Marcos Diary - Trials and tribulations of living with a 30 year old car!
Subj: 2002 - Back on the road again!
It's September 2002 and CLE 100H has FINALLY clocked up some mileage on its own four wheels!
Alan Fereday was true to his word and kept CLE 100H for most of the 2001/2002 winter, whilst my garage was demolished and the extension was built in its place. Just as we were about to go off skiing (in early March), Alan called to say he was moving from his workshops and ask if he could return the car. This caused a few minor worries as the garage was a) inaccessible and b) had no door!
The first problem was solved by the builders and the second was solved by AON kindly agreeing to provide cover without a secure garage for a month, with just an increase in excess, rather than premium.
So, just the day before we set off (driving!) to Avoriaz (in the French Alps, near Geneva), Alan returned the Marcos under its own steam. I drove him back to his workshop and my first feeling was that the brakes were slightly spongey, but more on that later. Overall, it was great to have the car back and to enjoy the unique experience of lying back and driving the Marcos.
That first trip was probably about 12 miles round trip and the next two trips were not that combined, being a quick run to the Chip shop and the local town to do some quick shopping. These trips occured some weeks later as the builders, again, blocked the garage, but the car was safely under cover and inside, so this wasn't really a major problem.
First REAL trip was to the May CMI Thames Valley group meeting. Having promised, and failed, to turn up in the car for the April meeting, I felt I had to be there in May. The Leather Bottle, in Mattingley, has been tastefully extended and now has more room for people and cars. Good news was that we actually had TWO cars there as Gary Harman turned up in his fairly recently acquired Mantaray and, as usual, the cars attracted quite a lot of attention, even though it was dark. Even a police car rolled in for a quick look, or so it seemed!
Having finally got the car roadworthy, I was determined to get out and meet some like minded people, so I booked for a classic car show at, nearby, Wellington Country Park. This is an irregular car show (I think the last one was actually 1998!), but it's only a few miles away, has plenty for the kids (I squeezed Lauren and Ryan into the passenger seat for the short trip) with a narrow gauge railway, pet farm, a deer park, adventure playground and a large boating lake with lots of ducks to feed.
Unfortunately, the weather didn't want to join in (or maybe it did!!!), and it poured dramatically (actually it did the same the previous time we were here), with a few dry, sunny spells in between. We did manage to grab a long enough sunny spell to have a picnic and 'see the sights'. The best bit was that, as one downpour ended, a family strolled over and the husband tapped on my window.
"Mark, isn't it?", he asked. Now I'm no celebrity, but my website has meant that a few people have approached me at shows, having recognized the car. I confirmed it was me, and he introduced himself as Andrew Boddington, the man I'd bought the car from, back in 1989! Once he said who he was, I recognized him. Like us all, he looked a little older (and now had a wife and two children - not unlike myself) and I'd not known him well when I bought the car. He showed his children the car (his wife seemed especially enthusiastic about telling them that their Dad used to own this car) and I let the son sit in it.
Andrew said he'd followed the site from time to time and was glad to see I still had the car. He was also kind enough to say that it looked good. I don't know if it made his day, but it certainly did mine.
Next trip was to the British Sportscar Festival at Brooklands. It was a hot sunny day (in sharp contrast to the previous event), but I squeezed Lauren and Ryan into the passenger seat and set off. I got a bit lost around Weybridge, but arrived about 10 at Brooklands. I'm (as you'll know, if you've read the rest of these ramblings) a big fan of Brooklands - despite being long disused as a race track, is exudes an aura and you can almost smell the Castrol R. The museum goes from strength to strength, being (IMO) better than the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, although not able to compete with their extensive selection of cars. It also covers the aviation aspects of Brookland's history.
Having said all that, I have to say that this year's event was a disappointment compared with others I'd visited. I went on the Sunday (it was a two day event), but there were not as many cars as I recalled from previous years and the emphasis was much more on kits, whereas, in the past, the split had been fairly even between kits and classics (and the better for having both, I felt). Perhaps the sponsorship of the event by a national kit car magazine discouraged the more mainstream classic marques. However, if you hunted around there were a number of lovely classic and vintage sportscars to be found and some beautifully engineered kits, including a couple of (seemingly) money-no-object Ultimas and lots of GT40s.
CLE 100H enjoys the Brooklands sunshine
I spotted two other Marcoses, one was a smart, burgundy Mantula and the other was Richard Porter's Mini Jem, which I snapped going up the test hill. I didn't do the hill this year (trouble with an exhaust meant it didn't seem wise), but the biggest cheer was reserved for the tiny Austin 7, which really found the steepening hill a challenge. Once up, though, the plucky couple inside, went around for another go and were as warmly received.
Two weeks after Brooklands (and one after Le Mans) was the CMI annual rally at Castle Combe. Coinciding, again, with the annual GT race at the circuit, it was an ideal chance to give CLE 100H a good run. Isobel Chivers advised me to arrive before 10, so I could get admittance to the CMI parking area, but (after a wonderful run down the picturesque A4, only marred by the cars reluctance to run at low revs and the continuing lack of overdrive) I was amazed (after exchanging waves with Jem on the approach road) to find the parking area already packed with cars. I squeezed mine in, but still more arrived after I did and it took some imaginative manouevering to get people out as the day progressed. Still smothered in mud from Wellington Country park, I was placed a dismal last in class (well only 11th and one place out of the trophies :^)) in the concourse, but had a great day chatting to other owners and to Jem, who once again was very complimentary about the website and keen to get me involved in the launch of the new car, which got it's first public viewing (albeit only in photos) as the climax to the day. The journey back was in glorious summer sunshine and, mercifully, light traffic, bringing back all the joy of driving a Marcos.
CLE 100H finally gets to a CMI rally again!
For many years, one of the highlights of the classic car year for me was the Loseley House event. This moved last year to the QEFD grounds in Leatherhead, but I'd not had a healthy car to attend with. This year, I did, so I got my booking in and set off, with the family in my Skoda (It's an RS Octavia and it's true that the jokes just don't work anymore - it's a great car, if not quite the driving delight the Puma was). Mandy suggested that she'd have to drive very slowly to keep up with the Marcos, but she'd underestimated Alan Fereday's effect and it took her until well down the Hog's Back (about 10 miles) before she caught up with me. The drive to Leatherhead, via Guildford, proved remarkably enjoyable, covering lots of open country roads, and we arrived in good time to park up amongst the other classics. To one side was a Herald Convertible ("We saw you come flashing past us on the Hog's Back", the occupants smiled. That was before we detoured in Guildford - only arriving just before them) and the other a Ford Anglia. All around, however, were classics great and small. The Autobahnstomers club (mainly Opel/Vauxhall Senators/Monzas) had a Lotus Carlton as their centrepiece, which recounted that servicing over the first 4 years had cost £10,000! There were also Triumph and Jaguar's galore. A particularly nice XK150 coupe caught my eye, as did a heavily modified Spitfire, complete with a six cylinder 2.7 litre engine and, more interestingly for me, 4 pot caliper ventilated disk brakes fitted inside 13" wheels - just right for the Marcos, I suspect. The items were Wilwood sourced, so I may try and obtain a kit for my car sometime.
It was almost too hot at Leatherhead, but the kids were still having fun at this point!
The day proved too hot for the kids and they all went home after lunch, leaving me to last until the blazing sun of Leatherhead got too much for me, around 4. Still, a good show and I intend to be back next year.
The car did a few more short trips, here and there, including the night Mandy and I took it to a TVG CMI meet at the Leather Bottle and got locked out. The problem was solved by removing the perspex rear window, which now leaves me with the issue of resealing it properly! That night I (and Mandy) also drove, fellow club member, Gary Harman's Mantaray. The power of the car was very impressive, but the most memorable thing was how awful the brakes were... Gary had (rather rashly, I thought) given Mandy the keys to his car and when she returned that was her first comment. Gary said he'd not driven any other Marcos, so I had a go. Coming into a bend I'd taken quite quickly in my car an hour or so earlier, I braked early (mindfull of the warnings), but the car just didn't seem to want to slow down. I pressed harder and harder and just about got it slowed in time to turn the corner. I got back to the pub and reported that I'd found the same problem and Gary has, since, told me that the Mantaray I drove at Paul Stephens' last year had 'modified' brakes. If you've got a Mantaray, are your brakes awful? Mine's only got standard GT6 discs, but was able to slow from similar speeds to Gary's car in around a third of the distance!
The main thrust, however, of the summer, has been getting a few long term problems on the car sorted out. Firstly I finally bit the bullet and had some stainless exhausts made. I got London Stainless Steel to do it, sending them my old system as a pattern, but choosing to go up one size in bore, which seems a good choice as the car now has a more purposeful growl than it had with the mild steel system. As I rarely do long journeys in the car, I don't think I'll miss the added refinement the older system had. The only problems so far are getting it to hang at an acceptable height (the tail brackets being different and, so far, hanging lower) and getting a totally gas tight fit at the manifold end. My mild-steel, factory sourced, system didn't have any gaskets, but I wonder if there should be one, having found out that Capri V6s have strange metal rings there. Overall, though the system seems very well made and was MUCH cheaper than the option of getting one from Marcos Heritage.
Other problems addressed have been fitting a new float to the fuel tank sender (mine was holed and filling with petrol, giving an empty reading all the time) and topping up the gearbox oil in an attempt to rejuvenate the overdrive. Speedy Cables provided a fuel sender float free of charge, after I chased them numerous times for the part, so I can't complain about their service. They also, back in 1989, did a great job of refurbishing my seizing speedo, which works perfectly still. The overdrive I've only just addressed, so I'm not sure of the success.
The other Marcos related event of 2002, so far, was my visit, with Don Lattimer and Mark Petrinovich (US owners), to see the Mantis XP racer in California. More on that elsewhere.
Sadly time is beginning to tell on the bodywork. I've noticed that a few of the cracks repaired back in 1992 are beginning to show through the paintwork, which itself still looks excellent. At least, when the time comes to get these repaired, it'll be relatively cheap to simply match the paint to the rest of the car, rather than the total repaint that it had 10 years ago.