Car: Costin Amigo, 1970

Frank Costin was an eccentric, chainsmoking engineer whose mastery of aerodynamics—gleaned in the aircraft industry—made him a godsend to racing teams like Lotus and Vanwall in the 1950s. He became the “-cos” part of sports car firm Marcos with partner Jem Marsh; his aeronautical engineering expertise led him to take the unusual step of using laminated marine plywood for the chassis of his first cars, to minimize weight.

1970 Costin Amigo
The Costin Amigo offered a performance that belied its mundane drivetrain, thanks to close attention to its construction and streamlining.

Marcos eventually dropped this unique construction method but Frank Costin was convinced it had potential for further development. He eventually raised the finance to build his own wooden-chassis car. Perhaps understandably, the Costin Amigo looked vaguely like a Marcos 1800. It was built around a plywood monocoque frame, with pine strips bonded on to reinforce it, and fiberglass body panels for extreme lightness and a notably smooth finish.

1970 model of the car Costin Amigo
1970 car Costin Amigo

The 121ci (1,975cc) engine, running gear, and suspension, came from the Vauxhall VX4/90. Frank Costin is said to have chosen this car after being impressed by a rented model. The Amigo was built in a small factory at an airfield near Vauxhall’s Luton plant. Thanks to its low weight and highly aerodynamic shape, the Amigo gave a stunning performance from its rather unremarkable running gear. It could reach 137mph (220kph), and gained acclaim for its handling. This might have been compensation for the austere interior and £3,326 price, but only eight cars were sold.

“Frank Costin was not a man to suffer half-baked projects gladly. He was a dedicated nonconformist, and more often than not he failed to receive the credit and recognition that were his due.”

Obituary Of Frank Costin By David Tremayne, The Independent Newspaper, 1995

Specification: Model of the car Costin Amigo

PLACE OF ORIGIN: Little Staughton. Bedfordshire, UK
HISTORICAL STATUS: production car
ENGINE: four-cylinder, 121ci (1,975cc)
LAYOUT: front-mounted engine driving the rear wheels
BODYWORK: two-door, two-seater coupé
TOP SPEED: 137mph (220kph)