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Marcos Mantis: Ahead of its time or road to nowhere?

Chris Haining December 15, 2016 All Things Hoon, Cars You Should Know 2 Comments


The history of the UK motor industry is dotted with fascinating footnotes, risks and flights of fancy. Take Marcos Engineering, a once proud of sports cars which has been in stasis since 2007.

First collaborating in scenic Wales in 1959, Jem Marsh and Frank Costin  produced the first Marcos small sports car, the frighteningly-named Xylon, with a view to taking the 750 Motor Club racing scene by storm. To a certain extent, it did, and pretty soon the brand expanded its lineup with the Volvo Engined 1800 GT, its first real full-size sports car. And as if to prove the concept of getting it right first time, it’s that shape that went on to endure the next 40 years, including the faintly ridiculous Chevy small-block powered Mantara LM600.

So what of the Marcos Mantis M70? The car  “for the man who is going places and wants to travel in style”? Well, what do you reckon?


It had somewhat, er, challenging looks – side on it was not unlike several rashers of bacon and the front radiator grille on the hood surface looked rather like a pavement drain cover. There’s some evidence of massive consumption of LSD among car designers at the end of the ‘sixties, and it’s not entirely still who exactly is for blame for the M70’s looks. Dennis Adams designed the interior, we know that, but he was a pretty sensible chap by all accounts and left the project before the exterior was complete.

So, yeah, it looked funny. But in many respects it was a step into the future for the company. It was a proper 2+2 tourer with a reasonable amount of space, moved away from the De Haviland Mosquito inspired plywood chassis and, with a Triumph TR6 engine it wasn’t short of grunt. Sadly, it came at a bad time – just as the company was relocating to bigger premises, and coincided with economic problems in the UK and problems with the US distributor. After only 32 were built, the Marcos factory doors were closed. When they reopened a while later the M70 was quietly shelved.

It’s a touch sad, really. It really was a rather colourful creation and could have heralded something truly great, but it wasn’t to be. And as you can imagine – his is probably the Marcos I want the most.

(All images Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2016)