• Jay Leno Drives All The Cool Cars, Like This 1971 Marcos GT

This 1971 Marcos GT is a proper British lightweight sports car that works on US roads better than you would expect

LISTEN 04:41

When we talk about well-styled classic British sports cars, the first one to come to mind is usually the Jaguar E-Type. Then there are the lightweight cars like the MGB, Triumph Spitfire, and Austin Healey. The Marcos GT is one of those “other” cars that are slightly more obscure and not quite as well-known to most. Luckily, Jay Leno once again does a great job at introducing us to what he believes is “the most unusual and prettiest sports car of all time”, and he’s not alone.

Old to the bone

Jay Leno Drives All The Cool Cars, Like This 1971 Marcos GT
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The Marcos GT is a very interesting car and features quite a lot of old-school tech. This includes the chassis, which on earlier cars was made of plywood. Believe it or not, “they had 386 different plywood pieces that were laminated together”. They were very strong, but in the end, they had to switch to a heavier steel chassis because of how expensive they were to make.

Inspired by an aircraft

Jay Leno Drives All The Cool Cars, Like This 1971 Marcos GT
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The reason behind earlier Marcos GT models having a plywood chassis is that one of the company owners, Frank Costin, worked on the de Havilland Mosquito fighter bomber, the frame of which was constructed primarily of wood.

Low and lightweight

Jay Leno Drives All The Cool Cars, Like This 1971 Marcos GT
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Like many other British sports cars of the 1960s and 1970s, the Marcos GT is small and lightweight. How small you ask? 43 inches. Jay Leno is barely 6 feet tall and the roofline reaches his waste-line.

As for the weight, it weighs around 1,600-1,700 pounds (725-771 kg), according to the owner.

Powered by a variety of engines

Jay Leno Drives All The Cool Cars, Like This 1971 Marcos GT
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The Marcos GT was powered by a few different engines throughout the years. Earlier cars were actually called 1800 GT because they were powered by the 1.8-liter Volvo engine found in the P1800. Frazier’s car is a later model and features a Ford 3.0-liter V-6 with around 155 horsepower that’s mated to a four-speed manual with overdrive. The very last version of the Marcos GT was powered by a Rover V-8.

Good enough to replace some icons?

Jay Leno Drives All The Cool Cars, Like This 1971 Marcos GT
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Frazier only had the car for about five months at the time the episode was filmed, but he had some pretty cool classic cars before, such as a Datsun 240Z and a Porsche 911 – both cars that don’t need an introduction. We can safely assume that the Marcos GT is worthy to be up there with the likes of those.

You’ll be lucky if you see one in person

Jay Leno Drives All The Cool Cars, Like This 1971 Marcos GT
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After some L.A. snob jokes, Frazier shares that only 1,200 Marcos GT have been made in total and fewer than 200 have steel chassis.

Victim of U.S. federalization

Jay Leno Drives All The Cool Cars, Like This 1971 Marcos GT
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“It’s not the kind of car you want to come to a crashing halt in” - Frazier says. “They would have to take you out the sunroof” – Jay replies jokingly.

US federalization killed off cars like the Marcos around 1972 because they were deemed not safe enough.

Bargain performance

Jay Leno Drives All The Cool Cars, Like This 1971 Marcos GT
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Jay makes a remark about the price of Frazier’s Marcos GT. Regardless of condition, you can get one of these for under $50,000 and for as little as $20,000, if you’re willing to put some elbow grease into it. “If this had an Italian nameplate on it” it would be $250,000 – Jay says.

“Gracefully” sliding in

Jay Leno Drives All The Cool Cars, Like This 1971 Marcos GT
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After some more talks about where all the parts have been sourced and how lightweight it is, Jay manages to (barely) position himself behind the wheel, which is on the right. Around 16:45 is the start of the drive and that Ford V-6, which is the equivalent of a 327 V-8 in the US, sounds quite epic.

“The Essex lump”

Jay Leno Drives All The Cool Cars, Like This 1971 Marcos GT
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The Essex lump, of course, refers to the Ford V-6 that’s powering the Marcos GT, since it was considered a big engine in Britain. “In England, the V-6 is like a V-8” – Jay remarks. Regardless, this is still enough to get the small sports car to 120 mph (193 km/h). Impressive for the early 1970s.

“It’s all about how a car makes you feel” – Jay continues while enjoying the Marcos GT. The sensation is that of a more substantial car, a racy feel. Sometimes, it’s not a good idea to meet your heroes, but in this case “this is exactly what I thought it would be” – Jay concludes.

Dim Angelov
Dim Angelov
Born in 1992, I come from a family of motoring enthusiasts. My passion for cars was awoken at the age of six, when I saw a Lamborghini Diablo SV in a magazine. After high school I earned a master’s degree in marketing and a Master of Arts in Media and Communications. Over the years, I’ve practiced and become skilled in precision driving and to date have test driven more than 250 cars across the globe. Over the years, I’ve picked up basic mechanical knowledge and have even taken part in the restoration of a 1964 Jaguar E-Type and an Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint. Lately, I’ve taken a fancy to automotive photography, and while modern cars are my primary passion, I also have a love for Asian Martial Arts, swimming, war history, craft beer, historical weapons, and car restoration. In time, I plan my own classic car restoration and hope to earn my racing certificate, after which I expect to establish my own racing team.  Read full bio
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