January 2009
I'm still more than a little twitchy about the new engine from TopCats. Not being 'technical' on the engine front it's hard to articulate what it is that feels different from the original engine, but a few things spring to mind:

  • Overwhelming smell of petrol whenever I go to the car, & whenever I get out of the car (as my beloved has commented on a few occassions now...)
  • MPG seems to have dropped.
  • Engine temperature higher than on original engine
  • Idle never drops below 1200rpm. Thr original engine tended to initially idela at 1200 rpm then settle down to 600 rpm
  • Emissions test shows 6.8%

Again apologies for lack of updates but car was sent back to TopCats who investigate the issues listed above: TC adjusted the idle from 'race setting' back to 600rpm, but can't find anything else wrong with the engine to some considerable mutual frustration. The replacement A/C rad from MHS is fitted & the A/C gassed. The car is trailered back from Topcats to Cheshire & I start using it again. Petrol smell far less prevalent. Idle is fine if very slightly lumpier than on the original engine: not a problem though. MPG 'seems' improved but overall, I'm just grateful to have the car back, & an emissions test shows the levels have dropped back down to 1.8% (I can't find the paperwork so may be expressing this using the wrong terminalogy or quoting the wrong figures) which for a non-CAT test is fine. Upon receiving the car my initial focus is on how the engine drives (fine... I think. Now slightly paranoid perhaps!), & it's not until a week later that I try the A/C only to find warm air being dispensed, & the A/C clutch not being engaged, which suggests no gas. This is very frustrating indeed, having paid for new hoses & a new rad, but Topcats are adamant that the A/C was tested sucessfully on the Saturday before it was sent up. The next step is to get the system filled with dyed gas to locate the leak, if that is what the problem is, but preparations for the 50th Anniversary Rally are the priority so the investigation is on hold.

31 May 2009
The first of the two annual Tatton Park shows I (try to) organise. Despite being the 50th Anniversary, or perhaps because of (everyone saving their cars for the 'big weekend' in August perhaps?) I can only find four other owners willing to come along & exhibit their cars. It's disappointing but at least the marque is maintaining a presence! I expect the post-50th weekend euphoria to guarantee a fight for places at the second Tatton show at the end of August! (Famous last words...). Anyway. as we had a small number of cars the Tatton show organisers tucked as away behind the big copse, which at first I was a bit miffed by as it's less visited by the punters, but... as the temperature rose & it began to get seriously HOT the shade came in handy somewhat! It's about time we had a sunny Tatton Park show as the last couple have been seriously soggy (& I haven't had the Mantis at one for two years due to the various tales of woe covered in 2007 & 2008's blog). Anyway, my Mantis scrubbed up well & it was fab to be back there with her. I think I've mentioned it before but I just love the idea of all those photos of my car sitting on people's PCs or being shared around at schools or colleges etc. She's a looker after all!

14 June 2009
Went to a meet at the Ace Cafe in London yesterday evening. There & back in a day, with a pre-meet meet(!) arranged at West Wycombe, a National Trust property which is normally closed on a Saturday, but has been specially opened for the Marcos owners. Trip down & back an absolute pleasure, & the first public appearance of the newly restored road going LM600 was both exciting & very well received. About 20 Marcos cars made the Ace Cafe, of which eight were Mantis, which was pretty cool. The cafe management seemed pretty impressed & have already asked if we'll come back again next year, which is nice. Hats off to Gary Harman who arranged it all - no mean feat I suspect.

18 July 2009
Today I took the Mantis to the 2009 CHOLMONDELEY PAGEANT OF POWER. This is only its second year, but already an impressive event. Lots of Bugattis(!) but also tanks, helicopters, inshore powerboats, so hopefully not too boring for the family & with a bit of luck this will become the third annual car show for the Mantis & I, as it's reasonably local being in Cheshire. Roger Garland from the Mini Marcos Owners Club had arranged a Marcos stand, & although the Mini-Marcos were in the minority, he had still mustered a good turnout! The weather went bad towards the end of the day, & although I left the stand with the hood down, even I had to admit defeat a few minutes later when, in queuing traffic to leave, there was standing water inside the car underneath the handbrake! D'oh! One of those very British heavy showers, & about ten minutes later we were able to pull over, drop the hood & everything was dry as a bone a few miles down the road. Result!

14 August 2009
The first day of what promises to be the highlight of my Marcos owning lifetime, the 50th Anniversary Celebration Rally. After much anticipation, I left home three hours later having struggled to get off my work laptop. Another reminder that the old work-life balance isn't quite there yet! Today (Friday) is the 'Mystery Tour' & everyone was due to meet at one of two start points between 1000 & 1200 hours. After my late start, exacerbated by a torrid time on the M6 through Birmingham, I got to the northerly meet point (a Garden Centre) at 1330 hours, only 90 minutes late... Fortunately Marcos people being Marcos people, someone had waited & I picked up a list of checkpoints (with Post Codes - Hurrah for SatNav!). Also met a new Mantis & Mantaray owner, & John Brookes who is in the process of re-awakening the Marcos Owners Club. I had to miss most of the early checkpoints but headed off to an Art Gallery (how very civilised!) where I never made it through the door but instead caught up with some people I hadn't seen for a few years! This may be a common event throughout the weekend!!! I proceeded to follow Bob Skidmore in his cracking yellow LM400 off to another checkpoint (Weston's Cider!) but again, hit the car park, got chatting to some of the Luxembourg owners & never made it into the site. Then called it a day & headed off to the Regency Hotel in Cheltenham where I knew some of the other owners were staying. Arrived at the car park to be greeted by about 20 Marcos, &, of course, The Morrisons parked by the hosepipe (some things never change!). Yet again, it took over an hour to get from my car to the hotel reception as I caught up with some more owners. Absolutely delighted to see Christian Fey who champions the marque so sucessfully in Europe but was poorly at the end of last year. Also saw Isobel who has, as always, done an awful lot of the organising for this event. Eventually checked in & pleased to find I had the outermost room looking directly onto the car park full of Marcos. Result! Slightly concerned Richard Partridge's Mantis is 2 ft from my window though, as he will probably be up polishing it at 0500 hours tomorrow morning! Hotel bar full of Marcos owners so grabbed a beer & got chatting. Met Ned Morris who is one of the two brothers who own the Marcos Mantis XP, which they have restored, &, unbelievably, flown over for the 50th Rally. Now how cool is that?!? Ned was a thoroughly nice chap & it was interesting talking to him, but there was a queue (to talk to him not me!) so after a while we both moved on. Ended up chatting to Jeremy Kearns (of Redline Sportscars & ex Marcos Sales), Jonathan Harmer (S/C Mantis) & Phil Cunningham (who bought the first Mantis before it was finished!) & we dined togther, along with Jonathan & Jeremy's charming wives. Jeremy & Phil between them had some hair-raising stories from the days of Marcos during the 90s, & it was a very entertaining dinner indeed! The group disintegerated about 0130 hours Saturday morning, but I note that of the four people still standing (swaying?), three of them were Mantis owners!

15 August 2009
A full English sorted out the hangover & after a quick wipe down with Mequiars Detailer the Mantis was looking nice & shiny again, so it was off to the next part of the 50th Rally - the Concours event at Sudeley Castle. The mass exit from the hotel car park predictably splintered at the first set of traffic lights, where yours truely was left to lead the second half of the convoy. Unfortunately I hadn't bothered to get out the SatNav or even look up where the castle was, so it wasn't long before I pulled over & let someone (in fact anyone) else take the lead: Dave & Mandy Chivers took up the gauntlet & soon we were all cursing them for taking us up the narrowest, steepest, most winding & muddiest single track lane in the world - obviously this was down to their SatNav but, hey, shoot the messenger(driver), right? We emerged onto a main road where several other cars joined us (not sure who was most pleased to see who!) & we then went through some pretty narrow villages where the parked cars & oncoming traffic made for some interesting moments. The LM600 in particular had a hard time of it. Eventually we took a right turn out of the village & straight up a hill leading to Sudeley Castle, & it was at this point on the one-way road that I glanced at the fuel gauge & realised that in all the excitement I had forgotten to check I had enough petrol. Not only was the needle past the 1/4 mark (where even the Owners manual directs you to fill up!) but it was below the 'Empty' mark. With no room to turn round, & no recollection of any petrol stations anyway, I immediately had visions of becoming 'that berk at the 50th who blocked 100 cars from the castle' but to my immense relief I made it up the track & into the filed by the castle entrance where row upon row of Marcos greeted me. Having seen about 30 Marcos in the hotel car park, I estimate there were over 100 cars when I arrived, with at least another 20 or so trickling in throughout the day. This was the first real taste of the size of the 50th gathering & I doubt I was alone in getting goosebumps as I looked at all the cars. The LM600 had pride of place outside the MOC club stand, where John Brookes had set up some seats & was flogging some 50th anniversary shirts. Hats off to John as he had sacrificed bringing his own Marcos along to ensure the MOC had a stand - not sure I would have been so selfless! Once again I started meeting more faces, some familiar some not. Good to see Jay again (& the ex Challenge car, which was now sufficiently finished to permit Mrs Jay to come along!), & some of the Mantis brigade that I had previously only met through the Forum, including Mixel Del Max & VincentBLightening. Nice chaps, great cars but damned if I can remember their real names.

I didn't bother entering the Mantis into the Concours, not just because there were some beautifully prepared cars there (including Mr Partridge's blue S/C Mantis of course, which deservedly took 1st prize in the end), but also because it felt a bit unsporting as I hadn't prepped that car myself. However this turned out to be a bonus as I ended up having a chat with Cor Euser who owns Marcos Racing International, whilst most other people were attending the Concours prize giving: what a thoroughly nice chap Cor is! Particularly as I clearly knew bugger all about Motorsport & didn't follow his exploits on a regular basis... I will try to do so a bit more in the future.

Roger Young from MOC made a brief speech, then it was a pleasure to see Isobel Chivers presented with a cut-glass 'thingy' in recognition of everything she had done over the years to keep the whole concept of a club for Marcos owners going, in the form of Club Marcos International. Jem gave a (brief!) speech then so did Cor (most sucessful Marcos racing driver ever etc). After this I met a few more faces from the Marcos Forum inlcuding the graphics chaps whos have been so helpful: MarcosGazza from the UK, & the legendary Lou & Phil from Luxembourg! I then set off for the hotel via a petrol station, having begged some fuel off my 'Damsel in shining armour' (as it were) in the form of Berni, who is justfiably the proud owner of a rather splendid red Mantaray. Thank you Berni!!!

Back at the hotel taxi's were hastily organised & eight of us set off for the evening's entertainment, & my first view of Prescott Hill Climb. As we arrived there was a steady flow of Marcos in & out of the site, & a bloody great field of the things for those owners who had opted for some hardcore camping! Excellent. The buffet meal was excellent if a little rushed, & the evening soon became another frenzy of meetings & greetings! Poor old John B was marooned up at the MOC tent so I walked a beer up to him but he was ahead of the game anyway! I took the opportunity to walk the circuit with some of the others, then settled down with a beer or two to watch the sun set - the view being unexpectedly pleasant. Isobel had specified a reasonably early taxi back, so despite some baracking from Phil Cunningham I set off back to the hotel thinking that the evening would have a reasonably quiet finish.... but I had reckoned without the Luxembourg chaps, Lou & Phil! Suffice to say that at 0300 hours Sunday morning I called it a day & shambled back to my room, having had a fantastic second day.

16 August 2009
Now back from the 50th Anniversary of Marcos weekend. Wow!

Another solid breakfast addressed the hangover (well, a bit) then it was off to the Prescott Hill Climb circuit for the main event! This time the convoy managed to stay reasonably together & I arrived with an incredible feeling of anticipation. We were marshalled into different display areas based on the era of the model we were driving, & I found myself parked amongst many Mantis, LMs & Mantulas. Bah! It turns out my car is quite common after all...

Progress in all directions is slow, with people to say hello to, & many, many fabulous cars to look at. I mean to spend a few minutes watching the first few cars start 'going up the hill' but it's hard to leave & I end up spending an hour or more just behind the start line. It's fascinating with Marcos models from every era, in every shape & in every colour (& condition!) driving the hill climb. It's hard to single out individual highlights from the day but seeing the Mantis XP belted up the climb with Ned at the wheel must be one of them. Another is undoubtably the site of Cor Euser burning some rubber on the first of many trips up the hill in one of the Dutch Supercar Challenge cars, with a willing (but perhaps slighly nervous!?) passenger alongside.

Too many people to mention, but was pleased to see a Mantis had made it down from Macc for the day (although didn't stay long due to crowds & traffic), & also Lewis in his 'World's most expensive Mantula' which he took up the hill very sucessfully. My guess is that there were about 260 cars there, but I await the 'official' count from the 50th organising comittee at some point. I was content to watch others take their cars up the hill, & had already decided that I couldn't afford to risk anything else breaking on the Mantis as there is no money left at this point. I had some very kind offers to ride shotgun but I'm never mad keen on being a passenger in a fast car & anyway the real pleasure would have been to have had the experience in my own car, not someone else's.

Coming home was inevitably something of an anti-climax. I clung on to a little bit of the Marcos high by following another green Mantis as far as the M5, whereupon he turned south & I turned north. I admit to doing some 'hunting' along the M5 & M6 for another Marcos to travel north in convoy with, but in a stark reminder of how rare the cars really are (having been surrounded by hundreds of them an hour previously!) I only encountered one other Marcos - a foreign Mantis being trailered back to a port. A quick flash of the headlights & they were left behind. At the Services one or two people asked me what the car was as so often happens, & as I tried to explain about Marcos, I thought to myself... "Cor, you should have been where I was this morning!..."

22nd August 2009
Tatton Park tomorrow. Of the ten cars who had requested exhibitor passes, four have dropped out in the last 24 hours. Gaaaaargh! Some hasty ringing around & some emails may have mitigated this so we'll have to see how many cars make it for 0830 hours tomorrow morning at the Swan meet point. I am expecting nine cars, but no longer sure of owners or models! In the meantime some more work with Mequiars detaling gubbins means the car is still looking pretty good, so fingers crossed there's no rain. It would be nice to pick up a trophy from the Tatton Park judges on the 50th year...

23rd August 2009
Tatton Park was fab! And... a full house! We had a slightly out-of-the-way pitch, behind the main copse in the display field at Tatton, but this proved rather fortuitous as the sunshine belted down & some shade was very welcome! One of the chaps who has two Marcos persuaded his brother to drive the second car down to the show, & another owner from Huddersfield, Yorkshire turned up out of the blue to give a nice round ten cars, & by accident rather than design, a nice range of cars from the different eras, with a mixture of Coupes & Spyders. Bob, the previous incumbent of the CMI Organiser for Chshire/North West, had liberated some of the 'Marcos' branded boundary tape from the 50th down at Prescott, so the stand looked jolly posh! Roger & Mellanie Garland also kindly turned up to backfill a Mini-Marcos drop-out, & proceeded to unpack the most amazing amount of kit from the MM, including, if I can quite believe it, a table! Anyway, he had various old copies of Marcos car mags, plus some rememnants of the 50th Souvenirs available like keyrings, mugs, clocks etc which were generally snapped up by his captive audience i.e. the rest of the Marcos owners. The Tatton Show oraganisers kindly awarded us the 'Best Club Stand' trophy, only to return very apologetically some minutes later to say that another stand had also won it. Now, our stand was a bit bette rthan normal, but far short of the uber-stands that some of the clubs showcase (lawnmower, anyone?) so I suspect our award was something of a sop to the fact that 2009 was our 50th Anniversary, however it was a lovely gesture on the organiser's part. The actual trophy was missing the engraved plate (hastily removed?) & I agreed to get one done myself... however, what to get? "Best Club Stand" is a bit boring... how about "Car we would most like to own - The TVR club"? Heh! Heh! OK, maybe not... <cough> Anyway, I must get some pictures added to this blog.

18th November 2009
Looking back at the start of this year, I read how cautious I was about the replacement engine from TopCats. I have to say that, almost a year down the line (admittedly without having done a vast mileage), everything seems to be running very smoothly. The engine is defintely thirsty compared to the original one, and by God it's louder(!!!), but fingers crossed whatever caused the original engine to go is no longer happening & I can look forward to some trouble free, low-cost, motoring. I've another two years to go paying off the loan which financed the TC engine swap, so anything significant is basically going to take the car off the road which will be a crying shame. I've spent the last two months takling my two year old daughter to her nursery in the car, hood down, & she & I both absolutely love it! The weather has been dry (cold is not a problem! It's rain we don't like...) & even the nannies at the nursery find it quite amusing that she turns up in this amazing car! For me, for now, it's something nice I've been able to do with someone from the family (even though I appreciate that she won't remember it) & while I've still got the car, & can afford(ish) to drive it, & indeed am allowed to do so by this anti-car government of ours, then it's wonderful. Amazing how much fun can be had in 1.5 mile of standing traffic.

5th December 2009
Heavy snow in Cheshire, even this close to Manchester. So... the gritters are out, & away the Marcos goes. After the debacle with the chassis a couple of years ago, & despite being determined to keep on enjoying the Mantis in the wet, it seems prudent to keep it away from heavily salted roads. Lee has done far too good a job of fixing the chassis for me to ruin it now! However, now I actually have a house with its own garage, I can sneak out every now & then check it's still there & still mine. Might even turn the engine over... OK no I won't because someone recently told me it's bad for it unless you go for a decent drive & get rid of all the condenssation. But, it's a nice thought. Snow never stays long where I live so I may get out again soon - maybe squeeze in a few more nursery runs before Crimbo?


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