Marcos Diary - Trials and tribulations of living with a 30 year old car!
Subj: 1998 - Daily Driver
Like so many Marcos owners (especially of older cars), I've been lucky enough to be able to run my car as a second car, only bringing it out on high days and holidays and when the weather is good.
However, in September 1998, I sold my Rover 220 as I was expecting delivery of a Ford Puma soon. Being without a daily driver wasn't likely to be a problem, I expected, as the Puma was due in a week or two and I expected to use the Marcos only occasionally, with Mandy's FIAT being available most of the time.
This was probably just as well as the Marcos was last properly serviced in 1994, before its outing on the Norwich Union run by Alan Fereday (at the time, the local Marcos agent), except for occasional oil, points and plug changes.
The first few days without my Rover were bright and cold, ideal weather for the Marcos with so much heat radiating from the engine and gearbox. Remarkably the traffic was also fairly light around this time and the car behaved well. However, I noted that the front tyres were badly & unevenly worn with the rears also almost down to legal limits.
The car was running well except for loss of water. This was probably due to an old problem (familiar to all owners of older Marcii), namely the bonnet rubbing on the radiator, due to the holes in the bonnet for the pivots ovaling out, and cracking neck. However, the loss seemed very high as time passed. The exhaust was still loud and I checked into replacing the whole system with stainless steel, which given the long life of the factory system (over 9 years) seemed a good idea - details of quote.
With our family holiday to Portugal planned, I rang to check that the Puma wouldn't arrive while I was away. It turned out that it could be weeks as the Pumas had all been recalled due to a brake problem. Mine (ordered from Germany) was at the dealer, but needed the modification.
On my return from holiday, I rang again, but there was no further news, so I continued to drive the Marcos. After all, it would only be four days and then I was of to San Fransisco to watch the FIA GT race at Laguna Seca.
However, I decided it was definitely time to replace the tyres. Phoning the local tyre fitters revealed that the existing (original specification) tyres, Avon 175 x 13s, were no longer available. In fact the only tyres available at all in that size were only suitable for vans! Fortunately the quote for Goodyear 185/70x13s was only £120, so 4 new Goodyears were fitted.
As the tyre wear looked so odd, I had the tracking checked. Just as well, as it turned out to be way out - 18 months earlier I'd fitted a new steering rack and the tracking had been supposedly reset. At the time I'd reported odd handling but was told it was fine. This time (at a different tyre fitters) I was told that the car handling 'like driving on ice' was typical. The stiff steering and tight spots in the steering were much improved and there was better turn in and grip from the more modern tyre design, without ruining look of the car.
I think it's true to say that the performance and handling improved as the car was used and I grew more used to driving the car daily. As the Puma was delayed longer and longer, I even suggested to Mandy that I may cancel it and put £5K into Marcos and use it everyday.
Road testers talk of steering cars on the throttle and you can really do this with a Marcos. Initial understeer into a corner can be corrected simply by careful application of a little throttle and so predictable and precise is this, that within a short while you are driving the car in this manner all the time.
Petrol consumption, though, was high. A minor leak from sender didn't help, but even so the car was using lots of 4 star.
The Marcos continued to be fun to drive until clocks went back - driving my Marcos in the dark is not pleasant as normally adjusted lights glared straight into my eyes, compounded by a scratched windscreen and poor wipers (although I recently travelled in a new TVR which seemed to have equally ineffective wipers!). Equally, driving standards generally nosedived as the clocks changed, traffic got heavier and damper weather led to steaming up and poor rearward visibilty.
One Thursday morning, I reversed the Marcos from the garage to reveal a pool of oil under the car. It turned out that the sump was holed by grounding. I used the FIAT for a couple of days and got the sump removed, welded and reattached over the weekend, putting the car back on the road, quickly and cheaply.
The following week news came of a date for the Puma's arrival and on the day before I was to due to collect it, the Marcos refused to start for the only time. To be fair this may have been due to too lean a mixture, as I attempted to remedy the problem of high fuel consumption.
At first I had been worried about using the Marcos even for a few days, but reliability was (given the lack of use and general care the car gets) was suprisingly good and the car (subject to a full radiator) was ok in Bracknell commuter traffic. In total, I drove my Marcos virtually every day for two months and, as always, it was comfortable and plenty quick enough for commuting.
With air conditioning and/or a decent heater and less heavy fuel consumption, I feel a Marcos would make good daily driving transport and be highly enjoyable. I can't see any reason why a new Marcos (with all the attendant improvements in refinement) wouldn't make the perfect choice for a day to day car with exhilarating performance.
The Puma? Well, after a couple of weeks of running in and readjusting to a sit up and beg seating position and front wheel drive, I have to say it's everything I hoped it'd be and a little more. Luxuries like air conditioning, a CD player and a heated windscreen are much appreciated and handling really is as good as the reviews suggest.
However, it still doesn't present the kind of sense of occasion that any trip in the Marcos evokes.