One Of 32! 1970 Marcos Mantis M70

I always assume that I have a fair knowledge of varying automobile marques until I realize that I don’t. And here’s just such an example, a 1970 Marcos Mantis M70. Marcos? Never heard of it though I’m sure our readers on the other side of the pond will have familiarity with Marcos Engineering and the Marcos brand. With that thought, let’s take a close look at this restored example, and don’t be afraid to pipe up if I get something wrong. This Mantis is located in Bradford on Avon Wiltshire, U.K. and is available, here on Car & Classic for 25,995 Pounds Sterling (about $34,500). Thanks to Kyle K. for this tip!

Briefly, Marcos Engineering was a British sports car manufacturer, originating in North Wales and then relocating in the early ’60s to Kenilworth, England. Operations spanned the years from 1959 until 2007 with a cease in operations between 1971 and 1976 due to export problems and costs associated with a later move from Kenilworth to Westbury. The Mantis name was originally used in 1968 on a two-seater, performance-oriented car and then moved to a two + two model, further defined as the M70, in 1970. Production of the M70 ceased in 1972 due to Marcos’ previously referenced financial distress. As the seller states, this is one of only 32 built and it is a rare automobile.

Any way you cut it, this M70, to my eyes, is a very awkward looking car. The front end reminds me of a Plymouth Omni 024 and the kick-up in the quarters, over the rear wheels, is reminiscent of Coke bottle styling used on ’65 to ’68 Chevrolet Impalas. Beyond that, the overly tall greenhouse looks just plopped on – it’s a kit-bash of stuff occurring all at once. Don’t get me wrong, as the seller states, this Mantis has been beautifully restored and is resplendent in its Marcos Earls Court metallic blue paintwork – it’s just odd looking. I do like the wheels though, they are very fitting for the entire presentation!

The interior has been retrimmed in, what the seller refers to as, the correct black “Ambla and Cirrus materials” with a new Elm veneer dash. It presents itself very well and offers a nice contrast with its blue carpet and blue-accented door panels. As I am fond of noting, the instrument panel has the purposefulness that so many British sports cars possess. While the tall greenhouse seems out of place, it probably does provide very good visibility.

Under the boot is a 2.5-liter Triumph, in-line, six-cylinder, engine turning through a four-speed manual transmission. Advertised horsepower ratings vary with 150 having been published by Triumph but others state that dynamometer tests of the era indicated 130 was more likely. The seller claims that this Marcos “drives superbly“.

While the rarity of this Marcos Mantis is not to be denied, and the restored condition shows extremely well, it’s still an unusual car with what I would describe as a “severe” look about it. While not knowing the rare sports car market in the U.K., this is enough of a specialty model that it will probably find a new owner in the form of a collector or maybe a Marcos enthusiast. What I would like to know, is how many of our readers are familiar with Marcos and what can you add to the story?

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Comments

  1. Mitchell Gildea Member

    Most likely to win “A Face only a Mother can Love” award

    Like 18
  2. GeneB Member

    For a 1970 Marcos, I was expecting a Volvo injected B20 under the hood.

  3. Moncton(was Winnipeg)carnut Member

    A lot of cars look good from the rear 3/4 view. This is an exception. I cannot perceive an angle where it is not ungainly. Is that a double negative? Is there a such thing as appearing “gainly”?

    Like 20
  4. angliagt angliagt Member

    Just think – 31 other people bought one of these.

    Like 23
  5. Jcs

    I can’t believe that only 32 people bought one of these gorgeous cars. Look at those sensuous, sexy lines! How could they not have sold hundreds of thousands of these beautiful feats of engineering and design? The ignorance of people never ceases to amaze me.

    Like 6
    • stu

      Jcs,
      The reason they only sold a few is because MOST PEOPLE SEE A MISSMATCH OF DIFFERENT BODY CONTOURS THAT DON’T REALLY WORK OUT AT ALL TOGETHER! Numbers don’t lie, most people don’t see what your talking about. I don not like this car at all!

      • WJ

        Facepalm. Stu, I’m pretty sure that was sarcasm.

      • stu

        WJ,
        Your probably right….

  6. Sfm5

    Just because a car is “rare” doesn’t mean it is desirable or a good investment. This has the look of a kit car.

    Like 11
    • Mr.BZ

      To me, it has the look of 8 different kit cars, all pieced together poorly.

      Like 5
  7. Looking Glass

    Whomever buys this needs to drive it backwards as the front is just lame to look at.

    Hmm buy this one and crush and then seek out the other survivors….

    Like 5
    • stu

      Looking Glass,
      Whomever buys this needs to drive it off a cliff….Sorry but it is poorly designed body wise….

  8. Scott Stewart

    I know that there are many things that I don’t understand. This is one of them. This thing looks how mustard smells.

    Like 7
    • jeffro

      I really had to think about the mustang thing. LOL

      Like 1
  9. KC John

    I think the fact that 32 people bought these is amazing. Was everyone at the same bar?

    Like 8
    • angliagt angliagt Member

      They probably replaced them with Azteks & Jukes.

      Like 10
    • stu

      KC John,
      Your right, the 32 people drank a case of beer each! Any car would look appealing after so many beers….LOL

    • BCJ

      They made 32 of them. It doesn’t say how many of them were sold.

  10. Frank Sumatra

    I have a 1970 Marcos Mantis rookie card in mint condition.

    Like 12
  11. Beyfon

    I can still remember my reaction as a kid when these were shown in the car magazines and I struggled to grasp how Marcos could go from those cool 2-seaters to this ugly duckling.
    But then I hadn’t seen the first Marcos that was truly hideous so it was really the good looking 1800 and 3-litre that were the exception!

  12. Beyfon

    Check out pictures of Marcos Xylon to see what I mean!

    • DayDreamBeliever Member

      WOW!
      Incredibly freaky looking cars, all right! Might drive very well, but nutty styling.

      Like 3
      • Martin Horrocks

        This car launched the careers of Jackie Stewart (3 times F1 Champion), Jackie Oliver (F1 driver, owner of Arrows F1 team, John Miles (Lotus F1 driver and development engineer).

        It is Zagato gone extreme. Form follows function.

        Like 1
      • Frank Sumatra

        So you are saying the Marcos designers went to work for Pixar Studios? I thought you were showing us the trailer for the next CARS movie.

        Like 2
      • stu

        Martin Horrocks,
        Even if those drivers launched their careers with this car, it had no styling. My 4year old son can come up with a better looking car…

        Like 1
      • SubGothius

        And here we’d thought the Z3 coupe looked like a clown shoe.

        Like 1
      • John Sutton

        That is me, John Sutton, 3rd from left bottom row, after we won the World Cup race at Zandvoort in 1961 in the British team. I went on to win the production class at the Nurburgring 500 km race in 1963. I have the car in California being restored by Paul Steinbeck. I also have the prototype Luton Gullwing in Wimauma Florida which should be ready for the road/track shortly. The manufacture of these amazing wooden cars was transferred from North wales to Luton. All the details can be found on http://www.historicmarcosregister.com

        Like 3
      • DayDreamBeliever Member

        John Sutton,
        Thanks so much for chiming in on BF with some real history and an extraordinary perspective!
        One of the reasons I decided to be a “Member” of BF was that I could post photos… Finally one got a response, and it was more than I could have hoped for.

        Everyone: Check out the videos of John in action at https://historicmarcosregister.com/80snk/

        This is great!

        Like 1
      • Andy Matthews

        John Sutton, I lived near Dogellau for many years. Do you know where in Dol Marcos were based? I presume they used Tonfanau for testing, it being only a few miles away from the factory.

        Like 1
      • Andy Matthews

        If anyone is interested Marcos has a pedigree that is connected to Cosworth, the Cos in both names came from two brothers named Costin. Full story here…
        https://dolgellau.uk/marcos/

    • Kinmont Willie

      The look like they were built so you could take the wife and kids with you when you were racing.

      Like 1
      • Ike Onick

        Gold!

      • John Sutton

        The Marcos chassis were built at Dolgellau and then shipped to Luton on the roof of their old Ford van, there are photos of mine being shipped that way. So they never tested the cars in North Wales. There are lots of Photos of the prototype being built taken by George Phillips whose archive is now held at the REVS Institute at Naples in Florida. George was the chief photographer for the AutoSport Magazine in those days and he took the photo above whilst I was at Zandvoort. Interestingly the German Porsche team were so miffed at being crushed by the Lotus Elite of Graham Warner and the two Marcos that they refused to come to the reception after the race. Very bad sportsmen, and the same happened with my 1961 Luton Gullwing when it raced in Canada

  13. JoeNYWF64

    The direct opposite of astro ventilation. They must have had very weak p/w motors back then – overseas, looking at the amt of glass that goes down.

  14. Whiskytango

    Result if a chevy monza and a ford pinto had a baby

    Like 9
  15. CCFisher

    I, for one, am thankful that there were only 32 built.

    Like 3
    • stu

      CCFisher,
      Are you kidding me? They built 32 toooo many…

  16. SMS

    Think of a Marcos on the same level as a TVR in that they are a less reliable and more quirky Lotus. Helped a friend refresh an 1800GT. One of the early ones with the plywood. Great handling little thing. A bit of a challenge getting in and out of.

    If you are not familiar with the car company am sure you are familiar with the Cos part of the name.

    Like 3
    • Frank Sumatra

      Just what the auto world needed- “A less reliable and more quirky Lotus”

      Like 1
  17. Paul

    Reminds me of a horrifying dream I had….

    Like 1
  18. Phlathead Phil

    Well, what can I say except the cockpit is on the wrong side, the passenger windows look like an observatory, the rear deck a Christmas tree and the front like the jolly green giant put his foot down.

    Crush this one due to ugliness.

  19. Dual Jetfire

    The praying mantis is one of the ugliest bugs out there, and this is appropriately named.

    Like 1
  20. Rex Kahrs Member

    And to think a number of you guys commented that the ’66/’67 Charger is unattractive…

    Like 5
    • Mitchell Gildea Member

      Whoever thinks the ’66/’67 Charger is unattractive needs to take a long hard look at themselves in the mirror

      Like 1
  21. am3386

    Okay I’m stepping up in defense of the Mantis. Yes, unconventional, but oddly appealing; a nice combination between retro and futurist. I’d drive this all day long and twice on Sundays.

    • Joe

      It would break down all week long and twice on Sundays.

      Like 4
    • stu

      am3386,
      I have no clue what your looking at….not even close to futuristic. looks like the design crew messed up and didn’t know how to make it better! One of the guys bought a case of beer to clear their heads and presto….ONLY 32 SOLD…Yeah great car…

  22. luke arnott Member

    Marcos did not make many cars,though i knew someone who had one.They also built the Mini Marcos (google it).That was a funny looking thing!

    Like 1
    • ken tilly UK Member

      To my mind ALL Marcos designs were funny looking, some of them even hideous. I thought that back in the day and I still think it today.

      Like 2
  23. Jeff

    My friends have owned one of these since new in 1970, it is here in Canada. They still drive it occasionally. And albeit it is not the most beautiful looking, it is a very well built car for the ERA, and fun to drive! The car also has an electric overdrive unit for every gear. Super light and actually goes pretty good. You know don’t judge a book by its cover.

    Like 3
    • stu

      Jeff,
      We are all talking about it’s looks not the powertrain… A little more work on the body and it could have been a better looking car…

  24. Maestro1 Member

    It’s an esoteric beauty. I would own it if I had the room simply because of what it is, and I’m not interested in its upside potential and so on. Parts are everywhere and the only issue would be driving it on the street with a bunch of idiots out there, related to body damage of any kind.

  25. scottymac

    Only thing sweeter than these Dunlop wheels were those made by Cosmic. Wish I could find a wide set for my bolt pattern, but seems they’re only made to fit VW T2s these days.

  26. Martin Horrocks

    Jim, if you don´t know about something, let someone else write it up. North Wales? Kenilworth? Marcos was built in Bradford-on-Avon, where this car is for sale. It is probably not coincidence.

    Marcos is Jem Marsh/Frank Costin. Costin was a total genius (His less brilliant, more practical brother Mike is the Cos in “Cosworth”), Marsh a wheeler dealer/racing driver. There is a lot of sneering above, but the early cars were ultra-competitive racers, the 1800GT (by the Adams brothers, as is this car) was a thing of beauty and the Mini Marcos was a gift to impecunious enthusiasts and btw, the only Brit car to finish at Le Mans the movie they haven´t made yet).

    And the Mantis was a dog.

    Like 1
    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      From Wikipedia:

      Marcos was founded in Dolgellau, North Wales, in 1959, by Speedex cars’ Jem Marsh with aerodynamicist Frank Costin. Costin had earlier worked on the De Havilland Mosquito fighter-bombers and from there he got the idea to use plywood for the chassis. The company moved to a converted mill in Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire, in 1963; in 1971 they relocated to a £125,000 purpose-built factory at nearby Westbury.

      and:

      Canadian entrepreneur Tony Stelliga formed Marcos Engineering with Jem Marsh, and revived production in 2002. Race car production was relocated to the Netherlands while road car production moved to Kenilworth, Warwickshire, England.

      JO

      Like 3
      • Martin Horrocks

        Of course, Frank Costin lived in North Wales. And died there. Maybe the company was administratively constituted there, but Costin left Marcos in 1961.

        But what Wikipedia knows is not always the reality.

        Marcos died many deaths subsequent to the car featured here, which was the authentic beginning of the end.

      • Jim ODonnell Staff

        Great Martin!

        Since you are apparently a Marcos “expert” and know obscure details like things about where Frank Costin lived and died, how about you enlighten us all with a brief, say a 400 word, history of the company. I’m sure the 40 individuals who have contributed some great comments to this post would appreciate it.

        Thank you,

        JO

        Like 4
  27. Philip Bryan

    Marcos was always a different beast, but they always drove well and stood out in a crowd. The styling may have been by the Adams brothers who styled the most well known Marcos, the 1800, but cannot find any confirmation of that. It does have some of their foibles as seen in their other designs – check out the Probe 15 and 16

    Like 2
  28. Comet

    Hey, guess what? I set you up with a car. It has a great personality.

    Like 6
    • Frank Sumatra

      And you might get lucky!

  29. Ralph

    Its like a Chevrolet Monza designed by the USSR

    Like 1
  30. banjo

    I much prefer the Marcos1800 GT. It was far more pleasing to my eye, and I was always intrigued by the use of marine grade plywood as the basis of the monocoque chassis. they took the fiberglass body design to the limit with that feature. Maybe not the best idea in the long run, but it sure made a unique car that was amazingly light. I can’t say I’m a fan of the M70 Mantis. It really has some unusual proportions. But offered a choice at the same cost, I’d take it over an MGB just because it’s very different.

    Like 1
  31. Gerard Frederick

    Only beauty will save the world — Fyodor Dostojewski. Ergo, according to that great Russian, this creation ought to be crushed forthwith. Why on earth built something hideous?

  32. Martin Horrocks

    To Jim O´Donnell

    I can´t seem to post rely to your request. However: I a not an expert, just know stuff andstraight off the bat without reference to Wikipedia or anything other than my head:

    Marcos was a UK specialist builder of sports cars founded by Jem Marsh and Frank Costin. Marsh had previously founded Speedex, a company to supply the Ford sidevalve special boom and Costin was an aeronautical engineer, who had contributed to Lotus Mk VII/IX/11 and 15, as well as doing the bodywork of the Vanwall F1 car.

    Costin left the company in 1961, disagreeing with Marsh about the aesthetics of the “Ugly Duckling, which though ugly, launched the careers of Jackies Stewart and Oliver. Enter the Adams brothers who penned the beautiful 1800GT, Mini Marcos, the cutting edge Probe (for themselves) and the horrible Mantis.

    Marcos went bankrupt in 1971. Marsh re-launched the company in the 1980s, made some splash (including Le Mans entries) with V8 variations on the traditional GT, activity ending in bankruptcy again around 2000 +/-. Some zombie companies have tried to live on, but 1960-70 were the glory years.

    Over to the real experts if they read this page. This is easily accessible stuff.

    Like 3
    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      OK Martin, helpful.

      Thx,

      JO

      Like 1
  33. R.Scot

    Looks like something out of a really bad Saturday-morning Hanna Barbera cartoon from the late 1960’s-1970’s. “Wacky Races” comes to mind.

    Like 2
  34. Joe

    Having followed Barnfinds for years, I’m pretty sure this car now has the record of most goofball comments ever. Almost no commenter knows anything about the mechanics or capability of the car. Personally, I would love to experience driving anything from such accomplished designers.

    Like 2
    • Ike Onick

      Plenty of airline tickets available. Give it a go! And write an article. If I read correctly it is located in Tottering-On-The-Brink. Just a short hike up the M1 from Wooly Bush.

      Like 1
  35. Rex Kahrs Member

    I realize now that this car isn’t that bad looking considering it’s make out of 3/4″ plywood.

    Like 1
    • Martin Horrocks

      Chassis is metal on these. The wooden monocoque chassis was a Costin feature, born out of his days as an airplane designer, (particularly working on DeHaviland Mosquito).

      It works fine for handbuilt race cars, but is difficult to productionise even in small volume, so Marcos re-engineered the GT to a tube metal frame in 1968. Costin left Marcos several years earlier, so had no hand in the Mantis. Left to his own devices, Frank Costin came up with the equally weird (but logical to hime) Costin Amigo.

      No one ever liked the look of the Mantis. I recall the disbelief and angst of my group of teenage car freak friends in the UK at seeing the car for the first time. Jensen-Healey, Lotus Elite also massively disappointed, so best years of small UK sports car specialists was definitely the 60s.

  36. RoughDiamond RoughDiamond Member

    It’s either my spicy cheese omelette or looking at this car that is making me nauseous. I’m thinking the later of the two.

    Like 1
    • Dr. Phlathead Phil 🇺🇸

      Rough, perhaps you need some of Dr. Phlathead’s Snake-oil “Milk-O-Mantis-nesia” tummy pills to quell you visual ills.

  37. scottymac

    Speaking of plywood wonders, I was always enamored with the Imp powered Davrian Mk. 5 with the retractable headlights. Had some successful runs in competition, too, I understand.

    https://live.staticflickr.com/4128/35588030782_593d1f9bb2_n.jpg

  38. millerleft

    You say Marcos was “briefly” a British manufacturer? 1959 to 2007 is brief?

    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      Look at the punctuation “Briefly,(comma)” as in briefly, here’s the story of Marcos.

      Like 1
  39. dafyddllywelyn

    One of the Beatles – John Lennon I think, ordered one when he visited the Marcos stand at the Earls Court motor show… not sure he ever took delivery because of production delays… yes, an ugly thing, the car that is, but consider this was the 1970s…

    Like 1
  40. 328GUY

    How anyone can pencil such a tortured design and proclaim its excellence is beyond me. What a toad.

    • Rex Kahrs Member

      Hey 328, that sounds like some recently- deposed oaf on all three counts!

  41. Gerard Frederick

    What´s far worse is that someone spent a huge amount of money on this thing proving that some people have taste only in their mouth.

  42. Hound59

    Looks like a Duck Billed Platypus….

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