01 Mar

Happy 50th, ISIS Imports! Congratulations, Bill Fink! (SimanaitisSays.com)

[You will remember that Bill Fink was the Honored Guest at the MOGSouth 40th Anniversary Meet.   I have to admit I am a big fan with two ISIS cars, my 4/4 and my Plus 8.   Mark]

THE ISIS, a river renowned for its rowing and punting, flows through the English town of  Oxford. When American Bill Fink was a student at Keble College, University of Oxford, he  took part in rowing competitions. Indeed, today at the age of 75, he is still active with Oxford Old Boy crewing.

Rowing on the Isis at Oxford, England

Reflected his rowing enthusiasm, when Bill established a U.S. agency for Morgan sports cars in 1968, he named it Isis Imports Ltd. Originally on Eddy Street in San Francisco, the company outgrew this location and resettled at the end of San Francisco’s Pier 33, not far from Fisherman’s Wharf. These days, Isis Imports also has a second location in Bodega, California (yes, of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birdsfame!).

The original home of Isis Imports, Eddy Street, San Francisco, 1968.

The 1960s were great times for Morgan, with the U.S. its largest export market. Then came the 1969 advent of clean air and automotive emissions controls. Buying its engines from larger automakers, Morgan was hard-pressed to keep up with enhanced stringency of regulations. Its U.S. market all but died.

However, Bill was more than just an astute businessman (I suspect he’s snickering at this moniker as he reads it). He was, and remains, a Morgan enthusiast. After extensive discussions with federal authorities and scads of paperwork, beginning in 1974 Bill was able to convert new Morgan Plus 8s to propane power and renew their legal importation.

In addition to Bill’s propane expertise, the U.S. Plus 8 Morgan required other modifications to meet evolving federal standards: different bumpers, reinforced doors, padded sun visors, standard inertia seatbelts, and fitting of the Morgan four-passenger model’s higher windshield with added reinforcement. Eventually, Morgans got airbags, another feature Bill helped develop.

Maurice Owen, rest his soul, was the Morgan director of development and engineering. We joked at the time about his use of a state-of-the-art phone.

Maurice Owen was responsible for developing the Morgan Plus 8, whose Rover engine began life as the U.S. Buick V-8. Brit Eoin Young drove an early Plus 8 for R&T in December 1968. As R&T engineering editor, I tested other Plus 8s in August 1980 and June 1999.

Bill and his wife Judy became friends. Drives up and down the coast between Newport Beach and San Francisco’s Pier 33 were more than just pleasurable work. In fact, on a trip to Malvern Links, Worcs., the home of Morgan, Wife Dottie and I enjoyed the hospitality of Maurice and his wife.

As shown in this 1999 photo, Bill really gets into his work.

I experienced another bit of Bill’s engineering of Morgans in my drive of Isis Imports’ Chevrolet-engine Plus 8. And not just any Chevrolet engine, but a 6.0-liter LS2 Corvette V-8 producing 400 hp (versus the Rover V-8’s nominal 190) and 400 lb.-ft. of tyre-churning torque.

Dave Hill, Corvette chief engineer from 1992 to 2006, examines one of his company’s LS2s in an unfamiliar home.

R&T reported on the LS2-powered cars in April 2006. This Plus 8 Plus did the quarter mile in 12.6 seconds at 112.1 mph. Its 0-60 time was a quick 4.2 seconds; the Brit magazine Autocar shaved this to 3.8.

Morgan Cars USA (Isis Imports Ltd.) is at Pier 33 on The Embarcadero, San Francisco; 415 433-1334

The year 2018 is especially significant for Bill Fink and for Morgan. It’s the 50th anniversary of the Morgan Plus 8 and also the 50th anniversary of Isis Imports.

Double cheers, Bill!

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2018


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