WHAT A HOOT!!
Hilton Head Island Concours! A large Morgan three wheeler class and Harry Gambill’s exquisite 1951 Morgan Plus 4 Drop Head Coupe on the lawn. I actually think Morgan stole the show!!
The run up to the show, for me anyway, was all about the three wheelers. I got a call from Peter Olson in Atlanta telling me the Hilton Head Island Concours wants a Morgan Three Wheeler Class for the Concours. Wow!! Putting together a class for HHI was a big deal.
And I wasn’t alone. It seemed that the entire Morgan Three Wheeler community in North America was energized. We had tremendous interest, even from the West Coast of the US and Canada when the word got out we were forming a class. There were a good number of folks highly interested in being part of this event; but, unfortunately, we had to limit participation to only 10 cars. And this was more than HHI had actually wanted (they initially asked for just 5 cars).
This necessitated the selection of cars that were of sufficient quality to meet the high standards of the Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance and as broad a spectrum as possible of cars that would allow us to tell the Morgan Three Wheeler story appropriately. Some may argue we could have chosen attendees differently; however, in the end these cars, unique cars in some way or previous award winners, were selected.
- 1923 Grand Prix – Bob Barclay (Ontario Canada) – Thought to be the oldest running Morgan in North America.
- 1930 Anzani Beetleback Super Sports 2SP – John Stanley (DeLand, FL) – Thought to be the only Anzani (or 1 of only 2?) powered Morgan three wheelers in North America.
- 1932 J.A.P. Beetleback Super Sports – Pete Olson (Atlanta GA) – Very Successful Vintage Racer
- 1934 Matchless OHV MX4 Beetleback Super Sports – Mark Braunstein (Sanford FL) – Previously Al Moss’ (founder of Moss Motors) Race Car. Raced on the West Coast of the US for 17 Years, to include the famed Monterey Historics. ‘People’s Choice’ winner at the 2016 Lake Mirror Concours.
- 1934 Ford Engined ‘F4’ 4 Seater – Gene Spainhour (Hickory NC) – ‘Best in Show’ winner, Morgan Owners Group South (MOGSouth) 40th Anniversary Meet
- 1935 Matchless Side Valve MX Sports – Fred Veenschoten (Pensacola FL) – ‘Best of Show’ winner at Mobile Bay MC Show
- 1936 Matchless OHV MX4 Barrelback Super Sports – Rick Frazee (Winter Park FL) –‘Amelia’ award winner at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.
- 1937 J.A.P. Barrelback Super Sports – Steve Beer (Caledon East, Ontario Canada) – Numerous Awards to include Cobble Beach Concours
- 1938 Ford Engined F Type Racer – Fred Sisson (Nashville, IN) – ‘People’s Choice’ winner at the 1st Annual Morgan Three Wheeler Convention.
- 1947 Ford Engined ‘F Super’ F Type – Dave Childress (Crozier VA) – ‘Best in Show’ winner at the Morgan Car Club DC’s annual meet.
As we actually got closer to the date of the HHI Concours, we lost a car due to mechanical gremlins, the 1927 Grand Prix. The problems could have been rectified with sufficient time, but . . . (Bob and Janet Barclay did come down from Ontario, Canada to join us though, so that was superb.)
It was a shame, nonetheless, and just as we were resolved to this reality, we thought we would lose the 1930 Anzani SS, as well. John and Debbie Stanley had family issues that precluded their attendance. But Rick Frazee kept the loss of the Anzani from happening by doing yeoman’s duty and, not only prepared the Stanley’s car for the show, but trailered it to Hilton Head Island in his own trailer along with his own 1936 Super Sports. (And, certainly, his efforts on the show field presenting the two cars was highly commendable.)
For me it was the start of another Morgan adventure!! Just back from Safety Harbor in Tampa, FL, we loaded the trailer with the 1934 MX4 SS. And, just to make things interesting I have new tow vehicle, a Ford F-150 Pickup Truck. (No longer a Yuppie with an SUV, but now a Bubba with a Pickup Truck!) Getting to this point really wasn’t easy.
The 1934 Super Sports has had its share of mechanical challenges over the last year. I first had the flywheel lose its taper and then the electric starter, and its hand ‘crafted’ mount went awry. This led to a ring gear replacement. The cobbled together intake manifold was replaced, along with two different-sized stub axle bolts. One new stub axle with bolt had to be made. Then it was a broken cam follower. We welded it back together but bought new ones from the MTWC just in case. Now it is all good, I hope!! We started it and Rick Frazee ran it around the block a week or so before the show.
The Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance is a very big deal. A very prestigious show with a tradition of excellence and high quality. I had no thoughts of winning anything, but I certainly didn’t want to be embarrassed, hence I cleaned, best I could. The week before the show, all I did was clean. Well, I tried anyway. I used a great number of my ‘omnipotent’ jams and jellies in my attempt to clean this car. My efforts were pretty much in vain, however. None of my other Morgans ‘oozes’ (as in any sort of fluid, e.g. gas, oil, water, grease, etc.) as much as this car. Just the short drive from the trailer to the show field will negate everything I had done to clean the car prior to the show.
We drove up to HHI from Florida on Friday, 2 November. A number of other folks were already there or drove up on Friday as well. There were a few, though, who got there on Saturday, 3 November. Just having a group of Morgan three (and four) wheeler owners together is always great fun. Therefore, we put together a beer call, noggin, dinner at a local restaurant on Saturday when the majority of people would be there. Everyone who was there had a great time. We even had the folks that were there to support the folks with cars. Lots of folks. Good stories, baby pictures, good beer and good times. This is what this Morgan stuff is all about!
The Hilton Head show also had a vintage aircraft/car display that was held on Saturday. We had two three wheelers (the Beers’ and the Childress’) that were part of this display and their cars were paired with vintage aircraft and displayed on the airfield during the day on Saturday.
All the other cars found their way to the show field either late Saturday or early Sunday morning. Having a dedicated Morgan Three Wheeler Class is very special occurrence, as evidenced by the large crowd and substantial interest we attracted.
The designated Morgan Three Wheeler Class display area was tight though. Made so by some inconsiderate MG owner who parked his car right in the middle of where the Morgans were supposed to go on Saturday night and did not come to move his car until 10 minutes before the show was supposed to start. We had to work around this issue and, since we were a large class already, we were parked quite close together. This worried us some when we thought about the crowd. In the end, it didn’t matter and made for a great display. The cars being close together invited comparisons. We had a huge crowd of onlookers and folks quite amazed by the odd, if not archaic, technology.
The Morgans Three Wheelers on the Show Field
The judges came, studied each car, asked questions, taking their time. The primary judge was no other than automotive author, Ken Gross, who owned a Morgan Three Wheeler in the 1970s. Ken was very knowledgeable and quite inquisitive. Ken’s articles have appeared in Road & Track, GQ, Special Interest Automobiles, Automobile Quarterly, Automobile, Playboy, Hemmings – over 40 different publications and he has been directly involved with 6 major automotive museums. We couldn’t have asked for a better judge.
Pat and Ken Kreuzer, MOGSouth members from Summerville, SC came by on Sunday to see what all the Morgan fuss was about. We also had help of Elliot Balo and his lovely wife, Jennifer. Elliot is a rare bird these days. He is young. Well, certainly in comparison to the rest of us! And, in a day and age where the younger among us have no interest in the messy business of mechanical things, Elliot is very passionate about vintage Morgan three wheelers. When he heard we were showing cars at Hilton Head, he jumped on the opportunity to come see the cars and offered to assist in any way possible. Well, he got his opportunity, and even got a Morgan Three Wheeler driving lesson, thanks to Bob Barclay. He took to it like a duck to water. Oh, did I mention it was during our Sunday afternoon rain?
In addition to the Hilton Head Island Concours d’ Elegance trophies presented (First in Class, and two Palmetto Awards), there was a special Morgan Three Wheeler award presented, the Graeme Addie Morgan ‘Innovation Award.’ We thought we would be doing the Special Award presentation, however, the HHI Concours judges actually selected the winner of this very special award and that took the burden off of us. It is so very hard, for me anyway, to make decisions like this when all the cars were exceptional, superbly prepared and all represented by good Morgan friends.
The Best in Class Winner, Steve Beer J.A.P. SS (Photo Courtesy of Andrea Braunstein (ALB))
Palmetto Award Winner, Dave Childress F Super (Photo Courtesy of ALB)
Palmetto Award Winner, Gene Spainhour F4 (Photo Courtesy of ALB)
Special Award Winner, Mark Braunstein MX4 SS (Photo Courtesy of ALB)
But, it wasn’t all about 3 Wheelers. Harry’s 1951 Plus 4 DHC took Best in Class, and deservedly so. The car was absolutely stellar!
Harry Gambill’s 1951 DHC Best in Class Winner (Photo Courtesy of ALB)
The only downside to the whole weekend was the rain late Sunday afternoon. It hurried the awards presentations along (which actually was good thing) but loading the cars was a bit of challenge. Everything and everyone was soaked.
We stayed the night in Hilton Head, leaving the drive home for Monday. And there was nothing hurried about Monday. We went to breakfast with friends, Sam and Rick Frazee and Alan and MaryAnn Rae. Alan and MaryAnn Rae, who own a lovely green roadster came as spectators rather than exhibitors and, being Canadians, had site seeing to do while the rest of us just headed for home.
Well, anyway we got home with almost no issues or drama. Really nothing significant. No rain, no mechanical problems, nada. The way I like it. The only scary bit was my new truck. This is just about the first real trip I have made pulling the trailer with it and it has some new-fangled odds and ends for trailering. So, in the midst of the run down I-95, I was starting to yawn. Andrea is texting to Sam Frazee to find a truck stop. Perhaps a cup of coffee.
Then, a loud beep, and a dash message “Trailer Disconnected!” Yikes! Where did it go? I frantically looked in my mirrors – nope it is still there, a big white thing. It’s all I can see! Then another loud beep, and “Trailer Status – Normal!” Well, I was awake now but I think my heart stopped. We soon pulled off I-95 and I checked. All good. Must have been a Morgan gremlin!
I have yet to fully unload the car and the trailer. I looked at it briefly when we arrived, and everything was a bit of a shambles, and damp, just like it went in. I was a bit too tired to tackle unloading yesterday. That is today’s activity. I was more prepared for a few large glasses of wine and an early bed time.
Oh, well this Morgan adventure had to end, so it’s back to the daily drudge, at least for a little while. The MOGSouth Holiday Party is just a few weeks away and I am looking forward to seeing everyone again!
Now to get that trailer unloaded!
[Be sure to see the Photo Gallery with more great pictures from the 2018 Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance. Mark]