Thu Stubbs of Creative Auto Imaging interviews Dave Mensh with his 1967 Marcos 1600 GT at the 39th Annual Sully Antique Car Show on June 17, 2012 in Chantilly, VA.
In 1964, Marcos introduced a very attractive two-seater coupe which is still being produced in modern times. Little changed from the initial design and it has proved to be a timeless and alluring creation.
These coupes were created in an unusual fashion, using laminated plywood for the chassis construction. GRP was used for the outer body panels. The front seats were mounted to the rear bulkhead which meant they could not be moved. To accommodate the different sizes of passengers, the foot pedals could be adjusted to the correct length. A small wheel located under the dash made the process a little less cumbersome, though highly unusual. The 1600 was powered by a Ford Cortina MK II GT engine which was capable of carrying the car to a top speed of around 115 mph. This was a vast improvement over the prior version of the car, the 1500. Zero-to-sixty for the 1600 was in the 11 second range.
Marcos was founded in Luton, in Bedfordshire, England, in 1959 by Jem Marsh and Frank Costin. Frank Costin had earlier worked on the De Havilland Mosquito fighter-bombers and from there he got the idea to use plywood for the chassis. The company moved to a converted mill in Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire in 1963 and in 1971 to a £125,000 purpose built factory at nearby Westbury.
Problems with exporting cars to the USA and the move to the expensive new premises led to financial troubles in the 1970s and by 1971 they were out of business. In July 1971 it was reported that the Rob Walker Group of Companies, a principal dealer, had taken over the stocks and assets of the business and established a new company, Marcos Ltd. The new owners insisted that production would continue, albeit, at least in the short term, only for the UK market. Marcos dealers in the UK had been heavily discounting new cars since the end of 1970, however, while a report at the time of the collapse stated that the company's stock of 35 unsold cars in the USA had had to be "liquidated": in reality there seems to have been a substantial stock of new cars still looking for buyers, and it is not clear whether, over the next few years, any more were built. Just a year later, one Saturday in June 1972, what was described as "a cash jumble sale of Marcos bits - prototype and shop soiled components, benches, tools..." took place at what was could now be characterized as the "old Marcos Cars factory" at Westbury. The sale was occasioned by the company's reorganization and move to a smaller factory.
Jem Marsh however stayed in the auto business. In 1976 he bought back the rights to the Marcos name, and in 1981 the Marcos was re-launched with the Marcos V6 Coupe that was sold in kit form.
Marcos went bankrupt again in 2000, but thanks to a wealthy Canadian, Tony Stelliga buying the company, production was again revived in 2002. The race car production was relocated to the Netherlands while road car production moved to Kenilworth, Warwickshire, England. By 2005 most of the designers from the near to bankrupt TVR joined the company.
On 9 October 2007 it was announced that Marcos would cease car production and go into voluntary liquidation.
The first car, the 1960 Marcos GT was a rather strange looking device with gullwing doors and a windscreen in four panels. For production the body was made less radical but initially retained the gullwing doors. It was powered by a choice of Ford engines varying from 997 cc to 1498 cc and had Standard 10 and Triumph Herald steering and suspension components. Thirty nine were made up to 1963.
In 1961 the brothers Dennis Adams and Peter Adams started working with Marcos and they introduced a number of changes to the original design, so the Marcos Luton Gullwing, and the Spyder were introduced in November 1961, immediately transformed to the Marcos Fastback GT , was displayed at the London Racing Car Show in 1963. The chassis were glued of mainly 3 mm thin sheets of marine plywood, giving the cars a very strong monocoque and unbeatable low total weight (internationally homologated with 475 kg), resulting in a great performance in sportscar competition. Totally 39 cars were produced of these early Marcos models and nearly all of them were used for national and international racing purpose.