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Ride Of The Week: Morgan Plus-4

The British automaker Morgan is officially celebrating its 80th birthday this year, although the company’s history dates back to the early 1900s.

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The British automaker Morgan is officially celebrating its 80th birthday this year, although the company’s history dates back to the early 1900s. The company—known for the extensive use of wood in its cars (though modern models are different)—still produces very traditional-looking British sports cars today, as well as a revived and updated version of its famous three-wheeler.

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H.F.S. Morgan came from a line of clergymen. He studied engi­neering and apprenticed at the Great Western Railway, then opened a garage in 1906 at Malvern Link in Worcestershire. By 1909, he’d built a three-wheeled car with a V-Twin engine. H.F.S. set up Morgan Motor Co. Ltd. in 1910. Harrods, the Lon­don department store, was the first agent for Morgan.

By World War I, Morgan was making nearly 1,000 three-wheelers annually. In the 1920s, electric starting, front-wheel brakes, more power and other improvements came. Morgans were appealing and inexpensive.

Morgan’s first four-wheeler—the 4/4—arrived in 1935 as a 1936 model. The Plus 4 model, introduced in 1950, didn’t look much different, but it carried a big­ger, more powerful Standard Vanguard engine. It debuted at the Earls Court (London) Motor Show in October 1950. The Plus 4 was billed as “a small car with a larger engine and wonderful all around performance.” The Motor praised its “vivid performance” for a moderately-priced sports car. Morgan had a new American distributor, Angell Motors, of Pasa­dena, Calif., to sell the Plus 4.

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Morgan’s 1952 London Show brochure described the Plus 4 as a “comfortable long distance touring car and one that will give a long life of economical and trouble-free motor­ing.” The Plus 4’s chassis frame was more rigid than that of the 4/4. It had larger tires on wide-base rims, greater width and legroom inside and improved open-car weather protection.

An ad for the 1954 Plus 4 two-seater read: “Going Places — the sporty Morgan Plus 4 gets you there quicker!” Its “sloping radiator shell, faired headlamps, restyled wings and streamlined tail and petrol tank unit, give a new look to the 1954 Morgan 2-seater.” With “lively performance and delightful handling qualities,” driving a Morgan was “sports motoring at its best!”

Morgan_Plus4_Drophead_1963

The Plus 4 continued using steel body panels over a wooden framework on a ladder-type steel chassis with “Z-section” side mem­bers. The bodies were crafted at the Morgan facility, but most other components came from outside suppliers. Later, the Plus 4 would adopt the engine from each new Triumph sports car: TR2, TR3 then TR4.

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“Four Magnificent Models to choose from,” promised the Morgan catalog issued at the London show in October 1955. An ad for the Plus 4 four-seat sports drophead coupe called it, “the latest addition” to the Morgan line and promised that it was “ideally suited for the ‘family’ man.” The TR2-engined version was advertised as the “New Super Morgan.” The Plus 4 was advertised in the U.S. as the “last of the real classics.”

Models offered for 1956 were the two-seater tourer, two-seater coupe and four-seater tourer. Both the two-seater coupe and the four-seater tourer were available with either the Vanguard 2088-cc engine or the TR2 power plants.

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Peter Morgan became managing director following the death of H.F.S. Morgan in 1959. By 1962, Morgan adopted the 2138-cc 105-hp TR4 engine. The standard Plus 4 had a top speed in the 96-105 mph range. 0-to-60 mph took just over 10 sec. A Morgan could do the quarter mile in 17.1-18.5 sec. at about 76 mph. Fuel economy up to 35 mpg was claimed. Many racing options were available, includ­ing an aluminum body for $175 extra.

The look of Morgans hasn’t changed all that much since the 1960s (although the current Aero 8 is certainly a stylized rendition of classic design motifs). The company remains steeped in Old World quaintness. Production is low, prices are high and there is a waiting list to purchase a car.

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Courtesy Speedville.

 

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