Morgan 4/4

14 Jan 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Morgan 4/4
Morgan 4/4

Morgan 4/4

(May 2005)

It may not be fastest thing on the road but when it comes to automotive fun, a Morgan 4/4 will transport you into the pleasure zone like no other car

May, 2005

For more than 30 years in locations throughout the world, small, often-struggling businesses have eked an existence producing replicas of traditional sports cars. However, for 95 years in a little English village called Lacy there has existed a company that thrives on building brand-new cars in the style that others have tried with mixed success to duplicate.

The Morgan Motor Company was founded in 1910 and for 25 years survived by building affordable, occasionally interesting, three-wheeled cyclecars. In 1936 and as Britain escaped the grasp of the Great Depression, Morgan built its first four-wheeled model; the 4/4 with upright radiator, separate mudguards, cutaway doors and slab fuel tank. Powered by a 1.3-litre Standard engine, it was an undistinguished car that looked strikingly similar to most other sports models of its time.

During the 1950s, as other manufacturers adopted sinuous, all enveloping shapes, Morgan’s sole concession to modernity was the adoption in 1953 of a curved grille and integrated headlamps. The business that had neither the will nor the money to produce a modern design stuck doggedly to what it knew; yet still the order books were overflowing.

Morgan has always looked to others for its mechanical components, ensuring continuity of engine supply and servicing simplicity. From 1950-68, Standard supplied power units for Morgan’s Plus 4 model. From 1955, the lower-priced 4/4 reappeared with power provided by an 1172cc Ford engine. By 1968, Ford was still supplying engines for this model but the preferred power unit was by then a crossflow 1.6-litre Kent engine developing 61kW.

Later models came with a variety of engines; variously supplied by Ford, Vauxhall, Rover-Honda and even Fiat.

Construction followed traditional sports car practice; a simple cross-braced chassis supporting a timber frame to which steel – or sometimes aluminium – panels were affixed. Most Morgans have two seats but four-seat bodywork was available to Plus 4 buyers from 1951 and in 4/4 guise after 1967. A larger, V8-powered Plus 8 was introduced in 1968.

Time-trapped along with the styling was Morgan’s unique sliding pillar front suspension – a giant king-pin controlled by coil springs – that remains a feature of the car’s design.

Disc front brakes replaced drums during the 1960s and in the ’70s alloy wheels supplemented traditional drilled-steel or wire-spoke items.

The 1960s-80s brought prosperity and peril to the international sports car market and Morgan was not immune. Sales into the US market were suspended for some years until the cars could be modified to qualify for registration in a few US states. Even in its home market Morgan had to battle for survival against cheaper MGBs and the faster Triumph TR6.

During 1970 a bright orange 4/4 left the Malvern factory bound for the garage of its first British owner. A decade later, having survived a major rear end repair and repaint, it made its way to Australia and shortly afterwards into the ownership of the Devine family in Melbourne.

It was pretty sad when we got it, said the car’s owner of more than 20 years, Mike Devine. My wife drove it daily for six years but the chassis had suffered from the UK weather so I had another one made locally.

The Devine Morgan is unusual in having all but its bonnet and cowl made from aluminium, so rust hasn’t presented a major problem. Steel-bodied cars are a different case and those that have spent more than a few years on UK roads can need comprehensive repairs.

All the panels are available from the factory but it’s just as easy to have them made and fitted here, Mike advises. The mechanical parts are reliable and supremely simple and everything except for early diff centres is easy to find.

The face of and philosophy of the Morgan brand has altered only marginally during recent years. Compliance with European safety and emission rules has seen a move to Ford 1.8-litre engines, with a 3.0-litre V6 now optional.

ON THE ROAD

It is around 25 years since I slid beneath the wire-sprung steering wheel of a four-cylinder Morgan and yet the images remain clearly etched. Must be that time-warp thing.

The most memorable aspect of the Morgan experience is the multitude of sounds. At start up there’s the slurping sound of air feeding hungry cylinders and the wonderful rasping exhaust just millimetres below the timber cabin floor. The car I drove was, like Mike Devine’s, a Cortina-powered 4/4 with the easily operated Ford four-speed gearbox.

The astonishing difference between a well-maintained Morgan and something like an MG T Series is the comfort and feeling of structural integrity. The front end still bangs and crashes on rough surfaces but the broad and well-padded seats help insulate occupants. Body rattles should be minimal in a well-maintained, tight car.

Steering is direct, unassisted and loads up noticeably in tight turns.

The view forward from early cars is vintage in style and but that changed during the late 1960s when a modernized dash was introduced. Many owners never raise the roof so it’s a good idea to check for seized framing and tears to the vinyl. A test drive with the side screens in place can be worthwhile as the cockpit, with all its wet-weather gear in place, can be claustrophobic.

Performance from any of the four-cylinder ‘Moggy’ models won’t be earth-shattering but most will level-peg an MGB in straight line performance. Acceleration from 0-100km/h in a crossflow-engine car should take 10.6 secs, with top speed close to 160km/h.

The sliding pillar suspension is a boon and a bane all in one. When in top condition it delivers smart steering response and decent ride quality, but will wear quickly if not constantly lubricated.

Mike Devine recommends disconnecting the cabin-mounted control and using good-quality wheel bearing grease every 500km.

Excluding a couple of cabin-mounted cubbyholes and the sliver of space behind the seats, luggage capacity of two-seat versions is zero and the reason why many Morgans have a luggage rack mounted above the spare wheel. Four-seat cars provide family-friendly accommodation and plentiful storage for long-distance touring.

Underbonnet adjustments call for dexterity thanks to the centrally-hinged bonnet but for more serious work, one or both sections are easily removed.

BUYING

Limited availability is the bane of Morgan enthusiasts. New cars have traditionally been wait-listed and even older Morgans will attract a queue of willing suitors providing they are in sound condition and realistically priced.

Contact with the Morgan Owners’ Club is an obvious starting point, yet even its informative website reveals only a couple of possible purchases.

Local values for decently maintained, two-seat 4/4 models begin in the mid-$30,000s and should top $40,000 if the car is in excellent order. Four-seat models are likely to add 10 per cent to those numbers.

Morgan 4/4

Looking overseas provides a greatly enhanced selection of cars but increased risks. Good examples on the UK market will cost $25,000 and even with freight and GST added can be landed for less than the cost of a local-market car. Just make sure they haven’t been bodged – Mike Devine found a rusted chassis member on his car packed with newspaper.

BODY CHASSIS:

These areas are going to generate 75 per cent of the flaws and 90 per cent of the expense relating to Morgan ownership. Timberwork faults are an issue that may well require the input of a specialist as most of the ash framing is hidden beneath the body cladding. Specially vulnerable are the timber rockers below the doors that can be inspected from beneath for rot.

Cracking where the body and rear mudguards join and rust to the chassis cross-members are further danger signals. Be especially careful if a car spent some time in the Northern Hemisphere before arriving in Australia.

ENGINE TRANSMISSION:

Morgans used several proprietary powerplants – all of them generally robust and trouble-free. Parts for early TR engines are sometimes scarce and becoming expensive, but the same problems don’t apply to more recent Ford and Vauxhall-powered models. Smoke from the exhaust and rattles at start-up indicate a rebuild is due but if these are a car’s only significant problems it’s still worth having.

Early Salisbury-type differentials are becoming scarce but can be replaced – at considerable expense – with the later BTR unit.

SUSPENSION BRAKES:

Thumps, clunks and rattles from the front of a Morgan indicate someone hasn’t been taking care of their sliding pillars. Without regular lubrication, the unique Morgan suspension can bind and wear quickly. Even with proper maintenance they last around 20,000km.

Mike Devine recommends replacing nylon suspension bushes with bronze. The late-series Gemmer steering box is lighter to use and can be easily fitted if the original is worn. Assess splined hubs on wire-wheeled cars for wear by jacking up each side of the vehicle; applying the brakes and rocking each wheel to check excessive movement.

INTERIOR ELECTRICAL: Leather or vinyl trim were both available from new, so retrimming to authentic standards is easy. Rubber floor covering is less likely than carpet to rot adjacent timber. Dash switches fitted to post-1968 cars can literally fall apart and will need to be found second-hand.

FAST FACTS:

Morgan 4/4

PRODUCTION: (1954-82) 4/4: 4780 (approx) Plus 4: 3743

BODY: two-door roadster with separate steel chassis, wood-framed steel or aluminium body

ENGINE: 1.6-litre, overhead valve four-cylinder with single Weber carburettor

POWER TORQUE: 61kW @ 5200rpm, 124Nm @ 4000rpm

SUSPENSION: Front – sliding pillar uprights with coil springs and telescopic shock absorbers Rear – live axle, semi-elliptic springs, lever action shock absorbers

Morgan 4/4
Morgan 4/4
Morgan 4/4
Morgan 4/4
Morgan 4/4
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