23 Jan

Waltman’s incredible racing feat 50 years ago in Rolex 24 (www.news-journalonline.com)

DAYTONA BEACH — Fifty years ago a British Airways pilot named George Waltman took a car that a friend found at a police impound lot in the Bronx and drove it down to Florida for the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

The big difference between Waltman and others coming down for the event was that he then raced the 1964 Morgan Plus 4 street car, by himself, finished the race, took a side trip to Miami and then drove it back home to New York — all on the same set of tires.

Waltman set a Daytona International Speedway and sports-car record unlikely to be broken.

He is the only driver in Rolex 24 At Daytona history to run the entire race solo and take the checkered flag.  It is a tale packed full of racing lore.

“He always said an endurance race should not be all about the endurance of the car, but the endurance of the driver, otherwise it breaks it down to four races,” his daughter Tara Waltman said of her father, who died in 2013.  “That was always his belief.”

Waltman, who lived in Freeport, New York, was what the industry now calls a “gentleman racer,” racing for fun, not profit.  He began racing sports cars in 1954 and was a regular in races staged in Nassau, Bahamas.

He took his game up a notch in 1960 when he entered and competed in the 12 Hours of Sebring.

The following year, he made a solo run at Sebring. During his career, he competed in 54 races, and scored one overall victory (1965 SCCA Regional) and four class wins.

But Waltman’s biggest achievement was the 1968 Rolex 24, his only start in the Daytona race.

After the 1968 Rolex 24 at Daytona, George Waltman was surrounded by friends on Pit Road.  Daytona International Speedway Founder, Bill France Jr., is in the middle of the photo.   Waltman is second from the right.  (PHOTOS Courtesy of WALTMAN ARCHIVES)

His solo performance began in the back of the 64-car field, but thanks to a combination of attrition and grit, he took the checkered flag in 30th place after turning 338 laps.

The Morgan Plus 4 was originally purchased by his friend and racing mechanic Ali Lugo.  Waltman and Lugo made some minor tweaks before the race, such as adding an air scoop under the car to funnel more air to the engine, and outfitting the small auto with Michelin X radial tires.

Working with a shoestring budget, Waltman drove the street-legal Morgan convertible from Freeport to the Speedway. Waltman’s entry was no match for the top cars of the day, including exotic factory-backed Porsches and Ford GT40s.  His goal was simply to drive solo and take the checkered flag under power.

In those days there was no rule against a one-man team, while today teams must have a minimum of three drivers for the twice-around-the-clock endurance race.

According to The News-Journal story chronicling Waltman’s historic run, the driver was ordered to take a one-hour rest after every four hours of racing.

The article also recounted how Waltman served as his own pit crew, “refueling his open cockpit white No. 35.”

But none of it seemed to phase the 42-year-old family man.

“Sunday he was still poking along with seeming unconcern for the swift traffic around him,” the newspaper story said. “He was conspicuous not only for the solitary splendor of his white car but also for his blue coveralls and red helmet.”

As if driving a solo 24-hour race did not provide enough drama, Waltman’s car suffered some late mechanical issues. But the resourceful pilot had one more trick up his sleeve.

“With less than one hour to go, part of the fan broke and a piece punctured the radiator. He had to pit,” Tara Waltman, 59, recalled.

“It took them a half of an hour to fix it — with chewing gum,” she said. “He had 10 sticks of chewing gum and he had everybody around him chew gum, lumped it together and plugged the hole in the radiator with it.

“He got back out with a half-hour to go and finished the race. He took the checkered flag, which is what he really wanted to do.”

Herb Branham, ISC Archives curator, is in the business of collecting and preserving racing history.

“The Rolex 24, aside from having so many great champions and huge names, is also known for all kinds of great characters and some tall tales,” said Branham. “George Waltman qualifies in that group. He may qualify as the most unique character in the history of the event.

“The guy was a good racer. At the end of the 1968 Rolex 24, he finished 30th which was the middle of the field at the end of the race. It is an amazing accomplishment.”

Bill France Sr., who founded NASCAR and built the Speedway, was so impressed with Waltman’s effort that he congratulated him on pit road and gave him a lap around the track in the pace car.

The story caught the fancy of the media with The New York Times dubbing Waltman the “Ironman” of racing.

“It was a sort of the tortoise and hare story,” Tara Waltman said. “He got a great reception at the finish line. He said everyone was standing up in the grandstands, cheering him on.”

Tara, who lives in New York, has spent several weeks inside the ISC Archives and Research Center here, helping create a display about her father’s solo run.

Among the artifacts on display is the helmet Waltman wore during the race.

Branham said Waltman’s story resonates to this day.

“It’s an incredibly romantic story,” Branham said. “It personifies the gentleman road racer and that part of international sports car racing.”

Tara is on a mission to tell her father’s story, which has been somewhat lost to racing history. The Waltman family is currently searching for the Morgan Plus 4 raced in 1968. It has proven difficult to track down because the car had no paperwork when it was bought and driven off the police impound area half a century ago.

“It would be nice to know what happened to it,” she said. “It would be great to restore. The search continues. The story is not finished yet.”


18 Jan

Morgan Looks Back on Its Best Year Ever, and Forward to 2018 (www.worcesternews.co.uk)

MALVERN’S iconic Morgan sports car company enjoyed its best year yet in 2017, the firm revealed this week.

The company’s work force grew from 170 staff members in 2016 to a current level of 201. This number includes six apprentices, and the firm is looking to recruit more next year.

The Morgan factory brings 30,000 visitors per year into the area to go on factory tours or join Morgan experiences. These visitors travel from around the UK and all over the world to see the factory.

The Run for the Hills event at the Three Counties Show Ground in August saw 6,000 visitors and 2,000 Morgans from 30 different countries visit the town, and the company hopes this year’s event will be just as successful.

A spokesman said: “Whilst we have not confirmed profits for the 2017 financial year yet, we can confirm that it will have been our best year yet.

“Whilst we do not have an official stance as a company on Brexit, Morgan have continued to grow exports throughout 2017. This is partly due to the weak pound, but also to the hard work of the factory and dealership network in continuing to build awareness for the brand around the globe, particularly in Europe.”

2017 also saw Morgan buy back its factory site, which was originally sold off in 2006 as a sale and lease-back agreement.

“The repurchasing of the land in June was the most positive news for Morgan in an already positive 2017. The purchasing allows Morgan to improve the facility and equip it for 21st century coach building.

“It also signals Morgan’s intent to continue manufacturing in Malvern, on the site that they have been on for 103 years,” said the spokesman.

Among the highlights the company is looking forward to in 2018 is the 50th anniversary of the Plus 8, the release of the limited edition Aero GT at the Geneva Motor Show and the introduction of the EV3, Morgan’s first all-electric production vehicle.

Morgan staff also raised over £30,000 for the British Heart Foundation, the company’s charity of the year, by holding auctions, running marathons and other fundraising initiatives.

15 Jan

James May on Morgans (topgear.com)

If someone had asked me in the pub, I would have said that everything about a Morgan sports car is definitely not me.

For a start, they are made in a place called The Malverns, which my school atlas reveals is as near as damn it to Wales, a place where I have been sentenced to death by the Welsh National Assembly for making fun of their road signs. Buying a Morgan involves going to the factory, and that rules it out since no car is worth the risk of being summarily dispatched by some woad-smeared Celtic separatist.

I must admit, I seem to be pretty much the only person in Britain who has never been on a tour of the Morgan factory. And I don’t want to. I know, from people who have, that ‘there’s an old bloke with a spoke shave working away on a piece of ash, and it’s based in some Nissen huts, and you just walk in, it’s amazing, really, imagine that happening at a Toyota factory, and they push the cars around to work on them, it’s so funny when you see it but it works, it’s so traditional, and that John Harvey-Jones went there and they just told him to bugger off and they were right you know, they’re completely British and they still make a profit, I’d love a Morgan, I wish I’d put my name down for one when I was younger, the waiting list is 250 years.’

This sort of thing makes me want to stick my head under a milling machine and end it all.

Who, in their right mind, would want a car made the way cars were made in the 1930s? I’d wager that none of the people who hanker after them wash their smalls in a zinc tub, or go outside to use the lavatory. Nobody really wants to live in the past, so why drive there? You may as well send your kids to the workhouse.

My good friend Richard Hammond – a Morgan fan – made an interesting observation about these cars. It is this: these days, many ‘prestige’ makers finish their cars off with a light dusting of wood trim. At Morgan, however, the manufacturing process actually starts with wood. Underneath the Dad’s Army bodywork, these things are made of wood. It’s not even MDF or that fake Timberlux stuff that the Koreans use. It’s wood, for Pete’s sake.

Here is a quote from Morgan’s promotional blurb. ‘There’s one room visitors to Malvern cannot enter. This is the development area, where important things of a technical nature are going on.’ What, exactly? Sharpening chisels?

And then there’s the styling. Morgan obviously suffered something of a crisis during the Nineties, when retro design became all the rage. Other manufacturers were plundering their heritage for design themes, but when Morgan opened the filing cabinet to seek inspiration from their old cars, they discovered that they were still in production. So they decided to try something modern and came up with the Aero 8. It looks as though it’s been drinking.

You can imagine my disquiet, then, when Hammond rolled up outside my house, with a wholly unnecessary blip of throttle through the side pipes, in the ‘latest’ Morgan Roadster – what essentially used to be the Plus 8, only now with six cylinders. “You’ve got to come and have a go in this,” he enthused. “No I haven’t,” I replied and began making my way to the pub.

But he skipped alongside persistently, like a child wanting an ice cream. “It’s great. It’s really quick and it makes a great noise and I love the way the doors come apart,” and so on. And then the bombshell: “I’m thinking of buying one.”

Clearly, I couldn’t stand by and watch him do that. So I climbed into the driving seat and prepared to steer him away from Malvern’s dangerous and subversive carpentry cult.

A few things struck me. First, the door, on my elbow, as I shut it. And then the dashboard. The last Morgan I drove was a Plus 8, which had a wood fascia and some slightly clumsy cast-off warning lights and switches from the Great British Motor Industry parts bin. But here was a veneer of carbon fibre with neat, coherent minor controls. But there was no clock, and I couldn’t help admiring this bold assertion that if you’re driving a Morgan, time is of no consequence.

The steering wheel was very close, but the radio, mounted down on the transmission tunnel, was so far away I couldn’t read the display. The seats were simple, yet felt excellent, and the whole thing was beautifully assembled in a no-nonsense nuts’n’bolts kind of way.

God in heaven, it’s quick. Sixty comes up in well under five seconds, which somehow makes the tally-ho styling even more incongruous. It’s like having a microwave disguised as an Aga, allowing you the romance of olde England with the convenience of a pizza done in 60 seconds. Better than that, it contravenes current supercar thinking by being bendy. And it’s bendy because (in case you’d forgotten) it’s made of wood.

So every undulation in the road, every tweak of the steering wheel, and every change in the pace of the engine comes back to you as a subtle tremor in the fabric of the thing. I haven’t enjoyed such intimacy with the road since I last fell off my bicycle. In fact, I’m going to admit that I haven’t had so much fun in a car for ages.

I also think that Morgan may have pulled off a clever stunt with the Roadster. Where so many are struggling for a truly contemporary design and resorting to retro tinsel to maintain our interest, Morgan has continued to build its old car but given it a smattering of modernity – the dash, the switches, the performance, the exhaust note – to stop it feeling crusty.

Morgan bores may lament the passing of the old Rover V8, but I think it’s a good thing. The new Ford-derived V6 makes the car feel modern, and it’s related to the one found in a Noble rather than the one found in a fibre-glass kit car.

In the end, I don’t care if the Morgan Roadster is British, or traditional, or built by a man who still wears an apron. That’s not, in the end, why it appeals to me. It appeals because, rose-tinted glasses locked away securely in the glovebox, it’s just a bloody great car.


11 Jan

Half a century for iconic Morgan (http://www.eurekar.co.uk/)

ONCE described as the brand that could not last in the face of modern competition, that marvel of the Malverns, Morgan reigns supreme as a very British manufacturer of sports cars.

And perhaps its most iconic product, the Plus 8 has shown that the traditional British sports car design will never bow down to gimmickry or fashion.

Such has been the success of the Plus 8 that it is now celebrating half a century, a milestone to be celebrated by the Morgan Motor Company announcing a 50th Anniversary Special Edition to be revealed at the Geneva Motor Show in March.

The family-owned, bespoke sports car manufacturer will produce 50 of the special edition models, each to be sold through their existing Dealership network. The Plus 8 50th anniversary edition will be a true V8-powered thoroughbred tribute to Morgan’s most celebrated four-wheeled model.

The Plus 8 continues to pioneer new technology within the classic Morgan bloodline. Deriving its name from the eight-cylinder engines it has adopted throughout its life, this model consistently offers the greatest power to weight ratio of any Morgan.

It is, without doubt, a rare combination of craftsmanship, luxury and technology.

A lightweight aluminium chassis and 4.8-litre BMW engine sit beneath the traditional Morgan body. At just 1,100kg, the Plus 8 is one of the lightest V8 passenger cars in the world and is capable of 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds and has a top speed of 155mph.

First conceived by Peter Morgan, the Plus 8 prototype was revealed to the public at the Earls Court Motor Show of 1968. Then sporting a Rover V8 engine and a Moss gear box, the original Plus 8 was based on a Plus 4, but was larger and featured a large number of changed or upgraded hand-crafted parts.

The first Plus 8 production model was one of the most successful cars that the company has ever built, and production continued for 36 years. Approximately 6,000 Plus 8s were built at Morgan’s Pickersleigh Road factory until the model was put on hold in 2004 when the production of Rover V8 engines ceased.

In 2012, the Plus 8 was spectacularly reborn into the Morgan range, on a lightweight aluminium chassis with the powerful 4.8-litre BMW engine, as used in the Aero range. It quicker than any ‘classic’ Morgan before it.

This very special car will be the star of the show on the Morgan stand when it makes its public debut at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show in March alongside the race-inspired Aero GT.


09 Jan

Classic British Sports Car Maker Morgan Announces Special-Edition Plus 8 (www.forbes.com)

[As we mentioned with the post on the Aero GT, the last of the BMW V8 motors are being reserved for a few special edition cars.  Only 8 Aero GTs will be produced and now it appears that the 50 of the BMW V8s have been allocated for a special edition 50th Anniversary Plus 8.   Unfortunately, we here in the US will not see these cars (in the metal) for a long time, however we should get lots more details when they are officially announced at the International Motor Show Geneva in March.  Mark]

The MMC11 at Chateau Impney hill climb in 2017

Our wedding car was a classic Morgan Plus 8, which we drove from the wedding service to the ceremony. The location was archetype English – pristine countryside dotted with pretty little villages, quaint churches and old pubs. It was a hot summer’s day and the car was a hot red with no roof and superb fun as we temporarily parted from family and friends, hopped into the tiny two-seat roadster, maneuvering the twisty lanes. It was exhilarating. It was also an ideal set for a Morgan car, for I cannot think of another marque with quite such a distinctively British aesthetic – quirky, elegant, a little bit wrong maybe, but a lot of fun and a nod to the romance of another time.

Plus 8 with Peter Morgan at factory

So, it has been exciting to hear that Morgan Motor Company will honor this most celebrated of its cars with a Plus 8 50th anniversary special edition model with only fifty planned for production. The first Plus 8 was born in 1968 when Peter Morgan conceived then debuted the prototype at the London Earls Court Motor Show. The car was based on the Morgan Plus 4, though proportionally bigger, with redesigned hand-crafted elements and powered by the Rover V8 engine.

The first production MMC11 model became one of the most successful cars Morgan has ever built with production continuing for 36 years. Some 6,000 cars were created at Morgan’s Pickersleigh Road factory in England until the model was discontinued in 2004 when the production of Rover V8 engines ceased. Then in 2012, the Plus 8 was reborn.

The first Morgan Plus 8 production model, MMC11

Unusually, Morgan has managed to remain family-owned, continuing to make intricately crafted sports cars. The cars are so much about design for desire and the Plus 8 50th will continue this tradition of combining artisan skills, luxury and technology. A lightweight aluminum chassis and 4.8 liter BMW engine sit beneath the traditional Morgan body. At just 1100kg, the Plus 8 is one of the lightest V8 passenger cars in the world and is capable of 0-62 mph in 4.5 seconds and has a top speed of 155 mph.

The Morgan Plus 8 50th logo

“Each design detail of the Plus 8 50th has been considered to celebrate the Plus 8 and what it has meant to Morgan and its customers over the last 50 years,” says head of design Jon Wells. “This famous V8 was a darling of the automotive industry in the sixties and has today become an unrivalled machine offering raw exhilaration and effortless power delivery. Overlooking the long wide bonnet sat directly on the rear axle, when driving a plus 8 you are very aware of, not just its sound track, but its significance and its capability. The design of this special final edition hopes to do both justice.”

The Plus 8 50th will be revealed in March this year at the Geneva Motor Show.

and more . . . 

Morgan Plus 8 50th Anniversary edition celebrates the end of V8-engined model (www.autocar.co.uk/)

50-unit special edition will be revealed at Geneva in March to commemorate the end of the BMW V8-engined Plus 8, alongside the last Aero 8 edition.

The standard car will no longer be produced with the 4.8-litre BMW V8

Morgan has announced that its Plus 8 will no longer be made with the 4.8-litre BMW V8 engine, commemorating the departure with a 50-unit, 50th Anniversary edition of the retro-styled sports car.

Set to be revealed at the Geneva motor show in March, the Plus 8 50th Anniversary Special Edition will be a more luxurious edition of the Plus 8, although the brand has revealed none of the car itself.

The limited edition will be sold through Morgan’s dealer network, although the brand hasn’t yet revealed pricing. It’s likely to command a premium over the standard car’s £85,461 starting price, though.

The Plus 8 was reintroduced into the Morgan range in 2012, and since then has been atop the brand’s lineup in terms of power-to-weight ratio; the light 1100kg kerb weight and 367bhp combining for a figure of 315bhp per tonne.

It was first introduced in 1968, and was produced until 2004, powered by a Rover V8.

Design boss Jon Wells said: “Each design detail of the Plus 8 50th has been considered to celebrate the Plus 8 and what it has meant to Morgan and its customers over the past 50 years. Overlooking the long wide bonnet sat directly on the rear axle, when driving a plus 8 you are very aware of, not just its soundtrack, but its significance and its capability. The design of this special final edition hopes to do both justice.”

Morgan’s staying tight-lipped about the special edition until its official launch at Geneva, alongside the Aero GT – the 8-unit run-out special edition of the Aero 8.

06 Jan

Burlen Ltd Set to Launch Innovative Fuel System in 2017 (https://justbritish.com/)

[This press release was originally written at the end of 2016.  I don’t actually know if they were able to come to market in 2017 with this new product as I wasn’t in the market.  However,  if you have a need,  an SU based Fuel Injection system could be just the ticket.  I would call Burlen or send them an email and ask about this system.   

FYI, this isn’t the industry’s first attempt to hide an FI system in a classically looking carburetor.  The modern Triumph motorcycles are all fuel injected although they look like they are running carbs.   If you do contact Burlen be sure to let me know what you find out. Cheers, Mark]

Burlen Ltd, the world’s only manufacturer of genuine SU (Skinner’s Union), AMAL and Zenith carburetors, is gearing up for an exciting 2017, with an innovative and truly ground-breaking product set to roll out of the workshop.

This game-changing launch from Burlen will be an all-new and complete fuelling system that includes a fuel injection device working inside an SU carburetor, and it’s set to completely shake up the market when it’s released in the summer.

Under the bonnet, it looks just like the world-famous SU carburetor that is known and loved around the globe, but hiding inside it is a complex and innovative fuel injection device that enhances performance and reduces emissions.

Four years in the making, the SUi system is the result of a simple idea and the determination to experiment and analyze the possibilities. Each SUi system comes complete with a new ECU, the required sensors, wiring and any other component that is required to fit the kit, all thoroughly tested and approved by the SU development team.

This innovative product is unlike anything else currently on the market. And as it’s an SU product that’s been put together with Burlen’s passion and professionalism, it comes with the ultimate seal of approval.

Launched initially for Jaguar XK/ E 4.2 six-cylinder engines, the SUi kit will be available for different engine sizes and states of tune. The next stages of development will see the kit suitable for a wider range of engines and applications.

This marks a new beginning for the SU brand and could well be a historic moment for the company that adds to its already rich heritage.

SU has an enviable history dating all the way back to 1900, when brothers George Herbert Skinner and Thomas Carlyle Skinner began experimenting with fuel mixture and atomization.

The S.U. Company Ltd was founded in 1910, and it’s been a carburetor superpower ever since. Over the generations, the keys to the Skinner’s Union castle were passed from Skinner to Skinner until Burlen acquired the name and rights of the company in 1996.

Burlen and Skinner’s Union first collaborated when John Burnett and Mike Cullen’s business was named as an official SU agent in the midst of the 1974 fuel crisis, but business wasn’t exactly booming.

Towards the end of the eighties, the SU brand was suffering from neglect as the factory was known as ARG Fuel Systems and fast-moving product was distributed by Unipart. However, Burlen came to the rescue and reached an agreement to relaunch the SU logo and livery as they appear today.

Despite SU being one of the oldest brands in the automotive world, Burlen’s youthful and exciting vision for the future has brought it into a completely new light.

Brothers Mark, Andy and Jamie Burnett are the masterminds and have worked at the company for over 15 years at all levels and now form the board of directors running the business. Their passion and excitement for the brand along with modern thinking and technical vision marks the start of a new era for Burlen.

Each brother has his own distinct personality and interests. Mark is a huge motorsport fan who even takes part in historic races himself, while Jamie is very passionate about classic and custom cars from across the Atlantic. Andy is a lover of historic military vehicles and weaponry.

It’s this real passion for cars that means the new board has complete empathy for classic car owners around the world and can draw on their own experience to bring game-changing products to market.

And their new direction for the company is epitomized by the upcoming product it will take to market, the first of several new developments to come in 2017.

More products will be launched over the course of the year, plus Burlen will make appearances at several high-profile events, including the Goodwood Revival.

Mark Burnett, Managing Director of Burlen, said:

The upcoming year is set to be an incredibly exciting one for Burlen. We’re always looking to the future and focusing on  both revolution and evolution, and our upcoming project is a welcome injection of fresh thinking in the classic car world. Of course, we strive to remember and stay true to our heritage, and we’re looking forward to showing off the best of the old and new world at events around the UK over the course of 2017.

Note: Press release courtesy Burlen Ltd


05 Jan

Colin Boden Appointed As Group Financial Director (http://www.fleetpoint.org/)

Morgan Motor Company, the world’s longest running family owned motor manufacturer, is delighted to announce the appointment of Colin Boden as Group Financial Director with immediate effect.

As Group Financial Director, Colin will not only be responsible for the financial functions of the Morgan Group, his role will establish him as a key influence in strategic decisions as Morgan continues to excel through its second century in business. His key aims will be to further improve profitability for the company, ensuring Morgan has a stable financial platform to develop exciting vehicles, embark on ambitious new projects across all business areas as well as introduce industry leading technology into the model range and production process.

Initially joining the Malvern based firm in 2010 as Management Accountant, Colin has worked within almost all facets of the Morgan business during his time there, and most recently was influential in the repurchase of the factory premises in June.

Boden, 33, joins Managing Director, Steve Morris, Technology Director, Graham Chapman and Supply Chain Director, Gregor Dixon-Smith working at the company.

Steve Morris, Managing Director – ‘We are delighted to appoint Colin Boden to the role of Financial Director. Colin has worked tirelessly since joining the company to improve many areas of our business practise. He has demonstrated great ambition both on a personal level and for Morgan as a company and I wish him every success in the role.”

Colin Boden, Group Financial Director – ‘I am honoured to have been appointed as Group Financial Director of such an iconic and prestigious company. Since joining in 2010 I have been privileged to experience just what a unique brand Morgan is. I am excited to be given the chance to shape the future of the marque and would like to thank the Morgan family and shareholders for the opportunity.’

Thursday, January 4, 2018