Within the UK car industry, there have been a variety of influential marques, ranging from Aston Martin to Jaguar. Other brands have faded into obscurity, such as Marcos. Although the company got off to a promising start, Marcos ran into financial troubles in the export market. The Marcos brand went into liquidation, started up again, then folded two more times. The up and down nature of the company is worth looking into, so we’re looking into the history of the marque.
In 1959, Jem Marsh and Frank Costin founded Marcos in North Wales. The title came from an amalgamation of their last names. Previously, Costin had worked on the De Havilland Mosquito fighter-bombers, inspiring him to use plywood for the chassis of the first car. Marcos developed a car called the Xylon, which had gullwing doors, a high roof and four piece split windscreen. Nicknamed the ‘Ugly Duckling’, the Xylon was built for the 750 Motor Club events. The Xylon achieved a great deal of racing success.
In 1961, Peter Adams and Dennis Adams started working with Marcos, altering the original design. This spawned the Luton Gullwing and Spyder. It wasn’t long before the design was changed again, becoming the Marcos Fastback GT. The chassis was made out of marine plywood.
1964 saw the introduction of the Marcos GT 1800. It had a sleek bonnet and streamlined body, which drew favourable comparisons to the Jaguar E-Type. The Volvo 1800 cc engine, De Dion rear suspension and unique adjustable pedals made for a memorable car. Other important 1960s models were the Mini Marcos and Marcos Mantis.
When it came to exporting cars to the US, Marcos ran into difficulties. In 1971, the company went out of business, only for the Rob Walker Group to step in and sell cars at a heavily discounted price. Jem Marsh stayed in the car business, buying back the rights to the Marcos name in 1976.
In 1984, Marsh released the Marcos Mantula, a car that looked similar to the GT, though it was powered by a 3.5-litre Rover V8. The plan was to produce a new generation of factory built cars, but this couldn’t be sustained because Marcos shut down again in 2000.
Marsh joined forces with Canadian entrepreneur Tony Stelliga to form Marcos Engineering in 2002. Road car production moved to Warwickshire, yet it wasn’t enough to keep the company in business. In 2007, Marcos announced they were going into liquidation for the final time.