Promising new British sports car backs a classy design with a quality chassis
  • First Drive

    Marcos TSO GT2

    Promising new British sports car backs a classy design with a quality chassis

I'm laughing. Even above the all-consuming roar of the V8 and the scream of tyres being wantonly melted richoteting around this tiny furnace of a cockpit, I can hear myself laughing. I’m sweating so much I can hardly see on this baking summer’s day, and I feel like I’m fighting this grizzly bear inside a phone box.Except I’m not actually fighting it at all: I’m just enjoying a friendly car – laughing as I hang the tail out again and again on just about every corner on this track. What’s going on here – wasn’t this just another V8-powered glassfibre British sports car?Tony Stelliga thinks it’s different. The American behind the rebirth of the Marcos company made his money in computers, and spends some of it in a small collection of industrial units. Here he pursues the Brit sports car dream for the same reasons we all imagine doing it: to make a sports car how he’d like it. So far, there have been encouraging words for the TSO roadster, but the GT2 is the company’s first crack at a coupé.The basics of the TSO GT2 are familiar enough. Glassfibre panels clothe a spaceframe chassis, with one of Chevrolet’s (in the American sense) beefy V8s up front – in this case the 5.7-litre tuned lump from the old Corvette C5 ZO6. This is good for 400bhp in standard form, but Marcos offers it in two stages: a 420bhp regular version courtesy of some ECU work, or in more heavily worked-on 475bhp guise as part of a ‘sports’ pack.Other usual suspects include a Hydratrak limited-slip differential and AP racing brakes. Where the GT2 differs is in its execution. Firstly, the Chevy V8 is a wise choice for achieving plenty of reliable power, especially when compared with the lame old Ford V8 that’s made a name for itself recently. But rather than scribble a few suspension calculations on the back of the garage door, Stelliga has brought in engineering consultant Prodrive – Marcos’s neighbour inside Prodrive’s Warwick engineering centre – to use its computer power and experience to design and develop the chassis. Now there is talk of steering response graphs, mathematical analysis and close examination of cars such as the Porsche 911: a very different approach to that of the Marcos of old.The other major change is the way the glassfibre body ends up on the car. The body has been designed and engineered on computer (see panel, right) and the increase in quality such a method provides is tangible as you approach the car. The shape and interior are the work of ex-TVR designers and the ‘feel’ of the design has a vaguely Blackpool slant, yet blended nicely with traditional Marcos cues.It works best when viewed from the rear three-quarter angle where the lines are strikingly handsome and delicate. Panel gaps and surface quality are very good indeed for a car like this. But the overriding impression as you approach the car is how small it is; something that becomes more apparent as you climb inside. Granted, I’m around 6ft 3in in height, but my head grazes the roof and my knees almost brush the dashboard once ensconsed behind the wheel. Nevertheless, it’s a nice place style-wise, with the individuality of a TVR without the gimmicks.Starting the V8 takes your mind off trying to get comfortable. Just the sinister blat at idle and the way each stroke of the pistons zings around your body leave you in no doubt this car is totally dominated by its engine. Sure enough, the GT2 is explosively fast in any gear and at any time. Open the taps in fourth at 2000rpm and the horizon is tugged mercilessly backwards in an instant to the tune of the meanest V8 cachophony this side of a 1970 Trans Am car. The GT2 is one of those cars you can’t help needlessly squirting forward like a learner driver just to hear the engine.The biggest surprise, however, is not the pace – that was pretty obvious – but the handling. With 235-section tyres on the rear not even coming close to filling the arches, the GT2 makes no attempt at a modern macho stance. Stelliga claims he wanted a car that traded outright grip for a friendly attitude on the limit and the Prodrive guys have definitely delivered his wishes. The steering is light – not especially communicative but wonderfully accurate and devoid of kickback, and the chassis itself is very friendly, both when it comes to flicking sideways, and in gathering itself back in. It’s not long before you’re chucking it around with real confidence, relishing the torque of the V8 and the sense of balance.That same softness aids the ride quality out on the road, although there’s still a sense that the car jiggles around over undulations and small bumps. There’s also too much noise from the suspension when it’s required to do its work, and plenty of wind noise from the A-pillars at speed.It’s detail problems like this that need more work and betray the Marcos as the product of a small firm without vast budgets. Nevertheless, despite being hunched up inside and boiling, I don’t want to stop driving this thing. The TSO GT2 is shaping up nicely.Adam Towler

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