29 Nov

2020 Morgan Plus 4 Is the Same as It Ever Was (https://www.caranddriver.com/)

The ancient British roadster is a brand-new barn find.

[I removed a few photos from the article. Nothing new or nothing you haven’t seen before. Mark]\

The Morgan Plus 4’s doors are cut so low you can hang your left arm out while sitting behind the wheel and drum your fingers on the left front fender’s long tail. Through the flat windshield the view is all swoops, sweeps, and louvers. This is a car designed by people—long since dead—using nothing but their carpentry skills and an eye for grace and drama. Everything about the 2020 Morgan Plus 4 is archaic and uncompromised by concerns for practicality, comfort, noise, vibration, or harshness. The navigation system is a door pocket in which to stow a map. A thin, paper map. Bumpers are optional.

HIGHS: Gorgeous, beautifully built, rife with old-world charm.

Conventional wisdom doesn’t apply here. This is a car without a trunk. Trunks were a well-proven technology when this basic design went into production in 1936 as the 4/4. It was slightly stretched into the Plus 4 in 1950. It’s not impractical because it’s old; it’s impractical because that was the choice the designers made way back then. This is style first, everything else second. It’s not that fast, it doesn’t handle well in any ordinary sense, and the non-assisted rack-and-pinion steering is fine at speed but agony when parking. But look at it. So pretty.

Morgan has bounced in and out of the American market over time and is looking to reenter it again when the Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act of 2015 finally goes into effect. That’s the law that directs the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to conjure up some regulations that would allow low-volume manufacturers like Morgan to sell mere handfuls of cars without the burden of overwhelming regulations.

But until that happens, Morgans sold here arrive via a circuitous route. The Plus 4 that C/D drove came to the United States without an engine. Its Ford 2.0-liter —basically the standard direct-injected inline-four installed in the just-euthanized North American-market Focus—came over in a separate crate.

LOWS: Primitive, uncompromising, with the compelling character of a psychopath.

The reunification of engine and rolling stock was done at Dennis Glavis’s Morgan West in Santa Monica, California. It’s the sort of small shop that persists because of its owner’s love of Morgans rather than on strictly economic grounds. The place is crammed with new, newish, old, and ancient three- and four-wheeled Morgans. It’s the kind of place best visited while holding a pint of Guinness, indulging a garrulous enthusiasm, and having an afternoon to kill. What are the legalities involved in all this? Hey, you’re not reading the Harvard Law Review here.

Back in the December 1967 issue, we tested a Plus 4 when the car was only in its 18th year of production. What was written then holds true now. “A tar divider strip will launch the Morgan on a flight that would put a Hell Driver [Hell Driver referred to any of the numerous stunt-driving exhibition teams that toured the U.S. from the 1930s through the 1990s – Ed.] to shame. A genuine bump will qualify you for flight pay,” the article explained. “Still, it’s not the takeoff that gets you; it’s the landing. About 3 landings a week should be tops. Anatomically. If you’re contemplating a Morgan, see your doctor first.”

Medical specialization has progressed over the last 52 years, but the Morgan? Not so much. So, beyond a back surgeon, keep a renal specialist on call. Because not only will a Morgan driver’s spine regularly compress, but their kidneys will also get shaken to the point where the car could qualify as a diuretic.

In a car that weighs 2150 pounds by our estimate, the stated 154 horsepower available is adequate. It’s actually 50 horses more—almost a 50-percent bump—from the 104 ponies claimed for the Triumph TR-4 iron-lump four in that 1967 example C/D tested. That one had considerably more power than the original Plus 4. When the Plus 4 was introduced at the 1950 Earls Court Motor show it was propelled by a 68-hp 2.1-liter Standard Vanguard four. The current engine, by the way, feeds a Mazda-made five-speed manual transmission from an early-generation MX-5 Miata.

Exhaling through a beautiful exhaust header, the Ford four barks awake with a raspy growl. There’s some sort of radio thing aboard, even a USB port, but the real sound system is the powertrain itself. No surprise, the Mazda five-speed snicks into gear easily and switches between ratios with little effort and absolute precision. The entertainment comes when the power is transmitted back to the solid rear axle, which is lashed to a pair of leaf springs.

The 1967 Plus 4 galloped to 60 mph in 9.2 seconds and ripped out the quarter-mile in 16.9 seconds at 81 mph. For the day, that’s hauling—at least for a British roadster. Morgan claims the current Plus 4 goes from zero to 62 mph in 7.5 seconds and tops out at 118 mph. If Car and Driver had tested this Morgan, which we haven’t yet, we could probably crack 60 mph in 6.4 seconds. So, it’s not that quick by today’s standards, but it’s not shabby either.

Unburdened by the relatively massive heft of a Focus, the Ford four delivers crisp throttle response and a friendly, wide torque band. Once the pilot has acclimated himself to the Plus 4’s, let’s say, demanding driving position, the responsiveness of the machine is exhilarating. The relatively tall 205/60R-16 Avon tires aren’t aggressive in the sense of what Porsche installs on 911s, but the mass here is modest enough that they aren’t challenged much. There’s plenty of stick, even without low-profile sidewalls.

And really, what would the Plus 4 do with additional tire adhesion even if it had it? The rear axle’s natural state is to be always on the verge of hopping, and Morgan’s sliding pillar front suspension is a hammer in search of a nail. The suspension is a road-divot amplification mechanism. Lower profile tires would only exaggerate the ride motions even further.

Accommodations inside the Plus 4 are tight. It’s a stretch to call them accommodations, and the word “inside” doesn’t really apply to a vehicle that leaves its driver and passenger so thoroughly exposed to the elements. The seats are good enough, but the steering wheel doesn’t adjust for height, rake, or anything else. Over time in the Plus 4, you learn to hold your left leg in a position where your calf doesn’t rub up against anything and to skew your right leg so that it’s not bouncing into the center tunnel but also doesn’t cramp up. The footbox is very tight, and the bottom-hinged brake and clutch pedals take some acclimation time. In fact, the footbox is so narrow and the pedals so close together that it’s actually possible to stomp on all three simultaneously if you’re wearing thick cross-trainers. Instead, consider Capezio ballet slippers.

Yes, there’s a convertible top and a pair of side curtains. We didn’t bother to put them up. Best to save the part of one’s brain where those intricate processes would be stored for future use memorizing, well, almost anything else. And besides, Southern California in the early November sunshine is a dang swank place in which to be driving a brand-new antique roadster with the top stowed.

As easy as it is to point out the Morgan Plus 4’s challenges and deficits, its charms are just as obvious. This is a car built to deliver a wholly analog and elemental experience. As a driver, you always know exactly what the car is doing, even if it is hopping over a lane after encountering a freeway expansion joint. Even under braking the tail lifts up disconcertingly.

All vehicles behave just like the Plus 4 to some extent or another. The difference is that the Plus 4 doesn’t even pretend to mitigate this behavior. Many of the things we know as manners in other cars are exposed as insulation from the road in a car as direct as the Plus 4.

Morgan will only ever export about 300 cars—three wheelers, 4/4s, Plus 4s, V-6–powered roadsters, and the new BMW turbo-six–powered Plus Six, which gets a new chassis to handle the power, even though it looks like a Plus 4. Every Morgan is built to the eccentricities of the person who has ordered it, and that makes each its own special thing.

If there’s one way in which the Morgan has truly improved over the years, it’s in the quality of its construction. The aluminum skin covers the ash body framing with tailored precision. (The chassis is galvanized steel.) And the paint is impeccable. It used to be that Morgans were great 50-foot lookers. Now they’d hold up under a microscope.

To get this experience and quality takes money. The Plus 4 starts at $69,995, and the demonstrator handed to us for two days cost considerably more. It’s not cheap, but truly unique experiences never are.

Specifications – Morgan Plus 4

  • VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 2-door convertible
  • BASE PRICE: $69,995
  • ENGINE TYPE: DOHC 16-valve 2.0-liter inline-4, 154 hp, 148 lb-ft
  • TRANSMISSION: 5-speed manual
  • DIMENSIONS: Wheelbase: 97.4 in, L: 157.9 in, W: 67.7 in, H: 48.0 in, Curb weight (C/D est): 2150 lb
  • PERFORMANCE (C/D EST): 0 – 60 mph: 6.4 sec, 0 – 100 mph: 16.7 sec, ¼-mile: 15.1 sec, Top speed: 118 mph
  • EPA FUEL ECONOMY: Combined/city/highway: 25/23/28 mpg

28 Nov

2020 MCCDC’s MOG50 – 50th Anniversary Meet (4 July, Luray VA) – Registration Forms

The Registration Forms for MCCDC’s MOG 50 are here!! Hot off the press!!

As you know the Morgan Car Club of DC has played a role in creation of many of the regional clubs, to include MOGSouth. 

The MCCDC MOGs were, at times, the only Morgan events going.  Folks came from all over the US, and even from Canada, to play in Luray, Virginia and help the MCCDC Club with the meet’s many events. For MOG 50, MOGSouth will take on the task of planning and running the Gymkhana event.

MOG 50 will be in Luray Virginia, at the Mimslyn Inn (401 W Main Str., Luray, VA 22835) over the 4th of July, 2020. Since this is a historical event, this all makes sense. The Morgan events will span Friday 3 July to Sunday 5 July.

I plan to attend and if you also decide to attend, please send me an email (series1@cfl.rr.com) so I will have an idea of the MOGSouth presence at MOG 50.

Please note, there is fee to attend and form to fill out to register. There is also a Liability Waiver. These forms need to be completed and sent to the address on the forms. Links to these forms are provided below (scroll down).

So, ACTIONS REQUIRED are as follows.

  1. Please let me know via email (series1@ cfl.rr.com) if you plan to attend.
  2. Book your rooms at the Mimlyn Inn. (Arrival in Luray should happen on Thursday 2 July, with folks departing on Monday 6 July.  (Book hotel rooms at the Mimslyn (866-375-3925 or 540-743-5105) if these numbers don’t work, let me know!) for Thurs night, Fri night, Sat night, and Sun night.  There is a discount code – GR48 – that you will need to provide when you register for the hotel.) 
  3. Fill out the MCCDC Registration Form and Mail it in, with your check for selected options.
  4. Fill out the MCCDC MOG 50 Waiver Form, Sign it and Mail it in.  

MOG 50 Registration Form

MOG 50 Waiver – ALL MUST SIGN AND MAIL

If anything changes, I will let you know. 

Cheers, Mark

18 Nov

MOGSouth’s GatorMOG Chapter’s Fall Noggin – Daytona Florida 15/16 November 2019 – Report from the Field

MOGSouth’s GatorMOG chapter help their Fall Noggin in Daytona Florida this year.  We all (well, mostly all) stayed at the Plaza Hotel and Spa right on the Atlantic Ocean.  They gave us a good rate and had a parking garage for the cars.  The weather was atypical Florida, cold and overcast.  So we put the tops down and bundled up.  Sorry Andrea, we have no heater is this car . . . (Come to think of it, we have no heaters in any of the Morgans.)  Lap blankets, yeah that’s it!

We were in Daytona to celebrate the Solo finish of George Waltman in the 1968 Daytona 24 Hour race in a 1964 Morgan Plus 4. The Plus 4 came out a Police impound lot in NY, and was then driven south and raced by George.  He had no pit crew or co drivers.   Wow! 

To add to our fun, we had commemorative T Shirts (to keep us warm(?) and Racing Roundels, with George’s number 35, for all the cars.  We also had a few ‘on track’ pictures of George passing (?) a GT40 and another passing a Corvette (?) taped to the Morgan Car Corral fencing.  The wind was a bit much for our easels.  We had a few ‘postrace’ pictures as well, one even with Bill France, Sr.  Cool stuff! 

We had a Morgan Car Corral with 15 Morgans to include a 2019 3.7L Roadster belonging to MOGSouth member John Pokorny.  As is the norm when Morgans gather we attract the crowds and all day Saturday I didn’t leave the Car Corral.  Too many folks to talk to and too many questions to answer.  Also at the track Christopher Sylvestri (Daytona Morgan Dealer, Christopher Johns’ LTD.) had a new car display right in the heart of the Fan Zone and he too was pretty busy. He had a large crowd of potential customers (future MOGSouth members?) milling about his display all day.  We sent a good number of interested folks his way.  

Christopher Sylvestri in Plus 4 Club Sport

Tara Waltman, George’s lovely daughter joined us for our celebration and lapped the track in a Morgan, just like her father had some 51 years ago (albeit a bit slower!).  We lined up a few minutes before we were supposed to go out, but the race beforehand had an ‘off’ or other incident and the pace car came out and slowed the race for three or four laps.  This ate into the time available for parade laps and we only go a single lap.  It was great however and Tara Waltman took a video of entire lap.  You can view the video at Lap of Daytona Video or go the the Video Category of www.mogsouth.com. 

Tara Waltman and Debbie Stanley Waiting to Lap Daytona

After the lap of the track we reconvened back at the Car Corral and stayed a few more hours.  Then it was off to the hotel to freshen up (and thaw out?) for the evening.

The Wait – Pace Car on Track

After the sun went down, Christopher Sylvestri welcomed the entire Morgan gang to an open house of his Morgan dealership in Daytona, Christopher Johns’ LTD. Some beautiful cars were for sale to include a rare 4 Seat Drop Head Coupe.  Oh, I did want to bring that home but I have no space and there was that look from Andrea . . .

There were many other odds and ends, clothes and hats, etc., and I dare say some Holiday stockings will be full of Morgan bits and the like from Christopher’s dealership.   We had great things to eat and drink and only the call of an oceanside dinner, in a private room, drew us away. 

Dinner was delightful and we complimented the restaurant on their quick service and ability to manage our large and somewhat challenging gaggle.  We have done this enough to know that patience and tolerance are the norm.  But, not this time.  We were pleasantly surprised, they were great.   

Unexpectedly our waitress appeared with a fancy dessert, candles lit and lots of spoons.  We celebrated John Stanley’s birthday with cake and ice cream (Congrats John!!) and then back to the hotel for the night.  Sunday was again cool and cloudy but a good number of us went back to the track. I personally wanted to see some the action as I hadn’t left the corral on Saturday.  John and Debbie Stanley stopped on the way at Krispy Kreme for donuts and coffee and soon arrived at the corral with offerings for us all.  Wonderful!!

We were just a few yards away from a small grandstand and I went there with a few others to watch the racing.  It was a great spot with the racing cars slowing right in front of us for a hairpin turn, the accelerating off after hard breaking.  Breathtaking sounds and sights.  And, just off in the distance the cars are racing up on the high banking.  Amazing stuff! 

Eventually, we packed up or chairs and the like and left.  It was mid-day on Sunday.  We all had a decent drive home and wanted to get on with it.  Ian and Barbara Shelmerdine followed us home, as we traveled the back roads, through rural Florida and fields of cows, etc.  

Another great Morgan outing!  Each one seems to be better than the last.  Perhaps is the group of folks that come out to play?   We do have a good time and folks make a concerted effort to join us.   This time we had folks come down from Virginia, and even within Florida some folks travelled a good long way, more than 250 miles away! 

Well, until next time.  Have fun stay safe!

Cheers,
Mark

18 Nov

MOGSouth’s GatorMOG Chapter’s Fall Noggin – Daytona Florida 15/16 November 2019 – Lap of Daytona (Video)

This is a video of our parade lap of the Daytona International Speedway (DIS) on Saturday. There was a plan for three laps but as the race before we were to go out had an incident that required the pace car, we ran out of time. Still it was an amazing lap. The high banks are much higher in real life. The pictures don’t do them justice! This video was taken by Tara Waltman, George’s daughter. Thanks Tara!!

07 Nov

2020 MCCDC’s MOG50 – 50th Anniversary Meet (4 July, Luray VA)

For many of us that have been around the Morgan community for a while know the role the Morgan Car Club of DC has played in the creation of many of the regional clubs, to include MOGSouth.  For those that weren’t here in the beginning, many of the regional clubs were spawned out of the discussions and meanderings of folks that attended the MCCDC MOGs (Morgan Owners’ Gatherings) in days past. 

The MCCDC MOGs were, at times, the only Morgan events going.  Folks came from all over the eastern half of the US, and even from Canada, to play in Luray, Virginia over the fourth of July weekend.  The MCCDC MOGs had a full slate of car related events for attendees to participate in.  There was a formally judged Concours d’Elegance of Morgan cars, a mentally challenging Time-Speed-Distance Rally, a family friendly Gymkhana (Funkhana?) and a hotly contested Autocross. 

Pulling off all these events over the weekend was far too much for the MCCDC members so the regional folks started to lend a hand.  These efforts morphed into the Regional Clubs taking over one of the events completely.  Planning it, setting it up and then running it for the weekend.  

MCCDC is now about to celebrate their 50th MOG Meet Anniversary!  MOG 50 is at hand!! 

The powers that be, at MCCDC, have chosen to return to Luray Virginia (and the Mimslyn Hotel) over the 4th of July weekend for MOG 50.  I personally applaud these decisions!  This is a historical event and even though this is usually a really hot weekend in Virginia, this is the most fitting location and timing for this historical event.  I plan to attend and if you also decide to attend, please send me an email (series1@cfl.rr.com) so I will have an idea of the MOGSouth presence at MOG 50.

I would like to propose that MOGSouth take on the task of planning and running the Gymkhana (Funkhana) event for MOG 50.  This would entail the development of a few Gymkhana appropriate activities, the collection of any requisite materials and an assemblage of folks to support running and scoring the event in Luray.  (Although MOGSouth could probably run any of the events, we have an opportunity by volunteering early to get what we want, and I have my reasons to recommend that we take on the Gymkhana.)  I will contact the MCCDC leadership about our offer and let you all know what they say.

MCCDC’s MOG 50 will be held in Luray Virginia at the Mimslyn Inn (401 W Main Str., Luray, VA 22835).  Although no real information has been published by MCCDC as yet (in my mind, this is already 6 months late!) it is likely that the Morgan events will span Friday 3 July to Sunday 5 July. 

If you plan to attend, please let me know, and be sure to book your rooms very soon.  There is typically a MCCDC fee to attend and form to fill out to register but they haven’t got that form together yet.  I will send it out as soon as I get it. 

Arrival in Luray should happen on Thursday 2 July, with folks departing on Monday 6 July.  (Book hotel rooms at the Mimslyn (866-375-3925 or 540-743-5105) if these numbers don’t work, let me know!) for Thurs night, Fri night, Sat night, and Sun night.  There is a discount code – GR48 – that you will need to provide when you register for the hotel.)  If anything changes, I will let you know. 

Cheers, Mark