Team Barn Finds Racing Report: Marina Takes 2nd!


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Last weekend was our 6th race with the Marina, and while the result was a good one (2nd in class, 36th overall out of 108 cars), it was a difficult route to get there. Some of you have asked for details on the Marina and how it became a race car. I purchased it from a Craigslist ad after it had been “totaled” in a collision with a Lexus. A friendly body shop straightened it out and some body filler was applied, along with a rattle can paint. Just as I finished it and was trying to decide what to do with it, my stepdaughter needed transportation to go back and forth to college. For the next year and a half, the Marina faithfully served that role.

Photos by Murilee Martin

An undiscovered coolant leak led to an engine seizure and the dead car living outside my garage for a while. I acquired a used MGB engine (similar, but not completely identical to the Marina engine) but never had the time to put the engine in. I listed it for sale, then spent six months with it advertised for free with no takers! A chance conversation with a fellow racer led to the formation of Austin Powerless Racing and our entry into the 24 Hours of LeMons events. We’ve been quite successful, with an Index of Effluency (the highest award in LeMons), a first, a second and two thirds in class, despite getting pre-race penalty laps for being “too reliable”.

In this particular race, we finished second in class to a BMW E30 powered by a Dodge slant 6 (!) and just beat a Gremlin. As you can well imagine, Class C in LeMons has some unusual machinery, many with issues that keep them from running the entire time.  Here’s a list of the issues we faced during the 14-1/2 hours of racing this weekend:

  • Usual sources of 1960’s endurance asbestos brake pads that fit Marinas had dried up.  Finally found a set from France.
  • Tires came from China by way of Nebraska and were even worse quality than the cheap tires we’ve been running
  • The rear of the exhaust started to hang down 1/2 an hour into the race.  Two brackets broke that were checked pre-race—oh well.
  • I got run off the track at turn 9, but no flag (thankfully)
  • The “new” junkyard rear end leaked gear oil all over the rear brakes
  • An exhaust manifold gasket blew out
  • The gasket for the fuel cell cap swelled up and had to be re-attached at every stop to seal the tank
  • The gear shift knob came off; had to pit to get it out from under Brian’s feet
  • Oil pressure down to zero after a driver change!  We pour in four quarts of oil (!), spot minor leakage (it is a British car, after all), can’t figure out the problem and send him back out.  Later found a hole in oil pan, welded it closed while still inthe car and covered with JB Weld for good measure.
  • Spin in T14 (driver error).  Steering wheel now crooked, something bent in front end.
  • I screwed up and didn’t hook up a driver’s cool shirt properly, causing him to be nauseous and have to switch out early.
  • Sunday morning (day 2) the car won’t climb over 4,000 rpm.  Bring him in thinking it’s something simple…it’s not.  Send him back out to complete stint.  At quiet hour, take shotgun approach. Re-work fuel pickup, replace spark plugs (3 of 4 look good, one is running rich, how can this be?), distributor cap, disassemble SU carbs and clean, replace fuel filter. At startup, fuel filter won’t fill up despite fuel pump sounding like it’s working. Assume fuel pump is bad (electric, near tank). Replace fuel pump, new one now held on by tywraps and prayers. Try to start and filter won’t fill again.  Find out NEW fuel filter is defective, replace with another new spare, now car will start.
  • etc….

Anyway, if you want to read a full race report, there’s one here on our Facebook page. We really have a lot of fun and are looking forward to racing again next year!

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  1. Robert R.Member

    What fun! Thanks for the story.

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  2. Rick

    Think the next race you should enter with the Marina is one of those “bump to pass” races or better yet, a crash elimination!

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    • Jamie Palmer JamieAuthor

      If we’d be waiting for the Marina to catch up to someone to bump them, it would be a long race! There were times towards the end of the race when it was all I could do to keep her running and keep up with the field under yellow flags! :-)

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  3. HoA Howard AMember

    Ha, great stuff. I forgot all about the Austin Marina. BL’s answer to the question nobody asked. I remember, it was deemed the worst car of all time ( and there were some crummy cars) All the things you listed as problems, faced owners of these, and quickly went down hill, which was a shame, as it had the makings of a decent car. Interesting side note on the Marina. In Britain, in 2006, a magazine revealed only 745 of the 807,000 Marina’s produced were still on the road, making it the most scrapped car in Britain in the last 30 years. Looks like fun.

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    • Ric J

      Not to mention all those crushed by pianos as documented by Top Gear!

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  4. jim s

    sounds like your team had a lot of fun. the goal for the new car should be more track time and less wrench time at the track. when and where is your teams next race? thanks

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    • Jamie Palmer JamieAuthor

      We did, Jim! I have terrific teammates :-) Agreed with you on the goal; our affiliated teams all race 94-98 Mustangs and rarely break down. However, we have to stick with our quirky roots…so we are debating what to do next. I’ll be sure and keep you folks informed as to what. As far as the next race, this is it for this year, the next schedules for LeMons, ChumpCar, AER and WRL will all come out sometime in December and we’ll know then.

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      • jim s

        maybe use just the tr7/8 body shell and everything else from donor 94-98 mustangs. or use 100% of the mustang and bolt tr7/8 fenders/other body parts on to the mustang. next years racing season will be hear soon!

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      • Jamie Palmer JamieAuthor

        Actually, we’ve been moving in a rather unusual direction. If it comes to fruition, we’ll be in a…unique…vehicle. Very unique. I’ll share if it actually happens!

        Like 0

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