A couple of weeks ago we were contacted by the Daily Telegraph, who were interested in doing a feature/driving test on Mario as one of the ‘working’ cars at the Goodwood Revival for their preview feature in the Saturday motoring pages. Mario being the ‘shy, retiring car’ that he is jumped at the chance of showing off and so we turned up at Goodwood Motor Circuit on a bright sunny Tuesday to do the shoot.
Andrew English the journalist was charming and recognised Mario’s innovative design and completely understood that lots of visitors to the Revival like the small ‘unsung’ cars as much if not more than some of the expensive race machinery, the fact that Mario blogs and FaceBooks to his fans clinched the deal!
The Motor Circuit was chaos as the Revival build was well underway and there was a track day going on as well, Andrew’s initial plan of Mario being able to finally get on the track after years of being a taxi was unfortunately a no go but the photographer took some pics outside the Earls Court Building.
As always Mario loved being the centre of attention and the beautiful DB5 that Andrew arrived in was relegated to second place. As this was to be a ‘driving test’ we set off in Mario and drove up to the horse racing course where Andrew took to the wheel and drove back and forth getting the feel and experiencing the complete Mario package, while the photographer sat in the back snapping away. We then dropped the photographer at the Trundle and he was going to take shots of us driving past. We pulled into the Petworth Road to turn round and then disaster struck. There was a horrible noise as we tried to pull away. Total embarrassment Mario had broken down, with a journalist on board!
Since we restored Mario twelve years ago we had incurred very few problems and had never been unable to get home under our own steam. Typically James – human, mechanic and magic fixer – was that day delivering a car to Chester and so he was not amused when we called him just as he was negotiating Spaghetti Junction! A bit of phone diagnosis later and we concluded that the drive shaft had failed.
There was nothing else to do but call the RAC. After a slightly interesting phone call – Mario doesn’t quite tick the RAC’s computers boxes, we were told somebody would be along to take a look in a hour. Anyway ten minutes later a knight on a white charger – well, Tony the fantastic RAC man in his orange van arrived. After a quick inspection to confirm our diagnosis, he opened his ‘Magic’ van, which with a few whirls and growls transformed into a tow vehicle. Tony very carefully eased Mario backwards (no drive) onto the wheel cradles, he just sneaked on, they don’t normally deal with such small vehicles. Securely strapped on and with the steering wheel tied down straight, Tony really carefully drove us home. I have to say I was very impressed with the care and attention he took to ensure that we got back safely. Andrew was very nice about the disruption to the day – well he was driving and so technically I suppose we could say he’d broken it! The photographer thought he had enough images so it looked like the article would go ahead, Mario was reassured that his downfall wouldn’t appear in print so everybody went home fairly happy.
James has since been able to inspect the damage and disassemble the drive shaft, while the shaft itself still had some appearance of splines the coupling it fits into was rather ‘bald’. Fifty years of wear had just worn them away and it could have failed at anytime so better that it did a month before the Revival, imagine the embarrassment of breakdown with a VIP onboard. A trip to see Franco at Ricambio in Wallington produced all the parts to do a complete overhaul of both sides which James will hopefully complete this weekend so Mario will soon be back in fine health. It takes a lot get Mario’s ‘humans’ out of bed early at the weekend but an early morning dash to the newsagents was required this morning to purchase the Telegraph and there in all its glory in the Revival preview supplement was a double page spread on Mario. Andrew has written a lovely, amusing piece, explaining the cars virtues and as promised with no mention of his disgrace, so Mario can have his pride back and bask in the glory of being ‘famous’ again.