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    Marcos GT2

    Marcos returns

    Better, faster and stronger than before.

    2574 lbs
    Prodrive designed and built chassis
    50,000 GBP

    Re: Marcos GT2

    it says 475hp, i've heard about this car once before, what are your opinions about it?

    Re: Marcos GT2

    The only review of the "new" Marcos company and the car I have seen is in this Sunday's Telegraph. You have to register to see it in person.

    "TVR might have drifted away from its original mission to build simple, down-to-earth British GT cars, but Wiltshire-based Marcos is keeping the faith. Mark Hales tests the company's latest model, the TSO GT2

    The handsome and nicely understated coupé you see here (following its recent public appearances at the Canary Wharf Motorexpo and Goodwood Festival of Speed) is the new fixed-head GT2 version of the Marcos TSO convertible. As a traditional British sports car, it's a contender with few rivals, not because it is obviously better than the rest, but because hardly anyone else is making one.

    Handsome beast: the TSO GT2 is a worthy alternative to TVR and Noble machines

    Unless you're a real car enthusiast, you could be forgiven if the salient details of Marcos history don't immediately spring to mind. Formed 46 years ago by racer Jeremy "Jem" Marsh and renowned aeronautical engineer Frank Costin (hence Mar and Cos), the Wiltshire company was one of a great many small True Brit car makers that popped up in the 1950s but survived to produce some dramatic and effective sports cars.

    They were ground-breaking, too. Marcos pioneered logical oddities such as the wooden monocoque chassis, and with sophisticated aerodynamics the cars won a lot of races at all levels and still do in historic events. The marque even competed at Le Mans with the Mini-based Mini Marcos.

    Marcoses were always different - if not exactly pretty - and they always performed and handled well but, despite the best efforts of Marsh, the company stayed small, wedded and shackled since its mid-1960s heyday to the once-dramatic insect shape that had become its trademark. It stayed, too, in the ramshackle corrugated sheds in Westbury, which looked forever like the farm buildings they once were.

    And yet Marcos was arguably ahead of the game when it launched the Mantula in 1984, well before TVR's Griffith stunned onlookers at the 1991 motor show. The Mantula employed a similar front-engined, rear-drive formula, with a similar Rover V8 engine, but it was the curvaceous Griffith that took TVR to the threshold of bigger things while Marcos began a gradual decline, eventually sliding into receivership in 2000.

    Now, while Jem Marsh might have a different view, it is possibly just as well that Marcos hit trouble, because two significant things have happened since. The culture of its obvious rival, TVR, has changed and the Blackpool firm has abandoned the simple, muscular, affordable V8-engined formula to produce its own powertrains for a more expensive range of more dramatically off-the-wall two-seaters.

    And, in 1999, one Tony Stelliga sold his computer business for a lot of money. Stelliga is Canadian by domicile, although his mother was from Lancashire and he is a long-time TVR owner and all-round car enthusiast. He decided that, together, the sale of his business and the ashes of Marcos created a business opportunity that his petrolhead passion couldn't allow to pass.

    Stelliga is earnest, fast-talking and sharp. What's more, unlike many in his position, he is a good listener. He probably wasn't even around when Marsh and Costin sketched their passionate fag-packet dream, but success in the computer world has given him the means to try to resuscitate Marcos.

    Which only begs the question why, given that so many others have failed. Stelliga answers simply that there is still a market for a traditional, not to say old-fashioned, V8-powered British sports car, especially outside Britain. And since TVR isn't making them any more, they are few and far between.

    Stelliga also says his focus has been on the business model as much as the product. By that, he means he applied his obvious expertise and business savvy to a cottage industry in which he and his team didn't try to do everything themselves. "We didn't have Noble's experience," he says, "nor TVR's, so we went to get it." The essential V8 came in its most traditional form, from General Motors, as the 5.7-litre lump that powers the Corvette.

    This 50-year-old engine is still available at a reasonable price and, having been steadily developed for so long, is surprisingly refined. Even more significant is that it complies with all necessary legislation. Stelliga reckons anybody who makes or modifies their own engine will have problems complying with future European emissions law. And he wanted Marcos to be "on GM's world-wide homologation road map".

    He didn't want a lengthy process of trial and error in chassis dynamics, either. That would have been to follow the path that everybody else follows, which is to build a car and hope you get lucky, as in, "Oh, look, that works...

    Phew, that's a bonus!" Motor industry consultant and multiple world rally champion Prodrive was therefore contracted to design and engineer the car's suspension and underpinnings, and then to fabricate the steel-tube chassis and specialist parts.

    It wouldn't be the cheap option, but Stelliga would get exactly what he wanted and there would be no trial and error. It's akin, he reckons, to having Porsche or BMW do the job. Prodrive also came to provide accommodation for the reborn company, because Marcos finally quit those ramshackle sheds with their 1970s girlie pictures and moved to Prodrive's pristine industrial complex near Kenilworth, with its exclusive test track.

    Having successfully contracted out the engine and underpinnings (the parts that buyers take for granted), that left the styling and packaging to be resolved - the ingredients that make the badge that makes people buy the car. Stelliga had already lured Damian McTaggart, the maverick young stylist responsible for TVR's Cerbera and Tuscan, followed by his colleagues Craig Morley and Alex Towne, plus Stuart Moir from Noble.

    But if TVR is both supplier of stylists and an obvious competitor, both McTaggart and Stelliga are adamant that they didn't want to create a TVR clone. They say the current TVR range is more highly strung in the way it performs, the styling more dramatic and in-your-face than they wanted.

    Prodrive's brief had also been to keep the car accessible to anyone with a licence, and to keep it as benign as possible when that person oversteps the limit. The 5.7-litre Chevy helps makes that possible, providing a lot of power in a way that doesn't require specialist experience to operate.

    Thus far, you can't argue with the rationale, or the credentials of those involved. But is the Marcos TSO GT2 any good?

    Well, it appears smaller in the flesh than in the pictures, which is a good first step. Too many such cars are too large for British by-roads, which, when combined with low seating, make for a tooth-gritting ride when other traffic or kerbs are close. Yet, despite a low roofline, it is easy to access via large doors.

    The interior is simple, basic even, and devoid of the dramatic wackiness of some rivals. There's just enough leg- and head-room for my six-foot frame, although I wouldn't want to be much taller. Fire the engine, down the clutch and click the chunky six-speed shift into first, and you get the first hints of New Marcos dynamics.

    All the controls are light, including the steering and, true to Chevrolet tradition, those surplus litres mean almost any gear will do, although if you do wind it up there's no evidence of the engine's simple specification.

    It might have only one camshaft and a forest of 16 pushrods to operate the two valves in each cylinder, but that isn't important from where you sit. 400bhp might not be much from 5.7 litres but it is a lot of horsepower in a just over a ton of two-seater, and the smooth and untemperamental way it is delivered makes the TSO GT2 even quicker than it feels. The surge from 50 to 70mph takes two and a bit seconds, which is less time than it takes to read about it.

    You can also sense that Prodrive did what it was asked in the chassis department. The steering is light but leisurely, accurate without being super sharp, and the brakes work however hard you press the pedal, which has the kind of travel you expect in a large saloon but with a nicely modulated feel.

    The ride is compliant, too, the car moving about more, in every axis, than you expect from something low-slung and powerful. Part of this is down to supple, long-travel suspension and part of it to tyres of extremely modest width - their diameter is large at 18in but the 215 section of the fronts can be found on an average 2.0-litre Vauxhall Vectra.

    On a racetrack, such comfort-seeking features will definitely cost you time around the lap - as will the ever-present temptation to hang the tail wide in clouds of rubber smoke for ever and a day - but they make the Marcos so much more accessible and involving for the road, where it will spend most of its time. They also mean you don't need extra levels of experience in driving a powerful car smoothly.

    The Marcos is easy to like because it's easy to drive; it's fun when you want it to be and makes all those Bullitt car-chase noises when you spin up the engine. It is also sensationally quick, but that's not the main impression you take from a first drive. It's not perfect, and it doesn't have airbags or the multiple electronic aids that are standard equipment on products from major manufacturers, but it's lighter as a result and that allows it to be as tactile as it is.

    Apart from the similarly plasticbodied, V8-engined Corvette, there really aren't many like it and none that I can think of with a similar power-to-weight ratio and a price tag of less than Pounds50,000 - a figure that Stelliga says he can "start with".

    It's easy to forget, when looking at the current range, that TVR's original objective was to provide more V8 performance at the price that anyone else, and to do it with a comfortable ride combined with a big boot and everyday usability. The cars weren't perfect, but it was a strategy that worked.

    We'll have to see how Marcos fares, but for the moment, if the British V8 GT is dead, long may it live...

    Marcos TSO GT2

    Price/availability: Pounds49,950. Available now; contact Marcos Engineering, tel 01676 536003 or go to

    Engine/transmission: 5,700cc V8 with SOHC and two, pushrod-operated valves per cylinder; approx 420bhp at 5,600rpm and 405lb ft of torque at 4,500rpm. Tremec six-speed manual gearbox, rear-wheel drive.

    Performance: estimated top speed 170mph-plus, 0-60mph in 4.8sec, EC Urban fuel consumption and CO2 emissions not yet available.

    We like: Great performance combined with benign handling and ease of use.

    We don't like: Not sure yet...

    Alternatives: Corvette C6, from Pounds41,500. TVR Sagaris, from Pounds49,995. Everything else is slower but better equipped or as fast but more expensive. "

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