Sid Marler 1924-2020: Remembering a British motorsport stalwart

Sid Marler, who died recently aged 95, was one of British motorsport's greatest stalwarts, having started competing with the 750 Motor Club in 1950 at the birth of formal club racing

Sid Marler 1924-2020: Remembering a British motorsport stalwart

The gracious and debonair Hertfordshire man often spoke of how lucky he had been in life, and drove quickly and competently until shortly before his passing.

Demobbed from the Royal Navy in 1946, having served as a telegraphist, Marler's interest in motor vehicles quickly developed.

His first job was as a window dresser for Selfridges but he resigned and, with another young entrepreneur, Jim Haley, founded a signwriting company which they ran from a basement in London's Soho. Thus Marler Haley Displays was seeded.

The lifelong friends grew their business into an industry leader that sustained Marler's long amateur racing career.

Marler had started racing Austin Sevens with fellow enthusiast Doug Bukin (below), mixing in 750MC North London area circles with the likes of Lotus Cars founder Colin Chapman, who developed his own ingenious 100mph Seven.

Marler's 'Chummy', onto which he had grafted a Bugatti tail acquired for 10 shillings (50p), was always well presented and driven.

In the early 1960s, as kart racing began to blossom, he raced with Dave Kelsey, the pair having designed and built the first independently sprung spaceframe chassis.

An offer of a drive in the Baring brothers' new Lotus Eleven at Brands Hatch in '62 was not so successful, however - he totalled the car and was hospitalised with a broken pelvis.

Undeterred, and with business booming at Marler Haley Exposystems, Sid moved into the fledgling Clubmans Formula, which began under British Racing and Sports Car Club boss Nick Syrett's stewardship in '65.

His first 1000cc Ellova was evolved from an Elva 100 Formula Junior chassis, widened to meet the regulations.

Ellova Mk2 utilised the suspension from a Cooper single-seater on a self-made frame because the original was rotten.

Its successor was the first of a series of Gryphons - built by Andy Diamond and Ted Jarvis - the last of which was the ex-Noel Stanbury Zerostat C75, succeeded by the eponymous Diamonds.

While competing in Clubmans, he raced with the most colourful bunch of characters including the Mallock brothers, Stanbury and his marketing business partner Barry Foley, the long-serving Autosport cartoonist, Peter 'De General' Evans, Creighton Brown (later of McLaren International), future motor mogul Frank Sytner and Hustler builder Richard Groombridge (father of current 750MC competition boss Giles, who he employed).

Stanbury vividly recalls Marler's claim to fame at Silverstone in September '74 (below).

"Sid was extricated from his car on the grid by fellow drivers and given the 'bumps' for his 50th birthday," to the horror of officials.

At the final bump the perpetrators dashed to their cars and the race started as if nothing had happened.

Marler loved sportscars and focused on racing a Chevron B8 with the Historic Sports Car Club, competing alongside son Andrew, another very capable driver.

A 'basket case' B19 followed, but the project stalled and was sold.

Unbeknown to him, Andrew bought it back, had it built, wrapped it in a large ribbon and presented it back to his astonished dad for his 60th birthday.

Marler was also blown away with the offer of a few laps in a McLaren M8 on a test day.

With the business sold, Marler retired from racing in his 70s, thinking he'd had enough.

A year later though a rush of blood to the head led to him buying a red Lotus Elan in which he started again, competing in Britain and Europe.

In 1998, at the age of 74, he won the HSCC's Classic Sportscar championship outright.

He exercised the Elan vigorously until 2008 when he finally hung up his helmet.

In that final year, the HSCC honoured him with race number 84, his age.

A true gentleman of the old school, Marler's loss is keenly felt across the 750MC, Clubmans and historic communities, as well as the business world in which his company was so influential.

Autosport extends sincere condolences to Jo, his devoted wife of 70 years, sons Andrew and Martyn, and wider family.

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