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Morgan Fours

Morgan Fours Published: 1st Apr 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Fast Facts

  • Best model: Zetec 4/4 (rack and pinion)
  • Worst model: Anything neglected
  • Budget buy: 4/4s
  • OK for unleaded?: Depends on engine
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): L 3660 x W 1420 (1976 4/4 1600)
  • Spares situation: Generally excellent
  • DIY ease?: Not as good as you’d think
  • Club support: Superb
  • Appreciating asset?: Model dependent
  • Good buy or good-bye?: Proof that you don’t need a Plus 8 to have some fun
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Unfairly overlooked Morgan that packs all the thrills and fun of the Plus 8 but in a less expensive owning package. Wide selection but you need an expert to help you buy the right one for your needs

Mention Morgans and thoughts instantly home in to the Plus 8 and while the V8s great, bear in mind that the ‘Fours’ are no bores. True they lack the gushing grunt that only eight cylinders can provide, but the 4/4 (and Plus 4) has the benefit of being the drivers’ choice.

That’s not simply our view, but several Morgan specialists also share the same opinion remarking the lighter engines fitted makes the Morgan’s vintage handling more spritely rather than a motorised wrestling match. Also, with those lack of four cylinders comes cheaper prices and running costs. So, before you go for that legendary Malvern marvel, why not at least try one for size?


Still going strong at over 80, as you can appreciate, charting in detail changes to the 4/4 and Plus 4 over the decades could fill this entire magazine up! So, we’re just highlighting the most salient alterations.

1936 Launched as the 4/4, Coventry Climax powered.

1938 Four-Seater and coupé added.

1950 Plus 4 is introduced using a 2.1-litre Triumph TR engine with the traditional curved grille look.

1955 4/4 SII is Ford 100E 1172cc sidevalve powered yielding 36bhp.

1960 Plus 4 SS surfaces with a specially tuned engine.

1961 Introduction of the 1340cc overhead valve Ford Classic ‘Kent’ engine (and four-speed gearbox) sees power up to 62bhp with lower body and 13inch wheels.

1962 Plus 4 gains Triumph TR4 power.

1963 Cortina 1500 (five bearing block) replaces the weaker

1340 unit and benefi ts from 65bhp.

1966 Competition Plus 4 introduced sporting electable damping, Derrington sports exhaust and steering wheel.

1968 Plus 4 dropped, replaced by (Rover V8 powered) Plus 8. 1600cc ,74bhp ‘Cross-flow; Cortina engine became standard issue in the 4/4; over 3500 produced.

1971 Cortina 1600GT engine (88bhp) is now fi tted.

1981 Fiat 1.6 Twin Cam power option liberating 98bhp and fi e-speed gearbox (only 96 built).

1982 Ford Escort XR3- powered model (1652 made) makes an entrance.

1985 Plus 4 makes a return with a 2-litre Fiat twin cam engine. A new Lowline option means slightly wider wings and six-inch Cobra wheels.

1987 Rover 2-litre M16 engine option replaces Fiat unit punching out 138bhp.

1991 Fuel injection replaces carb for XR3 engine, boosting power output from 100bhp to 114bhp.

1992 Plus 4 receives later Rover T16 power unit while 1.8 121bhp Ford Zetec engine is phased in.

1997 Major revamp; longer doors, improved interiors and so on Plus 4 dropped (again) but returns three years later…

1999 Rack and pinion steering is fitted at long last.

2003 4/4 range replaced by short-lived Runabout-badged model only to make a return by 2007 in 1.6 and 1.8 Ford Duratec forms.

Four-Four is the World’s longest running production car and the name simply stands for ‘Four-cylinder, Four-wheeled’, signifying Morgan’s movement away from bike-powered three-wheeler models of over 80 years ago. To date, some 20,000 4/4s and Plus 4s have been produced, the biggest sellers being the Ford powered models.

The slightly larger Plus 4 was based upon this basic design (as was the Plus 8) and both ranges were available in two and four-seater configurations.

Driving and press comments

Will you miss those extra cylinders? Unless you’ve driven a Plus 8 we wonder because, apart from lust of that V8, all Morgans have similar characters although the Plus 8s are better for touring. With so many engines in the car’s long production run, space doesn’t permit a detailed report but, in general, performance only starts to become sporty with the Ford Cortina 1600GT engine and the later CVH XR3 unit. The sparky twin cam Fiat units are much favoured by those in the know, liked for its Latin character and brio but the real surprise has to be the Rover twin cam 2-litre 16-valve engines which aren’t far short of usual V8 pace but considerably more economical.

Newer 4/4s employ Ford’s latest Zetec and Duratec engines, now underpinned by well protected steel chassis. Ford’s GDI 2-litre engine delivering 154bhp, almost as much power as the fi rst Plus 8 and enough to propel a car weighing just 927kg along the road very nicely indeed. The gearbox is now a Mazda MX-5-spec five-speed, which blends well with the Ford engine giving reassuring gearchanges without any sign of notchiness. In contrast, the classic versions are burdened with notably heavier clutch and change actions – it’s all part of the character.

Basically, the newer the car the less agricultural it will feel but the Morgan remains pure 30s in so many ways and that includes the suspension which, with its odd sliding pillar front set up and simple leaf strings at the stern, is as primitive as they come meaning, as with all Morgans, you have to be up for the rodeo ride. Although hard riding, and short of sophistication, on the right kind of roads, it makes exhilarating fun and the ‘fours’ are better balanced than the Plus 8 To the layman, all Morgans are one of the same and no more so when it comes to the company’s four-cylinder ranges, the 4/4 and the Plus 4.

However, this is not so. Four-Four is the World’s longest running production car and the name simply stands for ‘Four-cylinder, Four-wheeled’. The slightly larger Plus 4 was based upon this basic design (as was the Plus 8) and both ranges were available in two and four-seater configurations.

What’s the difference? Chiefly, it’s the engines fitted to both ranges although a few power units have overlapped over the years. Experts, such as Allon White, add that their characteristics are different with the Plus 4 being more the tourer of the pair and that the far more popular 4/4 remains the mainstream choice – if you can say that about a Morgan.

The frisky Fiat 1584cc twin-cam engine became available, alongside Ford’s Kent unit in 1981 and many say this unit suited the car a treat although just 96 were made before the model’s demise two years later, displaced by Escort XR3 power. Another favourite was the M and T-Series engines taken from the Rover range.

Ford Zetec zeal took over for the 1990s and they are all really excellent yet frugal performers and as the newer car sports power brakes and steering they feel more modern yet retain that essential Morgan character. As a rule the Plus 4s are rarer and they are better suited for sporty touring say the Morgan dealers.

From a ‘fi lling the pages point of view’, once the Plus 8 took centre stage, the ‘Fours’ rarely got a look in. Motor, in 1956 testing the 4/4 with its new 1172cc Ford 100E engine, commented favourably about “a very comfortable ride and good roadholding” while the clutch “is one after an enthusiast’s heart” whatever that implies!

Little was mentioned about the performance on tap (no wonder, 0-60 26.9 seconds, 75.3mph top speed were the statistics) from the standard tune engine but at £713 the point wasn’t lost on the 4/4 being the cheapest two-seater sports car currently on sale. In contrast, a TR-powered Plus 4 shot to 60 in under 10 seconds two years later when tested by the weekly.

Fast forward four years and the benefi ts of the new high revving 1340cc Ford Anglia/Classic ‘Kent’ engine was immediately apparent, slicing the 4/4’s 0-60 time to under 19 seconds in the Series IV model which was altogether much lower in appearance.

The handling still gained high praise “A driver of only very ordinary ability can throw the car into corners… in a way which feels and probably looks extremely professional”. Summing it up Motor said that the 4/4 was “a traditional type of sports car of which this is almost the only surviving representative” although admitted that you needed to be a hardy sort of enthusiast, which was becoming a dying breed.

Later Ford and Fiat powered 4/4s were all well received even if some of the deficiencies of the ageing design couldn’t be so lightly dismissed anymore. In 1988 Car tried the new Rover M16 in the Plus 4 and, in the decade of civilised hot hatches, fully enjoyed the unique experience and hit the nail on the head on what this automotive antique was all about. “Here’s the rub of the debate. It doesn’t matter a twopenny cuss how fast a Morgan will go, how long it takes to get from 0 to 60mph… either you enjoy driving a low long-bonneted, old fashioned, sporting open two-seater or you do not”.

Twenty years later and those words still resonated with The Telegraph, when testing the latest Focus-powered 4/4 Sport where the biggest change was the long awaited adoption of rack and pinion steering which it rightly regarded as “A revelation”.

“If you are a lover of pure speed then this car is not for you. Buy an airline ticket instead and travel at 550mph at 37,000ft while watching a movie. If you have enough savvy to appreciate that it is perceived and relative speed rather than outright velocity that provide the basis of motoring’s appeal, then it’s hard not to love the 4/4” was the fitting verdict.

Values and market place

These are the cheapest Morgans to buy although the older the car, the more it will be worth. You’re looking at around £15,000 for a decent car that doesn’t require too much work to tidy up.

Like-for-like a Plus 4 (1985-2000) with either Fiat twin cam or Escort XR3 power will be dearer with the original TR-powered Plus 4s worth ten grand extra due to their rarity – not far short of Plus 8 values, in fact, with top ones easily exceeding £30,000 – and a whole lot more for fl at and semicowelled front end models.

With a budget of £25K, top Morgan specialists recommend spending it on a good mid 1990’s 4/4 rather than a poorer Plus 4.

So what’s the best buy? There’s no definite answer reckons Allon White and advises that it’s better to concentrate on “the whole package” on offer rather than a specific car. Having said that, Plus 4 rarity – partly due to Morgan discontinuing that model on a couple of occasions – means that they generally hold higher values.

Melvyn Rutter says that for many, all they want is the Morgan experience and so advises on a Zetec-Powered 4/4 with rack and pinion steering for an easier time.

As the car is so specialist and not all Moggies are cosseted by their owners, it’s vital that you buy from a dealer or known independent for peace of mind and a good warranty. Or, if you have the money, you can still buy this classic brand new – complete with niceties such as heated front screen – although the days of long waiting lists are now history. Worst still, yes, you will suffer from a degree of depreciation but their endearing popularity means that you’re sure to find a buyer.

Expert on engines?

As there’s so many we can only generalise here but head gaskets are a common fault on several engines. The Ford sidevalve was prone to it as are the Fiat and Rover engines along with Ford’s Zetec unit, the later further suffering from sticking valves but this was overcome promptly.

The XR3 unit was known to suffer from slugging (so it’s best to change the oil regularly) which could affect the hydraulic tappets and look for worn carburettors and fuming, suggesting worn valve guides.

The camshaft drive belts fi tted on any of the modern Ford, Fiat and Rover overhead camshaft engines needs periodic replacement before they expensively snap: verify its state of play.

The 100E sidevalve doesn’t usually last much more than 50,000 miles before needing some level of rebuild. That’s a kitchen table job but as it uses whitemetal bearings, is pretty costly to overhaul if they need attention. Other ailments include broken piston rings.

The Ford Kent engine is long serving and apart from general wear and a tappets sound signifying worn camshaft poses few nasty surprises. Listen for undue smoking and crankcase fuming.

The 1340cc engine has an infamously weak, rumbling crankshaft and so don’t be overly surprised to fi nd the reviver faster and far stronger fi ve-bearing 1500 now nestling in its place.

Plus 4s used the engines from Triumph, Fiat and Rover; the first is the easiest to fix thanks to its simplicity (the ‘wet’ liner construction means rebores are a cinch) and good parts supply from the likes of Rimmers etc.

By and large, the only problem you’ll have in this department with the Ford units is the old 100E sidevalver, otherwise look to Burton Power among others for both standard and tuning parts.


How you modify your 4/4 hinges on what you want from your Morgan; most owners are quite content with the veteran as it is other than perhaps improving the suspension (and seats) for a better ride.

A fat Eight grand buys Librand’s high tec suspension kit which is more for track work so you’re stuck with the old tried and tested design which work ok if it is set up properly.

Morgans inherently ride high but you can lower it using different springs and dampers. Mulberry Fabrications sells AVO dampers with its own tailored damping, for example, and telescopic conversion kits are inexpensive at around £200.

If the non rack and pinion steering (as most are) is too arduous, Peter Mulberry’s £160 steering bearing conversion is a cost effective answer; Melvyn Rutter markets new columns at around £400 plus a remote suspension greasing point at around £40 – or you can fit electric PAS. Brakes need EBC or Mintex pads as the first mod before looking at better discs and callipers.

With such a wide range of engines it is best to speak to a specialist fi rst but there’s plenty of tuning gear for the majority of engines with the Triumph and Fords engines best served.

Rustic and rusty?

Morgans are handmade and the factory has the build records going right back to the start. So when it comes to factory support, few car makers can compete with the Malvern outfit. As a result, whether you take the classic route or the modern, you won’t find spares or maintenance an issue. There’s an army of specialists out there plus a great club that’ll help you keep your car ticking over.

On that note, there isn’t much you can’t do on the 4/4 yourself, as it’s just like a mega Meccano set. However, while maintenance is simplicity itself, when it comes to restoration you need a wide range of skills to revive one of these cars properly as they are hand made. In other words, don’t think you’ll be able to buy a project and revive it cost effectively, as you’re likely to have to resort to professional help.

Morgans are made up of an ash frame, over which are stretched metal panels; sometimes aluminium and sometimes steel. All this sits on a stout steel chassis, which rots just like the ash frame and steel panels but repair sections are available from specials such as main dealer Melvyn Rutter. For example, a rear wheel arch (plywood) costs under £70, a five piece door set under £200 and a scuttle arch a little over £150.

A complete built up new ash frame with aluminium panels from Rutter costs under £5500.

Cars built after 1986 are safest bets; wood is treated and the wings were painted before being fitted, rather than after. A pre-1986 car could rot within eight years or still be pristine at 20, depending on how it has been stored. Until 1986 the chassis was just painted – galvanising was optional after this date and standard from 1997.

Start by checking for play in the door hinge post of all things. Make sure the play is in the post and not just the hinge pins; the latter are easily replaced but the former is a serious structural fault that’s expensive to put right – £1000 per side. Most common rot spots are the crossmembers, especially the one at the back. If these need replacing it’s major and pricey because the rear of the car has to be dismantled.

At the front of the chassis is the cross frame, which carries the suspension. A hefty whack from the front will distort this, so make sure the car pulls up straight and get underneath to look for signs of an impact.

New crossframes cost around £600 but if the chassis has distorted then a new one costs £700 – and 500 or more hours’ worth of labour to rebuild the car around it. The key area to check is forward of the toe board, which is where the most distortion is likely to be after a big shunt.

All is not lost as new chassis and ash frames are available from the factory and so long as you can lift the body is a DIY project, although it’s involved and time consuming. You’re looking around £1300- £1600 depending on model and where you shop.

A turn for the worst with the morgan’s steering?

Turn the steering wheel and see how quickly the road wheels respond. The chances are there will be a fair bit of play in the system. All 4/4s were fitted with a cam-and-peg steering box, with a Burman-made system being used until 1985. These earlier boxes weren’t especially well made, with plenty of slack a standard feature but it shouldn’t be unduly so.

Later cars have a Gemmer steering box, which can be fi tted as a direct replacement for the earlier type. This is lighter in use and also has better self-centring and lasts longer as well.

Play in the steering column could also be down to wear in the upper or lower plastic bush. Re-bushing has to be done by a specialist as the parts aren’t available on a DIY basis. Your best bet is to get a replacement column from Melvyn Rutter for £750 (exchange), which is machined and improved to eliminate this well known weak spot. Using a specially machined solid phosphor bronze lower bush and metal top rose bearing, these columns will easily last more than 100,000 miles.

The odd front suspension set up needs regular lubrication (easily done) plus its trunnions wear, while the rear springs settle with age.


What To Look For

Running gear rules

An array of gearboxes has been fitted. On all, do all the obvious checks such as listening for rumbling from the gearbox, ensuring it doesn’t jump out of gear and make sure the synchromesh hasn’t gone – although the 4/4 didn’t have any until the Series V of 1963. The Ford gearboxes are incredibly tough, with replacements never being needed – they seem to last forever. A Salisbury diff was fitted to Series II to V cars.

Parts are hard to find, but specialists can rebuild your existing unit for you – at a price. However, only the bearings, gaskets and seals are available; if a new crown wheel and pinion or any gears are needed, then you’ll need to convert to a BTR axle. Such a swap costs over £2500 so be warned.

Although the rear axles are strong, they tend to leak oil. Unless the oil level is topped up regularly, the unit will run dry and wreck the crown wheel and pinion in the process. The diff’s lifespan will have been greatly increased if its oil has been renewed every 5000 miles.


Three Of A Kind

Panther Lima/Kallista
Panther Lima/Kallista
Cheeky Morgan masquerades, the Lima used a Vauxhall Viva floorpan along with its 2.3-litre engine; there was also a Turbo and automatic option, with the former best known for its acute tail happiness! The improved Kallista replacement was similarly styled but featured a new chassis and mechanicals together with a choice of XR3 or Capri V6 power all backed with a good owners’ club.
MG TD-TF/Naylor/RMB Gentry
MG TD-TF/Naylor/RMB Gentry
Loved for their war-time image, style and, real vintage sports car thrills, which progressively became better to drive over the years, the final TF being pretty close to the MGA. Such is their popularity that noteworthy replicas have stood the test of time; Naylor is a TF repro using latter day MG and Morris Ital hardware. Some experts say it’s the best T-Type of them all! RMB Gentry is Triumph Herald based, later using Ford parts.
Morgan Roadster
Morgan Roadster
Despite the loss of two lungs, the V6 Jaguar-engined Roadster is no second stringer to the iconic Plus 8. In real world terms it’s as quick, plus it’s a lot easier to drive than the Rover-powered model, especially the early Plus 8s. And from the outside the V6 looks like any other Morgan – classy. We know of several owners, new to Morgans, who are delighted with their Jag-powered Moggies.


Despite the age of a typical ‘Morganist’ being around 60, these Malvern models remain as popular as ever and far from playing ‘second fi ddle’ to the Plus 8, the 4/4s have their own merits. Try one and you’ll soon discover that less is more with this Morgan although be in no doubt that they are an acquired taste that’s not for everyone.

Classic Motoring

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