Getting on a bit & showing its age

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.

On hold

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).

Away days in Warminster

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.

Chassis update

Just got back from a trip to see the Old Man in Henley (filial duty & all that), which I cunningly combined with a going to see the Mantis at the workshop in Warminster. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been pining for her these last few months (despite the grim weather), & of course it was an opportunity to meet Lee in person. What a thoroughly nice chap! He certainly knows what he’s doing with the car, although it was a bit disconcerting to see it without any floorpans… He has done a splendid job of welding new sections, & has even managed to use 3mm stainless sections, rather than the 1.5mm mild steel sections used by the factory (Grrrrr…). I guess this means some extra weight, but frankly who cares – I’m not racing it, or even getting any track time in it. The main thing is I can put the threat of rust at the back of my mind for a few years. Lee seems to be uber thorough which is a delight to hear; he is planning to use 129 rivets on each floorpan! We discussed what to do with the rest of chassis that is sound, but requires some sort of protection, & has been looking pretty scruffy for some time. Lee agreed to scrape down & paint the rest of the chassis (bar removing the engine) for a reasonable sum, so I’m going with that. I don’t habitually pop the bonnet at car shows, but it will be nice not to wince when I do!

Cunning plan

I have a plan. A plan to keep the Marcos, and not have to sell a kidney. So it’s a good plan. I have been put in contact with a chap called Lee Keller who is ex-Marcos factory & apparently a dab hand with the old welder. The fact is that I can’t afford a complete new chassis however ‘creative’ I get with the numbers, so I need to get the current one patched, & patched properly. After several discussions with Guru Chivers it turns out that there has been another Mantis with similar rust ‘challenges’ & that they were addressed by cutting through the sills from the inside of the body & accessing the chassis via that route, thus avoiding any external damage & costly respray. Huzzah! I have bitten the bullet & told Rory that the galvanised chassis solution he offered was (way) beyond my means. Rory was pretty decent about the news, & was kind enough to warn me to ‘be careful’. The car is being picked up by Dave C/Lee & nursed over to Warminster where Lee is based. It will be interesting to hear what he thinks of it.