The Big Car Database

Marlin

Marlin is a British sports car manufacturer founded in 1979 in Plymouth as Marlin Engineering and now located in Crediton, Devon England.

The company was founded by Paul Moorhouse, who, after building a series of one off cars for his own use decided to put one into production as a kit car. The first kits were sold in 1979.

The first product was the Roadster which remained in the line up until sold, along with the Berlinetta, to Yorkshire Kit Cars (YKC) in 1992 who kept them in production until the owner retired in 2006 and sold them on to Aquila Sports Cars Ltd.

In the mid 1990s the company was sold to Terry and Mark Matthews who introduced the Hunter model.

Type

British Sportscar Manufacturer
Industry Automobiles
Founded 1979
Founder Paul Moorhouse
Headquarters Crediton, Devon, England, UK
Website Marlinsportscars.co.uk/

The Roadster was the original car and was based around Triumph Herald components. The two seat body built of aluminium and glass fibre had a radiator grille slightly similar to pre-war Alfa Romeo sports cars. In 1981 the Morris Marina became the donor car replacing the Triumph and the Marina engine became standard although many customers fitted engines, gearboxes and back axles of their own choice. Fitted with the two-litre inline-six from a late Triumph Vitesse, a top speed of 177 km/h (110 mph) was achievable.

Where we've been, where we're going... 

For over 30 years, the name of Marlin has been synonymous with innovative design and affordable home-built sports cars. Originally conceived by ex Rolls Royce engineer, Paul Moorhouse, the Marlin Roadster first entered production in the late Seventies and immediately caused a sensation with its robust construction and excellent driving dynamics.

Typical of his forward thinking approach was the development of a roll-over bar built into the windscreen frame - a feature which placed the little Marlin a number of years ahead of Audi, who then claimed the idea as its own with the Audi Cabriolet. Towards the end of the eighties, those who had bought Roadsters now had growing children who also wanted to come along for the ride. The pretty Berlinetta was Moorhouse's response, a thoughtfully designed 2+2 with the option of a hard-top for year-round motoring comfort.

Pushing the boundaries With the nineties came new possibilities when it came to engine and suspension components. As one might expect, Marlin was one of the first to embrace the new technology, and the Sierra-based Cabrio was the result. With lines inspired by Vanden Plas and featuring a unique combination of stress-free aluminium panels clothing a chassis of advanced semi-monocoque construction, the Cabrio was an instant success.

In many aspects, the Cabrio was probably far more advanced than it needed to be at the time of its introduction. But, as later events were to prove, these hidden strengths were crucial to Marlin's next phase of growth. Having achieved so much, Moorhouse moved onto new challenges (amongst other things, designing a series of small submarines!) and today's pairing of Terry and Mark Matthews took up the Marlin reigns.

A new focus With a change of ownership came new ambition. Where previously the cars had only been available in component form, a thorough programme of development would see Marlin launch its first turnkey model - The Hunter. Owing much to the groundbreaking Cabrio, the new model entered a marketplace previously dominated by Panther and Morgan. Marlin effectively re-wrote the rules of the English sports car world. Never before had such a combination of handling, ride comfort and sheer practicality been seen on a car of this type. The goal set by the Marlin factory was to create something which had the looks and style of the pre-war era, but with none of the drawbacks - the Hunter delivered on all counts.

Young at heart If the new model satisfied the turnkey market, the Cabrio was still doing it for those who wanted to have a more hands-on approach to creating their own special car. But there also appeared to be room for something new. Marlin noticed that a demand existed from people who wanted a vehicle in the Lotus 7 mould, but with a more room inside, good weather equipment, doors and boot space. In 1997 the Sportster was launched - a car with all the Marlin styling cues, but with a far more overtly sporting ethos. Answering the call for a Lotus Seven style car without the compromises, the Sportster ticked all the boxes, while building on the Lotus's reputation for superlative handling and extraordinary performance. The Sportster had it all.

In 1998, and to celebrate twenty years of the Marlin name, the factory embarked on its most audacious project yet, the Makaira. A benchmark car for Marlin, embodying everything the company had learnt in developing the turnkey Hunter, in order to produce a highly exclusive, all aluminium bodied traditional roadster. With a price tag of over £40,000, this beautiful car will always remain a rare sight on our roads, but it took Marlin into yet more unchartered waters and continued the company's heritage of pushing the boundaries... Something the company would once again remind us of when it relaunched the Sportster in 2002 with a brand new suspension and engine package. Taking a leap of faith that other manufacturers seem unable to grasp, the company ditched the ailing Ford components in favour of parts sourced from BMW's acclaimed 3-series. It was a stroke of genius. With the upmarket, yet extremely affordable new donor came the promise of ever more exciting engine options (over 320bhp with the M3 Evo unit) allied to more refined and capable suspension and braking components. What's more, the new BMW package allowed the builder to assemble a Sportster using just one donor, thus making the build both easier and more affordable.

A bright future The original launch of the Sportster also saw Marlin coming into more regular contact with a younger, more driving focused customer. And as a natural consequence, the company looked to meeting this fresh demand with yet another new model. In 2003, to celebrate Marlin’s silver jubilee, the 5EXi was launched. Ushering in a brave new world for the company, the 5EXi offered utterly contemporary styling, while the move to a mid-engined layout was also completely fresh.

But while the styling and design of this car are brand new, the 5EXi maintains many of the traditions of Marlin engineering. Not only does this car utilise another previously unheard of donor car (in the form of the Rover 200 series), but it again uses an unusually large number of components from the one source. 

Most recently, the addition of full height doors and the option of using Volkswagen 20 Valve Turbo & Honda's extraordinary Type R VTEC engine have once again kept Marlin in the headlines.

The 5EXi and Sportster embody everything that has always made Marlin one of the leading lights in the UK's specialist car scene. They are wonderfully engineered, hugely innovative and always exciting. 

Why not become part of this amazing story, by owning your own Marlin?

Berlinetta

The Berlinetta was launched in 1983 version using Ford Cortina Mk III or IV parts. Of those who had bought Roadsters originally, some now wanted more room for offspring and partners who also wanted to enjoy the fun of the Marlin. So 1983 saw the introduction of the Ford Cortina (later, Sierra) based Berlinettas as a 2+2 coupé. This came complete with previously unheard of luxuries such as wind-up windows, a lockable boot and a hardtop option. A touring car rather than a sports car, sales of the car were fewer than the Roadster, mainly due to the more limited market for such a car.

Cabrio

The 1991 Cabrio was an updated Roadster based on Ford Sierra parts.

Hunter

Based on the Cabrio the Hunter was a complete, factory built car.

Sportster

The Sportster is the latest in the Roadster line but completely updated with the BMW E36 six cylinder engine as standard. It is available as a kit or fully built.

5EXi

As a complete change from the retro looks of the previous models, the 5EXi is a modern two seat, mid engined sports car using Honda Civic, Rover K-series engines or Audi 1.8T engine . The car is built up around a space frame on which are fastened glass fibre body panels.

It is available as a kit or fully built. It is claimed by the factory that the kit can be assembled in 100 hours

 

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