Looking for something to do one day…
Looking for something to do one day… John Schieffelin
Before I was lucky enough to have custody of a vintage Bentley, Morgans were a nice, affordable alternative. The Plus 4s were quicker than an MG TC, but certainly gave you a vintage ride. Then, as now, they looked the part, even if people would often ask what model of MG it was. As we enthusiasts are wont to do, I had accumulated much Morgan literature to go along with the Plus 4 four-seater I was driving in the late ’60s. So 1 read about H.F.S. Morgan and the three-wheelers he had been producing since the founding of his eponymous company in 1910. By 1936, Mr. Morgan determined that four-wheeled cars were not a passing fad, and began making sports cars with a wheel at each corner of a rectangular frame, in addition to the three-wheelers.
One day, I was perusing Hemmings, and there was a mid-’30s Morgan three-wheeler powered by a J.A.P. water-cooled twin advertised for sale. I called, and it turned out the car(?) was in running condition and located near Brattleboro, Vermont, just north of Massachusetts. I was then living in central Massachusetts, so it was not too far away. I bought it, and the question became how to fetch it. Not a good idea to try and drive it home, given my lack of experience conducting such a contraption. I was racing a Formula Vee in SCCA at the time and had a simple open trailer with no floor, just a couple of metal rails to roll the car onto. See the problem? No middle rail, which the Morgan would need, due to its triangular wheelbase. One of my friends transported his Vee on the back of one of those VW pickups with the van front end. Ideal. So with a chase car full of other SCCA buddies, we headed for Vermont one evening. My friend had only two rails to load his Vee, but with all the muscle in the chase car, we had no problem getting the little Morgan on and off the truck.
After I figured out how to drive the thing with some degree of proficiency (hand throttle on the steering wheel that went to a different place when you turned the wheel was just one of its myriad idiosyncrasies), I used it around town to do various errands, including delivering our second son to kindergarten. I always felt a bit nervous, since even though drivers over 45 years ago did not have the distractions they have now, they would gawk at this strange little vehicle with which they were sharing the road, paying scant attention to their direction of travel.
And then came winter. Looking for something to do one day, I decided to take the somewhat tatty Morgan apart to “restore” it. Simple little thing. How hard could it be? You know the story. The boxes of Morgan parts sat, and then
followed me through the (amicable) separation from the wonderful mother of my first three children, moving to western Massachusetts, meeting the woman to whom I have now been married for 43 years, having two more children, joining a trail riding friend to start a motorcycle business and ending up living near Northampton, Massachusetts. Whew! And the chunks of Morgan were still in their boxes.
One of the customers who came to the motorcycle shop had a Brough Superior motorcycle that he was restoring (some people actually do make progress on these things). When he heard about the Morgan, he thought it would make a great next project. Well, since I was always just about to get to it (Ha!), he pestered me for a couple of years, until one day he walked into the shop and having sort of come to my senses, I said, “Make me an offer.” He did, and the boxes of Morgan became his. I retained the right of first refusal should he decide to sell it. Sure enough, a few years later I got a call from Tennessee, where he had moved, saying he had done a bit of work on it, it was not finished, but would I like it back? Nope. So he ended up selling it to a man I knew who was the guru of the Vintage BMW motorcycle fraternity. He, too, pecked away it, but passed it on before it was finished.
Some years later, I was giving a presentation on the VSCCA at the Lars Anderson Museum in Brookline, Massachusetts, and afterwards the manager said he wanted to show me a strange vehicle he had just gotten. Turned out to be the Morgan, still not quite finished, but almost. Finally, a few years ago, one of my VSCCA Morgan friends called and said, “Your old Morgan is on eBay.” I looked and there it was, almost done, advertised as having once belonged to an officer of the VSCCA. Whether that helped or hindered a potential sale, I will never know. Where is it now? I may find out one of these years. I just hope it is finally finished.
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