Breath of Fresh Air

Until recently, there was only one true British muscle car, the lightweight thrill machine you’d buy for wild weekend blasts, the kind that drinks pints, gets into fights and always wins. That was the TVR.

Of course there were pretenders to the throne, the absurd Morgan Aero 8 and the sublime Noble M400, which is a better car too, but for those that wanted a true muscle car with hairs on its chest there was only the one brand, until now. Now there is the Marcos GT2.

Founded in the 1950s, Marcos used to be a bizarre relic of Britain’s niche sportscar scene, building cars from wood, fibreglass and dreams in a few old sheds. Their cars were overtly masculine and just too mad for the majority of the world. The Mantis looked like it had been drawn by an imaginative child, sales weren’t strong enough and the receivers were called in 2000.

Then Silicon Valley-based Entrepreneur and car nut Tony Stelliga bought the firm, moved the factory to Coventry, to the grounds of Prodrive’s top secret facility. And everything changed.

The agreement goes beyond access to Prodrive’s test track and warehouse space, though, Dave Richards’ world famous motorsport and road car team built the chassis and helped with the car’s development. Marcos simply didn’t have the expertise to match the competition, so Stelliga bought it off-the-rack like he had the Marcos name.

The old Marcos can now be consigned to history. The new car is a contender, perhaps more than that.

Prodrive benchmarked all the competition, but TVR was not the only target, the GT2 has been scientifically compared to machines like the Corvette Z06. And the results are astounding: a car with all the thrills you could ask for, with progressive behaviour on the limit, a relaxed ride and almost everyday usability. It takes a dedicated driver to use a TVR in adverse weather, but you get the feeling the little Marcos would lap up the rain.

It weighs in at just 1170kg, lightweight construction is critical for cars like this and the GT2 is just 20 per cent heavier than a Lotus Exige. And considering it has a monolithic 5.7-litre GM LS6, as found in the Corvette, under the bonnet and a luxurious interior a world, that’s a pretty impressive achievement. One of the reasons is the car’s small size, it’s much more compact than pictures give it credit for and although the payoff is a mildly cramped cockpit, that petite figure does wonders for the performance.

The engine pumps out 420bhp and Marcos already has plans to squeeze more out for future models. A new induction kit and exhaust, developed in house according to the data and the keen ear of Stelliga. Recently he listened repeatedly to the prototype going by, decided the engine note wasn’t quite right and commissioned a whole new exhaust with a slanted cut and deeper roar – he’s the kind of man.

And with the low weight, the acceleration was bound to be phenomenal. From a standing start there’s surprisingly little wheelspin, even when pressing on, and the car just eats up the road. The 60mph barrier falls in just four seconds and with up to 405lb/ft of torque the in-gear acceleration is simply maddening. With the 50-70mph span falling in just slightly more than two seconds. The top end of 185mph is more than good enough in most parts of the world too.

Positioned low, close to the road, it feels even quicker than it is and the blaring V8 and lightweight chassis come into their own on the open road. It’s a road rocket and the handling, as you’d expect when it was developed by the multiple World Rally Championship-winning constructor, is sublime.

The GT2 has relatively soft suspension and narrow rear 18x8” wheels to provide the best ride and that all-important progressive breakaway.

The development engineers argue that huge rear tyres give great levels of grip, but overstep that and it can bite with irretrievable snap oversteer. The Marcos still sticks like glue, thanks to a near-perfect chassis, careful suspension set-up and an integral rollcage that stiffens the chassis.

But when the back end slides it comes in an easy motion, telegraphing its changing momentum throughout the cabin and giving time to hold it in one of those moments of tyre shredding action we all dream about. It would be a lot more fun too play with on the open road than TVRs of years gone by and is a car you can push without fear.

The low speed world has come in for as much thought as blasting round country roads, too. While the interior is shrink wrapped round the driver, there is enough space in there for proper trim and two comfortable seats. You can even specify Sat-Nav as an optional extra, which will admittedly push up the

Every part is the best of the best and will merely be assembled at the factory, and even on the prototype the seats were trimmed with Scottish cows and brushed aluminium.

It’s a GT car as much as an out and out road racer and has to be able to provide refined transport over hundreds of miles. With the surfeit of torque on offer you can drive this car like a sleeping dragon, in sixth gear with just an idly growling V8 in the background.

The controls are as light as you could expect or want in a car that will spend significant time on or around the limit on late night blasts. And while those 340mm front and 320mm rear discs are hugely effective, the brake has a long travel and its easy to modulate so you never feel the ABS kicking in, although it probably is.

And the steering is heavy yet slightly desensitised to the constant and irritating jolts from the slightest imperfection in the road surface. It’s a relaxing car to drive, the reliable old stallion compared to the nervous youngster that is the TVR, and that actually makes it a lot more fun.

Knowing where the limit lies is the key to enjoying, rather than being intimidated by, the car’s response. And here the Marcos scores big.

As for the looks, bar the front end view that makes it look a little fat in the nose, the GT2 is a stunner. The organic side profile is augmented with a flamboyant set of gills to aid the V8’s breathing. And they suit the car that looks agile, aggressive, powerful and shark like.

Yet from behind the wheel it’s a gentle miniature giant, and if Stelliga can get the marketing right he could steal a march on TVR, which has gone to ground to redevelop its cars. There is already a waiting list and the early signs are good for domestic and foreign sales.

Britain might soon have a new muscle car Champion, watch this space…

Gallery: WCF Test Drive: Marcos TSO GT2

Got a tip for us? Email: