INTRODUCTION OF THE FOUR WHEELED MORGAN

 

In 1936, after a prototype had been tested in trials and on the track, a four-wheeler was exhibited at the London and Paris Exhibitions. The new model was called the Morgan 4-4 to differentiate it from the three-wheeler, indicating four cylinders and four wheels.

The car had a Z section full width steel chassis with boxed cross members and the body was an ash frame panelled in steel. The combination provided the durability of a coachbuilt car with the lightness required for a sports car.

The car was an immediate success. After the launch of the Morgan 4-4 Roadster a four-seater was introduced, followed in quick succession by a Drophead Coupe in 1938. The three-wheeler remained in production although sales of the V-twin engined cars were in decline. The F-type however, remained popular and 1938 saw the addition of a high performance two-seater version, called the F Super.

 

In 1936 H.F.S's father Prebendary George Morgan died peacefully at home. George’s influence cannot be underestimated. Not only did he encourage Harry to follow a career in engineering, but he provided the finance to build the first Morgan garage and factory in Worcester Road. He was company Chairman and took care of much of the running of the business leaving Harry to concentrate on the engineering. H.F.S. Morgan became Chairman and Governing Director and the board included his wife Ruth Morgan, Mr George Goodall and Mr T.H. Jones who had been with the firm since 1912.

The 4-4 maintained Morgan’s reputation for building fine performance cars. In 1937 a few special sports 4-4 models were built for racing fitted with 1098 c.c. Coventry Climax engines developing 42 b.h.p. with balanced crankshafts. In 1938 Miss Prudence Fawcett, a 25 year-old novice driver with little previous competition experience, entered for the Le Mans 24-hour race in a Morgan 4-4 tuned and prepared at the works. Together with co-driver Geoff White, Prudence completed the 24hours finishing 13th overall and qualifying for the Biennial Cup. Geoff White returned To Le Mans in 1939 and together with co-driver ’Dick’ Anthony, came 15th overall and second in class.

1938 saw the Climax engine replaced by an overhead valve power unit from the Standard Motor Company, developed from their 9 h.p. side valve engine. This was specially built for Morgan at the express wish of Sir John Black of Standard, who had been a friend of H.F.S. Morgan for many years and as a young draughtsman had produced the patent drawings for the first Runabout in 1910. The new engine was linked to a Moss gearbox mounted centrally in the chassis and connected to the 5-1 rear axle by a short propeller shaft. The chassis were fitted with rod and cable 8" diameter Girling brakes.

Car production stopped completely throughout the Second World War and only two departments were retained by the Company for repairs. These were the Service shop and the Spares department. Rows 3, 4 & 5 were occupied by the Standard Motor Company Aero Engines division and the factory manufactured a variety of components for the war effort, which included carburettors, aircraft undercarriage and other precision engineering work. Sir Alan Cobham’s company Flight Refuelling Ltd. took over other workshops to develop wing anti-icing and in-flight refuelling systems using a modified a Handley Page ‘Hereford’ Bomber located in the factory.

In 1945 many skilled employees came back from the Forces to re-join the factory and car production resumed a year later. In 1947, after being demobilised, Peter Morgan, H.F.S.’ son, joined the firm as Development Engineer and Draughtsman. The last twelve twin cylinder three-wheelers were manufactured in 1946 using mostly a stock of pre-war parts, and shipped to Australia. Due to post-war shortages export orders were favoured over those for the home market when allocating supplies of steel. Three-wheelers did not enjoy this popularity overseas and therefore the decision to discontinue their production was made in 1950. The last Morgan three-wheeler left the factory in 1953.
 

The Morgan Three-Wheeler Club had been formed by a small band of enthusiasts in 1945 and rapidly grew in spite of the demise of the thee-wheeler. Shortly after its formation the Club visited the factory and photographs show a line of cars in Pickersleigh Road in front of the factory which still wears its wartime camouflage. 

Representing the four-wheeler enthusiasts, the Morgan Sports Car Club was formed in July 1951 with thirty members. The inaugural meeting was at 'Ye Olde Flying Horse' in Kegworth, Leicestershire. These two Clubs continue to support Morgan enthusiasts to this day, in the enjoyment of their cars.

In 1947 the Standard Motor Co announced their ‘One Engine Policy’ which meant that after 1949 the 1267 c.c. unit would not be available to Morgan. A prototype for a new Morgan was therefore built in 1949 with the Standard Vanguard 1.8 litre engine which gave a much increased performance. 1950 saw the production of this car as the Plus Four. The engine eventually fitted was the 2088 c.c. Vanguard 68 b.h.p. unit.
 

The Plus Four had immediate success in competition, with Morgans winning the team award in the R.A.C. Rally in 1951 and 1952. H.F.S.’s son Peter Morgan was a driver in both teams. The body styles adopted were an open two-seater, a four-seater and a Drophead Coupe. Due to its very high-power-to-weight-ratio the Plus Four also began to have many successes on the track. In 1954 the pre-war design was significantly updated with the radiator now hidden beneath a cowl and grille to improve aerodynamics, and the following year the TR 2 engine was fitted, raising the power to 90 b.h.p.. Although detailed modifications have been made over the years, and many other engines fitted, this iconic design remains in production.

In 1955 the Morgan 4/4 was reintroduced as the Series Two. This was a car of similar design to the Plus Four but fitted with a smaller 10 h.p. Ford side valve engine and integral gear box, the object being to provide a sports car with a lively performance and appearance for the enthusiast with modest means. The 4/4 continues to use a Ford engine today, over half a century later!

During 1956 the TR 3 engine was fitted to the Plus Four, increasing the power to 100 b.h.p. which, when built with lightweight aluminium bodies, were extremely fast. Plus Fours won many production sports car races and in the U.S.A. Lew Spencer was a familiar figure on the winner’s rostrum and his Morgans, all bearing the name ‘Baby Doll’, built up a huge following.

The Morgan world suffered a great loss in 1959 with the death of the company founder H.F.S. Morgan. Harry Morgan was one of the great pioneers of Motoring and very much respected throughout the industry. Unfortunately he just missed the Company’s 50th anniversary celebrations which took place in April 1960.

In 1962 success was achieved again at the 24 hours endurance race at Le Mans. A Plus Four Super Sports prepared by the company and Christopher Lawrence, competed and won the 2 litre class. The car was driven by Lawrence and Richard Sheppard-Baron and covered a total distance of 2,261 miles at an average speed of 94 m.p.h. Driver changes, refuelling and adjustments took a total of 32 minutes, so the actual running speed of the car was 97 m.p.h. After the race the car was happily driven back to England on public roads.
 

1963 saw the introduction of an entirely new car called the Morgan Plus 4 Plus.

This used a conventional Plus 4 chassis, but was fitted with an elegant glass fibre body made by E.B. Plastics Ltd., of Stoke-on-Trent. The car was not successful and during the four years that it was in production, just 26 were built. In 1964 the Morgan chassis was used as the basis for another radically different car, the Morgan SLR, a racing car designed by Chris Lawrence and John Sprinzel. The aerodynamic body gave a top speed far in excess of the 130 m.p.h. achieved by the Plus Four at Le Mans on the Mulsanne Straight.

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