Marcos cars are madness. All have plywood chassis modeled after the De Havilland Mosquito fighter. Most run Ford engines and various Triumph suspension bits. They are lightweight, fast, and devastating on the track. This is the fastest, most mental Marcos ever made. It’s the Mantis XP, a mid-engine monster powered by a 700-horsepower BRM-Repco V8 and styled by the brilliant Adams Brothers.
Source: Blenheim Cars
The Mantis XP is positively breathtaking. The sweeping body and long nose were shaped to slice through the wind. Its massive faceted perspex greenhouse glitters like a jewel. Its abrupt angles and curvaceous lines intersect to form a bizarre crystalline shape that defies all design conventions. But it works. My god, how it works.
The XP was built to conquer LeMans. The project was launched in 1968 by Marcos and was then handed over to designers/builders Dennis and Peter Adams. The two built the car in their second-story workshop, called The Forge. When they completed the chassis, they realized it wouldn’t fit in the freight elevator. They had to cut a whole in the floor of The Forge and lower it out. Thus, the Mantis XP was born.
When the car was completed, Marcos decided to run it at Spa in an endurance race. Marcos founder Jem Marsh took the driver’s seat. Then it started to rain. Hard. The XP had no seals around its perspex cockpit and soon the interior filled with water. Marsh had to pull off to have his team drill drain holes in the bottom of the car. Marcos marched on and the car went from dead last to 21st place (out of 38 cars) in just 10 laps. Marcos driver Eddie Nelson spun the XP soon afterward and lost five places. By that time water had infiltrated the distributor cap, causing bad misfiring. Because Marcos had only one (very expensive) engine, they decided to drop out of the race. But so did a third of all other entries.
Marsh tolk the XP home and swapped the expensive F-1 engine for a Buick V8. Legend has it that he made runs to the local market in the outrageous car.
The XP was purchased by a private collector and was recently given a full restoration. It appeared at Goodwood and has since been seen in the wild at several car shows. Today it survives as probably the penultimate example of quirky late ’60s engineering and design.