The 1968 Marcos Mantis XP looked quite out-of-place at its debut during the Spa 24 Hours race in Belgium. Flanked by the curvy Fords, Porsches and Ferraris of the late 60s, this odd and angular beast represented the hopes of a British boutique manufacturer who was fighting for footing in the performance car market. The Mantis XP failed the Spa race due to electrical problems, and has been shelved since then until its recent resurrection by a careful restoration in California. The 1968 Marcos Mantis XP is truly one-of-a-kind, and its strange styling makes it one of the most visually striking automobiles we’ve seen in 2010.
The late 1960s represented a special time in the world of automobiles. This was the time of Ford GT40, the time of the Speed Racer saga, when a dual focus on futurism and muscle were prevalent in performance vehicles. The Marcos Mantis XP fit this formula well, as its future-forward design and muscle-heavy heartbeat earned it a debut on the world championship racing circuit. It was powered by a mid-mounted BRM-Repco V8 Formula 1 engine, whose cylinders rose into the clear-covered engine compartment in the rear of the vehicle. This powertrain was enough to compete with the world’s top race cars, despite the electrical problems which sidelined it at the Spa 1000km.
For 1968, the design of the Marcos Mantis XP was breathtaking, if not unconventional, and it remains so today. Its plexiglass cabin and engine compartment are its signature feature, a design trait that give the Mantis its futuristic appeal. The vertical plexiglass doors swing upward and a small window slides forward for a bit of fresh air. The front and rear ends also open upward, giving it a look that this Mantis is shedding a layer of skin. The body design is at once angular and curvy, with a chopped rear end and curvy front fenders that give it an aggressive appearance.
While the Marcos car brand is no longer in business, the Marcos Mantis XP is seeing new life on the vintage exhibition circuit. It has been restored to its original glory and looks as stunning today as it did in 1968. While the vehicle itself may represent a dream that never saw fulfillment, its re-birth today may provide a second chance for its legacy just 40 years late…