January 2008
The car remains with Lee in Warminster, with steady progress on the chassis. We have a call to discuss progress about once a month or so, but neither of us are great at remembering to contact the other so it can be longer. The weather has been awful in the North West with few if any of those crisp, sunny Winter days that I enjoy driving in so much - hood down, obviously! So... I'm not missing the car right now. The Marcos forum continues to give me my Marcos fix most days. I suppose I can empathise a bit more now with those owners who have to do without their cars for months (years, frequently) while they restore them. My LM500 chum in Todmorden continues to have a super-charged (but non-running) car sitting in his garage which must be even more frustrating for him than me with the Mantis. At least I know something's happening on my car - poor old Caz seems to have run up against a brick wall with his ECU problem, & I gather the manufacturer is being a bit arsey, not returning calls & so on. It's a crying shame because with the colour-coded rear wing it will (sadly) outshine the Mantis & totally totally deserves to be out on the road. Although Caz remains very philosophical about things, I suspect his experiences as a passenger in the Mantis at last year's Le Mans 24 Hour came nowhere close to the pleasure he has got from taking his own car over there in previous years.

March 2008
Progress on the Mantis has slowed somewhat while Lee does some urgent work for Jeremy at Redline. We'd discussed this & I don't mind waiting a bit longer. The quality of work I saw on my pre-Crimbo visit was excellent, so I have no intention of rushing Lee. Very positive feedback about Lee from elsewhere has been trickling in, which is also reassuring. There is even a queue for Lee's time building up behind me, but so far the other Marcos owners have been very understanding (& sympathetic).

23rd April 2008
I'm forty today, which has inevitably triggered an assessment of life so far. Two children, hefty mortgage & engaged (Yup... finally popped the question after sixteen years! Gulp! No 'date' set for the event itself though - one step at a time, eh?) but, I think, fairly content. (Work? Hmm...) I've had the Marcos for seven & a half years now, which has included some fantastic experiences, many of which I simply wouldn't have had with any other car. It's been off the road far, far more that I would have ever imagined, & I shudder to think what I have spent on it since I bought it, but the various trips to Le Mans (especially participating in the 2004 Driver's Parade) & invites to shows around the UK have allowed me to meet all sorts of nice people & engage in some lovely drives. I reckon the roads are busier than when I first had the car (even over a short window like eight years) & the running costs, particularly fuel, are increasingly challenging but so far the option of having to sell the car has not been discussed. The current government's inability to manage any aspect of transport in this country is truely breathtaking, & I can't help but wonder if some ill-conceived 'green' measure will force the Mantis off the road in the next few years. They certainly have a record of such buffoonery... In the meantime, I have been pondering Lee's comments in our latest call; the SPAX shocks are, well, shocking, apparently, & the springs are taking up a lot of time (read 'money') to clean. Do I want to do something about it? So, a post or two on the Forum prompted some interesting responses which have resulted in my opting for a replacement set of shocks & springs from the highly regarded Protech Shocks Ltd of Melksham. I had to talk to Guru Chivers about the specs for the springs, but the order is now placed; [2 1/4" springs, 200 lbs 10" at the front, 250lbs 14" for the rear]. Lee turns out to be the chap who set up the Mantis Challenge cars at the Marcos factory, so right man for the job already. Result! I will be very interested to see how the Protech shocks improve the ride over the original SPAX, but if I'm honest I have not driven the car for so long it's unlikely I'll be able to tell, at least at first. Lee reckons I'll have the car back at the end of May, latest. Hope he's right as we've had some nice days recently & I am definitely pining for it... Big time!

Then, of course, there is the question of enlarging the garage entrance to fit the Mantis in. God, I hate dealing with builders.

The rest of 2008
Annus Horribilis again - hence lack of updates. I think it's fair to say that I have not had much luck with this car, however much I may love having it. In a nutshell, got car back from Lee with chassis sorted, but only a couple of days before I was due to leave for the 2008 Le Mans Classic. The event itself was great fun & far more enjoyable for me than the recent Le Mans 24 Hour events, not least beacuse of the marked reduced Chav count. The stay at The Morrisons was as fab as ever. The highlight was driving two laps of the full, official & current Le Mans circuit, the lowlight was buggering my engine somehow. I limped off the ferry in Hull & had the car falt-bedded straight to Topcats Racing who I felt were best placed to investigate & resolve the engine problem, whatever it was. After a thirteen month wait, I have had the car for around 10 days before it has become undriveable again....

Several months later Topcats have partially taken the engine apart but have been unable to identify a reason for the engine failure. Failure it is as the advice has been not to attempt a rebuild using my original engine due to the excessive wear on the majority of the components. (Quote "It looks like it has done 150,000 miles, not 53,000"). The next step is to source a replacement engine which I initially assumed woul dbe a reasonably straightforward endeavour, however the 96-98 version of the engine seems to be in short supply, & despite being offered several brand new 99-02 versions at a very reasonable cost, I am wary of going this route as at the time I was not aware of anyone else having fitted that version, & a fixed budget meant 'development costs' were out of the question. I considered fitting an LS3 but despite it's significantly improved performance & current availability, the cost would be between £7K & £10K which is not an option. This is a crying shame as it would really bring the Mantis back up to date, but...

I recieve a call from Warren at TopCats to tell me they've gone ahead & fitted one of their spare race engines! This was discussed a few months previously but I'd decided to pursue a new engine instead, as the history & condition of any race engine would be a bit of an unknown for me, so I was understandbly a bit taken aback. However, Topcats are offering me the engine for £1500 (plus fitting) which seemed pretty reasonable & the fact was that I wasn't making any significant progress elsewhere, so I guess the decision has been made for me! I've spent everything on getting the chaiis sorted, so anything new will be financed via a loan, so I bit the bullet & asked Topcats to get a replacement set of Air Con hoses made up. This is done but then highlights a hole in the A/C rad. Bugger!

Collected the car from Topcats in November. A quick 3 minute drive up & down the strip outside the Topcats premises reveals a fantastic exhaust note (& the previous one wasn't bad!!!). Warren extolls the virtues of the replacement engine, but in reality despite having driven 35K miles on the original one, all I can remember at the time is the horrible juddering as it staggered back to Zeebrugge from the Le Mans Classic six months earlier. I am (excessively) eager to get back in the car: the cheque is written & I set off home.



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