Break Down Story Number 16

Break Down story number 16

The Leyland Marina

Now, this is not really a break down story as in the seven years of owning the Marina it never failed to get me home, it did play up and give trouble, but it always got me home.

My first car was a hand me down from my sister, a Mini 850 but about six months into my P plates I had a Cooper S. Soon after that I joined Coffs Harbour and District Sporting Car Club and competed in my first event, a motorkhana, I was hooked. I then purchased a second Cooper S rally car for motorsport, but after one rally, which ended like a lot of my rally’s, “stuck in a creek, in the middle of no were, in the middle of the night, in the middle of winter”. Well, I just couldn’t get my head around a front wheel drive car on a loose surface so I started looking for a rear wheel drive car to go rallying in.

Now this was motorsport on a budget so I checked out the local wreckers, there was a MK I Triumph 2000 or a Ford Escort, but the local car yard had a cheap two door Marina, registered and going, so that was my choice.

The Marina has a reputation for being an awful car. Any book with a title like, ‘The worse cars ever made’ or ‘The greatest lemons ever sold’ will feature the Marina as a contender for the worse car ever made, or just watch Top Gear and that reputation will be reinforced.
I should add that a number of Triumphs (TR7, Stag) feature in those sort of books. But considering the treatment I dished out to my Marina I think that the reputation is not entirely deserved.

In the seventies and eighties I was (and still am) a long haired hippy living an alternate life style out in the bush so the Marina lived a very hard life. Besides it’s motorsport activities, I lived on a dirt road with the last km being a private road, well to say road is perhaps overstating it a bit, it was a log track with three water crossing (when it rained) and very rough. I built my house with the Marina, for a very long period the box trailer was a permanent part of the car, loaded to the gunnels with sand, bricks, timber etc. During a long dry spell again the box trailer was permanently connected to the Marina as I needed to drive to my parents place each day to fill a 44 gallon drum with water.

During the seven years of owning the Marina it had many mechanical problems, collapsed front wheel bearing, collapsed rear wheel bearing, curtesy of all the mud and dust. Metal fatigue cracks all over the place and many front shock absorber problems but, like I said it always got me home, it had spirit and determination.

During a period of unemployment when money was just about non-existent, the Marina blew a head gasket. It blew between number two and three cylinders, but it keep going and I keep driving it, but after a week or so the battery and the starter motor called it a day, so to get it going I would spray quick start down the carbies and push. Now Grafton does not have any hills to speak off but one side street did have a slight downhill gradient, so I would park there and usually with the help of passer by’s, push start the Marina. This went on for about six weeks until I fixed it. But it got me home.

I was driving home one day and as I changed gear the gear stick became very vague, moving all over the place and there was some awful noises coming from the gearbox or engine, but it was still going so I drove the twenty km’s home. With the gear stick moving all over the place I decided it was a gear box problem so I pulled the gear box out, but found nothing wrong. In the process of crawling back under the Marina to have another look I grabbed hold of the fly wheel to pull myself under the car only to find the fly wheel moved, so the motor came out and the sump off to find the crank shaft was broken. But it got me home.

While competing in the Grafton Rally one year the alternator bracket broke which meant the alternator was bouncing all over the place, it was still working good enough for head lights but not driving lights so we continued. The head gasket blew next but the engine was still running on about 2 ½ cylinders, so we continued on to the finish, all be it a bit late, around 1.00 or 2.00 in the morning. But it got me home.

On the one and only time I drove to Sydney during the Marina years it would not start one day. I was in the Eastern suburbs, so we push started it thinking that the battery was gone as the alternator light was not on. Driving over the Harbour Bridge the music from the cassette player started to get very slow, so I turned it off. Somewhere around Mosman I pushed the clutch in and the engine just stopped, there was not even enough power to light up the ignition lights. As I lived without power the Marina had two batteries in it, one to power the car the other to power the house, neither battery could draw on the other, so all I had to do was change the battery terminals from the cars battery to the house battery and the Marina was a goer again. Enough to get me to where I was staying.

All in all when I look back at the treatment dished out to the Marina both in motorsport and in everyday use I don’t think they deserve their reputation. Sure they were not the best engineered cars around but a lot of cars from that time were pretty ordinary. For old time’s sake I would love to get an old two Marina to restore but they are now very thin on the ground so I don’t think it will happen.

So ends another break down story, stay tuned, same triumph time, same triumph channel for the next exciting triumph break down story, hang on, there are no more stories.

Jim Pope