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.
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!!!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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
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!
We’re off to Le Mans! Day 1 saw Doug & I hit Folkestone Wednesday evening after a leisurely drive down from Cheshire (i.e. nothing fell off) & we checked into the hotel which was a pretty cool Victorian pile on the coast. The obligatory tour of local hostelries followed, & a quick call to Jay Sherwin who was due to meet up with us outside Calais in his rather cool fliptone converted Mantis Challenge car. The conversation with Jay quickly moved on to whether he had gone ahead & swapped out the original 4.6L Ford Mustang engine for a GM LS3. The answer was that he had , & I was rather amused to hear that he had only finished & MOTd the car that day, with the test drive being our 400 mile trip to Le Mans. Excellent! Bravo!
A day off from work today & I finally pulled my finger out… at least in terms of getting the stereo working again! I always rated the ads component speaker install SQPlus did on the Mantis a few years ago, but knew the company had disappeared – another victim of the recession perhaps? (Their installs must have averaged about £2k 😮). By the miracle of the Internet, it turns out that the owner, Phil Leach, is now working with Manchester Car Audio, so I popped over there this morning. After a brief discussion around my dead Nakimichi amp, I was soon putting a deposit down for a new Amp & Alpine head unit. I’ll be back next Wednesday to get it all fitted. So that’s the tunes sorted… never mind the leaking engine, badly fitting hood or shocking shocks! 😂
As it was a gorgeous spring day with some warmth in the sun, I decided to go the long way home from MCA and headed out to Macclesfield, home of JP Exhausts. I was soon chatting to a mega helpful chap called Will who instantly confirmed a small hole near the weld in the exhaust downpipe.
He very kindly gummed it up for me & we agreed a return visit was in order to get two new downpipes made up. I also tentatively asked about a system that would allow me to lower the exhaust noise levels – the answer was remarkably straightforward: a solenoid driven diverter valve which sends the exhaust flow via a bigger silencer. Simples! There is enough room under the Mantis but it’s a lot of work so £500 plus the exhaust flow controllers. Maybe next year?…