69 year old
Don't let fear or commonsense stand in your way.
1966 Marcos 1800GT
- Engine: Volvo 2.4 liter B20
- Engine Parts: Dual Weber 45 DCOE-9
- Transmission: Volvo M46, 4 speed with electric overdrive
- Suspension: Triumph Spitfire front, 4 link rear
- Brakes: Girling AR calipers front, Ford Cortina rear
- Tires: Toyo R888
- Exhaust: Custom stainless steel "Tri-Y" header into a complete custom made stainless steel exhaust including a custom made muffler
- Other: The engine is bored, stroked, and balanced. The heads have custom oversize valves and have been ported and polished.
- Wheels: Panasport racing wheels
Audio & Electronics
History of this Vehicle
This is an article I wrote for the Volvo Club of America magazine. The “twist” to the article is that Volvo also made a model called the P1800 and obviously the Marcos is not a P1800, but it does have a Volvo engine and transmission.
Another 1800 is Born
It’s Tuesday afternoon, May 17, 1966, and another 1800 has rolled off the assembly line. This one is dark blue, with black upholstery. It has, of course, the stock B-18 engine and the M-41 transmission. The only extra cost options are a Motorola radio and seat belts. Here to pick up the car is the new owner, Mr. Andrew Loomis of Reno Nevada. Mr. Loomis has paid 1,369.18 pounds for this car. But wait, this is not just another 1800, this is a Marcos 1800 GT made by Marcos Cars Ltd. It will turn out that this car, the 79th car off the Marcos assembly line, will be one of 99 Volvo powered cars built by the Marcos Car Ltd. during the period between 1964 and 1966. But we need to go back to 1959 to learn the history of the Marcos Cars Ltd. and their unusual cars. The Marcos story starts with Jem Marsh and Frank Costin forming a company in 1959 to build racing cars The Marcos name is a contraction of the two founder’s names. The new company built a series of “specials” for club racing in England. These early cars had a plywood chassis and a fiberglass body. This construction resulted in a very rigid structure that was also very light. While these cars were certainly unusual, they were very successful in club racing. They were also uncompromisingly ugly. This early model was referred to as the “ugly duckling”. In 1963 the Marcos company unveiled the Marcos 1800 GT at the prestigious Earls Court Motor Show. Standing a mere 41.5 inches tall, this striking new design was one of the lowest production cars ever built. The new 1800 GT retained the plywood chassis concept but received a beautiful new fiberglass body designed by Dennis Adams. The new GT received an outstanding reception at the show and the new company took a number of deposits for the new car even though it was slightly pricier than the E type Jaguar. This price disadvantage later prompted the Marcos Cars Ltd. to introduce a British Ford inline 4 cylinder engine to cut cost. This was the first of many engine variations and manufacturers that included V-4’s, inline 6’s, V-6’s and finally a 4.6 liter supercharged 32 Valve Ford V-8. In 1969 the company introduced a steel chassis to make the car cheaper to build and to alleviate the fears of potential customers had about the unorthodox wooden chassis. The new steel chassis was less rigid and weighed more than the wooden chassis that it replaced but that is what the customer wanted. History has shown that the wooden chassis cars have had less problems overall than the newer steel chassis cars. In 1970 Marcos turned again to Volvo for engines. This time the Volvo 3 liter B-30 inline 6 was selected because it met the increasing strident emissions standards in the United States. This engine was installed with either a 4 speed gearbox or an automatic. Overdrive was not an option. Eighty cars were produced with the B-30 engine and most of these cars were delivered to the United States. Like most small car manufacturers Marcos Cars Ltd has had a turbulent financial history but it still survives today. It has rarely produced more that one car per week, so it is unlikely that you will ever see a Marcos on the road even in England. Yet the cars are around if you know where to look. In the San Francisco area, for example, there are 10 Marcos cars that I know about, 8 are currently drivable, and 4 of these cars are driven on a semi-regular basis. My Marcos, chassis #4079 which was originally bought by Mr. Loomis has been driven over 125, 000 miles and I am the fourth owner. While the car was originally dark blue, it is currently painted red. I have replaced the B-18/M41 engine transmission combination with a B-20/M46. This engine has been extensively modified. It has been bored and stroked to 2.4 liters and has two Weber 45 DCOE carburetors. It also has stainless steel headers, bigger valves, ported head etc. and produces around 170+ horsepower. This car, with a full tank of gas and spare tire only weighs 1,780 pounds so this is a potent combination on the track or the street. What is it like to own and drive a Marcos? Owning and driving the Marcos is a lot of fun. Getting into the car does require some agility. You enter the car by turning your back to the door and sitting down into the seat… then you swing your legs into the car. Once in the car you have an amazing amount of room for such a small car. Jem Marsh, the founder of Marcos, was 6’3’’ tall so the car was designed to accommodate tall drivers. Since the car is only 41.5 inches high, the seats are really reclined and they are not adjustable. Although the seats don’t adjust, the pedals do. The driver can adjust the pedals using a knob on the right side of the dash. My Marcos has the steering wheel on the right hand side. While somewhat unusual, driving from the right hand side isn’t a big problem. It takes about a day to feel comfortable driving from the right. Visibility however, is another story. Visibility out the back window is almost non existent. And the long nose can hide the view in front during certain conditions. While this lack of visibility is certainly disconcerting, the biggest hazard driving the Marcos is other drivers trying to maneuver close enough to see the car in heavy traffic. Opening the windows requires you to loosen a clamping knob and push the window down and then tighten the knob to keep it in place. To close the window you reverse this procedure. By 1969 the cars had electric windows. The car has a 50/50 weight distribution so it handles really well. The steering is tight and responsive. The suspension, by modern standards, is rather harsh, but is in keeping with other English sports cars of that era. The car is comfortable but noisy so installing a radio was a waste of Mr. Loomis’s money. Ventilation is adequate but not great. This particular Marcos is fairly fast. With the current gearing and the modified engine, you can cruise comfortably in the 80 to 90 mph range (until you lose your license at which point it becomes uncomfortable!). The top speed is around 135mph. The speeds for the stock Marcos 1800 were somewhat more modest. Periodically, Marcos cars do come up for sale in the United States. “Daily drivers” can be bought for $10,000 to $15,000 depending on condition. Occasionally a “project” will be for sale in the $4,000 to $8000 range.
Specification for 1965 Marcos 1800 GT 1961 Volvo 1800S
Original price … approximately $6000.
Wheel base…….. 89.0 96.5
Height …………41.5 50.5
Weight…………1,700 lbs. 2500 lbs.
More information on Marcos cars can be found at; www.marcosmaniacs.com , www.saxby01.freeserve.co.uk, and www.marcoscar.com.
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