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Morgans Published: 24th Feb 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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Stuart found Malvern’s marvels very exciting but remembers well why he never gelled with them...

Most drivers, if they’re honest, will probably confess to a past mistake – a near miss or an occasion when a car was pushed a little too hard and they were lucky to get away with it. I remember all too clearly the occasion when I didn’t allow for a wet and slippery road when driving the AC Cobra and finished up facing the way I was supposed to be going, and had to turn the car round before I could continue. Fortunately, there hadn’t been anything coming the other way.

Another misadventure was when driving the first Morgan Plus 8 in September 1968, and I remember where it happened. I was descending the hill from the Whitestone pond at Hampstead in north-west London, and hit a bump, whereupon the back end of the car took off and moved sideways about a metre (though in those days we would probably have called it ‘a couple of feet’). There was no drama, the back end recovered without hitting the kerb, and it just served as a warning that although the Morgan had delightfully solid handling, it didn’t take kindly to rough roads.

In true sports car style, the Morgan had very stiff suspension and the live back axle on halfelliptic leaf springs didn’t allow much in the way of vertical travel. At the front, the near-vertical sliding pillar suspension also didn’t need much in the way of a road shock to take the pillar to its limit with a nasty thud, and this was in the days before 50 years of neglect of road surfaces. But there was never any doubt about the precise and really sporting nature of the Morgan’s handling.


On many occasions in the late 1950s I used to go off to cover a race meeting or some other event in my Triumph TR3A, and my friend – always known as Moggy Phillips – who also lived in Hampstead would follow in his dearly-loved Morgan Plus 4. We both carried a passenger, and several times it was commented that I had given the TR3A a touch of braking before a corner, and my friend in his Morgan had enjoyed flying round in pursuit without need for braking, and thus closing the gap between us; was it the car or his bravery? A bit of both I reckon.

The installation of the Rover V8 engine in 1968 gave the Morgan the big increase in power which it had always needed, and with its low overall weight (under 900kg), it made it at the time one of the fastest sports cars on the market. On standing start acceleration it rocketed away with shrieks of wheelspin and clouds of tyre smoke, reaching 80mph in 11.8 sec – the same time which many cars in those days took to reach 30mph. The time to 90mph was 14.5 sec, which was quicker than a Jaguar E-type. At the top end the poor aerodynamics of the body held the top speed down to 124mph, but it was still stable on the straight and easily controllable even at that high speed.

The Rover V8 engine solved the problem of lack of the Triumph TR4A 2.2-litre four-cylinder engine as Triumph production switched to the six-cylinder unit, and of the other power units available, the Rover solution was deemed the best answer. Later, Fiat twin cam 2-litre and Ford 1600 engines became available, but all the time the basic styling of the Morgan remained unchanged and this perhaps has accounted for the continuing strong demand for the make.

Ten years later, in 1978, when we took another look at the Plus 8, the order book was back over that July 1978 test of the Morgan Plus 8 and reading again what we wrote about the ride shows that such comment was not always true. “Hit a bump, even quite a small bump, and the rear axle hops out readily, sometimes setting the back axle sliding . . . hit a heavier bump at speed, and there is a crash from behind as the axle hits something, you bounce up in the seat – if the hood is up your head hits a hood stick - and the car bucks itself briefly askew.”

All this reminds me why I never took kindly to Morgans. It was the awful ride and the awkward driving position sitting too close to the steering wheel that set me against them most. But I can fully understand their attraction as a vintage car with a modern twist and they certainly have character. I must be in the minority.


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