21st April 2005
I've just got back from dragging the Old Man off to Tyntesfield for his birthday, with a visit to MHS cunningly thrown in on the return journey! The original carbon fibre stonechip guards over the rear wheelarches are almost translucent now, so it was time for some new ones. Although predictably extortionate, the MHS guards are pre-moulded & top quality pieces of kit. I know it's possible to get adhesive carbon fibre sheets then stick it over over the existing guards, but frankly... my car's just far too goddamn gorgeous to compromise like that, so I got the real thing! The Old Man also gave the thumbs up to the rollbar, which he hasn't seen before. Phew! I get to stay in his will then... The classic tiny squeak, which once noticed becomes the dominant noise when driving (which is impressive considering my exhaust!) has been traced to my accessory belt (also referred to as the alternator belt or ploy-V belt). The current one become glazed & it's doing my nut!!
1st May 2005
Yesterday was Thunder Sunday at Rockingham (oval banked circuit). As per last year's visit, the line-up was mainly Mantis, but Debbie & Darren were there in their uber-shiny LM500 again. Apaprt from showing the cars, we got another opportunity to do a couple of laps around the track in front of the crowd, which saw the usual hooning with the exception of myself, as I demonstrated the more sophisticated side of the Marcos Mantis. (There may have been a teeny wheel spin but persoanlly I put that down to poor clutch control... ) The organisers also used Marcos to parade the race drivers for the primary event up & down in front of the crowd. I happen to be at the front of the line of Marcos so got to take the current champion (Steve someone?) - a thoroughly unpleasant fellow who was clearly bored by the proceedings & lacked even the manners to greet the person whose car he then proceeded to put his feet all over. (The other drivers were quite chatty apparently). I also succumbed to a Road Angel 2 (Speed Camera thingy) as they were fifty quid off. Bugger knows why I bought one as I don't exactly thrash the car, on the other hand I'm a sucker for a gadget with a discount! I was gutted when I discovered that I couldn't get at the 12V socket under the dash because the Stereo Amp is in the way, so it became a very expensive box...
Today continued on to the National Kit Car Show at Stoneleigh with some of the remenants from Rockingham. There were a good few Marcos there already when we bowled up. Mike McCullough (probably spelt that wrong!) seems to have powder-coated anything he hasn't already chromed, his Mantis engine look stunning but I bet he doesn't drive it when it's wet! Weather stayed reasonable until mid-afternoon by which time I had my find-of-the-day, a collapsible bucket! Woohoo! God I need a life... Anyway drove back with the hood down & stayed dry enough except for the odd set of traffic lights & standing traffic. As usual after two days of 'car stuff' my head hurts & I am knackered!
22nd May 2005 - I'm hoping to guarantee a faultless trip to & from Le Mans by getting the car serviced, so it was off down to Mr Chivers for some TLC for the Mantis. Apart from the service, Dave also fitted the new stonechip guards which look the dogs danglies, but I didn't half wince when he wrenched the old ones off (taking half the paint with them!) - I am far too scared to treat the car like that! We examined the roll-bar positioning to see if there was any way we could counter the slightly off-center positioning caused by the chassis location, but it would have been a lot of work for a little gain; I have decided to live with the hood frame rubbing the nearside section of the rollbar. Chassis also liberally doused with waxoyl. Tried to fit the accessory built sent by MHS (discovered a spare in the boot as well - Doh!) to replace the squeaky one but however we strained it was just too short. Gave up eventually. The main achievement was the windscreen however! Dave removed the T-piece & scraped the windscreen surround down, revealing numerous holes in the seal where you could put your finger through to the inside of the car! Amazing the car didn't leak more than it actually did really, but still pretty poor work by MHS when they fitted it a couple of years ago. Anyway sealant was duely reapplied then allowed to go off overnight, which seemed like a good excuse to stay over & go to the pub! T-piece re-fitted Sunday morning & looked sweeeeet. On the way home I called in at Redline Sportscar where Jeremy, the factory salesman, now operates the numero uno Marcos showroom. Despite just having locked & alarmed the building, when Dave C & I turned up in the two Mantis, JK opened everything up again so I could look round, & even responded to a casual enquiry about stock by taking the dust covers off each car & talking me through them. What a tremendous chap, and dammit, if I hadn't already got one I would've bought another! I soon had the opportunity to test how successful we had been in resealing the windscreen, as the heavens truely opened as I drove back up north from Wiltshire. I must admit I was a little too stubborn about getting the hood up this time, & only stopped to reluctantly erect it when I realised that I had left the motorway & gone up a sliproad without realising, at which point I had to admit that I couldn't see a bloody thing! Touchingly several people risked pneumonia themselves by winding down their windows to jeer at me as they shot past - fair enough!
5th June 2005
A triumphant return from the Tatton Park Classic Car Show for yours truely, and indeed everyone who turned up for the Marcos stand! Having rashly decided to clean my car when it stopped raining yesterday (it didn't!), I had to stir my bones at 0600 hours this morning & make some kind of last ditch effort; fortunately it wasn't raining & a ninety minute stint left the car looking clean (no time for polish) - clean enough to get 2nd place for "Best 2 seater of Show"! I am quite chuffed about that! There were seven Marcos in total at the show (two Mantis Spyders, two LMs, three GTs), and we were awarded first place in the "Highly Commended Club Stand" category (ninety club stands in all, three "Best Club Stand" trophies so that means fourth out of ninety).
22nd June 2005
Back from another (a bit too) eventful few days at the Le Mans 24 hour race! Weather report; Hot! Hot! Hot! I'm cream-crackered but in summary, the race was good, but despite shelling out on a full service prior to the trip down, I still ended up with clutch & engine problems resulting in severly reduced posing time. Outrageous! To cap it all, my windscreen cracked just before we arrived back in the UK. The last of the original Finnish ones I believe so I guess I'm doomed to one of the horrible new ones from MHS with the enormous conductive silver strip around the edge. Eugh. Full Le Mans write-up here.
25th July 2005
A long weekend of frenzied Marcos activity, starting with a trip down to Marcos Heritage Spares on Thursday afternoon, where my cracked windscreen was due to be replaced (Insurance job thank God). I left the car with them at 1500 hours having been informed that they'd need the car a full twenty four hours (I'd thought it was just overnight) & set off in their courtesy car - a Land Rover (LM90?) which brought back some memories of the Army! I got as far as Semington (about a mile away!) before I pulled up outside the Somerset Arms, booked myself into a wonderful B&B next door (16th C manor house, lovely hostess) & settled down with a book & a pint(s) in the sun. And on a workday! Wonderful. Wonderful. Wonderful. Highly recommended to anyone who needs to leave their vehicle at MHS.
Friday morning I drove into Trowbridge, picked up a paper & then drove past MHS to find an out-of-the-way pub by the canal to have lunch at & continue reading in the sun. God it made a nice change from work I can tell you. Anyway finally it was 1600 hours & I returned to MHS where I picked up the Mantis with its pukka new screen. The fit was much better than the previous one (also fitted by MHS, & last of the original Finnish screens) & sat nicely flush against the surround. I was delighted. MHS had also cleaned the car as I'd mentioned I was going straight to the CMI rally near Coventry, & duely charged me their standard £40/hour rate(!). The owner, Rory, mentioned that I should be careful with the amount of stone chips I had on the fornt of the car when jet washing it. However, I did not fully appreciate the implications of his comment until I was at the hotel that evening, where I noticed that two areas of paint had been removed on the front spoiler & one on the nearside front wheelarch - while they had been cleaning the car! I was (& still am) extremely unimpressed with the fact that this was not pointed out to me properly at the time. Having spoken to MHS on the phone about this since, they have offered to 'sort it out' but hey, I'm 250 miles away so what does that tell you? Who the hell jet washes a fibreglass car at that pressure anyway? MHS should know better than anyone about looking after Marcos... Anyway, that rather took the edge of the nice couple of days I'd had.
Saturday saw the (empty) threat of rain but the Club Marcos International 2005 Annual Rally started with a seemingly random tour of Cotswold roads. Apparently there was actually a planned route but as I didn't have a passenger (therefore no navigator) I was just following the various flavours of Marcos that appeared in front of me, & was quite happy that way. It was a great (and dry) day & lots of fun, followed by a couple of drinks back at the hotel & a nice meal with about thirty other Marcos owners. Sunday saw a soggy convoy head off for the rally venue, the Heritage Motor Museum at Gaydon, Warwickshire. I managed to stick it out with the hood down until we actually got to the museum, but by this time it was belting down & the hood was quickly put up. Predicably I never made it into the museum as I spent time catching up with various people as they arrived in their cars, with my location of choice for chattering not suprisingly being... the Cafe! Bone dry, & with an infinite supply of cakes! Mid afternoon two things became obvious; firstly that no other cars were going to turn up & secondly than the rain was only going to get heavier! I reluctantly set off home with fellow Cheshirite Johnny (black 3L - sweet!) but of course we only stuck together for a few miles before he failed to see my desperate headlight flashing as we approached the first Services, & while I peeled off for some sorely needed petrol, Johnny roared off into the spray oblivious to my plight! I don't know what the law is called, but there is a Murphy's law-type thing which says that Marcos cannot travel in convoy for more than about 20 feet before getting split up... An hour late I pulled onto a roundabout in deepest, darkest Stoke only to see Johnny appear from my right from a completely different direction - bizarre! Anyway I took the opportunity to drop the hood again as the rain had eased off a bit, & had a splendid if slightly moist last hour driving through glistening Cheshire countryside along the A34 with Johnny pounding along behind. All in all a fun rally despite the monsoon conditions on the second day, & I'm looking forward to the joint CMI/MOC rally next year already!
5th August 2005
I've finally got round to visiting Oulton Park, the race circuit 'on my doorstep' (or at least a very pretty forty minute drive away). Not being particularly interested in motorsport, & knowing that the Oulton circuit is very unforgiving to novice trackday drivers, I have stayed away from this place for years. However, when one of the Forum members, Aviator, mentioned that the race team he helps out on, Top Cats, was up there with a couple of Marcos Mantis for a round of the Britcar chamionship I decided it was now or never! Saturday morning saw me load up with my lodger, & set off for a late morning meet with my Le Mans compadres Caz & Debbie (alas in their PT cruiser as the LM500 was away awaiting a re-spray) & Johnny in his splendid black 3L at The Smoker pub on the A556. We headed off to the circuit & arrived to be met at the entrance gates by Aviator in his yellow LM400, who had some complimentary tickets from Top Cats supremo Warren - what a thoroughly nice chap! Aviator guided us to the pits area where we parked up & were met by Warren & his (rather foxy I have to say) wife Charlotte. Things were relatively quiet, qualifying having recently finished, so we visitors had the opportunity to peer round the alarmingly stripped-down Mantis which was quite enlightening for the likes of me! Sadly there was only one Mantis as the other driver had buggered off to a wedding, meaning no second Marcos, but I was still content to watch that one race. Having swipped some stonking nosh from the Top Cats heaving hospitality table we were recommended Druids Corner has a superior vantage point for the race, so off we trotted where I then proceeded to sit on an ant hill. I didn't notice for a minute or two but bugger me there were a lot of them on my trousers when I did! Everyone was suitably impressed at how fast I moved...
It then seemed prudent to watch the race standing up! Things got off to a good start with the Mantis chugging round (always sounding like it was about 3000 RPM lower than all the other cars & not really trying yet!), & making decent progress but unfortunately half way through the race the diff packed in, leaving the second driver without a drive at all. Bummer. Although Top Cats TVR was still running, it was the Marcos Mantis I'd been there to watch, so we wandered back to the bar area & had a couple of beers as it had got quite warm by this stage! We bobbed back to the Top Cats garage to give our commiserations & thank anyone who would listen for their awesome hospitaility, then headed back home, where I had a thirsty hockey team awaiting their annual post-season bash! Overall a nice introduction to my local circuit.
MOT passed (Huzzah!) with only headlight reallignment & handbrake adjustment. Incredibly, a two digit garage bill! I haven't had one of those for a while (if ever!). My garage man (Cross St Garage, Sale in Manchester. Highly recommended!) noticed the engine sounded different, plus there were high Hydrocarbons on tickover, which he eventually traced back to one of the ignition leads shorting out (by turning all the lights off in the garage!). What a great spot!
Today was the second show of the year at Tatton Park. Weather was excellent & there were more punters in than I can ever remember. The Marcos stand looked great with the factory banner hanging from the gazebo (& we were grateful for the shade!). We had seven cars in all, inlcuding a 1971 2+2 Mantis, which Jem Marsh had for his wife at one point - I've never seen one of these before & predictably perhaps it won 'Best Marcos' from the show organisers. Futuristic for the '70s but still too many straight lines for me compared with my volumptuous proper Mantis! Alas, the sunshine really highlighted how tatty my bonnet has become, & I am determined to get it resprayed before next spring. Despite this, my Mantis was the subject of many a photo; it's rather nice to think that the car will live on in pictures all over the country for years to come. Strangely, I was not once asked to pose next to the vehicle in question - Philistines!
21st August 2005
MOT passed... Huzzah!
Calamity! I have lost the use of the garage I store(d) my Marcos in. I certainly can't keep it on the street from a weather & idiot-attention point of view (never mind the insurance side of things). Fortunately one of the other local owners (LM500) has an enormous garage he had built for the Plymouth Fury he is currently having restored, so there is a lovely empty garage available ATM. At least I don't have to think the unthinkable... So, the car has been driven up & left with my generous chum, which is a relief; the downer is that it is over forty miles away & I can't see myself popping up there to take her out for a quick spin very often. However, I will try.
Has anyone seen a green Mantis? <sniffle> 'Cos I haven't <sniffle>. As predicted I haven't made the trip to see the car since I dropped it off. Not so much of a problem when the weather is grim, but I really miss the opportunity to hope in it when the day is a really cold & crispy one - my favourite type of driving weather. At least I still have it of course. So, in the absence of being able to drive my Mantis, I have spent lots of time thinking about what I am going to once I find a new local home for it; and the conclusion is... send it to America! Yup, Route 66 beckons folks!
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