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Discussion Starter #1
Passing me today was a real rarity the Marcos Mantis. Marcos had a very good Sixties and in time worn fashion, moved the factory and launched a real dog in the Mantis. They sold all of 32 before going bust (and like TVR keep coming back ever since).

 

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And there I was thinking this would be about the current Mantis!

iirc it was styled by Dennis Adams who also did the cars for UFO.

String vests ahoy!
 

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Dennis Adams left Marcos before the styling for the Mantis was complete: apparently, the front of the car - and the interior - were built as Dennis Adams intended, but the rear three-quarters of the car were styled by someone else.

The interior on those cars is a work of art and they performed and handled well. Whilst only 43 cars were built, all of them sold.

About fourteen years ago, I met someone whilst on holiday who used to work for Marcos in the early 1970s. The reason that Marcos actually went under was because they attempted to break into the United States market and got it wrong: they shipped over all the cars with automatic gearboxes, not understanding that most people who wanted Marcos types of sportscar actually wanted manual cars.

At the same time, Government slapped VAT onto kit cars, which made the cars 15% more expensive overnight - slap bang in the middle of a recession. Most Marcos cars were supplied fully built but with the engine supplied removed from the car. The customer then saved themselves 15% on the purchase price, and then either fitted the engine themselves at the factory (with assistance) or took it to their local garage mechanic to do the job for them.

The Mantis wasn't the main reason for the company collapsing.

Incidentally, the Mantis made a return to production in the Summer of 1987, produced by well-respected kit car manufacturer Autotune and badged as the Autotune Mirage and fitted out with Ford Cortina components. I read a couple of reviews of the car when it was launched, and although the styling was questionable - although to be fair, some people really like it - the people who drove the car thought it was a very fine handling and performing car - which by the standards of the mid 1980s is saying something for a car originally built in 1971.

The Autotune Mirage looked identical to the Mantis, but sales were very slow and the car was eventually withdrawn.


Marcos Mantis or Autotune Mirage? This one is the Autotune Mirage - believed to be one of only two left in existance.

So there you have it - a very rare car and one that I haven't seen for many, many years.
 

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Well, I've seen better and I've seen worse. In the flesh it looks better than in the pictures and I wouldn't mind owning one if the chance ever came up, although it isn't a car that I would go out of my way to look for.

It is distinctive, and the interior is beautiful - a real work of art - especially as this was a time that most car manufacturers idea of an interior was to bang a plank of wood on as a dashboard, or the cheapest bit of plastic money could buy, bent into a dull shape. Change some of the materials and it wouldn't look out of place in an Aston Martin today.

And put it into context of its time: it did look pretty swoopy and exciting at the time. Allegedly, Collin Chapman was so impressed with the design he went away and built the Lotus Excel/Elite models.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
boxwellm said:
And put it into context of its time: it did look pretty swoopy and exciting at the time. Allegedly, Collin Chapman was so impressed with the design he went away and built the Lotus Excel/Elite models.
Somehow doubt it! Chapman was on a different plane.

Both Lotus and Marcos realised they had to go upmarket to survive the end of kit cars as MG/triumph controlled the low/mid price market. Both came up with plans to produce completely assembled cars. But the Excel was in a different class. It looked the business whilst the Mantis was an overgrown mini-Narcos.

The Mini-Marcos was a big hit at the time...I had a Corgi toy version so it was widely regarded. There was a newer version that flourished in the 80s called the Midas but a factory fire seemed to finish it off.
 

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Er, the Excel didn't appear until the 80's. I think Mike is referring to the Eclat\Elite range, which do have some similarities to the Mantis and which sired the Excel, albeit with added reliability.

Not a lot mind, but a bit.
 

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You're right of course - I meant the Eclat, not the Excel.

Apparently when the Mantis was launched, Collin Chapman was all over it, and said to Jem Marsh (the MD of Marcos) "I think you could be on to something there, Jem."

The other Marcos that was mentioned there was the Mini Marcos:


Above: The Mini Marcos - proof that Marcos could build small ugly cars as well as big ones
Below: The much improved 1980s version - the Midas Bronze



And as for the Midas... that company took over the Mini Marcos project in the late 1970s, and then later came up with a totally new version called the Midas Bronze, styled by Richard Oakes, using Mini components. Midas became one of the biggest kit car manufacturers of the 1980s and early 1990s, later on launching the Metro based Midas Gold - a kind of Midas Bronze on steroids.

The cars survived the fire, although the company did not. They are now produced by midget sportscar manufacturer GTM, in much revised and updated form. The original Midas Bronze is also in small time production - I believe - but I can't remember who sells it.

And ever so often, the Mini Marcos reappears as a kit car. It has a loyal following and I believe I'm right in saying that the owners club now has control of the project and builds 2-3 cars a year.
 

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Liam Olf said:
Oh dear Marcos, what were you thinking?
Ferrari Daytona but the clay styling model melted and no one noticed till it was too late!

BTW I saw a Midas about a month ago in the flesh on the road and it looked surprisingly contemporary.

Wasn't there a connection between Marcos and Ginetta?
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I stand corrected on Chapman's comments on the Mantis. Only makes one wonder what he meant by "you've got something there, Jem". Myopic vision?
 

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Ah Marcos, now theres a name from my childhood! Got me to thinking about the last Marcos my dad owned so I went onto Autotrader, and low and behold his old car is there for sale. He had 3, the first was a 2.0l Martina, he got bored with that and went for a 4.0l Mantara, before getting bored again and buying this beast! It's a 5.0l V8 and boy did it shift! It used to wake me up every morning when he started it in the garage as the whole house would vibrate. We picked the car up from the autosport show at the NEC as it was on a stand there, it was also the car Marcos used on all their brochures, one of which I still have on my wall.

I remember once racing a 911 Carrera RS (the superlight one i think) with my dad of course, he just managed to get in front of us and I mean "just". My dad saw the guy in a motorway services a few weeks later, his reaction was, "thats the only car thats ever kept up with me".




Another great British manufacturer bites the dust!
 
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