04 Dec

Aston Martin Vanquish IP Mystery Buyer Found? Hint: the suspect is also English – 4/12/18 (autonews.com)

[This rumor is swirling. There are lots of press reports stating that Morgan and Aston Martin have negotiated some sort of deal related to the Vanquish.  Perhaps we will hear something from the Geneva Show, where Morgan typically makes their announcements and new vehicle reveals.  Mark] 

We reported recently on the $26-million sale of Aston Martin’s intellectual property and design drawings for its departed Vanquish. Rumors abound about who the buyer was and while Automotive News had initially surmised that the Morgan Motor Company may have been involved, both Aston and Morgan were non-committal.

The reason Auto News is now practically convinced that it was indeed the 110-year-old British car manufacturer is that Morgan has just announced plans to build a new model with specs that practically mirror those of the outgoing Vanquish.  Namely, a rear-wheel-drive, front-engined coupe built on a bonded and riveted aluminum chassis.  [This is the Aero 8’s and Aero based, Plus 8’s current spec, and has been for years,  so this isn’t the ‘smoking gun’, they seem to think it is.]

Aston Martin’s CEO Andy Palmer explained to Automotive News that he agreed to sell the Vanquish tooling as well as 18 months of Aston Martin Consulting services to help with the new car’s development.

He only did so after receiving reassurances about the way the future car would be executed. He also mentioned that the customer didn’t want the Vanquish connection named. And so, it remains, no official announcements have been made but we would be surprised if this were not the case.

Morgan currently offers three models to US customers, the quirky three-wheeler and the Plus 4 and Roadster 3.7 (which you need to source your own engines for). [Not exactly true.  Morgan provides the engines and the dealers have them installed.]  All three have long wait lists.  But with this new high-performance flagship, due for release at some point in the mid-2020s, it could be the ideal vehicle to offer power-hungry American shoppers.

Aside from mentioning that the design would follow its traditional approach, details on the engine and other drivetrain components have not been revealed yet by Morgan. Whether it ends up using a version of the Aston’s 5.9-liter V12 or perhaps another BMW V8, we cannot wait for some more details in the coming months.

 

31 Oct

Morgan to Reinvent Itself with High-Performance Sports Car (www.autocar.co.uk)

30 October 2018

[This article seems to have a few more specifics that help clarify the reported new offering.  Things I picked out include (1) coupé and roadster, with gasoline or electric drive, (2) in house design (3) bonded aluminum chassis, similar to Aero 8, (4) standard front engine, rear drive, (5) forced induction (turbo or supercharged?) and manual or automatic transmission, (6) traditional bodied application this coming soon (2019) (a new I-6 turbo Roadster perhaps?) and (7) chassis looks to be long enough to handle an inline 6 cylinder engine.  See picture.  Cheers, Mark] 

All-new two-seat coupé and roadster are under way to take Morgan into the future

Jon Wells (left) is leading the design team on the new car

Morgan is working on an all-new high-performance sports car flagship that will both reinforce its reputation for classic design and move it on a couple of decades, notionally into the Jaguar E-Type era.

The new car, which will be made in both coupé and roadster forms , follows several years of research into what a traditionally minded 109-year-old car company should do next, without threatening its successful classic model range.  It is being created in-house by design and engineering teams that now total around 30 people as a result of recent, well-targeted investment.

The new hand-made flagship’s first iteration is understood to be a two-door, two-seat coupé that should appear in the mid-2020s, estimated to be priced near the level of an Aston Martin V8 Vantage.  It will use a new architecture with the classic Morgan front-engine, rear-drive layout and continue the marque’s tradition for compact dimensions and light weight, while utilising the latest in chassis and powertrain engineering.

Morgan bosses are coy about revealing the new car’s performance and power, not least because it will have several different powertrains, including electrified variants, over its life.  Early versions are likely to use a downsized, forced-induction six-cylinder petrol engine producing 350bhp-plus, driving through either a manual six-speed or paddle-shift automatic gearbox .

Performance is likely to be close to Plus 8 levels, which means a top speed of 150mph-plus and 0-60mph acceleration in the 4.5sec bracket.

The new car’s key structural element will be its new-era bonded and riveted box-section chassis in aluminium , created specifically for versatility in multiple applications.

This chassis, under final development now in Morgan’s workshops, will have its first production application next year in a model that uses the brand’s current classic architecture , to be launched as part of Morgan’s forthcoming 110th-anniversary celebrations.

Previous premium-level Morgans also used a bespoke aluminium chassis, but that design was created in 2000 and has been much modified since to meet current legislation. Morgan believes the new design can provide the right basis for its pricier models for the next decade, and probably beyond.

Morgan managing director Steve Morris said the new flagship shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for the Aero or Plus 8 models, recently discontinued after Morgan’s supply contract for normally aspirated 4.8-litre BMW V8s ended.  Rather, it is an early result of several years’ study into how the company should shape its future.

The new chassis is the first tangible sign of this, said Morris. It is very similar in weight and dimensions to the Aero’s outgoing structure but twice as stiff. It can also provide comfortable driving for both bigger and smaller people than existing Morgans, hence its internal description as “the wide-bodied car”.

It can also cope with the predicted demands of electrification, which might, for example, require the car to carry sizeable traction batteries and provide space in its centre-rear chassis for electric drive motors.

Design head Jon Wells said shaping the new Morgan requires integrating traditional Morgan values into a new look that moves forward in era.

One model in Morgan’s design history that faced a similar challenge is the Plus 4 Plus of 1962, a coupé that set out to modernise Morgan and is widely admired today for its beauty.  Only 26 copies were sold, mainly because the company’s marketing people (at the time dealing with enormous demand for their roadsters) unrealistically priced it alongside the then-new Jaguar E-Type.

The Plus 4 Plus was “neither classic nor modern”, said Wells, but made the bold move of ditching Morgan’s tradition for running boards.

Wells believes Morgan’s design palette is wider than most people think, aided by elements of the Plus 4 Plus, the Aero and Aeromax, and the recently revitalised 3 Wheeler.

Among desirable Morgan design traits, he lists a short front overhang, a longer rear overhang with a low rear deck [this seems backwards, shouldn’t we see a long front with short back?] , round headlights, the driver located behind the car’s centre line, a rounded ‘mouth’, elegant front wings whose highest point is over the car’s front wheels and, above all, a look of coachbuilt authenticity, enhanced by great care with surfacing and positioning of shutlines.

“Our task is to take the charm of classic motoring and make it relevant,” Wells said, “so that it can be respected and desired as a good piece of modern design.”

Morgan has great timing: 

Morgan’s decision to take time over launching a new range of flagship models looks extremely wise, given that it has just had its best car-selling year in 109 years.

In today’s uncertain conditions, it must be reassuring to be selling models whose appeal is a given, and which face no head-to-head rivals. If it keeps making the classics, the Malvern company is almost bound to stay healthy. This is also a nice moment for a new flagship. The outgoing Aero leaves a gap ready to be filled by something different. Design head Jon Wells knows the brand and its customers well and is at the height of his powers. Those of us who know and love Morgan have often wondered how this unique brand can progress. Over the next few years, we’re going to find out.

30 Oct

Morgan Working on All-New Model (www.pistonheads.com)

October 30, 2018

Electric-ready aluminium architecture and 150mph-plus performance set to characterise new era for Morgan.

Morgan may have recently announced that development of its electric three-wheel EV3, has been indefinitely halted, but the manufacturer does have more up its sleeve than special editions and bicycles.  That’s if reports in Autocar are to be believed, at any rate, the publication claiming that a 30 strong design and engineering team is currently working on an all-new model.

Touted to be released in the mid-2020s, the hand-made two-door, two-seater is predicted to initially be powered by a turbocharged six-cylinder motor producing 350hp-plus. Additional body styles – including a convertible – and powertrains – including electrified variants – are expected to follow, though all will be based on the same new front-engined, rear-wheel drive platform currently being developed.

We won’t have to wait quite as long to see that platform as we will to get a glimpse of the rest of the car, though; the chassis is set for its debut in a more recognisable Morgan next year as part of the marque’s 110th anniversary celebrations.

Despite its historic grounding and traditional techniques Morgan, like any manufacturer, will need to take steps to future-proof itself in the face of a rapidly changing industry. The incredible success of the Aero GT and 50th Anniversary V8 has seen revenue has rise by 19 per cent to £36 million in the past year, leaving the company in as strong a position as ever to take the significant step of creating a brand-new base upon which future models can be constructed.

The lightweight aluminium architecture in question will be comparable to the Aero’s in terms of weight and dimensions, but is said to be twice as stiff.  This will not only provide additional flexibility in terms of accommodating occupants more comfortably within the vehicle, but also when it comes to housing the hybrid gubbins associated with the expected electrified iterations of the car.

Obviously, the chassis and powertrain aren’t the only considerations for the Malvern-based manufacturer, with styling also vital to the success of the brand.  To that end, Head of Design Jon Wells states that his task is, “to take the charm of classic motoring and make it relevant, so that it can be respected and desired as a good piece of modern design.”  To do so he’ll draw on elements of the Plus 4 Plus, Aero and Aeromax, as well as the 3 Wheeler, stating that a short front overhang, round headlights and a driver located behind the car’s centre line are among his priorities.

Despite Managing Director Steve Morris’s claim that the new flagship shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for the recently discontinued Aero, its retirement from the range undoubtedly leaves room for a successor.  With a 4.5-second 0-60 time and a top speed in excess of 150mph projected, and pricing expected to be similar to that of Aston Martin’s latest Vantage, we’re certainly excited to see what form that car takes.

 

 

30 Oct

Morgan EV3 Development Halted (www.pistonheads.com)

Oct 10, 2018

British firm wants to “bolster” its EV team before integrating electric technology into the 3 Wheeler.

Development of the all-electric Morgan EV3 has been halted due to contractual disagreements with powertrain supplier, Frazer Nash. Morgan said that although it “remains committed to an electric future,” it has shelved the EV3 project until it gains “more EV know-how inside [its] Malvern headquarters”, suggesting more of the development could be brought in-house.

You’ll remember that the British firm’s first electric model was previewed in a concept back in 2015 before being evolved to prototype level the following year, along with a promise that a run of 19 cars would be produced in late 2018. But the company had expected Frazer Nash’s supply of hardware to be simply integrated and quickly turned moved to “turn key” level.

Managing director Steve Morris told Autocar that “our current EV powertrain supplier is no longer able to fulfil the project within the terms of the contract”, but no further explanation has been provided for the decision.

Meanwhile Frazer-Nash Energy Systems’ managing director, Noamaan Siddiqui, agreed that the deal had failed “for a number of contractual reasons”, but said that prototypes his company had built were “very promising”.  Part of the firm was recently liquidated, but, according to Companies House, it continues to operate with several new projects.

We therefore live in hope that a little more work will bring this cool open-air electric experience to market. Due with an expected 120-mile range, the EV3 mixes the latest electric technology with retro design and details. Until the project picks up pace again and sales eventually begin, though, we’ll just have to make do with the pulsing, loud and oh-so-characterful V-twin motor version.  Poor us…

 

 

25 Oct

Morgan Motor Company Announces ‘110 ANNIVERSARY’ Models

Morgan Motor Company introduces a range of ‘110 Anniversary’ models ahead of their 110th anniversary in 2019.

Each ‘110 Anniversary’ model will carry unique celebratory badging, signifying its importance as a 110 edition vehicle 2019 marks 110 years of the Morgan Motor Company, a landmark milestone for the Malvern based company, which remains privately owned by the Morgan family.

The ‘110 Anniversary’ models have been introduced in preparation for the anniversary year. Each edition will be available with a specially selected range of options, included at no extra cost to the customer.

The current Morgan range includes the 4/4, Plus 4, Roadster and 3 Wheeler.

The Morgan Motor Company is excited to announce the first in a number of celebrations for its 110th anniversary year in 2019, which will see a series of ‘110 Anniversary’ models added to the line-up.

Each of the ‘110 Anniversary’ models benefit from unique badging,  denoting their significance as 110th year models, as well as an extensive list of specially selected performance and styling options included at no extra cost.

In addition to performance and styling options, a new range of standard colours has also been introduced. In addition to the ‘Sport Range’ of colours, there is now a ‘Classic Range’ and ‘Metallic Range’, which includes a selection of colours chosen by Morgan Design.  These colours reflect some of the most popular Morgan colours throughout the company’s history, as well as some personal favourites hand-picked by Morgan’s design team.

A mix of performance and visual enhancements are also offered with each ‘110 Anniversary’ model. A front valance, rear exit sports exhaust and leather bonnet strap stand out as the more purposeful and race inspired options for Plus 4 and Roadster.

Interior trim and detail enhancements include a leather or wood rimmed Moto-Lita steering wheel, performance seats, a mohair hood pack and any choice of Yarwood leather, also available across Plus 4 and Roadster. In addition, customers will also have the option to have the ‘110 Anniversary’ logo embroidered on their headrest in matching or contrasting stitch-work, further signifying the special nature of their new Morgan. All of these options are available at no extra cost.

As well as the Plus 4 and Roadster, the 3 Wheeler also receives a selection of interior and exterior ‘110 Anniversary’ options at no extra cost. For the interior, quilted leather stitching, centre split seats, storage pockets and a mohair tonneau cover are now all included.

Stand out exterior options for the 3 Wheeler comprise any solid colour from the newly introduced colour ranges, black roll hoops, black exhaust heat shields and a body coloured engine cowl.

The announcement of the ‘110 Anniversary’ model changes for 2019 is the first in a series of announcements Morgan will make in their 110th year, their most significant milestone since the 2009 centenary.

“It is an immense pleasure and an honour to lead the Morgan Motor Company as we approach such a significant milestone in our history. We are delighted to be thriving as a privately owned, British, family owned automotive manufacturer, and in our 110th year of business are stronger than ever. Milestones such as a 110th anniversary offer everyone associated with the brand an opportunity for reflection, as well as an opportunity for us to offer even more to our customers. The ‘110 Edition’ vehicles are the beginning of our celebrations, and we look forward to making further exciting announcements throughout 2019.”

Steve Morris, Managing Director, Morgan Motor Company

110 ANNIVERSARY NO COST OPTIONS FOR 3 WHEELER INCLUDE:

  • 110 Anniversary Bonnet Badges
  • Any colour from the Morgan Sport or Classic Range
  • Body Coloured Engine Cowl
  • Mohair Tonneau
  • Black Roll Hoops
  • Black Exhaust Heat Shields
  • Quilted Leather Stitching
  • Leather Storage Pockets
  • Centre Split Leather Seats
  • 110 Anniversary Bonnet Badges
  • Any colour from the Morgan Sport or Classic Range
  • Front Valance – Babydoll Style
  • Mohair Hood Pack
  • Choice of any Yarwood Leather
  • Contrasting Stitching
  • Embroidered Headrests – Morgan or 110 Anniversary logo
  • Coloured piping – Seats and carpets
  • Aero Racing: Chrome Interior Mirror
  • Aero Racing: Leather Bonnet Strap With Chrome Buckle
  • Aero Racing: Choice of Two Moto-Lita Steering Wheels
  • Aero Racing: Rear Exit Sports Exhaust System (Cat Back)
  • 110 Anniversary Bonnet Badges
  • Any colour from the Morgan Sport or Classic Range
  • Front Valance – Babydoll Style
  • Mohair Hood Pack
  • Choice of any Yarwood Leather
  • Performance Seats
  • Contrasting Stitching
  • Embroidered Headrests – Morgan or 110 Anniversary logo
  • Coloured piping – Seats and carpets
  • Aero Racing: Chrome Interior Mirror
  • Aero Racing: Leather Bonnet Strap With Chrome Buckle
  • Aero Racing: Choice of Two Moto-Lita Steering Wheels
  • Aero Racing: Rear Exit Sports Exhaust System
27 Sep

Analog adrenaline: taking the Morgan Plus 4 for a drive (https://news.abs-cbn.com/ancx/drive – 9/27/18)

Driving aids are overrated, so we take the vintage-inspired Morgan Plus 4 for an exciting drive, free of computer control.

[With all the fervor about the new ‘component’ cars being brought in by dealers it is hard not to loose sight of the other way to get a newer Morgan into the US legally, the 25 Year Old car law.  We already have two Plus 8s (1990 and 1989) and one  Plus 4 (1994) registered right here in Florida.  I am being challenged by new power trains and new technologies every day.  What is that they say about ‘old dogs and new tricks’??  Cheers, Mark]

Real driving excitement is endangered. Many modern vehicles prohibit reckless abandon with the help of safety systems like motor-driven power steering, traction control, stability control, and ABS. In sportier vehicles, features like launch control, corner brake control, and torque vectoring compensate for all the fun that’s been taken away by safety imperatives—though always under the watchful eyes of the on-board computer.

Yet, this illusion of control is no substitute for the connectedness and dash of unpredictability that old cars, bereft of modern safety systems, used to provide. Pure, unadulterated driving fun may be harder to find these days, but it’s far from extinct. One vehicle where it resides quite comfortably in is the Morgan Plus 4.

The Morgan Motor Company, Ltd. was founded by Henry Frederick Stanley “HFS” Morgan in 1909. The railway worker left his job and designed and built a car for his own use. That very company continues to operate to this day, closely adhering to the founder’s ideals. Far from typical automotive companies that produced vehicles to reach production targets, Morgan pursued craftsmanship and performance in creating his vehicles.

As a result, his first vehicle, a three-wheeler powered by a V-twin engine, offered little more than personal mobility and lower road tax, since it was classified as a motorcycle. In spite of competition from small cars like the Austin 7 and the original Morris Minor, the company soldiered on, eventually introducing the Plus 4, a four-cylinder, four-wheeled vehicle in 1952. Morgan took its time introducing variants and new models in the years that followed, launching the retro-futuristic Aero in 2000 and the reincarnation of the Three-Wheeler in 2011. Nevertheless, the low production numbers allowed the company to focus on quality, craftsmanship, and excitement that the vehicles continue to be known for today.

The beauty about Morgans is they’re built only after a customer has placed an order. This includes choosing from 40,000 possible colors and a dizzying array of upholstery and other options. Only then is the Morgan built, not by assembly line, but part by part. Wooden forms are stenciled, sawed, shaped, and joined to make parts of the car. Aluminum sheets are not stamped but hammered and molded over the wooden frames. Chassis are not moved by conveyor belt but rolled along on dollies. Vehicles are spray-painted by hand, not by a robot. Each component is fitted by hand, inspected and fixed if necessary. Finally, each vehicle is individually road tested to ensure they are worthy of being called a Morgan. In essence, Morgans are still constructed in the same way vehicles were built at the turn of the century.

That fully manual process manifests itself in several parts of the car: the way the leather belt over the hood is frayed along its length, the beautiful welding marks along the windshield frame that are flattened but not erased, the imperfection in the stitching of the seats, letting you know it passed through caring hands.

As for the drive, the Morgan is not perfect either, but it’s also uncensored. No traction control, ABS, or stability to save you from mistakes. This vehicle is not for the uninitiated. The throttle response is instant, with its precious burble resonated, not muted, by the muffler. The steering is slow, taking some turns to conquer a 90-degree turn. Yet it’s also this effort that helps you appreciate how hard cornering is. Or you can always let the back end come out and do more of the work for you. The transmission is short and crisp. After all, it’s sourced from a Mazda Miata. The ride is harsh, but nonetheless planted, giving better feedback on how slippery or sticky the road surface is. And, of course, there will be a lot of wind coming into the cabin, just to let you know how fast you’re going.

All told, the Morgan is uncomfortable, twitchy, and a little bit scary. It’s clearly not an everyday car. But the few days you take it out, preferably on a twisty mountain road, will be the most exhilarating drives of your life. Driving excitement may be endangered but, quite appropriately, it takes a dinosaur like the Morgan Plus 4 to remind us why this freedom has become such a rare and exclusive treasure.

01 Sep

New Orleans Permanent Canal Closures and Pumps (PCCP) Project & Patterson Pump facility in Toccoa GA

This message may be of interest to the club members that followed the story in the newsletter (Volume 6/14) highlighting the MOGSouth visit in June 2014 to the Patterson Pump facility in Toccoa GA where our huge New Orleans flood control pumps were manufactured.

This photo, from the MOGSouth newsletter, shows our tour group standing in half of the suction tube of one of the pumps.

I just received notification that the New Orleans Permanent Canal Closures and Pumps (PCCP) Project involving our monster pumps will be featured on the History Channel September 1st at noon (ET).

Briefly, the PCCP project is the last and largest of the post-Katrina flood protection improvement projects.

The 10 largest of the 17 pumps are the largest pumps in the U.S. hurricane protection system, capable of pushing 800,000 to 1.2 million gallons per minute EACH over the flood protection walls and into Lake Pontchartrain.

These pumps and the 7 “small” pumps that are capable of half these flow rates produce a combined flow rate equivalent to that of the Ohio River.

The pumps are 5 to 7 stories high.

It took 150 special flatbed tractor trailers to transport the 17 pumps to New Orleans. They were shipped in components (photo attached) and assembled on site while the pump stations were built around them.

Regards,

Jack Claxton

 

18 Aug

Driving Innovation with Classically Inspired British Cars – Aug 2018 (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/)

As one of the world’s oldest makers of sports cars, Morgan Motor Company has found unique ways to stay ahead

It’s easy to spot a Morgan car in a line-up. The iconic vintage silhouette has nostalgic appeal, even if you aren’t especially motor-mad.

In a booming, increasingly tech-driven industry, these cars still speak to their roots. Established in 1910, the Morgan Motor Company is the oldest family-owned sports car manufacturer in the world.

But this legacy comes with a massive sense of responsibility. “There’s a real sense of stewardship running Morgan,” says chief executive Steve Morris, who took the helm in 2013.

Keeping our iconic shape allows people to relate to our cars, and strengthen our wider brand

“Having more than 100 years of experience in the automotive industry is a very powerful thing. Because of our history and where we’ve come from, we have a real sense of authenticity – and we really feel a responsibility to do our best for our audience.”

Though classic in style and handmade in the original factory in Malvern, these cars are all underpinned by modern automotive technology. This blend of old and new offers drivers an experience unlike any other. “Keeping our iconic shape allows people to relate to our cars and strengthen our wider brand,” says Mr Morris. “That’s very important.”

Road to success

Mr Morris joined the company aged 16 as a sheet metal apprentice, working his way up from the shop floor through to management. “There are many different routes into management, but I think I was very fortunate,” he says. “Being able to grow with Morgan, and having that grounding in the business itself, has helped me understand how the business ticks.”

I think in the next five years we’re going to see more change in the automotive industry than we’ve had in the past 100

Throughout his 35 years at the company, one thing that’s really stood out for Mr Morris is the loyalty of the customer base. “We’ve seen a lot of change but one of the fantastic things about working for Morgan has always been the friendliness of our wider audience,” he says.

“When you have that connection with them, they become your evangelists and your brand ambassadors.”

The business has tapped into this growing fan base. It now runs regular tours of the factory, which have been hugely successful. “We have 35,000 people paying to visit the factory each year. That in itself demonstrates a high level of enthusiasm for the brand – and that doesn’t happen overnight. That is part of our heritage.”

Wheels of change

But despite the dedicated customer base, being a niche manufacturer comes with a few challenges. “We’re still playing in an incredibly aggressive marketplace, with ever-changing technology,” says Mr Morris.

“I think in the next five years, we’re going to see more change in the automotive industry than we’ve had in the past 100, what with the onslaught of electrification, hybridisation and the pace of technology in general.

“At Morgan, we’re constantly trying to create and reinvent; I think we achieve that too. It’s interesting to talk to people who visit the factory regularly – even after a year’s interval, they’ll tell us how surprised they are at how things have changed.”

The Morgan Motor Company has seen more than a century of relentless change, though – and perhaps remaining true to its roots will ensure its survival. “I feel in some cases, we could be an ‘antidote’ to some of the things that are forced on the industry,” Mr Morris says.

“I’d like to think we’ll go from strength to strength, and we’ll continue to make cars that delight our customers.”

 

16 Aug

New (?) MOGSouth Supporter – Melvyn Rutter !!

Melvyn Rutter is back!!

Melvyn Rutter (and his business) have always been big supporters of MOGSouth.  Unfortunately, when our Newsletter died so did their advertisement.

Now Melvyn is back with a new advertisement on our website!

Melvyn’s advertisement provides a direct link to their main business website as well as a link to their extensive Morgan parts and maintenance services web site, https://mogparts.net.  His new parts website offers online shopping, parts and accessories for the all Morgans, to include the newer cars and the M3Ws.

While we have a great set of US based club supporters providing much of what we need to keep our Morgans on the road, there are times when Melvyn and his UK based business are desperately needed.  I have to admit I am a big fan.

Please go to http://www.mogsouth.com/supporters/ to see Melvyn’s new advertisement and follow the links to his websites.

 

07 Aug

The Story of ‘Dolly’ – the first prototype for Morgan’s Plus 8 (Hemmings on line – 7 Aug 2018)

Photography by Troy Ziel, John H. Sheally, Bob Dunmore, and Patrick Brinton; courtesy of Tcherek Kamstra and Morgan Cars USA.

Hemmings Editor’s note: We’re pleased to be able to share the story of “Dolly,” the first prototype for Morgan’s Plus 8, a model devised a half-century ago that debuted at the 1968 Earls Court Motor Show, and would first come to the U.S. around 1971. From 1974 through 1992, it would be available here in limited numbers thanks to a propane fuel conversion that was devised by Bill Fink, principal of San Francisco, California’s Isis Motors Ltd., now called Morgan Cars USA. The Plus 8 was built in two series — the original Rover V-8-powered version of 1968-2004, and the BMW V-8-powered version of 2012-2018.

This piece was written by Tcherek Kamstra, sales and marketing director of Morgan Cars USA, and Bill’s stepdaughter.

‘Sixty-eight was an auspicious year for Morgan, and the man who would become the longest-standing Morgan dealer in the United States. American Morgan dealer Bill Fink became enamored with Morgans during his years spent rowing at Oxford. He bought his first car in London in 1962, and soon after taking possession, he drove it to the factory for the first of innumerable visits.

From this beginning, Bill’s enthusiasm grew so much that, by 1968, he was regularly selling Morgan parts to grateful owners all across the United States. He named his business Isis Imports, after the river he often rowed on while at Keble College.
When American laws made it seemingly impossible to meet the stringent requirements for importation, he figured out how to legally bring Morgans into compliance by converting them to run on propane. This process took years to develop and implement single-handedly, however Bill is a determined sort and has always had a talent for finding solutions when faced with a problem.

Having spent quite a bit of time figuring out how to make the propane idea work, Bill obtained parts in the USA and brought them over to England. He then converted a standard car in a borrowed workshop and drove the car straight to Malvern, in hopes that Peter Morgan would be interested. Not long before reaching the factory, a red Morgan started coming up behind him. Suddenly, the car pulled out and passed him. Sensing a bit of a challenge was being instigated, Bill sped up and passed the red car. Not to be outdone, this Morgan was soon in front of him again. The two cars continued this for about three miles, and when Bill pulled into the Morgan car park, the other Morgan zipped around the building, out of view.

Maurice Owen inspects a mock-up of the V-8 in an altered Morgan Plus 4 chassis.

Peter Morgan came out to look over Bill’s propane conversion. After some discussion, he said he would like his chief engineer to have a look at the car. Bill agreed, and was soon face-to-face with the driver of the red Morgan with which he’d just been having a bit of one-upmanship. That is how Bill met Maurice Owen, the man who would end up being one of his closest friends. The car Maurice had been driving that day was a Plus 4 he had modified using a V-8 engine. Its license plate read OUY 200E; this was the first prototype for Morgan’s newest model, the Plus 8, which would be introduced in 1968.

Development engineer Maurice Owen (in white) and Dolly.

With Bill’s solution for bringing new Morgans back to American approved by Peter Morgan, the two men shook hands, and Bill was now the official dealer for the United States. Visits to the factory were increasingly frequent, and the red prototype Plus 8 caught Bill’s eye, as it sat unused in a shed. Over the years, he asked Peter about the possibility of buying OUY and bringing her to the States. After a period during which a previously interested buyer didn’t finalize that car’s purchase, Peter told Bill it was to be his. A member of the staff scoffed a bit at the American who was silly enough to want the car, but want it he did, and in 1977, the purchase was made.

Bill at the wheel of Dolly.

So why did Morgan go down the V-8 path 50 years ago? The answer is quite simple. By the mid 1960s, Morgan’s relationship with Triumph was coming to an end because the new straight-six engine would not fit into the Plus 4. An alternative would have been a V-6 from the other long-term engine supplier to the company –Ford– but their engine was too tall to fit under the bonnet. Then came a phone call from Peter Wilks, a director of Rover, asking for a meeting in Malvern.

During the meeting, Peter Morgan was asked if there was any possibility that Rover might acquire Morgan in a friendly take-over. Peter was polite with his response, saying he was flattered, but they’d like to soldier on for a while as they were, thank you. Then, turning the tables on the man from Rover, he asked if there was any possibility that Morgan could acquire some of the V-8 engines that Rover had just started to build under license from Buick. They were light and compact and would just about fit into a Morgan. Wilkes responded that he thought this might be possible. Was this a bargaining ploy to sweeten the bitter pill of selling the company? We will never know, as a few months after the meeting, Rover was itself taken over by Leyland, the owners of Triumph. After some torturous negation, the agreement to provide the Rover 3.5-liter V-8 was confirmed, and production started in 1968.

The SU dashpot-clearing bonnet bulges that called to mind a famously endowed country singer, inspiring Dolly’s name.

Of course, obtaining the engine was just the start. It was just about the right size, but a special engineer was needed to squeeze it into the little Plus 4. Maurice Owen, an experienced racing engineer, was that man. He’d previously approached Peter Morgan, inquiring if he had any special projects in mind, so when the V-8 project arrived, he was appointed. He worked, mainly on his own, in the development shed at the back of the factory. He was a practical man, so work was often carried out first, and drawings done afterwards. He was left very much alone squeezing that engine into OUY, principally by stretching her chassis by two inches. Indeed, the first time he drove her out of the factory gates, it was just after midnight on a cold February [1967] night; no one was watching.

Initially the car had a big Holley carburetor. After a drive at a Prescott test day, American driver Mike Virr, impressed by how quick she was by the standards of the day, said to Maurice, “You can’t sell this to little old ladies.” “Oh, that’s alright,” said Maurice, rubbing his hands. “We’ll just de-tune it a bit.” The car sprouted two SUs, with their distinctive covers, and became “Dolly.” All later cars, including the second prototype MMC11, did not have these appendages, as the engine was eventually mounted a bit lower.

Maurice and Dolly, here in racing trim with Bill’s preferred #61 livery. Dolly would be the only Plus 8 to run wire wheels.

Tcherek and Bill have told us that Dolly should be arriving in England now, traveling home by boat, for the first time in four decades to help celebrate the Plus 8’s anniversary. This car, driven by Bill, will participate in Morgan Motors’ annual “Thrill on The Hill” event, which begins with a car show jubilee at the factory in Malvern Link on Saturday, August 11, and culminates in the Prescott Hill Climb in Gloucestershire on Sunday, August 12. Also joining Dolly will be “MMC 11,” Morgan’s own 1968 Plus 8 that inspired the special 50th Anniversary Edition model; “AB 16,” Peter Morgan’s own Plus 8; “J 9546,” the final Plus 8; and “Plus 8 50th,” the first of those 50 cars built.

Steve Morris, managing director of the Morgan Motor Company, commented: “We’re excited to announce the return of Thrill On The Hill for 2018. Our annual Summer events have continued to prove popular among owners and enthusiasts alike, and we expect this year to be better than ever as we welcome visitors from around the world to celebrate 50 years of the Morgan Plus 8.

“I’m particularly excited that we are able to bring OUY 200E, the very first Plus 8, back to the UK from the USA specifically for the event. We look forward to seeing everyone on the 11th and 12th of August.”

It’s a weekend that no true Plus 8 fan will want to miss.