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MG T-Type vs. Morgan

MG T-Type vs. Morgan Published: 21st Feb 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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If you’ve always harboured a hankering for a British vintage-style sports car, but with a modern twist, then the choice is limited to this terrific trio – but what all three offer is compensation enough. What winged wonder is for you though?

Which one to buy

1st Morgan | 2nd MG | 3rd Panther

While the Morgan 4/4 appears unchanged over the decades, actually its been a master of reinvention – yet still keeps the right balance of modernity and originality. It started off with sidevalve Ford engines, before fitting the 105E/Classic ohv units (S3) followed by the evergreen 1500cc Cortina GT Kent engine, which ran up to 1982 in standard and ‘competition’ tune. In tandem was a brace of Standard Triumph-powered ranges, up to 1969 (Plus 4). For the 1980s, Morgan switched, initially, to Fiat 1.6-litre engines, quickly followed in tandem by Ford Escort XR3 power, with a five-speed gearbox available from ’83. Thereafter, the Rover 2-litre T-Series was tried with considerable acclaim.

Later models from the 1990s boast modern mechanicals (fuel injection, five-speed gearboxes etc) and are much easier to drive than the earlier versions yet still retain the essential style and rustic character that makes these Malvern marvels so endearing. If you’re so inclined, you can buy one brand new, of course.

Panther was the brainchild of Bob Jankel, whose earlier art deco efforts were pitched at the very top of the market but the ‘affordable’ Panther (launched in 1976) was Morgan-sized, styled and priced and relied upon the Vauxhall Magnum 2300 as its base, including the floorpan and running gear, as well as MG Midget doors.

A fairly popular Morgan rival, just under quoted 900 were made before the Series 2 surfaced in ’79, now featuring its own separate chassis as the Viva was due to be discontinued by 1980. The good news was that it also resulted in far better rigidity and so handling. There was also a tantalising Turbo derivative although only 10 were made (out of 350 S2s in total) before the company went into receivership to be purchased by Jindo Industries in 1980.

The Lima was replaced by the similar looking, albeit slightly larger, Kallista, with Ford Escort 1600 CVH power and Cortina running gear, plus there was an option of Granada V6 2.8 shove. This model ran up to 1990, the company then under the ownership of SangYong who made a further 73 cars.

It’s easy to dismiss the Panther as a second-rate rival but in fact, the Kallista won a pair of prestigious coachbuilder awards when contemporary. Thanks to a good survival rate, there’s still a fair choice around although as Panthers don’t come onto the market often it may be a case of what you can get hold of.

While the MG and Morgan with their pronounced wings and running boards pre-war styling, look similar the MG was the more modern for many years.

Although based on the pre-war TA/C, there were many significant improvements including a completely new chassis that now ran above the back axle allowing for softer, more cambered rear springs to improve the rustic ride.

The MG was first launched before WW2 and early models are really for the hard core enthusiast – for the majority of wannabe owners the TD, with its rack and pinion steering and better suspension, is the better starting point, with the last TF1500 range the best developed of the lot. If you want a modernised ’T’ remember the Naylor replica of the mid 1980s which followed in the Morgan tradition of uprating an existing model. Revamped in all the right areas, a number of respected MG experts rate it as the ‘best TF’ of them all plus it gained Austin Rover’s blessing.

Given their differing eras picking a winning order is unfair but the Morgan 4/4 must come out on top for its longevity and adaptability to meet changing motoring conditions, by way of a wide range of models, plus there’s also four-seater versions. The MG is great for what it is, a lovely sports car from a bygone era while the Panthers combine a creditable mix of the two by using contemporary running gear from a variety of manufacturers from the 1970s and 80s.

What’s best to drive

1st Panther | 2nd Morgan | 3rd MG

As this trio is spread over different eras, it’s unfair to rate them against each other and all provide huge enjoyment in their own ways. The MG TD and TF were direct rivals to the Morgan 4/4 when it used the Ford sidevalve ‘100E’ unit before switching to the overhead valve replacements.

If anything, the MG is the brisker (especially the 1446cc TF 1500 which could top 90mph) and it was only when the 4/4 acquired Cortina GT power that it enjoyed proper performance – the sportier Plus 4 already used Triumph TR engines. Roll the decades on and the latest ‘Fours’ can hit 60 in virtually the same time as the iconic Plus 8 but what’s the best pick?

The Ford powered models – first ‘Kent’, then XR3 – will be the easiest to maintain along with the Rover T16 of the 80s, and are lively enough but those-in-the-know rate the Fiat models the best with its beautifully rev happy 122bhp Twin Cam that suits the car’s character very well indeed.

Comparisons between the Panthers and Morgans are inevitable and, while you can’t knock Morgan’s pedigree, the Panthers are better drivers’ cars. Put this down to the Lima’s 1970’s Vauxhall Viva platform which always handled well. And that lusty, if sadly breathless, 2279cc VX4/90 engine, with its bags of low down pull (almost as much as the V6 Fordpowered Kallista) and it all adds to the old car character. In turbo form, Limas became real scalded cats, but melted their pistons, too.

The Ford Escort XR3 engine (carb-fed not fuel injected) found in the Kallista is crisper but not half as gutsy as the Vauxhall unit – the Ford 2.8 V6 option is not the Capri 2.8 Injection unit but the 135bhp carburettor Granada tune but provides enough poke.

Speak to many Morgan specialists and they’ll tell you that the forgotten ‘Fours’ get all too often overlooked because Plus 8s steal all the glory. Yet the lighter, smaller, slower versions are arguably the better driving machines due to their greater agility and are certainly not second best to the V8.

In terms of handling, Panthers are softer going and demand less from the driver than an equivalent Morgan, especially the ride. The Vauxhall chassis is far more compliant; the later larger, stiffer Kallista is better still and far less jolty. Both models feature a front chin spoiler which, while totally out of kilter with their vintage styling, is essential for stability, plus the harder riding Lima could be unusually tail-happy, too; a trait you may like.

Most later Kallistas all sport five-speed gearboxes while some Limas featured the Vauxhall VX4/90 overdrive transmissions plus there was an automatic option for both which was never officially available on any Morgan. The Malvern car remains pure 1930s in so many ways and that includes the suspension which, with its odd sliding pillar front set up and simple leaf springs at the stern, is hardly high tech. Hard riding, and not unexpectedly short of sophistication on the move, yet on the right kind of roads, it’s exhilarating fun – when you’re up for it.

Summing up, Morgans perform how you’d expect a 1930’s sportster to, and so demands understanding and strong commitment from the driver. On wide smooth roads with open curves they are a joy but throw in bad cambers, pot holes and tight bends and it becomes exhausting if in a hurry. For many that’s the main attraction, as is the fact that irrespective of age, Morgans retain a vintage feel.

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