Tag Archives: Marsh

Classic Competition Cars – Classic Motor Show NEC Birmingham

Today’s blog is all about some of the classic competition vehicles at last weekends Classic Motor Show at the NEC in Birmingham.

Rosemary Smith,  Classic Motorshow, NEC, Birmingham

A couple of weeks ago I went to a talk at which Rosemary Smith, winner of the 1965 Tulip Rally driving the Hillamn Imp above, was to be the guest of honour, unfortunatley she had a fall and so could not make it so it was great to see her on her feet again at the Classic Motor Show despite the fact that some of her bones were still on the mend.

MG B Roadster,  Classic Motorshow, NEC, Birmingham

Rosemary drove a Ford Cortina Lotus on the 1968 London to Sydney Rally and finished 48th six places behind Jean Denton who drove the MGB GT Roadster seen above in need of some tlc, who finished 42nd.

Discovery Beetle,  Classic Motorshow, NEC, Birmingham

Among the taller vehicles at the show was the road legal Gulf liveried Discovery Beetle, above, built on a shortened 1996 Land Rover Discovery chassis and fitted with a 300 TDi which being lighter and more aerodynamic than a standard Discovey goes well on the road and is perfect for off road trials.

Cooper Daimler T87,  Classic Motorshow, NEC, Birmingham

Having acquired a 1966 Cooper T81 formula one car and fitted it with a 7.2 litre / 440 cui wedge engine for hill climbing Martin Brain acquired a 1967 Cooper T87 Formula 2 chassis and had it fitted with a 2.5 litre / 152 cui Daimler hemi V8, more commonly found in the SP250 and V8 250 Daimler models, for hill climbing on tracks with tighter corners. The car was rescued from a Swedish Museum in 2011 by Gillian Goldsmith better known as a successful equestrian and car racer Gillian Fortescue-Thomas who has since competed with the Cooper Daimler as has her daughter Samantha.

Gould NME GR61X,  Classic Motorshow, NEC, Birmingham

Powered by a 650 hp Nicholson McLaren Engines (NME) 3.5 litre / 213 cui development of the Cosworth HB Indy car engine the Gould NME GR61X is the most successful car ever to compete in British Hill Climbing with Scott Moran claiming 133 wins and Roger Moran claiming a further 16 and Alex Summers 8 since the cars first appearance in April 2005.

Empire Wraith,  Classic Motorshow, NEC, Birmingham

Successful Trike hill climber and Empire Racing Cars founder Bill Chaplin called Dutch born Formula One aerodynamicist Willem Toet, most recently at Sauber, to work on the Empire Wraith hill climb challenger which is powered by a 180hp Suzuki GSR K8 motor. This example built at the Empire factory in Stathe Somerset in 2013 is the first of three built to date and is driven by Clive Austin and Chris Aspinall.

Healey Westland,  Classic Motorshow, NEC, Birmingham

In 1948 Donald Healey and Geoffrey Healey drove the Healey Westland above to a ninth place finish on the Mille Miglia, the following year Tommy Wisdom and Geoffrey finished 10th in the same event in the same car.

Marcos Prototype,  Classic Motorshow, NEC, Birmingham

By 1959 former de Haviland aircraft engineer Frank Costin had a CV that included designing the Vanwall Grand Prix challenger that won the inaugural World Constructors Championship in 1958 and subsequent demand for his attention included that of Jem Marsh with whom he founded Marcos Engineering in Dolgellau, North Wales. The prototype Marcos, using the same plywood construction techniques de Haviland used to build the Mosquito fighter bomber the Vampire jet fighter, built in 1959 powered by a Ford 100E engine is seen above awaiting some well earned tlc having disappeared in Lincoln for many years.

Italia 2000GT,  Classic Motorshow, NEC, Birmingham

Only 329 Italia 2000 GT’s were built by Vignale and in 1996 Jorg Von Appen had #210, one of five Italia’s he owned converted to race spec to take part in the TR Race series, it survived four races and was recently purchased by the proprietor of Patterson’s Original Pickles.

Porsche 904 Carrera GTS,  Classic Motorshow, NEC, Birmingham

After withdrawing from Formula One at the end of 1962 Porsche built their first tube framed fiberglass bodied sports car which would culminate in the development of the 917 and later 936 models, originally known as the 904 Porsche badged the car Carrera GTS in deference to Peugeot’s ‘digit “0” digit’ numbering system. The GTS seen here was I believe used in competition by Claude Barbier and possibly later by Cyr Febbrairo.

BMW GTP,  Classic Motorshow, NEC, Birmingham

No doubt much to the annoyance of Formula Ring Meister Bernie Ecclestone the manufacturer who supplied the engines for his Formula One Brabham team split it’s efforts in 1986 between Formula One and the IMSA GTP series and invested in four March 86G chassis and fitted them with a 2 litre / 122 cui version of the BMW engine that had powered Nelson Piquet to the World Championship in 1983. A BMW GTP was driven to it’s only victory by Davy Jones and John Andretti in the Watkins Glen 500, while the Brabham BMW team scored on 2 championship points in the worst season for the team up to that time.

Eagle HF89,  Classic Motorshow, NEC, Birmingham

Dan Gurney’s All American Racers graduated to the IMSA GTP class in 1989, after claiming the driver’s and constructors’ championships in the GTO division Chris Cord in 1987, the teams all new HF89 was designed by Ron Hopkins and Hiro Fujimori and the following year Argentina’s Juan Manuel Fangio II drove HF89’s to three victories in the Topeka 300, Sears Point 300 with Rocky Moran and Del Mar Fairgrounds Road Circuit in November 1990.

Thanks for joining me on this “Classic Competition Cars” edition of Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be looking at a Carrera Panamericana challenger. Don’t forget to come back now !


Going Places In Style – Marcos Mantis

The first Marcos Mantis better known as the Mantis XP was a radical marine ply racer that raced once in 1968 before being sold to an American client, the second Mantis iteration today’s featured 2+2 Mantis M70 was launched in 1970 and remained in production until 1972 when the company was liquidated, in 1997 a third iteration 2 seat Mantis was launched as a road car and later spec racer.

Marcos Mantis M70, Silverstone Classic,

Styling of the Mantis was by Denis Adams and Jem Marsh while ex Lotus engineer Brian Cunnington was responsible for the chassis, made from square section tubular steel, and production engineering.

Marcos Mantis M70, Silverstone Classic,

The Mantis was initially offered as a complete vehicle with a Triumph 2.5 PI straight six motor and 4 speed Triumph gearbox driving an axle from the Ford Capri parts bin.

Marcos Mantis M70, Silverstone Classic,

The promotional brochure for the Mantis highlighted the models all round visibility, handling and “the boot, with a capacity of 10 cubic feet, makes the Mantis ideal for the man who is going places and wants to travel in style.”

Marcos Mantis M70, Silverstone Classic,

In all 32 Mantis models were built before Marcos was liquidated in 1972, some of the later examples were supplied in kit form at 5/6ths of the price of the complete car.

In the mid 80’s Autotune who had acquired the moulds and manufacturing rights to the Mantis recommenced production of the model, as a kit car requiring a Ford Cortina Mk II or Mk III donor car, which was renamed as the Autotune Mirage.

Today’s featured 1971 Mantis seen at Silverstone Classic several years ago is described by one of it’s owners as “The one Jem Marsh had with the Rover 3500 V8 EFI lump.”

Thanks for joining me on this “Going Places In Style” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psychoontyres, I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be looking at another “Goddess”. Don’t forget to come back now !


Cast Iron, Glassfibre And Marine Ply – Marcos 1800 GT

To create the sensation of the 1964 Racing Car Show, Marcos kept faith with the marine ply chassis construction method espoused by former de Haviland aero engineer Frank Costin, glueing no fewer than 386 pieces of marine ply together which were then bonded to a glass fiber body to end up with a strong and above all light monocoque chassis.

Marcos 1800 GT, Silverstone Classic, Press Day,

Marcos turned to Volvo for a supply of cast iron block B18 engines, more commonly found in the Volvo’s P1800 Coupé, with either four speed or five speed manual gearboxes fitted.

Marcos 1800 GT, Silverstone Classic, Press Day,

At the rear the first 33 1800 GT’s were fitted de Dion suspension, which was dropped in favour of a cheaper Ford live axle for the remaining 73 1800 GT’s that were built up until 1966.

Marcos 1800 GT, Silverstone Classic, Press Day,

The scintillating glass fibre body was the work of the Adams brothers Denis and Peter, featuring a forward hinging front to ease access to the engine.

Marcos 1800 GT, Andrew Smith, Silverstone Classic, Press Day,

With 96hp the 1800 GT could accelerate from rest to 60 mph in 8.2 seconds and on to a top speed of 116 mph, however a works entry for Jem Marsh, John Quick and Peter Taggart at Le Mans in 1968 with a slightly larger B20 motor still failed to qualify.

Marcos 1800 GT, Andrew Smith, Silverstone Classic, Press Day,

Despite it’s enthusiastic reception the car proved to be an expensive slow seller, it was not very profitable even after the live axle, which helped drop the price from £1500 to £1340, was adopted.

Marcos 1800 GT, Silverstone Classic, Press Day,

In 1966 the 1800 GT gave way to Ford and Triumph powered models, but today the 1800 GT, such as the example raced by Andrew and Tom Smith seen in these pictures at the recent Silverstone Classic Press Day, is a more highly prized vehicle because it is the last Adams bodied Marcos legible to be driven in Historic Sports Car Club (HSCC) events.

Thanks for joining me on this “Cast Iron, Glassfibre And Marine Ply” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be looking at a convertible Citroën. Don’t forget to come back now !


Exciting Grand Touring Car – Marcos Fastback GT

Welcome to the first of a short series of Marcos Monday blogs, featuring the marque that was founded by Jem Marsh and Frank Costin in North Wales in 1959 to manufacture a series of “Ugly Duckling” Xylon one litre / 61 cui GT sports racing cars that featured chassis built from laminated 3mm marine ply, gull wing doors and a four pane windscreen, aimed at 750 Motor Club competitors.

Nine Xylons were produced before a refined model that retained the gullwing doors was introduced in 1960 of which a further 39 powered by a variety of motors up to 1.5 litres / 91.5 cui were produced up until 1963 when Marcos moved to a premises at Bradford Upon Avon in Wiltshire.

Marcos Fastback, David Chaney, Cadwell Park

When brothers Dennis and Peter Adams began to work on a successor to the Gullwing GT they conceived an open roadster, however success on the track with earlier models, future Grand Prix and Le Mans stars Jackie Stewart won his first race with a Xylon and Jackie Oliver raced a Gullwing GT, meant a continued demand for a closed car and so the original design was compromised with the fastback hastily added as an afterthought.

The fast back was launched at the 1963 London Racing Car Show as the “The Most Exciting Grand Touring Car In The World” for a basic price of £775 “including disc brakes.”

Only 18 Fastbacks were produced and future Le Mans legend Derek Bell raced one scoring at least one class win with it at Brands Hatch in September 1965.

David Chaney’s example seen above at Cadwell Park in 1989 was originally built in 1963 and is listed in the 1989 programme as being powered by a 1650cc / 100 cui motor that is probably derived from a 4 cylinder Ford.

Unable to keep up with the initial demand Peter Adams own roadster was converted to the fastback configuration as were a couple more otherwise complete roadsters.

Thanks for joining me on this “Exciting Grand Touring Car” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be celebrating the 60th Anniversary of an aerodynamic Citroën. Don’t forget to come back now !


Schoolboys And A Handrill – Bloody Mary

Half brothers John and Richard appear to have been born in 1910 and 1912 respectively to Vary who married Richards father Richard (Snr) Bolster in 1911 the same year in which she and John’s father were granted a Decree Absolute. Richard (Snr) was killed in action in 1917 while serving with the rank of Major in the Royal Field Artillery. During the 1914 to 1918 Great War Vary, who was very interested in cars and motoring, is said to have driven her own Napier and a Mercedes as part of her contribution to the war effort. After the war Vary Bolster is said to have driven a 3 litre Bentley and spectated at Brooklands events organised by the BARC who’s strap line ran “The right crowd and no crowding”.

Bloody Mary, 5th Tony Marsh Memorial Weekend, Gurston Down

While still at school John and brother Richard set about building a special with the object of “driving around a field as dangerously as possible”. To build the tapered from the front to rear chassis the boys fashioned three longitudinal chassis rails from ash and joined them together with with steel brackets to two cross members front and rear. It would appear the most sophisticated tool at the boys disposal was a hand drill.

Bloody Mary, 5th Tony Marsh Memorial Weekend, Gurston Down

The original front axle had no suspension other than that afforded by the balloon aircraft tyres fitted to the wheels or brakes. The 1914 13 hp vee twin JAP motor, mounted between the center chassis rail and left chassis rail drove a chain attached to the Juckes, motorcycle, gearbox which in turn drove a rubber belt attached to a solid rear axle, carried in a pair of bronze bushes in gunmetal housings sourced from a Grahame White cycle car, mounted below the chassis rails and suspended by quarter elliptic springs. With the driver sitting to the right almost alongside the motor and gearbox the contraption in it’s original guise weighed around 230 kgs / 507 lbs and was said to be capable of 55 mph, and was slowed using “negligible” band brakes on the rear axle.

Bloody Mary, 5th Tony Marsh Memorial Weekend, Gurston Down

Not having scared them selves sufficiently, over time the car was developed, a GN tube front axle with leaf springs bound with “best quality blind cord” to the chassis replaced the original though again without brakes. The output was more than doubled to over 30hp with the acquisition of a more modern 4 cam JAP vee twin motor which required the rubber final drive be replaced by a chain twixt gearbox and rear axle. A semblance of a body was added along with the name “Bloody Mary” which has been interpreted as a jest against the stuffy preeminent establishment still prevalent in Britain between WW1 and WW2. Described as a determined “bon viver” John would later become well known for his “very blue“, language, after dinner speeches.

Bloody Mary, 5th Tony Marsh Memorial Weekend, Gurston Down

As the boys became undergraduates, John at Oxford and Richard at Cambridge, they started entering the road registered car into speed and trials competitions which meant wiring torches to the mudguards for illumination and obliging the passenger to perch precariously twixt hot exhaust to the front and above the rear chain. After finally scaring himself in Bloody Mary Richard eventually went on to build a second GN based special of which John said “owing to some oversight on the part of the licensing authorities, both cars had the same registration number” meaning care was taken that the two specials were never seen together.

Bloody Mary, 5th Tony Marsh Memorial Weekend, Gurston Down

John persevered with Bloody Mary fitting a new tubular front axle carrying 1928 vintage Austin Seven brakes and wheels. After two unfortunate “wild” young men fell off their Brough Superior motor cycles John replaced the 4 cam JAP which had given as much as 40 hp after much development, with first one over head valve KTOR JAP motor and fitted the second when it unexpectedly also became available using an ingenious spring loaded sprocket to compensate for firing irregularities between the two motors. In order to avoid back fires which would destroy the drive train John always needed four strong blokes to give him a push start, it was a tribute to Johns good standing in the paddock that he never had a shortage of volunteers.

Bloody Mary, 5th Tony Marsh Memorial Weekend, Gurston Down

On his first outing at Lewes Speed Trials in the now twin engined junk yard special the hubs burst as John was accelerating, while John fought to control the car through a series of wild slides he switched off the motors and coasted over the line with a time fast enough to win his class. The hubs were subsequently replaced with sturdier Frazer Nash items and in 1937 John was just a shade over 3 seconds slower than Raymond Mays’s supercharged ERA R4B up the Shelsley Walsh Hillclimb, a performance described in one contemporary report as ‘a miracle of wheel-winding’. At this point John retired Bloody Mary to build a new, faster, special with independent suspension augmenting the two JAP engines from Bloody Mary with two more to fashion beast with four JAP vee twins.

Bloody Mary, 5th Tony Marsh Memorial Weekend, Gurston Down

After the 1939 – 1945 war, in which half brother Richard lost his life serving in the RAF over Germany, John rebuilt Bloody Mary and from 1948 to 1953 he held the VSCC course record at Prescott with the machine in which he sat a mere 5″ off the ground. As Bloody Mary was becoming increasingly less competitive John’s competition driving career came to an end after a major accident in a race at Silverstone while driving a borrowed ERA.

Bloody Mary, 5th Tony Marsh Memorial Weekend, Gurston Down

John became a well known author one of his most popular books was called “Specials” and journalist with Autosport Magazine, he never used a type writer preferring to use Biro and paper as the tools of his trade. His activities included commentating on motor racing events for the BBC and in a similar role he was immortalised on film with a cameo role in the comedy The Fast Lady.

Bloody Mary eventually found it’s way to the National Motor Museum with ownership passing to his widow Rosemary Bolster upon John’s death in 1984. The car is seen in these photo’s at the 5th Tony Marsh Memorial Weekend run at Gurston Down earlier this year.

Thanks for joining me on this “Schoolboys And A Handrill” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres”, I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !


Micro Car Massive Performance – Mini Marcos

This particular MK3 Mini Marcos is kit #7198

The Mini Marcos was designed by Desmond ‘Dizzy’ Addicott who might be familiar to film buffs as one of the B17 & B25 pilots used in the film Memphis Belle.

The Mini Marcos was born out of the design for Dizzies DART a modified Morris Mini van acquired for £5.00 with a caved in roof. This car was converted in to the Dart with a fibreglass body. All older Mini Marcos cars are slightly asymmetrical at the rear as a result of the original DART chassis twisting when the roof was cut off.

This particular MK 3 Mini Marcos is kit # 7232.

The DART project was taken over by Jem Marsh of Marcos cars who used the DART to make body moulds for and sold finished fibre glass bodies as kit cars from 1965 – 1970 and again from 1991 – 1996.

The DART also gave rise to the Mini Jem sold by Jeremy Delmar-Morgan which in turn gave rise to the Kingfisher Sprint.

Perhaps the most remarkable story about the Marcos is its brief international competition history at Le Mans where in 1966 Claude Ballot-Lena and Jean Louis Marnat were classified last in 15th place, the car was stolen soon after the race.

The following year the Chris Lawrence / Jem Marsh Mini Marcos was timed at an astonishing 146 mph on the Mulsanne Straight, but did not finish .

Steve Roberts in his Trans XL Mini Marcos set four British Land Speed records at 1 mile, half mile, kilometre and 500 meters for cars up to 1600cc which still stand today.

Wishing everyone a fabulous Friday, don’t forget to come back now !