When it seemed like 2020 was a sabbatical year for Jim Marsden as he didn't have a racing car, fate reserved an unexpected opportunity for him. His old race car was for sale and he didn't miss the opportunity to bring it home. Like a "bad penny" that you always find in your hands even when you don't expect it, Jim Marsden has renewed its "new old" Defender to participate, dominate and win the BF Goodrich King of Britain.
Photography and story by Paolo Baraldi
When I go to follow a race, one of the first things I do is walk around the paddock in search of new vehicles and interesting stories. Obviously, I also followed this habit of mine at BF Goodrich King of Britain and I must say that a large part of my curiosity was directed to the Gigglepin Racing team. I knew that last March Jim Marsden had sold Little Lady, his race car, and I was curious to find out which vehicle he would take part in the race.
I knew from some of his Facebook posts that he would be on the starting grid but there was an air of mystery and secrecy around his car.
An unexpected surprise at Gigglepin Racing's pit
And here I am at the Gigglepin’s pit where, after the customary greetings, Jim Marsden reveals a preview of the vehicle with which he will race at King of Britain. "Here's Paolo, this is Bad Penny ... do you recognize it?" And how not to recognize it? Of course I remember that car!
This is Jim's "old" race car, based on Defender, which accompanied him in 2014 and 2015 on many adventures and which allowed him to win numerous races such as the Croatia Trophy, the Rallye Breslau Poland, the Ironman Warriors Challenge and second place in the 2014 Ultra4 Europe championship.
Why Jim Marsden's "new old" car is called Bad Penny?
The name Bad Penny that Jim Marsden gave to his race car comes from an English saying "a bad penny always turns up" which refers to a person or thing (sometimes unwanted, unpleasant or dishonorable) that tends always appearing or reappearing, especially in inopportune moments.
This saying has very distant origins in time. One hypothesis dates back to the Middle Ages to indicate a ruined coin that you always found in your hands. Then, in the fourteenth century William Langland uses this phrase in a sentence of his prose poem Piers Plowman. The expression continued to be used and, in the 18th century, the proverb as it is known today began to be used more and more both orally and in written texts. Another hypothesis of the origin of this saying is more recent and traces this expression to a penny that had a folded edge and was useless and obviously unwanted, as it would not have gone into the coin slot of a public toilet stall.
In 2015, Jim Marsden, about to be built by Offroad Armory Little Lady, had sold the car to a team from Denmark. In March of this year Jim Marsden sold Little Lady in New Zealand and having no plans for the future yet, it seemed that 2020 would be a sabbatical year for him.
Unexpectedly, at the end of February, the Danish team put Jim Marsden's old car up for sale. He did not miss the opportunity to buy it back, upsetting his plans for a new vehicle. Soon after, work began to put it back in perfect condition and ready in record time for the Ultra4 Europe race in Wales.
For the record, Jim Marsden on his Bad Penny debut at BF Goodrich King of Britain dominated and won the race.
How Bad Penny came back home. Jim Marsden's Tale
“It’s February when I get the call the from Denmark that this car is back on the market! At first I’m not that interested, but as I look at the pictures I can’t help myself and I strike a deal.
What happens next is crazy and I find myself charging across Europe on March 12th with borders closing down all over Europe. I stop in Holland to rest and catch up with my friend Simon and while having dinner, get a call from Denmark. ‘Jim you have to come tonight, tomorrow they close the Danish border at 12pm’ ‘Thank you for the meal Simon, but I have to go’ but to my surprise he says ‘No problem, I’ll come with you’. So with a veritable feast supplied by his wife and daughters we are on the road and heading for Denmark at 9pm. We arrive at the Danish border to find the army are in control and they are not keen to let us pass. But after some smiles and waves we are through and finally arrive at our destination at 3.30am. A few beers later and we get our heads down for a couple hours. Next morning we load up and head south crossing the now closed border into Germany and then Holland. But by this time France and Belgium have locked down and the supermarkets are rationing essentials and the roads are deserted. It’s surreal!”
“That night I rest at Simons and enjoy a fantastic meal with his family. Next morning (with a sore head) I hit the road (not before changing the manifold gasket on the D2). The fuel stations look like they have been stripped by locusts, but it’s ok, once again I have a superb supply of food provided by Simon’s lovely wife. I arrive at the channel tunnel and I can’t believe it, the terminal is shut and I am the only car in the car park. I proceed to the train and again I’m surprised to find I am the only vehicle on the train it’s like a movie, it’s proper weird! On arriving back in the UK it’s still anything but normal, but I do have my baby back. The original plan was to ‘Just fit an engine’ but that soon escalated to a full rebuild as the bits started coming off.”
Bad Penny tech secrets
Brought back to Kent, where the Gigglepin 4x4 is based, Jim Marsden and his team have rolled up their sleeves to bring this companion of many adventures back to life. In 2014, the starting point for this vehicle was a Defender 90. The exterior still resembles the Land Rover icon even though many changes and technical innovations have been made.
Characteristic of Ultra4 Unlimited vehicles is that of a tubular chassis. The Bad Penny chassis, a rare case in this type of vehicle, was instead built to a design by Jim Marsden by Richards Chassis, a British company specializing in the production of special chassis for Defender. We are therefore faced with a galvanized steel chassis which, albeit with different technical characteristics (wheelbase, engine mounts, suspension attachments and trail back) follows the design of the standard Defender one.
The engine is a General Motors LS3 6.2 liter with 525 horsepower. The sequential 6-speed gearbox is a R380 from Quaife Engineering which is combined with a Rover LT230 transfer case. The axles are Spidertrax Pro Series with ARB differential locks. The suspensions with geometries derived from the original ones of the Defender but made ad hoc see the use of Coilover, with Eibach springs, and Triple Bypass from Fox. The wheels with Beadlock are Raceline with Maxxis Trepador 40/13.5x17 mounted. The hydraulic steering is by D&G Tuning with Howe TT pump.
The interior, very spartan but practical for competitive use, features Corbeau Sprint Kevlar seats and the aluminum dashboard, made by Allisport to a design by Jim Marsden, housing 2 Terratrip 303 Plus V6 and a Dell Latitude tablet PC.
The front and rear winches could only be a Gigglepin Winchs GP100.
The camouflage made with many stylized images of various colors of the vehicle is particular and very beautiful.
Engine: GM LS3 6.2 (525BHP)
Axles: Spidertrax Pro-Series housings fitted with 35 spline shafts. Gear Works 10” differentials fitted with ARB RD99CE locking differential centres, Yukon Super joints on shafts
Gearbox: Quaife Engineering six-speed R380 Sequential
Transfer box: Rover LT230
Chassis: Richards Chassis race frame designed by Jim Marsden
Roll cage: Protection & Performance T45 Race frame
Suspension: Fox Coilovers and Triple Bypass shocks tuned by Paul Jones at Prolinx Suspension and fitted with Eibach springs
Cooling: AlliSport radiator and Gigglepin built PAS cooler
Batteries: A pair of ODYSSEY Batteries PC1500
Tyres: Maxxis Trepador 40/13.5x17 (in either sticky or standard compound)
Wheels: Raceline Monster beadlock Wheels
Brakes: D&G Callipers, Spidertrax discs using EBC brake pads and high performance fluid.
Tireballs: The Tire Ball Company (Only used on winch challenges)
Seats: Corbeau Sprint Kevlar race seats
Harnesses: custom built by LUKE and designed by Jim Marsden
Steering: D&G Tuning steering ram and Howe TT pump
Lighting: Lazer High Performance Lighting Triple R’s, Lazer ST4, Lazer RS4 and Lazer RS2
Winches: Gigglepin Winches GP100 front and rear
Fuel cell: ATL 120 litre
Fuel: Bosch 044 fuel pump with Torques braided hoses and aero fittings
Oils and lubricants: Morris oils
Propshafts: Bailey Morris Extreme series
Air: ARB High output compressor
Suspension and steering joints: FK rod ends
Air intake: Air filter housing built by Allisport designed by Jim Marsden. Turbo 3 air intake on snorkel.
Dashboard: custom aluminium unit built by Allisport designed by Jim Marsden
Rally computers: 2x Terratrip 303 Plus V6 and a Dell Latitude tablet PC
Electronics: Aim digital dash, Aim 12v PDM, Hardwire 24V PDM, Gigglepin High output voltage regulator, Gigglepin 24/12v dropbox, Gigglepin 150amp alternator
Other trick bits include 24v electrics, which spins the winches quicker than 12v (but is stepped down to 12v for the ECU), ‘fiddle brakes’, a six-pint Accusump (to improve engine lubrication under extreme conditions)… and loads more besides.
Old and new Bad Penny achievements
1st: Rainforest Portugal
1st: Driven to the Edge
2nd: Ultra 4 European championship
1st: Ironman Warriors French Xtrem
1st: Croatia Trophy
1st: Breslau Rallye
2nd: Graf Adventure Trophy
Plus the following accolades in 2015
1st: Odyssey Power Arena (Welsh Xtrem)
1st: Klaus Leihener Memorial Trophy (Breslau Rallye)
1st: KPK Memorial Trophy (Breslau Rallye)
1st: Gigglepin Winch Prologue Trophy (King of Wales)
1st: Wilderness Lighting Night Stage Trophy (King of Wales)
1st: King Shocks Power Lap Trophy (king of Wales)
1°: BF Goodrich King of Britain