Marcos Mantula

Sadly, Marcos Engineering is no more. It went bust for the third time in 2007 and it's website has now been taken over by a loan consolidation company - perhaps a very apt replacement for a company which flirted with bankruptcy throughout much of it's life. However it has left behind some superb motor cars which really deserved to sell better than they did do.

The company was formed in 1959 by two gentleman named Jem Marsh and Frank Costin. They took the first three letters of each of their surnames (MAR and COS) to make the company's name and they started manufacturing competitive sports cars in, of all places, Dolgellau in North Wales.

Jeremy Marsh had been a racing driver as well as an engineer, manufacturing parts for Austin Sevens; Frank Costin was an engineer who had worked on mosquito fighter-bombers and who reckon that if the plywood that they were substantially built of was strong enough for a fast twin engined aircraft it would be strong enough for a car chassis, and coupled with his knowledge of aerodynamics he had already had a successful start as a car body designer.

The partnership between Marsh and Costin seem like a marriage made in heaven; but as so often happens it didn't last. Two years after the company was set up Costin left to do other things – he never was an easy man to work with – and then the company folded up for the first time in 1972. Marsh bought the rights to the name in 1976 and restarted building sports cars in 1984, selling them initially as kits, and the Mantula was his first serious new project.

This was one beautiful car. In appearance it was very similar to a predecessor, the GT, but this time it featured a lightweight Rover 3.5 litre V8 engine capable of about 190 brake horsepower. This was much lighter than the cast iron six cylinder engine it replaced and it gave the Mantula a fighting chance when racing against cars such as the Morgan. Acceleration was brisk with zero to 60 in 5.7 seconds and and the top speed was an impressive 155 mph. On the face of it this car was going to be a winner.

The problem was that Marcos simply wasn't equipped, or financed, for mass production, and the dealer network simply wasn't up to shifting cars in bulk anyway. Despite the introduction of two variations; the Martina which was simply a more economical version of the Mantula, and the Spyder, a convertible model, only around 170 cars were produced altogether between the launch in 1983 and the end of production in 1993.

The company staggered on producing and racing sports cars until 2000 when it went bust again. It was revived in 2002 but by 2007 the doors finally closed for the last time.

There are still quite a few Marcos Mantulas sitting in garages throughout Europe and there is a very active fan base but on the few occasions that they do come up for sale at auction prices can be extremely reasonable and they can change hands from about £10,000 upwards; not a great deal to pay for a beautiful and powerful piece of British motoring history.

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