19th January 2002

Arse! And double arse! The battery has assumed Pythonesque parrot status once again. All lights, fans etc definitely off in the car, but again I have not driven it for 3 weeks & it has been sub zero temps for a few days around the New year. Time to ring Marcos Heritage & ask for clues! Some suggestions from Rory, finishing off with the very kind offer to sell me an Optima battery for about six million pounds. I have checked these out & am debating whether I want to pay for something that can apparently launch the Space Shuttle. (And they come in different colours too, kids!) Also discover that Joe Cubitt has left MH to work with Jem's son Chris Marsh on his new sportscar project. This is a major bummer from my point of view as Joe was generally a very nice chap & knew everything about the later cars. Anyway, he's probably having more fun now, so good luck to him.

23rd January 2002

Heh! Heh! On Monday I went along to the Porsche Owners Club meeting at The Saddle boozer nr Jn 19 of the M6. It was the North West Chapter (Hell's Angels have Chapters don't they? I reckon that means that the POC do too...). These are the guys who I am travelling in convoy with down to Le Mans, so as I have tagged along on their organised trip, I thought I'd better meet 'n' greet, just as basic manners. Of course, the chance to show off my Mantis never crossed my mind, and it was the clutch that made me rev it up in the car park as I was leaving, honest! Er...

I like my Mantis, I really do, but there are some scarey blokes out there (all in Porsches it would seem) who take this car malarky VERY SERIOUSLY INDEED. I have come to the conclusion that I like talking about my car, not cars in general, so I guess I'm not a full-on petrolhead. Some of these chaps are going to Le Mans but so long as I don't have to share a tent with them or try & pretend I know what a sub-quarter rear axle floating base sprocket adjuster is, then we'll all get along fine. (Mental note: Must get the car serviced before Le Mans trip or I may actually have to borrow a floating base thingy and ask which way up it goes; embarassing.). The whole meeting thing brightens up considerably when someone produces an anniversary cake. Cake is good...

8th February 2002

Once again I am reminded that my Mantis was one of the first five built. The exhaust has split (hard to tell with that delicious roar coming out of the back, mind!) & it turns out that my car has a mild steel system, which Marcos ditched for stainless early on (not early enough!) in the Mantis development cycle. It also appears that I have clipped something under the car & nudged the sump guard into the sump, fortunately without damaging it. Then again, I have just lowered the back of the car so I will obviously have to be particularly vigilant for those policemen catching some zeds in the middle of our roads!

20th February 2002

Am investigating dry-sumping the car as I have discovered Pace still have the Mantis Challenge kits available. Cost not prohibitive as I only need a simple two stage system, but I have yet to hear what the fitting bill might be! Progress on the exhaust front too, having been quoted a bit much by far-distant MH and received no reply from Peninsula Autos (another customer lost), I have visited the excellent Tube Torque in Macclesfield. After some discussion we have settled on a twin heavy-gauge stainless system from the Cats back, taking the bore up from 2" to 2.5" in the process. If I am really sad I will attach a '.wav' file to this page with the new sound on... Heh! Heh!

23rd March 2002

Car now sporting a new exhaust (geddit!). With a brief of 'I want to make TVR drivers weep into their bucket seats!', Tube Torque have done a splendid job. First impressions? The engine seems to be breathing a little more freely (there is certainly a lot more gas coming out of the tail pipes than before), and the exhaust note is truely sweet! I know, I know, I shouldn't pay any attention to that sort of thing, but I can't help it! You'd have to hear it to understand, honest! I haven't quite got to the point of taking out a subscription to MaxPower yet though.

29th March 2002

I have finally decided on a new battery! I have sourced an Optima Red Top. OK, OK, it's taken me 3 months (!) to make a decision, but I am happy I have got a decent battery & that I can forget all about that bit of the car. Except for the new brackets which need making up because the old battery was smaller thanb the Optima. Oops! I can now cancel my subscription to 'What Car Battery', 'Which Battery', 'Auto Battery Digest' & 'Teenage College Girls Monthly'. (Eh? Steady on!).

Noticed Marcos Heritage are offering some nice looking aluminium & steel replacements to the standard Ford dash. Indicator stalks, handbrake handle & gearknob. The original Ford stuff is OK, but it's still obviously Ford...

4th April 2002

The sickening click of a dead starter motor greets me this morning. A flying visit by the auto-electrician confirms the diagnosis, and I wonder if it is April 1st. A combination of unseasonably warm temperatures & bright sunshine make me want to go out and DRIVE BABY! However, a sheepish call to my local garage is what actually happens, and I enquire when he might be able to 'fit me in' - again. We are both reminded of the fact that a sump plug has been on order with MH for the last six weeks, so how long might a new starter motor take? Erk! Visions of missing Le Mans & the various car shows this summer loom... A glimmer of hope in that the starter might be repairable, but this will require more investigation before a verdict is forthcoming. Nothing I can do but wait, fingers crossed, wallet whimpering.

Ditched the idea of dry sumping the car for the foreseeable. Any spare funds look like disappearing into the car anyway.

9th April 2002

Result! Well, sort of. The starter is fine, the fault eventually being traced to a connection below the motor from the battery. As I understand it, the main lead from the battery is connected to the starter via a ring connector held on by a threaded nut & bolt. This nut had worked loose & the contact had started arcing onto the bolt, thus destroying the thread giving the nut even less to hold on to etc etc. To fix it, the bolt was re-coiled & another nut fitted, with the exotic addition of a vibration-proof washer to stop it happening again. Sometimes I wonder how Marcos produced such a beautiful car, charged £50K for the pleasure (worth every penny!) and then skimped on seven pence for an extra washer. Aaaargh! Anyway, it's working again, and I am thinking 'Phew - that nearly cost me a bucket load for a new starter but in the end it only cost me £xxx (censored) to get it fixed'. Is this how all Marcos owners end up thinking? Expect the worst & when that doesn't happen you feel much better about 'only' spending some more money. Stupidly, with all the problems I had a few weeks ago not being able to start the car due to the dead battery, I had forgotten that I can bump start the car even without a starter. Instead I forked out for some guy to trailer the car in to the garage - Doh!. To make myself feel better I went out for a mega blast by myself; I had been pining for that lovely V8 burble for the last few days - and it was still sunny!!! A string of 'Cor's and 'Wow's from a gaggle of schoolboys make me feel much better about life! Thumbs up all round!

24th April 2002

Woohoo! Finished building the shelving in the garage yesterday! Two days of slog to produce something with the structural tolerances of a Hurricane Shelter! (Now I am beginning to wish I had my own garage instead of having to borrow other peoples... Unfortunately that is £££££ round here.). If only Marcos had taken my approach to engineering I wouldn't have things dropping off a five year old car left, right and probably center (but I haven't spotted it yet). Then again, the Mantis would've had a cast iron body shell, a traction engine power plant and a 0-60 time measured in phases of the moon! Couldn't there have been a half way point somewhere between us?!? Ah well, too late now! The benefit of this new garage (& the shelving which allows the Mantis to fit in) is no more full lock (x3) every time I have to try & get the car in or out - should save on the tyres a bit. And it's only 500 yards from my house, which should save on my stumpy little legs a bit too!

My delight at my (somewhat limited) prowess with a hammer & saw was slighted dented when I discovered that turning on the air conditioning religiously blows a 20A fuse every time, which rather bizarrely then kills all my dash gauges with the exception of the clock & rev counter. Some prodding around the fusebox reveals the fact that the fuse layout does not bear an enormous resemblence to the one illustrated in the owners manual. Allegedly the fuse I am blowing with the A/C is the main ignition circuit. I think not... To add insult to injury I also discover a short somwehere in my front fogs circuit, which blows a 15A fuse on demand. Wow! All these 'undocumented features'!

The postie also brought the diagnostic lead & software that I have been expecting from Racelogic, the manufacturers of my after-market traction control system. I am looking forward to plugging everything in & finally ascertaining whether the TC is working properly or not. Excellent!

30th April 2002

OK - calm down, deep breaths...

Today has been 'interesting', kicking off with a visit to AutoClassica, who I thought were in Wakefield (close to work), but have moved to Knaresborough (NOT close to work). The chap at AutoClassica, Andrew, is meant to be a bit of a Concours prep guru, so I went to talk to him about my options for the Mantis & this year's shows. Apart from buying some Swizol stuff off him (I WILL beat Phil Ward one day! Honest! I'm not too proud to cheat!), I enquired if there was anything that could be done about the stonechips on the bonnet, which have started to mount up. It was then pointed out to me that the bonnet (which had been resprayed as a condition of sale from the dealers, Optima, when I bought the car) had been done in a slightly different colour green to the rest of the car! Argh! Now I have had the car for 18 months & never noticed this, but now it has been pointed out to me... You know what I mean! Obviously(!) AutoClassica recommended a respray to do the job properly, but I most definitely can't strech to £££ at the moment, however creative my accounting! In the meantime we agreed I would return the car to them after the Stoneleigh show for a couple of days polish/wax, & then maybe get the bonnet done sometime this winter. Oh well, at least I got the cleaning kit, which looks quite cool. Andrew did a quick demo on a patch of my bonnet & it was looking pretty nice after about 5 mins work! Shame about the rest of the car!

So, why 'interesting'? (apart from discovering that I have a 2 tone car!) Well, what has ***ked me off so much is that, for the first time since I've had it, the car wouldn't start this morning, straight out of a dry garage. Then, having established that turning on the A/C knackers all my dials (see previous diary entry), I discovered that it also disables the windscreen wipers (in driving BOOM! BOOM! rain at 80 mph on the M62...). Finally on the way back home tonight my Speedo just died for no reason. Mileometer stopped too. I now have quite an impressive list of things to be fixed when the car goes into the garage on Thursday!

I can take it though! Bring it on! Grrrrrr......

10th May 2002

Stoneleigh was great, apart from the bit on Monday, and I knew this was going to happen, when a bloke asked me 'So, these are kit cars then?'. 'Er... no, they're all factory built.' Then the awkward pause while he looked at me & I looked at him, with the unspoken words hanging between us; 'Well, why are you at the National Kit Car Show then?'. Now, if he'd have come along on the Sunday, there were about 15 Marcii, and many beautiful kits amongst them. Alas, on the Monday there was just 3 Mantis & a Mantara, until a nice blue Mantula turned up towards lunchtime. I didn't bother explaining...

So, a decent turnout on the Sunday, with a good few cars appearing & lots of catching up between the various members. Suddenly it was suppertime & there were only two cars left, myself & John & Pauline Cavanagh, in their rather cool looking black Mantara. I had hoped for a decent crowd of people and a BBQ but maybe everyone else knew what the weather was going to be like because the heavens opened Sunday evening. Ugh! Mind you, I have now road (field?) tested my tent for Le Mans, so that's one worry less!

The bank holiday Monday was pretty gloomy right from the start. Only half the cars showing and half the people to see them compared with the day before. It had the potential to be a fairly miserable day until Dave Chivers turned up in a lovely looking purple Mantis Coupe (one of only two in the UK, and three ever made, no less!). I had been hoping to see Dave to thank him for talking to my garage in Sale, trying to resolve my current electrical hiccups. Seconds later, the bonnet was up on my car & Dave was having a quick nose round. What a top chap! Now, Dave had been followed (about 10 yards behind!) by Richard in THE MOST GORGEOUS Mantis. Aaarrrghhh! Me want! Me want! It's the same age as mine ('R' reg), but only done about 10K miles & is painted the most wicked red. Tan leather with red piping of course, and deep, deep red carpets. Richard being Richard the car was bloody clean anyway, but it really was nice. Apparently the colour is a one off, not off another manufacturer (not that I am complaining about my VW Dragon Green). The only other colour I have ever seen that is nicer is a deep red that seems to go on for ever, called 'Brandy Apple Candy Wine' and is on the display car for Phantom, who do a rather groovy looking kit called the Phantom GTX. The GTX is quite curvey, though not with the extreme styling of the Mantis, and this paint sets off these curves in the most amazing way. Richard liked it too, and took some snaps which I will have to grovel for & I'll post 'em here, though it's unlikely they can do the colour justice.

Hmmm... writing too much. Well, Stoneleigh had some nice cars, especially the GT40s, but most of all it was good to see lots of Marcii & meet the owners. One even got sold! A car I mean :)

Handed the Mantis back to the garage upon my return for them to continue trying to isolate the problem with the A/C blowing stuff. Four days & a couple of broken wires later, still no joy. Also discovered a bolt on my hoodframe has been rubbing through the hood since I bought the car. No washer & too long. I now have two nice holes in the hood on the offside - think I'll add that to the list. Heh! Heh! The weather has been nice last couple of days though and I miss my car...

17th May 2002

Wheeee! Got my car back! Well, I actually used a traditional barter system, whereby I gave the garage a big wodge of cash, & they gave me my car. After 17+ hours (gulp!) of work by the auto-electrician, the fault was finally located. Details to follow. Excuse me while I got out & drive my car...

1st June 2002

Went to the first of the Tatton Park shows today - The Classic, Vintage & Sportscar Show. Pauline & John turned up in their spiffing black Mantara, and Maurice turned up with an Autotune Mirage, which I had never seen before. Weather was fab, lots of attention from the punters & some nice yank cars for me to have a look at courtesy of Jim 'wheel em out' Thornbury. Photos here when you get organised you slack git! Now, are you waiting for me to say something went wrong on the car? Well... it did! The cooling fan stopped working on the way back from the show & the engine warmed up a bit. Back to the garage to see what's what. I am being calm; today was great fun apart from this little hiccup.

10th June 2002

Garage can't find problem with cooling fan. I travel to Le Mans in two days so instruct them to hardwire a switch so I can turn it on manually. Right now I just don't care, so long as I get to LM and back. At least the fan is wired in to the unused rear-windscreen demister switch, which looks neat (this is really trying to look on the bright side, isn't it?).

18th June 2002

My first Le Mans. Wow! Just how cool is that event? (it seems unfair to just call it a race!). Much too much to put in this diary, so if you want to read/see just how fab it was, go here! Special thanks to the TIPEC boys for having me along though.

Now, are you waiting again for me to say something went wrong on the car? Hmm? Admit it! There was a lot of driving, right? (1200+ miles) Well... it did! Yaaaaay! The engine was mega-sweet the whole trip, & the manual cooling fan worked beautifully, but the nearside windscreen trim started to peel away on the way back. Some swift work with some duck tape by my passenger Si sorted this out (Si has a court order banning him from ever keeping Hamsters as pets, but he carries the Duck tape for old times sake... Heh! Heh!) OK, I'm so vain we then covered the Duck tape with black insulating tape to make it look better! What can I say? Anyway, this got me back from France fine. Subsequent investigation revealed that the screen had been put in using silicon filler, which had reacted with the bonding material & caused it to fail, so the windscreen is no longer sitting properly in the car. Marcos Heritage only fitted the screen last Autumn, so we will see whats what - suffice to say I am getting a little jacked off in that particular area.

20th June 2002

People are avoiding me at work. News has spread of my evangelical rantings about Le Man. (Must also stop inviting everybody for next year, as I only have one spare seat. Duh!) Having remembered to drive on the correct side of the road, I have been brought back down to earth with a bump by the UK road surfaces, traffic volumes & fuel prices. Sigh.

... Now a couple of people who read this have said that stuff always seems to be going wrong with my car. Fair comment! Thought I'd point out that (a) I've done 16K miles in 18 months (not bad for a second car, eh?) in the Mantis - all weathers, and (b) er... I've still got it! I freely admit that I motor with my heart not my head, but... well... it's a great car!

6th August 2002

Aahhh... all is well in the land of Mantis! The engine cooling fan over the radiator has been rewired back to work off engine temperature rather than a manual switch (which, lets face it, I either forgot to turn on, or forgot to turn off). My temp gauge also reads about twenty degrees lower than it ever has, once the mighty Marcos Oracle Mr Chivers spotted that the voltage regulator wasn't earthed & corrected it. Dave also drove the car for a bit & told me it felt OK, which is a real relief because I was getting a tiny bit paranoid about... everything(!), but of course had nothing to compare it to. (Rumour has it Dave has driven a few Mantis's before!). Mind you, any chap who has had his skirtingbaord & windowframe colour coded to his Mantis gets my vote!

Plus I am now sporting some nice new aluminium radiator grill bars from MH (£ouch£) to replace my increasingly scruffy rusty steel one. Groovy! I kept the old one in case I can get them shotblasted & powdercoated black, but that can wait ('til my next lottery win. I'll add it to the list!)

Next thing is the Tatton Show on the 18th which should see eight cars together, then the Callender run with Scottish section August Bank Holiday. Bring on the midges!!!

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