Plywood with Purpose! 1965 Marcos 1800 GT

Credit the seller of this 1965 Marcos 1800 GT in Middletown, Ohio with his or her appreciation of irony, as the listing here on eBay touts this rare opportunity to own a car with a roll bar bolted “into genuine wood.” That’s right, folks; this pint-sized coupe uses supercar-like monocoque construction, with strong, lightweight plywood instead of fancy aluminum or carbon fiber. Despite the car’s rarity, completeness, and relatively solid-looking appearance, the little Marcos has yet to attract an opening bid of $10,000.

Elements of metal (left) and fiberglas-coated wood (right) combine in a very racy-looking front. The 1,783 c.c. (109 cid) inline four-cylinder Volvo B18 makes 96 HP stock and spins a four-speed gearbox with overdrive. The sale includes five Pirelli Cinturato 165 SR 13 tires, the original tires sold new with the pint-sized flyer.

The one-piece fiberglass body was attached then bonded to the rigid plywood monocoque, making a super-strong featherweight (1673 lb) coupe. Despite the Italian-sounding name, the Marcos hails from England. The name honors creators Jeremy George Weston “Jem” Marsh and Frank Costin, two gents with the pedigree and appetite for engineering cars and airplanes. Thanks to hemmings.com and motorsportmagazine.com for some details.

This specimen shows 11,909 original miles, and the seats (shown in the listing) and dashboard seems to support this claim. The Volvo engine is stuck and the entire package hasn’t been driven in fifty years, since 1969, so don’t bid unless you commit to a proper refurbishment or restoration. The little Marcos can accommodate drivers over six foot in height, but not with seat adjustments. A knob on the dash moves the pedals nearer or farther from the fixed seat. Interesting! Even if you don’t plan to buy this micro-GT, check out the listing for its pictures, description, and wry humor. The seller suggests the 1800 GT would make a perfect addition to Jay Leno’s garage. Who do you see as the ideal owner of this impractically perfect plywood contraption?

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Comments

  1. sir mike

    Think this car might be the one that was in my area of eastern PA.No mention of title and car was last registered in PA 1969 by the lic.plate.Would like to see her brought back to life.

    Like 3
    • Charley

      This is my fathers car. You are correct- it came from eastern PA to Ohio in 1996 where it has been stored ever since. It is a nice start to a project as it is mostly complete and not a rotted mess that needs heavy repair work to the wooden chassis. This should save someone a lot of headaches in the end and will make a nice project for someone who is willing to take it on.

      Like 6
  2. hatofpork

    Inspired by the DeHavilland Mosquito or torpedo boats I’m sure! Truly beautiful (and I imagine) fast and nimble cars. B18’s are replaceable if necessary. The only potential showstopper would be the intactness (or lack of) of the plywood monocoque load-bearing structures. There was some discussion of these on another site some years back that may shed light for any potential buyer/restorer. Well worth saving. Jem Marsh and Frank Costin are legends in postwar motorsports and this is one of their masterpieces.

    Like 4
    • BobinBexley Bob in Bexley Member

      Legends indeed !

      Like 3
  3. Ken Nesbit

    I had a ’66 Marcos, same package B18 w/overdrive and it was a major fun car, light..quick …nimble it had it all and you got to lay back like a formula car, just don’t ever hit anything with it.

    Like 3
  4. art

    A “real woody”…sorry, had to…:)

    Like 7
  5. Michael Streuly

    Is a termite inspection required before registering the car for street use.

    Like 4
  6. Coventrycat

    Wooden it be nice if you could just go to the lumberyard for restoration parts for every car.

    Like 6
  7. Classic Steel

    I am split on buying it or just possibly starting to get fat eating popsicles and using the sticks with gorilla 🦍 glue to build my own car 😜😂

    So not to pry , chop someone at their limbs off or cause splinters in asking how safe is this car with the fiberglass
    Coating?

    Like 3
    • Bruce

      Just so you know the wood is a treated mahogany mix that is used in aircraft and in ships. It is far stronger than you might think. It is also lighter and if you have seen the structural drawings you would be surprised how well built they are. Different is different but not always bad. This type of construction is no good for a big sedan but for a small sports car it works amazingly well and efficiently. Yes I am a big fan but then I am a man that has a chance to both work on and drive one so I have a depth of experience that most do not.

      Like 3
  8. John D.

    I first read of these cars about 35 years ago and never dreamed I would see one available to me. I think it was an article in Automotive Quarterly, a nice hard cover magazine (periodical?) that gave a great description of Frank’s other wooden cars of the time. I’m wishing I could get happily involved.

    Like 3
  9. Rex Kahrs Member

    I JUST saw a nice example of one of these Marcos cars at a show in St. Pete. The owner, a guy in his late 60s, was kind enough to allow me to sit in the car.

    I have to say, it was the most ergonomically weird and uncomfortable vehicle I have ever been in. I imagine driving it would be like getting an MRI, only not as quiet or as comfortable!

    Like 4
    • Larry Meadows

      Thanks for the complement (‘in his 60’s’) The ride is comfortable for around 400 miles, then one needs a good nights rest. Mine has the steel frame.
      White One in St Pete.

      Like 4
      • Little_Cars

        I believe I have a “white one” in 1/43 scale from Corgi Toys.

  10. Trenton L

    I would get this if I had the money but restoring a 1966 Shelby gt 350 seems a little more important to me, but overall its a nice car for someone willing to get it

    Like 3
  11. Bruce

    A friend in college had a V-6 version of one of these and it was one of the stiffest chassis I have ever seen outside a full blown race car. The Wood is a very special and expensive Marine Ply that is largely protected from the elements and has been acceptable for racing since they first hit the road. They are very different in style and in details but are very similar to a LOTUS of the era in how they drive and feel. However if possible the are even lower LOL. We dragged the exhaust more than once on the bad roads around University of Idaho.

    Fiberglass is thicker and stronger than in the Lotus cars of the time and it is as low or lower than my Europa. That the seats are bonded directly into the frame is a structural advantage as it greatly shortens beam lengths that are not supported. Put a jack anywhere between the wheels and the whole side of the car will lift without any bending at all. We ran a level to be certain LOL.

    The crank pedals while sounding crazy is really wonderful but what the writer does not explain is that each peddle is also adjustable to the drivers liking. That has to be done manually and is one of those release the bolts adjust and tighten type of jobs but results in a great to perfect peddle layout.

    To give you an idea these were raced by the likes of Jackie Stewart, Mario Andretti and I believe Jimmy Clark. Do not let the wood structure bother you the light weight in combination with the plywood bulkheads front and rear of the door as well as the fire wall means if you get hit on the side you would slide before it bends or breaks. This is a much stronger structure than you might think. It also has a tubular metal subframe for the engine like the XKE Jaguar in front of the fire wall.

    Parts are less of a problem than you might think. They have been hand building more of these with metal frames due to federal requirements and glass and other parts that might be impossible to find for such a low volume car are still being made. My friend had to sell his to pay for his late wife’s medical bills. She passed away a few years ago and now he has a red metallic V-8 version that is also a convertible in the Seattle area. If you see it talk to him he is a very good man and these are amazing cars. You want an easy restoration I bet this could easily be one of the easiest and most beautiful. You will almost never see two at the same time.

    Of note he was a slender 6′-4″ and fit just fine and with a few turns of the peddle wheel I who am much shorter fit just fine as well. These are not muscle cars and you do have to have some flexibility to get in and out but we took long trips to the coast and it was extremely comfortable. Put a new type electric super charger on the engine and you might have a real weapon on your hands. Without it you have an amazing and beautiful sports car. That should be enough.

    Like 14
  12. scottymac

    Sorry, if I’m going to spend money on a plywood based semi-obscure English sports (kit) car, I’ll hold out for a Davrian Mk5.

    https://www.marcosxylon.com/s/cc_images/cache_64705184.jpg?t=1538328326

    Like 2
  13. Martin Horrocks

    @scottymac Davrian was a fibreglass monocoque like first Lotus Elite(prototype Davrian did have some wood in the chassis, but “production” versions were all glass).

    @Bruce. Jackie Stewart raced a Marcos, but an earlier and uglier car than this one (known as the “Ugly Ducking” in fact….) as did ex Lotus F1 driver and Arrows boss Jackie Oliver, but Clark and Andretti did not. Jonathon Palmer (ex F1 driver and now owner of most of the race tracks in UK) started racing in a Marcos V6, shaped like this one.

    Reference to De Havilland Mosquito above is very valid, as Costin worked on the plane and it was the inspiration for his choice. He was a brilliantly unconventional thinker, contributed to Lotus sports cars (Lotus VIII, !X, X and XI) introduced by brother Mike Costin (the Cos in Cosworth-some talkent iun that family).

    The Marcos Volvo is extremely competitive in historic racing, so this would be cheap at 3 times the price.

    Like 4
  14. Larry Meadows

    I have restored 3 of the steel chassis GT’s for other owners and I have restored mine 3 times in the last 48 years. Also now finishing the restoration for a Marcos Luton Gullwin 90%plywood 1962 race car. And a Marcos Mantis 2+2 for dedicated Marcos owners. There is a 1970 Volvo powered GT sitting in the hanger waiting for me to finish the other projects.

    Like 4
    • scottymac

      Had always thought most of these had the MGB 1800, revelation some had Volvo power.

      Like 1
  15. Richard

    A friend brought one new from the UK to Canada it was a blast to drive, ate courgettes for lunch. He took it to a shopping mall to pick up his girlfriend and while it was parked a woman driving a Ford wagon backed over his front end, the car was so low she did not see it in her mirror, he waited months for parts and repairs then drove it to Toronto, major snowfall overnite which covered it completely snow pops wing blade carved the top half off quite cleanly.

    Like 1
    • Little_Cars

      Talk to text? Courgettes sound like candy. Same with snow pops. LOL

  16. Little_Cars

    Inexpensive entry into a very exclusive club it seems! If I had $10k lying around I absolutely would jump in and bring this car home. I have a soft spot for Volvo power, have a donor car a few miles away if I needed to grab anything conventional off its B18. Those headlight pods look like they would catch moisture and short out the headlamps on a regular basis. The only nitpick is the quad headlights on this otherwise smooth design.

  17. Philip Smethurst

    Got any pictures or can you recall a chassis number Ken?

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