30 Jan

The 2020 Morgan Plus 4 Feels Like it’s From an Alternate Reality (https://www.msn.com/)

Much has been made of the 3.7 Roadsters coming into the US but little of the other options, like the Plus 4. Here is a good review, thanks to John Wade in Huntsville. Enjoy.

Slide 1 of 22: 2019-Morgan-Plus-4-Front-Side-Detail-2.jpg

The lack of airbags didn’t worry me. Nor did the conspicuous absence of rollover protection, ABS, traction control, stability control, and power steering. That stuff (or lack thereof) is cake; be mindful of your surroundings and your right foot, and you’ll more than likely be alright. Rather, it was the five (six? seven?) step process to erect or disassemble the cloth top of my loaner 2020 Morgan Plus 4 that caused me to sweat the most.

As if on cue, the skies above Morgan West—the home of Morgan Motors in Los Angeles and one of nine authorized dealers scattered around the U.S.—was ominously gray and heavy with the rain my weather apps declared was inevitable. Clearly, I’d need to memorize the innumerable snaps, clips, latches, and handles involved, along with the correct way to collapse the top, so I could avoid a soaking of both myself and the car’s gorgeous saddle brown interior. Beyond ruining interior electronics and leather, I ran the risk of shearing portions of the canvas lid if I didn’t fold its exposed metal joints in the correct manner.

Despite my fumbling, my instructor and Morgan West master mechanic Stefan Mincu wasn’t concerned. “You can be rough with these cars,” he explained as he leaned into the cockpit. “They look and feel delicate, but they’re quite robust. Plus, if you break anything, don’t worry—we’ll fix it.” That’s not something you expect to hear from a boutique automaker whose nationwide inventory would likely fail to fill half the lot at a Ferrari dealership.

a car parked on the side of a mountain

However, if the silver blue Plus 4 roadster I got my hands on for a few days is anything to go by, that could all change in the next few years. Like many other ultra-low-production manufacturers—Superformance is the first to sprint to mind—Morgan awaits whatever comes from the Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act of 2015. That act was a dictate to NHTSA to develop specialized and more lenient regulations for small-scale automakers without requiring them to adhere to the same safety and emissions rulebook held by multinational behemoths like Toyota and Ford.

For now, all new Morgans inside Morgan West’s showroom sneak into the country via the same loophole many other kit-car and low-volume manufacturers take advantage of: The cars arrive in the U.S. sans engine and sometimes transmission, and are only introduced to their new hearts on U.S. soil. My tester Plus 4 received its transplant at Morgan West, presumably where the mass majority of L.A.-based Morgan customers opt to have their cars prepped.

Don’t call the Morgan a kit car, even if it toes the same regulatory gray lines as such machines do. All Morgans are handcrafted originally in Malvern, Worcestershire, U.K., via a blend of modern and old techniques that, yes, do still include extensive use of wood. Specifically, the frame that supports the exterior body is built from ash wood and overlaid with aluminum paneling for rigidity and longevity. Wait, you say, I thought the chassis was made of wood? No, it’s steel. Same goes for those allegedly wooden body panels that are actually aluminum.

Pep-talk over, I cut my way through the heart of Santa Monica in a vehicle I was woefully unfamiliar with. After taking stock of the interior, every preconceived notion I held about Morgan shattered. The Plus 4’s fit, finish, and quality is beyond even the best products emerging from top luxury brands. That doesn’t mean the Morgan is more luxurious or well-furnished, but the car feels hand-built and unique in a way semi-mass-produced cars do not, regardless of price. Leather appointments are tight and of the highest quality, and the metal trim and touchpoints are flawless and substantial. The floorboards have a nice strip of polished metal etched with the Morgan crest running the length of the footwell; it’s all done with a level of extreme care and artisanship you’ll be hard-pressed to find as part of anything not wearing Aston Martin wings on its snout.

a car parked on the side of a road

All this finery and care put into presentation and build quality does an excellent job of enhancing the off-the-shelf switchgear. Buttons, knobs, warning lights, and signal stalks are surely lifted from something else, but it all seems very mise en place. Even the gauges add to the experience: Charmingly, the tach and speedo are both mounted on the center of the flat dash, just above the shifter. This attention to detail extends to the exterior with impeccable paintwork and tight panel gaps.

Just about the only thing not hand-built (or at least hand-finished) is the 2.0-liter Ford Duratec GDI four-cylinder engine under the split front cowl. This is essentially the same naturally aspirated 2.0-liter found in the recently discontinued U.S.-market Ford Focus, and it puts out 154 horesepower and 148 lb-ft of torque, routed to the rear wheels through a five-speed manual transmission purloined from an early-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata.

All of these separate ingredients—craftsmanship, 1950s styling, quality control, modern engine—add up to a rather bizarre package. As most newish Morgans do, it looks like it rolled directly out of the post-war sports car boom, but when you slide inside, you find seat belts, heated seats, a digital odometer, and Bluetooth connectivity. The engine is direct injected, electronically controlled, and eco-friendly, but as mentioned there are no driving aids, no ABS, no power steering. The car is appointed like a fine grand tourer, but the ride is excruciatingly raw, there’s no trunk whatsoever, there’s no glovebox door, and the only way to keep the weather out is to drive with the removable side-curtains installed.

a car parked on the side of a road: 2019 Morgan Plus 4 Front Three Quarters Top Down 4

Taken as a whole, the Morgan Plus 4 is a unique automotive experience. In 2020, it’s the anti-car, a flash from an alternate reality where we retained what made old cars so charming and visceral, and gussied them up with better tech and build quality. Forget restomod muscle cars; those are designed and built to drive more like a modern car than an old one. The Plus 4 is perfect parity between the Old World and New Age, warts and all.

I departed Santa Monica and took to Malibu’s nearby hills for a shakedown run. The 154 hp only has just more a ton to haul around, returning straight-line performance that’s similar to a new Miata’s, and is more than enough poke. It might be new-fangled, but Morgan fussed with the Ford 2.0-liter’s character to handily turn it from staid commuter to an effervescent and buzzy little engine befitting of the Plus 4’s antiquated persona. A Miata transmission of any age remains one of the best in the business and is a joy to snap-off quick shifts with in pursuit of the 2.0-liter’s peaky powerband. A completely redesigned exhaust system from what the engine usually mates to is partially behind the personality shift, but even without the rasp, it’s rev-happy and alive in a way you wouldn’t expect from an engine designed for basic transportation.

Then, I found a corner. I drove gingerly for the first half-hour, cognizant about the lack of any built-in safety nets. Manual steering and stiff brakes force you to think far ahead, though the steering is one of the Plus 4’s best attributes once you fall into rhythm. At speed, it’s well-weighted and exceptionally tactile, sending small (or not-so-small) jolts through the leather-wrapped polished metal steering wheel for each pebble or lane divider you cross.

a close up of a car

Handling is more difficult to get a read on than most classic small sports roadsters I’ve driven in the past, primarily due to an antiquated suspension layout. The hardware includes thoroughly modern bushings, springs, and shocks, but the Plus 4 retains the same sliding-pillar front suspension and solid rear axle design as it did nearly 70 years ago. The whole car creaks and flexes when pushed, and feels completely disjointed over rough pavement, but once you start to learn what to expect from the chassis, your confidence builds on a smooth canyon road and you begin to push a little harder, inch by inch.

Eventually, all the ragged stuff just melts away. The squeaks and rattles become endearing, the punishing ride forgivable, and suddenly, the idea of an independent rear suspension and adaptive ride seem like futuristic follies. Who cares about entry speed when you’re having this much fun? You’ll get to where your going eventually.

Therein lies the Plus 4’s secret: manage your expectations, and it’s unfiltered, unpasteurized automotive fun of the highest caliber. Drive one around for a few hours, and while you might not rush down to Morgan West to place a deposit, you’ll get it. You’ll understand why a small group of enthusiasts plunk down brand-new Porsche Cayman S money for a car that has no trunk, a complicated cloth roof, no fixed windows, and zero safety features beyond a three-point seatbelt.

Here’s hoping the Plus 4 sticks around for another seven decades.

19 Jan

Richard Hammond takes delivery of his Plus 6. The one spec’d by the public. (youtube)

If you remember a few month back, Richard Hammond co host of the ‘Top Gear’ television show, asked the public to specify the details of the Morgan Plus 6 he was ordering. We brought you that video on the MOGSouth Web, you can find it at http://www.mogsouth.com/2019/11/07/richard-hammond-wants-you-to-spec-his-new-car-video-drivetribe/

Well, now the car has been manufactured and Richard takes delivery. A fun video. Enjoy, Mark

16 Jan

Morgan ending 70-year Plus 4 era with limited-edition roadster (autoblog.com)

The roadster was revived in 1985

Morgan will send off the current Plus 4, a heritage-drenched two-seater roadster introduced in 1950, by building a batch of commemorative models designed to celebrate. The 70th Anniversary Edition gains a more powerful engine in addition to a long list of specific visual tweaks inside and out.

The Plus 4 hasn’t been continuously produced for 70 years. It went on hiatus between 1969 and 1985, but it remains one of the oldest designs on the market. Its demise also signals the end of an era for the small British manufacturer, because the steel chassis it’s built on will follow the Plus 4 into the pantheon of automotive history. To send it off, designers chose to coat the body in Platinum Metallic paint, install dark grey wire wheels, add black trim, and fit what Morgan calls a motorsport-inspired front panel. Sketches hint at what the droptop will look like.

The cabin receives Ravenwood veneer on the dashboard, dark grey carpet, and a black steering wheel, among other upgrades. Don’t let the retro design fool you, though; it’s more comfortable to drive than it appears. The two passengers travel on heated, leather-upholstered seats, and the 70th Anniversary model offers footwell lighting. Morgan will add a numbered plaque on the dashboard to highlight each commemorative model’s exclusivity, and buyers will receive a neat photo book packed with images taken during the production process.

Over the years, Morgan has sourced engines from Triumph, Fiat, and Rover before settling on Ford. The last batch of Plus 4s will continue to receive a Blue Oval-built, 2.0-liter four-cylinder that shifts through a Mazda-provided five-speed manual transmission, but Aero Racing, the company’s in-house competition department, bumped horsepower from 154 to 180 by remapping the engine. It also exhales through a sports exhaust with black tips. The extra horses allow the Plus 4 to reach 60 mph from a stop in under 7 seconds.

Morgan will make 20 examples of the Plus 4 70th Anniversary Edition, and it priced each one at £60,995, or nearly $80,000. Don’t start looking for loose change under your couch cushions, because every build slot was spoken for well before Morgan made the project public. Deliveries will begin in the spring.

Once Plus 4 production ends, motorists seeking an anachronism on wheels will need to locate the nearest Lada dealer and place an order for a Niva, a rugged off-roader in continuous production since 1977. There’s no telling how long it will stick around for, but the Russian firm recently updated it with an improved interior.

What’s next?

Morgan previously announced plans to phase out the steel chassis that underpins most of its range, including the Plus 4. Its future models will ride on a new platform named CX made with bonded aluminum and already found under the 335-horsepower, BMW-powered Plus Six introduced in 2019. Expect additional models (and more engine options) to join the range during the 2020s as the independently-owned firm recoups its sizable investment.

Morgan hasn’t revealed if it will resurrect the Plus 4 again, and what form it will take if it returns. In the meantime, the 70th Anniversary Edition is expected to make its public debut at the 2020 Geneva Motor Show in March.

04 Jan

More Hotels in Luray, VA for MCCDC’s 50th MOG Anniversary, 3-5 July 2020

The MCCDC’s 50th MOG (Morgan Owners Gathering) Anniversary is the headquartered at the Mimslyn Inn (401 W Main Str., Luray, VA 22835) over the 4th of July, 2020. The Morgan events will span Friday 3 July to Sunday 5 July.

The Mimslyn Inn is supposedly full and now working on a waiting list. Judy Heck got this list of other hotels in the Luray, VA area and suggested I pass it on to those of you also be looking for accommodations in Luray.

  • Laurance Hotel, (540) 742-7060, 4.5 stars
  • Mayneview B&B, (540) 669-5105, 4.8 stars
  • Luray Caverns Motel – East, (540) 743-6551, 4 stars
  • Quality Inn, (540) 743-6511, 3.4 stars
  • The Cardinal Inn, (540) 743-5010, 3.4 stars
  • The Inn of the Shenandoah, (540) 300-9777, 4.79 stars
  • Peabody’s ‘Hip Little Stay,’ (540) 742-0696, 4.9 stars
  • Hawksbill House, (540) 742-1553, 4.1 stars
  • Days Inn, (540) 742-4521, 3.2 stars
  • Budget Inn, (540) 742-5176, 3.1 stars
  • Luray B&B, (540) 743-4947, 4.0 stars
  • Woodruff House B&B, (540) 244-7588, 4.9 stars
  • South Court Inn B&B, (540) 843-0980, 4.7 stars
  • Ruffner House B&B, (540) 743-7855, 5.0 stars
  • Hillside B&B, (540) 743- 6322, 4.4 stars

Some of these might already be full, I don’t know and I have no specific knowledge of any of these other hotels, so I cannot make any suggestions. None of these is endorsed in anyway by MCCDC or MOGSouth so use you best judgement and check on line reviews best you can. Cheers, Mark

03 Jan

Morgan: ‘In the wood shed a team of master craftsmen hand form English ash while getting high on glue fumes’ (Mark Walton https://www.carmagazine.co.uk/)

I visited the Morgan factory in Malvern the other day – me and 30,000 other people. Thankfully not everyone came at the same time, but that, believe it or not, is the number of people who visit Morgan’s red brick sheds every year. This is automotive industry turned into tourism. Welcome to the future. 

Not that Morgan isn’t worth a visit. It’s so quaint, it’s like it was invented by a Disney executive. The traditional production line is aided by gravity: cars are born at the top of the hill and they slowly descend the natural slope down a series of gangways that link the succession of workshops. 

From the moment you step into the topmost shed – the original, built by Henry Fredrick Stanley Morgan in 1914 – the atmosphere is pungent with history. Framed by bare brick walls, wooden floorboards and exposed steel roof trusses, the top shed acts a museum, but step down a couple of stairs to enter the chassis shop and you find yourself in a messy world of hand tools, power drills, criss-crossing cables, shelves lined with box files and plastic trays full of components, bottles of glue, cans of oil, photos and memos and calendars stuck to the walls. It feels authentic – Disney would never accept this kind of health and safety. 

Classic Plus 4s are still made side-by-side with the new alloy-chassis Plus Six. The new model has been a leap for a small manufacturer like Morgan – just the wiring loom of the new BMW engine and gearbox looks daunting, its multi-coloured strands sprawling out like there’s a clown’s plastic wig hanging under the dashboard.

Decades-old jigs form the wheelarches on Morgan sports cars

Everyone’s favourite bit of the tour is, of course, the wood shed, where a team of master craftsmen hand-form English ash while getting high on glue fumes all day. Even the new Plus Six has an ash frame, acting as an intermediary between the boxy alloy chassis and those classically curvaceous panels. The ash ‘former’ for the rear wing – a gigantic block of wood with a curved channel cut through it – looks like it was found on the Mary Rose and dredged out of the English Channel. It’s survived so many generations of employee, no one is sure how long it’s been there.

But the thing that surprised me most about my day at Morgan was how busy it was. Instead of exiting through the gift shop, the £24 tour starts here – in the gift shop and the cafe, where I sampled the carrot cake, a perfect Morgan-esque slice, beautifully handmade by skilled artisans.

Visitors gather here, buying their Morgan caps and their Morgan branded fudge, before starting the tour, and it was packed all day. Packed with enthusiasts from around the world, a chattering congregation of English, American, Dutch and German accents. As well as the Tour, visitors can also sign up for Morgan ‘experiences’ – £25 gets you a passenger ride in a three-wheeler. Everyone I saw climbing out looked like they’d spent half an hour on a roller coaster. Or in a giant tumble dryer. 

Built by hand - and eye: Morgan factory tour is a step back in time

It would be unjust to call this a Morgan theme park, because it’s a working factory, steeped in history. There’s no artifice here, nothing’s contrived, and if the visitors stopped coming the cars would still be made the same way. But Morgan is also a vision of the future, specifically our passion for cars and how that will be expressed in years to come.

If Ford and Mercedes-Benz do survive the revolution (and nothing is certain these days) they’ll end up like Samsung smartphone manufacturers – mass producing plastic cases on wheels with lithium-ion batteries. But a few master craftsmen will continue, like the katana-kaji, the ancient samurai sword makers in Japan, still polishing their blades even though a samurai warrior could be felled by a traffic warden with a taser these days. 

Ferrari, McLaren, Bentley, Morgan, Ariel – these will be the places we’ll visit, to tour the factory, to see how the old petrol-driven cars are still lovingly made the old-fashioned way, with carbon and English ash, and maybe we’ll also splash out on a thrilling £25 passenger ride. These factories won’t be museums – they’ll be boutique experiences for people who don’t want to let go. Yes, the automotive industry will turn into tourism, selling Bentley-branded scarves, Ferrari flat caps and McLaren fudge.

02 Jan

2020 MOGSouth Spring Meet, Little Switzerland, NC., 8 – 10 May

Lodging – The Meet Hotel is the Little Switzerland Inn. 86 High Ridge Rd, Little Switzerland, NC 28749.  FYI, Exit 334 off Blue Ridge Parkway

  • Our hosts (Jim and Colette Clark) have negotiated an amazing discount for each room ($20 per night off their normal starting prices of $169 per night), so be sure to make your reservations online at switzerlandinn.com using the group number 998642439836795 for the discount.  If you don’t use the group number, you won’t get the discount. 
  • It’s easy to book your room.  Simply go to the Inn’s web site and click Book Now (yellow button in the upper right of the screen)
  • Input 8 May as check in and 10 May as check out (unless you are arriving early or staying later!)
  • Select Advanced Search, select I have a Group Number, enter the Group Number.  Then hit GO. 
  • You’ll then be shown available room types and prices.  Select more info and you’ll be given the opportunity to select that room type that you want.

Note:  There is a ‘bug’ in the Switzerland Inn’s web site.  The room choices, after acceptance of the group number, all show an occupant limit of 1; this is a program glitch – ignore it.

Hospitality Room – The Hospitality Room will be in Balsam Cottage.  (Map of the grounds on the Inn’s website, if needed.)  The hospitality room will be open:

  • Friday: 4 – 6 and 7 – 10 PM
  • Saturday: 4 – 6 and 7 – 10 PM
  • Sunday: 8 – 9 AM

Activities – Friday Night Dinner is on your own.  FYI, If you choose to eat at the Switzerland Inn’s restaurant anytime during your stay (other than Saturday Night) you must make your reservations at the Main Desk in the Lobby.

Saturday:

  • 9 AM drive south on the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) 25 miles to the summit of Mt. Mitchell, 
  • 12 PM lunch at the Little Switzerland Inn
  • 1:30 PM drive north on the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) 20 miles to Linville Gorge
  • 6 PM dinner at the Inn in the”Chalet Restaurant” (FYI, Reservations for the entire MOGSouth Group have already been made. We’ll order off the menu and pay individually/charge to room.)
  • After dinner gathering either on the “Terrace” or alternately in the “Lobby”, depending on the weather.

Sunday:

  • 9 AM drive of the infamous DIAMONDBACK, which starts and ends at the Inn.  This drive takes 30 minutes.