Preaching to the Catalytic Converted

Dropped the car off at JP Exhausts in Macclesfield this morning to have catalytic converters (aka ‘Cats’) fitted. It was a good trip over to Macc & I spent a lot of time soaking up the exhaust note in case it changed after the cats were fitted. How sad is that! (At least I didn’t record it!… Although… I might have at some point.). It was nice to be greeted by the whole JP crew as I arrived (only because I was early – not sure I am getting the red carpet treatment) & the car was quickly ushered in & onto the ramp. I took a quick ‘Before’ picture of the Jetex 200 catalytic converter, pre polishing & fitting of cones as I’ve never seen one before (with apologies for the poor focus).

 

Kyle also spotted that the nearside exhaust was touching the sump guard bracket, potentially generating a rattle (which I hadn’t spotted due to all the other rattles… & the 105Db exhaust!) which he would try & sort out at the same time as the cats. Good man!

Having been told it was ‘an all day job’ I headed back over to JP a few minutes before 1700 to pick the car up. The cats were fitted & somehow or other Kyle had managed to keep them above the height of the sump guard, which he had lowered by a few millimeters with a washer to clear the exhaust. Polished up & with the cones fitted, they looked the business & should mean no more fretting about emissions at MOT time.

 

 

Le Mans 24 hour 2017

Had a great time at Le Mans this year, accompanied once again by my good chum Doug. I suppose this is what everything had been leading up to… the new engine (and the new everything else!).

Tuesday: Met up with Andy & Lorraine Peers in their lovely LM500 (replacing the previous supercharged Mantis) at Knutsford Services on the M6. An straightforward blast down south to the Holiday Inn in Folkestone; weather was great & the M25 clear.

Wednesday: First stop of the morning was at the nearest Services where a very enthusiastic (& easy on the eye!) lady from the Channel 4 production team briefed Andrew & Lorraine on what their program was about & fitted several GoPro cameras inside & outside the LM500. Eventually I decided to kill time by… filling up with fuel (again) which is the default activity of every Mantis owner. (Or polishing, if your name is Partridge). Finally with the Borg-like LM500 adorned with cameras the two cars set off for the Eurotunnel terminal. Here we met up with a couple of older Marcos Mantulas in Eurotunnel departures car park, to travel over around midday. After a diversion to drop off the Channel 4 production company’s cameras, the four cars headed off to Le Mans. We managed to stay together for most of the journey apart from some SatNav-initiated diversions through the centre of Rouen. Arrived at Neuvillette-en-Charnie about 1900 hours & decided to drop into Chateaux Morrison to see Debbie, Darren & the Essex gang who were staying there before heading on to our own gite a mile further. Great to see everyone but then… the Mantis broke down in their driveway (blocking Darren from getting to the pub!). Symptoms were no fuel but with the gauge reading just under a quarter full & numerous fill ups on the way, this seemed unlikely to me. Eventually, given the 30+ degrees temperature, fuel vapourisation was the diagnosis. However, managed to bleed some air from the fuel lines & then filled up with some ancient fuel from Darren, allowing the car to start again & we made it to our own gite a few minutes later.

Thursday: Cleaned the bugs off the front of the car then headed off to the start point of an organised tour of the 1906 French Grand Prix. Hot! Hot! Hot! The car started overheating as we arrived in the car park, & a quick check revealed that the second fan was not kicking in due to the 30A fuse having blown. Fortunately I had some spares that SP Automotive had given me, so a few minutes later the car was sorted & we set off along the route in convoy with Debbie & Darren’s LM500 & Geoff’s ’68 GT.

In the evening there was a Hog Roast organised at the gite with many other Marcos owners attending. The highlight (of the whole weekend perhaps) was the appearance of the Yorkshire Volunteer Band in full military uniform who gave us the most fantastic performance as we gazed on in awe. I think it was probably quite hot in all that kit!

Friday: Today was the big day for the Macros owners… the Classic British Welcome! There were over 70 Marcos in attendance, & while the majority of us were parked outside, there was a fantastic display of Marcos in the exhibition hall. As well as a beautiful example of each model produced, there was also one of the two LMs that raced at Le Mans in 95 & 96. Jay swapped out my Rev Counter (reading half) for the upgraded unit from Smiths/CAI in front of about 200 people (the poser!). I wasn’t that impressed to discover the new unit over-reading x1.15 though, particularly as they had had the unit for 12 weeks.

After catching up with many of the owners & a good chat with both Cor Euser (lovely bloke) & Chris Marsh (also lovely chap!), it was time for the invitation-only Cavalcade into Le Mans… complete with motorcycle escort from the Harley Davidson club. As usual the best bit was winding through the local villages with the streets lined by primary school children energetically waving union jacks. For some reason the cavalcade seemed to be a lot slower than my previous experience in 2004, & the engine temperature started to climb as we reached the outskirts of Le Mans. The weather was HOT but the car was definitely HOTTER! A few minutes later the temperature was around 115 degrees & we reluctantly pulled out of the cavalcade into a side street. Bonnet up, coolant all over road & another melted 30A fuse. Doug & I were philosophical about this as we’d experienced the best bit of the cavalcade, so it was a simple matter of waiting for the engine to cool down, topping up with some precious drinking water (Evian of course… nothing but the best for my Mantis!) & then fitting the last of my spare 30A fuses, before heading back to the gite.

I am of course, lying. There was plenty of swearin’ & cussin’ from me but… heigh ho. I was really frustrated that SP Automotive had not fitted the 50A maxi fuses as requested (although to be fair they didn’t want my car to catch fire!). Jay had not had a single problem with his cooling & had been running with a 50A fuse since day one. ‘Nuff said. You can see more details & lots of fantastic photos on Marcos@CBW here.

Saturday: That very nice man Mr Sherwin whipped out a soldering iron in the morning & replaced the crappy 30A blade fuse with a manly 50A maxi fuse. Job done & no more cooling fan problems. Went to the race & parked with minimal queuing in Parking Rouge. It was Doug’s first time at the 24 Hour after a few visits to the Classic with me, so we wandered around a bit then found our Grandstand seats & settled down for the start of the race. After a few hours we decided to stretch our legs & ambled off along the edge of the circuit, stopping off every now & then to watch the race with the great unwashed. For some reason I then decided it would be a good idea to walk down to Arnage Corner (I blame heatstroke), which was a bit further than I thought! The clue was in the multitude of people on bikes, the stream of shuttle buses & the absence of any other pedestrians I suppose! D’oh! Anyway we got to Arnage Corner eventually & it was packed! An cold beer got Doug back on track & I put away a few bottles of fizzy water as I would need to drive back to the gite later that evening.

The night racing was good fun. We stayed a lot longer than planned which meant queuing for over an hour after midnight to get the last shuttle bus back to the main circuit. As it turned out the bus didn’t go quite that far so we had few minutes wandering around the circuit perimeter before we found an entrance & headed back to our grandstand seats. A very handy landmark that Ferris Wheel!

Sunday: Watched the racing for another hour or two from the Grandstand then returned to the car about 0300 hours & set off on the 45 minute drive back to the gite. Top down so happy days. Slightly less happy to discover we had been locked out of our room at the gite (!) so at 0500 hours Doug & I tried to get some kip on the floor of the dinning hall. This wasn’t particularly successful so we were rather pleased to see Mr Barlow wandering around about 0700 hours, as he was the proud owner of a key. Que a couple of hours zeds before jumping up & heading back to the race. Reached Parking Rouge without mishap & went straight to the grandstand seats (via a bar) to watch the last 2 or 3 hours of the race. Then back to the gite for a posh dinner. The band played again & were awesome again. Lots of nice speeches from lots of nice people then it was off to bed as I was bloody knackered after getting no sleep on Saturday night!

Monday: A quick breakfast then we headed off to Dieppe to catch our ferry. Event free motoring except the stereo had stopped working (?). We arrived in good time then it was onto the ferry & some welcome repast. Offboarding took over an hour & the car was getting hot again but the 50A fuse held up. Finally got through Passport Control then it was a four or five hour drive back to Manchester, dropping Doug off then getting home about 2000 hours.

Had a good time. A lot of driving. A lot of Marcos. Time for a break…

All I want for Christmas

It’s been just over two months without the Mantis, & with Christmas Day tomorrow I have to face up to the fact that Santa is going to struggle to fit it into my stocking! On the other hand Jay has been uploading a few photos of the engine & also the chassis (which will have to be tip top if it’s going to cope with all that power). I was relieved to hear it’s generally OK with only superficial rust in a few places – nothing some rust cure, Hammerite & Waxoyl won’t sort out.

Another New vs Old shot!

 

I’ve also been trawling the automotive world for a decent Engine Start button. Given it’s going to take up one of the holes from the Racelogic Traction Control on the dash, it will be highly visible & therefore needs to look right. I like the idea of something red, but also backlit so it can be seen at night. The aftermarket Engine Start buttons are either barnded, cheesy or both, so I’ve narrowed it down to the Audi S1 (below left) or the 370z Nissan OEM GT-R Push Start Switch combined with the 2015 Nismo Model Red Trim Cover Finisher (below right). I’m leaning towards the Nissan currently as I can’t get the surround for the Audi button plus there’s not much aluminium on the dash (other than the gear knob).

 

Then I’ve got to get the socket & loom which fits the button of course, and then there’s the small matter of how you wire up to achieve the ‘Stop’ function on the engine.

Cavalcade

Aside

Fantastic news yesterday – it looks like we are in the running for inclusion in the CBW (Classic British Welcome) Cavalcade between St Saturnin & Le Mans. Motorcycle outriders… Awesome!!!

I swapped the Mantis for a Peugeot 307SW

No, I have not gone bonkers… the Pug is a loan car from Jay. (Getting the tram or bus into work while the Mantis is off the road is refreshingly different, but doesn’t help when I need to divert off to collect sproglets etc). Jay trailered it up from East Sussex where he is based. An hour later & after some impressive winching he disappeared off with the Mantis. Gulp! Actually it couldn’t be in better hands as Jay has his own Mantis & also knows mine is my baby!

I only ever see Jay at the odd Marcos rally or over at Le Mans so it was good to catch up with him before he left, & also ‘Talk Marcos’. Of course much of the discussion was around what was happening around the engine swap (which I continue to be very excited about!).

  • I am still minded to have an Engine Start button but have rejected the idea of going fully keyless due to all the bad press around security flaws such as radio jammers & code grabbers; so the conversation was around Engine Start vs Engine Start & Stop. Both are possible it seems, but I still haven’t decided! I quite like the Lexus one right now.
  • We also discussed how best to manage the solenoid lockout on the TR6060 transmission, which is required because 5th & reverse are located right next to each other, & ‘bad things’ would happen if you select reverse instead of 5th at 100mph! Having read up on this on a few US forums, one workaround is wire up the brake light so you can only get reverse while the brake pedal is depressed. Another alternative would be to put a momentary switch into the gearknob under the Marcos badge, but this would mean modifications to the gear shaft etc which seems to be asking for trouble. We’ll go with the brake option.
  • The new exhaust will be based on the one on Jay’s car which is racing spec & in all probability will be quieter than my current one. I’ll certainly miss the sound of the Ford V8 which had the most wonderful, wonderful lope… but my neighbours probably won’t! To be honest, it also killed off using the stereo & grated a bit on very long journeys like Le Mans where you’re driving for hours on end. A gorgeous noise though and… dare I say it… the nicest sounding Mantis out there (a few other Marcos owners have said the same thing though!).
  • Finally I have been looking at Cruise Control which (if you read far back enough in this blog) you will know I considered early on for the Mustang Cobra engine before opting for the Traction Control instead (subsequently uninstalled as it never worked properly). There are a few places in the US who have after-market CC for the LS series engines, & I like the look of the one at HotRodTherapy, however Jay has suggested he ask around more locally before I go ahead & purchase, so waiting to hear back on that one.

Jay texted me when they got back to East Sussex (what a nice chap) so now I just need to wait for the first photos to arrive. Am I nervous? Oh yes! (Especially if it tops 500BHP) But it’s still exciting stuff & fortune favours the brave etc etc!

It’s all part of life’s rich tapestry…

So, reader chums, what’s happened since my last post? Well…

I dropped the car in for its MOT a comfortable 10 days before it was due, & casually mentioned the spray on the screen. Next thing I know the garage are calling to tell me the coolant system just blew steam all over the garage & they are going to need to replace the header tank (just a standard Ford part @ ~£80 so OK). Then a second call to say that ‘something’ is compressing the coolant system, with the pipes rock hard & that probably explains the mist on the screen with some coolant escaping from one of the pipes around the jubilee clips. Next call is fluid is dropping but not coming out anywhere so… going into the engine somehow? Ho hum. Then we move on to compression testing the engine; the left bank is lower than the right one with one of the cylinders only making 20psi. “We’ll have to take the head off”. Joy. Plus the car is trailered off to another garage ‘cos it’s getting in the way! At this point we’re two weeks down the line, the car has no MOT & I’m starting to get a bit f*****d off with everything, especially as I ‘heavily invested’ (think 60+ hours of labour!) in getting everything sorted before the Le Mans Classic at the start of the year. Now, this might read like a bit of good old fashioned whinging… And you’d be right!

Lo & behold I am back at the ‘how much do I keep spending on this engine’ question (again). The current answer is ‘Not any more’ and thoughts turn once more to an engine swap to an GM LS3. I definitely can’t afford the high £20Ks that TopCats want, so I have had a chat with Jay who bowled up at LMC with a lovely LS3 in his Mantis Challenge converted road car. He’s happy to have another go at an LS3 engine swap & is pricing it up. Gulp!

So in the next couple of weeks I may have to decide if I can ‘afford’ (& I am using that work in its most flexible definition I assure you) to keep the Mantis or not. Blimey.

Spray that again?

Today noticed a thin film of spray on the windscreen. Not unusual for North West England I hear you say! I’d agree but it wasn’t raining & the spray was driver side only of the screen. It can only be coming out of the engine via the bonnet vent (nostril?). The ‘taste test’ was inconclusive but I don’t think it’s fuel, so probably coolant. Couldn’t see anything obvious around the radiator, lose jubilee clips etc so may be (another) garage job. In the meantime loving the autumnal sunshine in September. One of my favourite times of year to be out in the Mantis with hood down feeling that slightly crisp edge to the weather which says summer is over. Wonderful.

Brake dancing 

Hooray! Car back from the garage, with new front bearings fitted & brakes back in working order.

A bit eye watering on the hours labour front but soooo worth it to get the car back on what is proving to be the hottest day of the year so far. Bizarrely had to hoover some sand out of the centre console tray (say what?! Nearest beach about 60 miles away so not too sure what’s gone on there!). Happy days… Back to motoring in the sun for me. 

Le Mans Classic 2016

Back from this years Le Mans Classic & it was a blast! I had a great time with my chum Doug, & below you can see him piloting my Mantis past the famous LM clock into the straight between the grandstands. Whoohoo! Photographer Mark Scarrott you are a very nice man!

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The drive back today, Monday, was generally uneventful, making the Roscoff ferry in good time & a decent crossing to Plymouth with a bracing sea breeze under a grey sky. The hood stayed down all the way, despite hitting heavy rain just south of Junction 19 on the M6. Tiredness & mediocre visibility led to driver error with my prematurely turning off the roundabout &, after around 600 miles and just 10 miles from home we found ourselves back on the M6 heading north again & now away from home. D’oh! An interesting development over the previous few miles had been a growing lack of stopping power, with the brakes becoming increasingly ineffective! I decided to figure out what was going on the following morning & continued home using the engine to brake. Feeling more than a little sheepish, it was off at M6 Junction 20 & (with apologies to everyone in Lymm for driving a very loud sportscar through their village at about 0200 hours on Tuesday morning), we finally got home. It’s fair to say I slept well!

The race… Saturday

Today was race day at the 2016 Le Mans Classic, but before heading off to the circuit again to park up on the Bugatti Circuit there was time to get some unusual shots of the cars from above, courtesy of Darren & his cherry popper picker.

The race itself was enjoyable & I was pleased to have Grandstand seats after a fair few hours wandering around looking at the cars, stalls & the odd bar. Lots of big screens make following the rcase a lot easier & the weather was better than 2014! Yay!