When it comes to classic cars, British manufacturers have created some absolute masterpieces. The immediate vehicles that come to mind are the Mini and Jaguar E-Type, but some cars aren’t as well known as they should be. An example of this is the Marcos GT, which was crafted by Marcos Engineering. The GT is interesting because the original chassis was made from high-grade plywood. Here is an in-depth look into the history of the Marcos GT.
The Marcos 1800 was introduced at the 1964 Racing Car Show and featured a wooden chassis and Volvo P1800 engine. The chassis was glued together from 386 separate plywood pieces. This made the 1800 light yet strong, and it proved to be a success with the public when it was unveiled.
The Volvo engine allowed the Marcos to reach 0 – 60 mph in 8.2 seconds and have a top speed of 116 mph. The seats were mounted low, but there were optional booster pillows. The low design was due to the car being created around company founder Jem Marsh, who was 6’4. However, the 1800 could still accommodate tall drivers.
The 1800 was successful on the track, though it was slow to sell. The original price of £1500 was dropped to £1340 after the de Dion rear suspension was replaced with a live Ford axle. The 1800 still wasn’t selling very well by 1966, so it was replaced with the 1500 model.
A replacement engine
To help increase sales, the Marcos was given a 1500 cc Ford Kent engine. The dashboard was also replaced with a flat polished wood unit. The changes lowered the power and performance of the GT, but a lot of cars were sold. To hide the fact they’d used a common Ford engine, Marcos Engineering switched the rocker boxes on the engine to their own.
In 1969, the plywood chassis was replaced by a steel version, saving on cost and production time. Around this period, the Marcos 3-litre was introduced, recognised by the bulged bonnet that contained a larger engine.
In an attempt to crack the US market, 60 3-litres were specially made. But they were brought back to the UK after the American market dried up in 1970. Development costs of the Mantis car and the introduction of VAT on kit cars forced Marcos to close its doors for a time.
Jem Marsh brought the Marcos brand back in 1981, offering the GT as a kit version. The Marcos GT’s legacy as an unusual British car with great potential lives on.