by Lt. Col. Andy Seward
The story of my Mini Marcos goes back to early 1967, when a rather successful young Swedish Mini Cooper race car driver named Bo Elmhorn decided he would try his luck at importing and selling Mini Marcos cars in Sweden. Mr. Elmhorn was in a very good position to import Marcos cars, as he was the Swedish BMC Competition Director / Consultant. Additionally, he had already formed a partnership with Mr Picko Troberg, an exceptionally quick driver who ruled Scandanavian race tracks in the late 1960s. Together they founded Elmhorn-Troberg Racing Services, located in the city of Stockholm.
Mr Elmhorn and Mr. Troberg‘s plan was to bring Mini Marcos cars into Sweden and sell them either in kit form or as fully built cars. Elmhorn-Troberg Racing Services would make a profit in selling, building and preparing these customer cars, but they needed a way to create additional public interest in the Mini Marcos. How could they accomplish this? The plan they hit upon was to race a Mini Marcos in Scandanavian events and use the resulting press coverage to advertise their cars and sales services. And that is just exactly what they did.
Mini Marcos chassis #7073 was built as a fully completed car at Marcos‘ Greenland Mills factory in Bradford-on-Avon. Although the Marcos factory no longer possesses the build date information for the Mini Marcos cars of that era, Mr. Elmhorn fortunately took two photographs of his trip to England to pick up this car, and these photos are dated March 1967. They show Mr. Elmhorn with his Austin Estate Wagon tow vehicle pulling my Mini Marcos on a single axle trailer. Both photos are a glimpse of days long since gone, as they were each snapped in front of a different Public House where Bo doubtless refreshed himself with a proper pint of English ale along his route.
Chassis #7073 was built as a cross between a showroom demonstrator and a full-up racing car. This dovetailed nicely with Mr. Elmhorn‘s intent to sell both racing and road-going Mini Marcos cars in the Scandanavian countries. In a Swedish magazine article in August 1967, a full-race BMC Group 2 motor making a reported 120 horsepower was installed in this car. If customers wished, a Group 5 motor with 150 horsepower was an available option! The photos from this article show the #7073 wearing the same unusual Minilite magnesium wheels as seen on the 1966 Le Mans Ballot-Lena Mini Marcos, with the oddly cut-out center section between every other spoke. As its registration paperwork was not yet finalized, red Swedish "export" plates with the temporary registration number A6616 are taped to the car. Other competition items clearly visible are the factory roll bar that was bonded into the roof, a front oil cooler in a cut-out section under the front license plate, a Barnacle mirror, and a twin-pipe rear exhaust. Naturally, a Les Leston steering wheel was added for good measure, as Elmhorn-Troberg Racing Services was the Les Leston equipment sales representative for Sweden.
However, this car was not a true lightweight. It also sported a Marcos factory carpet set, including door panels and covers for the spare tire well and kick panels. And it had a complete set of Triplex glass windows, which were incongruous in a race car but made perfect sense for a car designed as much to whet potential buyers‘ interest as well as compete on the race track.
During 1967 — 1969, now officially registered as AA6304, Bo and Picko competed with #7073 in the Group 4 Prototype category of the "SM for Sportbilar", or Swedish Championship for Sportscars. Excepting one race at the Roskildering in Denmark, Mr. Elmhorn believes this car‘s entire competition history occurred in Sweden. The Mini Marcos was mainly relegated to mid-pack placings during these events, finding stiff competition from highly prepared Lotus Sevens and Porsches. However, Bo recalls having a lot of fun on the track with AA6304 regardless, and the publicity gained from racing had its desired effect. By his reckoning, Elmhorn-Troberg Racing Services sold 18 Mini Marcos cars over the period of the next few years. Not many, but enough to make it worth his while.
In 1968, Elmhorn-Troberg Racing Services published their version of the Mini Marcos sales brochure. In it, AA6304 was used for all of the exterior photos. Another, 850cc-engined Mini Marcos was used for the interior and dashboard pictures. Additionally, AA6304 was the subject of a unique pen and ink sketch for the cover of Elmhorn-Troberg‘s company sales brochure, its registration number clearly visible in the artwork.
By 1969, Bo was ready to sell AA6304. The BMC Group 2 race motor was removed and the chassis sold with a "cooking" motor to a Swedish helicopter pilot named Sven Nillson. Mr Nillson undertook a remarkably thorough and thoughtful restoration of the car, designing and incorporating some unique features that remain to this day. Apparently dissatisfied with the Mini Marcos‘ original Cooper S instrumentation, Sven Nillson built a highly professional dashboard using period Jaeger instruments. This resulted in a much more complete set of gauges, including a speedometer, 8000RPM tachometer, oil temperature and pressure, water temperature and a fuel level indicator. He also designed a fresh air intake for the Mini Marcos. This system takes cool external air from an ex-helicopter scoop grafted onto the bonnet, and pulls it through a re-circulating fan into the cockpit. Mr. Nillson also fabricated an aluminum swirl tank under the bonnet that removes air from the coolant. All of his work was of a very high quality and rather ingenious.
After a few years, Mr. Nillson sold AA6304. In keeping with a new Swedish vehicle registry scheme which applied to all vehicles effective in 1972, chassis #7073 was given a new registration number of AYR394. Fortunately I have a period copy of the original Swedish Motor Vehicle Registry Office's document detailing the change of registry numbers. AYR394 next went through a succession of reasonably caring owners before Mr. Calle Berntsson purchased it in 1986. Mr. Berntsson rebuilt the motor and gearbox with a 1380cc Austin motor and a 4-synchro gearbox, intending to use it as a quick road car for club meetings and nice weekend drives. Calle owned this car until I bought it from him in January of this year. He stored it in a lock-up on the grounds of Goteborg‘s Swedish Army Field Artillery Post, where it snuggly shared room with Calle‘s wonderful 1959 Mini Mk1 and a friend‘s Triumph Spitfire Mk2 race car. However, when Calle‘s interests turned to early USA "hot rods", AYR394 was surplus to his requirements and he was ready to sell it. Fortunately for me, he then posted his Mini Marcos for sale on the Internet at www.mobile.de, and I saw his advertisement.
I made the first of two trips to Sweden in late 2002 to meet with Calle and see the Mini Marcos. After meeting Calle and following him to his lock-up, he opened the doors of his garage. I caught my first glimpse of #7073, covered in dustsheets in the dark corner. Then Calle turned on the lights and whisked the dustcovers off of the bodywork, I knew instantly that this was a real gem of a car, and that I wanted to buy her. A quick drive around the grounds of the Army post and I was fully convinced that this little car a real jewel.
Once home again, and after many emails and a tortuous international bank transaction that took weeks to complete, I paid Calle for the Mini Marcos. I borrowed a trailer from a local Porsche speedshop and drove the 15 hours from my home near Maastricht, Netherlands up through Germany, across Denmark and over to Sweden. There I met Calle and MMOC member Henrik Hansson. Together we loaded #7073 onto the trailer and, after saying our good-byes, I slowly brought my Mini Marcos back home.
Since then, I was re-posted to the United States. My Mini Marcos came with me, of course! It is one of very few in the USA, and creates quite a stir when it appears at car shows or meetings. He is currently in my garage, awaiting a custom Road/Rally unleaded cylinder head from Midlands Engineering Developments (MED) in the UK, as the old head was showing signs of wear and bent a pushrod because the valve-train geometry was not quite correct. He‘s become a part of our family, too. My 4-year old daughter immediately nicknamed #7073 "the Elmo car", after the Sesame Street children‘s TV show character. And this name stuck; "Elmo" is an apt choice. He is a little red monster, after all.
Last updated 3rd June, 2016