The road less travelled often led to the door of a domestic car maker; the likes of Morgan, TVR, Marcos and Noble offered models with world beating performance at a fraction of the price asked by foreign marques.
MORGAN PLUS 8 (1968-2004)
With performance quite at odds with its genteel appearance, Morgan’s Plus 8 was one of the first cars outside of British Leyland’s empire to use the 3.5-litre Rover V8.
Aided by a low kerb weight (aluminium panels on an ash framed separate chassis), startling in gear performance remained a Plus 8 constant right up until the end of production in 2004, when the supply of Rover V8 engines, supplied by then in 3.9 and 4.6-litre form, dried up.
The Plus 8 name was revived in 2012 with an aluminium-chassied evocation that looked similar to the original but was leagues away technically; a 4.8-litre BMW V8 took the place of the venerable Rover unit.
Prices for the classic Plus 8 remain strong and – according to The Market’s figures – are appreciating at a rate of 11.72 per cent a year. From a baseline of 1308 Plus 8s sold between private sellers, club members and dealers, asking prices sit between £35,995 and £59,995.
TVR M SERIES TURBO (3000M, TAIMAR AND 3000S, 1976-1979)
Forced induction did much for the already brawny TVR M Series, introduced with naked models at the 1976 London Motor Show. With Broadspeed’s help, the M Series’ 3.0-litre Ford Essex V6 produced 230bhp when turbocharged; despite favourable reviews, just 63 M Series Turbos were made, spread across the 3000M (coupe, 20), Taimar (coupe hatchback,30) and 3000S (convertible, 13) models.
Finding survivors for sale is difficult, even with the entirety of the internet at our disposal. We found an early 3000M Turbo project listed for £8500 at specialist AC Roney, and a 2017 listing on Classic Car HQ brought up a 1978 Taimar Turbo at £22,500. Given that the Taimars were the most numerous of the Turbo cars, this price should be used as a guideline when scouting for a blown TVR M Series.
MARCOS MANTIS (1997-2002)
The third and final revival of the Mantis nameplate more than did justice to the name.
Placed above the contemporary four-cylinder GTS and basic Mantarays, the 1997 Mantis was developed as a road-biased spin off from the LM series built to homologate Marcos’ return to the Le Mans 24 Hours.
While the LM 400 and 500 used Rover V8 engines and the 600 a Chevrolet unit, the Mantis was released with Ford’s 4.6-litre quad cam V8, a later staple of the Panther body swansong Mercury Marauder and MG SV. With 51 cars built over a period of insolvency, buying a Nineties Mantis is difficult, if not for the high praise the cars received in period for their road holding, build quality and outrageous appearance.
With examples in 2014 priced at £35,000, and a current advert on eBay listing Marcos’ ex show car Mantis at £52,000, establishing an exact price range is difficult – but these figures at least provide a baseline.
NOBLE M12 GTO (GTO, GTO-3 GTO-3R, M400, 2001-2008)
Giant killers personified, the British designed, South African produced Noble M12 series transcended the sum of their parts. Using twin turbocharged Ford V6 engines with ever increasing power outputs, reception was universally positive, from enthusiast and press alike.
To all intents and purposes, the M12 was a racing car reigned in for road use, complete with an Alcantara covered roll cage to civilise the whole affair. Drivers’ aids were conspicuous by their absence; with every iteration, the specification was refined.
The 2.5-litre 310bhp GTOs remain the most affordable, followed by the 352bhp, 3.0-litre GTO-3, introduced in 2003. That year also saw the incorporation of the GTO-3R into the range, broadly similar apart from its gearbox, which gained a sixth ratio to make the most of the on-boost power band and a covered headlight front clamshell to smooth out the aerodynamics
These cars needed a skilful driver to get the most out of them. Responding to customer feedback in 2004, Noble released the 425bhp M400. Despite the hike in power, the new model incorporated everything the previous three M12s had established. A comprehensive suspension overhaul and a slower steering rack made the fastest M12 the easiest to drive; with that, its legend was assured.
We found nine Noble M12s for sale via Pistonheads, with the later GTO-3Rs making up the bulk of the stock. Prices for the 2.5-litre GTO began at £32,000, rising to £48,995 for a 2004 GTO-3R with M400 running gear. Modifications, if kept within the canon, do not affect values in the Noble world; performance and condition take precedence over originality.