Thursday Trivia

Thirsday Trivia
Welcome to Thursday Trivia where we offer up a historical automotive trivia question and you try and solve it before seeing the answer after the jump. It’s like a history test, with cars!
This week’s question: What iconic WWII vehicle led to the Marcos Xylon – better known as the Ugly Duckling?”
If you think you know the answer make the jump and see if you are right.
Jeremy George Weston “Jem” Marsh and Frank Costin founded Marcos Engineering in 1959. The company’s initial purpose was to build race cars, and the first of those was the Xylon – Greek for “wood” – which quickly gained the less auspicious nickname “Ugly Duckling.”

Jackie Stewart’s Marcos Xylon 550

Much like Colin Chapman’s Lotus, Marcos’ efforts focused more on reduced weight than horsepower to make their car’s competitive, and the Xylon was designed around diminutive Ford or Triumph Standard fours.
The cars were also designed with a fully stressed monocoque made out plywood. Costin broached the idea for the material’s use after having worked during the war on one of the D-day invasions’ most iconic troop carriers.
From Hemmings (emphasis added):

The men behind Marcos, Jeremy George Weston “Jem” Marsh and Frank Costin, had built a string of successful, wood monocoque race cars before launching the GT project in 1963. Marsh had done a lot of club racing in Austin 7-based specials in postwar Britain; Costin, known for his work with Lotus and on the Lister Jaguars, had been a designer of wooden gliders at de Havilland Aircraft (and had a hand in the fast, lightweight, plywood de Havilland Mosquito fighter-bomber that helped win World War II). Their very first car, the Ford-powered Xylon (Greek for “wood”) of 1959, was a grotesque thing, but it proved to be highly successful on the race track.

Costin left Marcos in 1961, but still stayed in the automotive business. He designed the Vauxhall-based Costin Amigo, the Lotus 7 inspired Thompson Motor Company Costin, and did journeyman work for Lotus, Maserati and his brother’s company Cosworth.
Marcos would stagger through the ’60s like many small cottage manufacturers, building the sleek Manta and some Mini-based cars in modest numbers. They eventually shuttered in 1971 owing to financial difficulties. Their most notable road car – the Manta – has been resurrected a couple of times since, most recently in the late ’90s as a rip-roaring V8 sports car. It represents a pretty timeless design, so who knows if it “wood” rise yet again.
Image: Paul Fraser Collectables

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  1. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    Their most notable road car – the Manta – has been resurrected a couple of times…
    Did you mean “Mantis”?
    This Xylon reminds me a bit of the Maxton Rollerskate.