The Marcos GT - Xylon
The first Marcos was conceived in a pub in Hitchin, Herts in May 1959 where Jem Marsh met Frank Costin at a 750 Club Branch meeting. The name Marcos originated from the first three letters of their surnames. Frank Costin worked for the De Havilland Aircraft Company where he worked on wooden-framed aircraft and aerodynamics with his brother Mike Costin (who later went on to put his name to Cosworth). Costin put his aviation design skills to good use and designed a lightweight wooden laminate monocoque body and chassis.
Built in Dolgellau, North Wales, Costin's designs were to have the load paths taken around the perimeter of the car resulting in large sills ( torsion boxes ) and tiny doors, which were linked by bulkheads. The roof structure supported the gullwing doors. Mahogany, spruce and birch marine plywood were used to build the entire body / chassis unit including the gullwing doors. A glass fibre nose, and rear quarters were developed as an alternative to the original design – which was to laminate the double curvatures in plywood, but this proved too costly. The original Ford 100E engine of the prototype was replaced with the 105E engine on all production cars. Of the 9 cars built between 1959 and 1960, a four piece windscreen was a main feature, and the car was originally fitted with cycle wings.
“The team worked until the small hours every morning to finish the first prototype….. the car was finally running at 3 o’clock one morning and taken on a test run through the town of Dolgellau with open exhaust, hotly pursued by ‘Jones the Police’ “.
The following morning the car overheated. Marsh who hadn’t had a proper night’s sleep for three weeks drove into some road works at over 50mph, the car leapt into the air and crashed down again. Marsh stopped to inspect the damage and both he and Costin agreed that the wooden body / chassis unit was here to stay!"
Jem Marsh - 1973
The first production model debuted in March 1960 in London. It was named the "Xylon” (Greek for wood). The car was also nicknamed the “Ugly Ducking” and “Wooden Wonder”, and marketed as the Marcos GT. "The Motor" referred to it as an interesting newcomer with the cabin and snout of a light airplane rolling on four cycle-fendered wheels and more recently described as being “ reminiscent of a miniature greenhouse on a skateboard ”.
It was extremely effective on the race track being both fast and streamlined for its day. It was built purely as a race car to compete in 750 Motor Club events drivers included Jackie Stewart, Bill Moss and Jackie Oliver, to name a few. John Sutton was one of the first racing drivers to buy an Ugly Duckling Marcos, and Bill Moss achieved nine victories in 10 starts and set five lap records in the 1 Litre GT class.
The Marcos GT was sold and distributed by the Monocoque Body & Chassis Company Ltd (MBC). By the end of 1960 Costin withdrew from the project. The names that were to become synonymous with the classic Marcos shape arrived in the form of Dennis and Peter Adams, and production moved to Luton.