Marcos Diary - Trials and tribulations of living with a 25 year old car!

Subj: 1993 Norwich Union Run

My last note was a question about the Norwich Union run, but judging from the dearth of replies, I assume no-one else has been on one. Well, we went and a jolly good day out it was too!

First, though, I got the pinhole in the bottom of the radiator fixed and FINALLY cured the long running over heating and water loss problem which I've had since the last CMI rally (over 2 years ago, now). I decided to get the car serviced professionally before the run as it meant a round trip of around 300 miles in a day, more than we've done for a very long while. The local Marcos Service dealer (Alan Fereday) did the work and, although it cost a little more than I'd bargained for, he did a very thorough job even replacing a weeping rear brake cylinder that I've been meaning to fix for ages. The new man in the stores at the Marcos factory surpassed himself (and my expectations of the factory) by replacing a faulty bonnet badge not once, but twice (the first replacement being overly convex for my bonnet) in time for the run. Full marks to Marcos for a change!

Eventually the day dawned and we turned up at Brooklands in plenty of time for the start (If anyone fancies an afternoon out, Brooklands is surprisingly interesting). We found a Mercedes bearing OUR entry number, but that was soon resolved and we parked between a Ferrari Daytona and Hannu Mikkola's 1969 Ford Escort rally car (looks good in the photos! :^)).

The start involved going up a 1 in 4 hill and then out onto what's left of the banking at Brooklands, which is an interesting experience! We then drove out onto the roads of Surrey and, using the very detailed road book, onto Longcross which is the army's vehicle testing track near Chobham (as seen in the recent Young Driver of the year). This involved 4 laps at reasonable speed of the oval, a go at the Snake (imagine the worst road you've been on for adverse cambers, blind tightening bends and blind crests and triple it!) and a go at the test hills. Next stop was Crowthorne, but frankly it was dull compared to Longcross so we limited ourselves to 1 lap there. After a brief stop to get our route card stamped at a stately home (Name of it???) near Henley we drove on to lunch at Luton Hoo (another stately home) and then onto the Henry Royce Museum at Paulerspury (no time to stop, we had a time limit to stick to too, although it had seemed generous when we started!) and finally to the finish at Silverstone.

At Silverstone, we received our finishers awards and then had 4 laps of the GP circuit. Again, this was great fun, and we'd heartily enjoyed the day, despite gloomy (but mainly dry) weather, and we got home in under 2 hours as well.

About 3 weeks after the NU run an A4 envelope turned up containing a photograph of us receiving our finishers awards at Silverstone. This now graces our hallway.

Next event on the Marcos' calendar was the classic car show and country fair at Loseley House near Guildford in July. As it was close I decided to go for both days. Last year's event was pretty low key (as John Rutter commented in a note elsewhere in the conference), but this year the classic car entry was much larger than last year. The Morgan, Jaguar and TVR owner's clubs were very well represented (especially on the, busier, Sunday) and most of the owners of the cars were very friendly, especially a man with 62 Beetle on the Saturday and the Berkely 3 wheeler owner who was there both days. The weather was reasonable (Good, even, on the Sunday) and I'll almost certainly go again next year as this looks to be a show which, if this year's improvement is maintained, will become a top quality show, although at 5 each the entry fee did seem a mite expensive, even if the proceeds do go to charity.

Next on the agenda (after enjoying our laps at Silverstone) was the Classic Car Action day at Castle Combe in August. The owners' club provided a free track pass and we decided to combine the day (a Saturday) with a couple of days in Bath (which I've been promising my wife ever since I met her!). The journey down the A4 was a lovely journey and we joined the Marcos ranks early. The track was getting busy by the time we joined the queue to go out and that's when the problems began...

The organisers' idea of a Classic car consisted of anything that anyone who paid up chose to drive (including numerous kit cars, Peugeot 205 Gtis and an F-reg 2 litre Carlton!). They started off letting out about 13 cars on the track at once, but when it got busy doubled the number to around 26 which made the track too crowded in the opinion of many. Finally, the organisers had issued strict rules about tyre-squealing, passing on the left and so on and like a fool I believed these would be enforced. First lap out I was almost run off the road 3 times and I spent the first 3 laps (of 5) crawling round watching my mirrors for sideways Scimitars, Kamikaze Morgans and numerous other cars driven by people with little or no intention of sticking to the rules laid down and the organisers obviously had NO intention of imposing them. Laps 4 and 5 were better as I'd decided to ignore the rules too and let the other cars worry about me rather than doing the worrying myself.

The car hadn't be running particularly well for a while and on the way to Bath it suddenly started to overheat badly. We stopped and found that there was water in the oil and coming from the exhaust! Oops, head gasket gone... A Cobra replica pulled up, but short of a tow he couldn't help, so we crawled to our hotel in Bath, enjoyed the weekend and then tried to limp home. We gave up a few miles from Bath and called the RAC to take us home, which was probably a good idea as the head wasn't warped when the gasket was replaced and the car was back on the road in a couple of days. Bath, by the way, is a wonderful place and we were lucky enough to be there in August when they open the Roman Baths at night and illuminate them with gas flame torches which is very atmospheric.

While at Castle Combe I picked up a leaflet for entry to another classic car run based around Longleat house and the 'Offley Port Classic Festival'. I decided it would be good to do another run (Having decided against the 450 + accommodation Euro-Classic!!!!) before the car's tucked away for the winter, but first the dreaded MOT loomed. I booked the car in in advance of the expiry, as I usually do, and stood worriedly by as the test was done. The tester returned with the failure form and (with memories of last year's tribulations fresh in my mind) I prepared for the worst.

The worst turned out to be a clogged screen washer jet on the passenger side and the, by now expected (and often missed) missing brake pedal rubber. The testers said they'd retest the car for free if I bought it back in a few days, so after clearing the jet and gluing a Cortina brake pedal rubber into place I gleefully collected my fresh MOT. It must mean next year'll be a disaster!

I then entered the Avalon Classic Tour (as it is called) which was run on the 19th of September. The weather forecast wasn't good and the day dawned cold and misty, but as the day wore on the weather improved in leaps and bounds and it actually turned out a beautiful day (Almost too warm as we'd dressed for cold and wet, not hot and sunny!). The event started at Longleat, so we had a longish drive there before the start, but we arrived in time to sign on and receive a cursory check of the documentation and car. The event is very good value as, as well as the basic entry, you receive a packed lunch and 6 months subscription to Your Classic magazine for the 45 entry fee.

There was a good entry with the oldest car being a 1935 Bentley and the latest eligible cars being from 1975. We were flagged away from Longleat at 9.57 (after a brief scare when the car refused to start, due to the negative terminal on the battery coming loose) and set off to Stourhead House, just a few miles away. This is a large stately home with very impressive gardens (although the checkpoint was at the house itself). Quickly we set off for checkpoint 2, which was at the even grander Wilton House. The checkpoint at Wilton didn't open until 11.15 and we arrived about 30 minutes early, which seemed odd, but in fact was a good idea as a good number of cars were gathered and the visitors to Wilton House seemed very interested in the extra attraction.

After a refreshment stop at Wilton we set off to the next chechpoint at the nearby hillclimb at Gurston Down. I've visited Gurston as a marshal and spectator a number of times, but I'd never driven the course. We were in the second batch of cars to drive the course and, like the Norwich Union run, the emphasis was on fun rather than true competition, but it was too much of a temptation to drive the hill with a bit of enthusiasm rather than just touring up it.

First of all Gurston goes DOWNhill, which always looks intimidating as a spectator, but the course seemed much wider and less steep from inside the car. At the bottom of the hill the track swings left and then into a section called The Carousel which is the real 'meat' of this course. It consists of a right handed 90 degree uphill bend followed almost immediately by another and then a short straight to a sharp left handed bend. I cocked the first corner up completely as the car snicked into second gear so easily that I mistakenly believed that I'd missed the gear completely! By the time I'd reselected it, I'd lost too much speed, but I reckon I made a better job of the rest.

From Gurston Down we had a 40 mile section to a pub near Stourton. Again the checkpoint opened well after most people arrived and we enjoyed a couple of drinks and our packed lunch in the pub garden in the, unexpectedly, good weather. once again, the assembled entry produced quite a good turnout of spectators and, no doubt, boosted the pub's takings for the day.

The final checkpoint, before returning to Longleat was a National Trust site called Alfred's Tower. We only stopped briefly here to take some photographs and get our timecard signed and then continued onto Longleat where, after a delay whilst someone found the key to the back gate (seriously!), we finally checked into the final checkpoint and received a pair of rather nice engraved glass tumblers as finishers awards. I hadn't thought I'd been driving very quickly, but we had passed a fair number of other entrants on the road and at checkpoints and having started 57th we ended up as the 5th car back (given better roads we'd have been 3rd, though, as we followed the 3rd and 4th cars for a number of miles through twisty lanes at speeds less than I would have driven them if on my own).

So, that's it for this year, the car is now going into winter retirement as the road tax is almost expired and the mileage limit on the insurance has almost been reached.

Next year? Well, hopefully, we'll do the Norwich Union run again and quite possibly the Avalon Classic Tour again and probably a couple of shows. I plan to look into the London-Brighton Classic car run (provided it doesn't clash with Le Mans) and the local Marcos Club organiser is trying to interest me in a 4 Peak's challenge which would involve driving to Ben Nevis, Snowdown, Scafell Pike and a mountain somewhere in Ireland in something like 48 hours, but I'll have to decide if the car (or I) am up to that!


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