The question was often asked "is this the ugliest car in the world or the GT wonder for the masses?"
After poor sales of a new model, the Mantis, and a badly managed move to expensive new premises plus problems with the importer in the US, the company collapsed in1971.
Jem Marsh continued in business by establishing a spares and service facility for existing Marcos owners. but in 1981, the company was back in business making cars. Marsh soon launched the Marcos Mantula with a top speed of around 140mph (226kph).
New models followed, but despite some notable competitive victories and universal acclaim for the new cars, especially for the 170mph (280kph) Mantis LM series and the 200mph (322kph) Marcos Mantaray, the company became insolvent in 2002.
Canadian entrepreneur Tony Stelliga moved in and tried to save the company and a new model, the TSO, was produced, but is was too late. The company went into voluntary liquidation in 2007.
A sad end for a unique marque that has become a legend among British sports cars.*