The little firms

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62

I cannot but regard with affection the small concerns which still strive to build individual cars. Consequently, I felt nostalgia never experienced in the Midlands as I passed through the door of what was once a chapel and is now the entrance to the Morgan works at Malvern  Link, on the occasion of collecting the rebuilt Plus Four after my December ice-accident. The journey down had been in keeping —  the G.W.R.-appointed train taking its time through typically English countryside, via Didcot, Oxford, where it was in no hurry to continue, and Worcester, until it set me down in the sunshine under the shadow of the Malvern hills. Sheep from the open common-land kept me company down the road to the factory, and later a herd of cattle, equally unattended, held me up as I drove away along the road to Upton-upon-Severn.

The present-day Morgan has some things in common with the old-type Frazer Nash. It is hand-assembled, even to brush-finish of the bodywork, it is intended for enthusiasts, and it is simple almost to the point of crudity, yet, being so simple, it is light, motors remarkably well, and appeals to the enthusiast. It possesses excellent acceleration, good roadholding, a rather hard ride, and gives a good fuel consumption, all, surely, attributes which made “chain-gang”  ‘Nashing a firm cult ? But whereas the Frazer Nash pulled very high gear (or, rather, chain and dog) ratios, the Plus Four prefers a low axle ratio, and will do all its running on the 4.1 to 1 top gear if so provoked.

A steady stream of Plus Fours goes out each week to the American market and, sensibly, the design remains virtually unchanged. I found my car now had the new design of radiator, more sturdy than the old, and revised steering connections; the steering dampers are now mounted on pedestals (whereas I had several breakages with the old type, this new variety did 6,000 miles before the crash with no sign of failure).  Otherwise the Plus Four is unchanged — an inexpensive sports car with the sturdy Standard Vanguard engine.

In the factory I saw a smart, close-coupled four-seater saloon on a Plus Four chassis, with new facia incorporating a radio panel,  luggage boot forming the tail, and a sliding roof. Another unusual model was a Plus Four assembled by its owner, with his own dashboard, helmet-type wings, oversize Pirelli tyres, luggage grid above the spare wheels, and a Vanguard engine with two S.U. carburetters and 8 to 1 compression ratio. Another owner had sunk direction-indicators into the back wings of his Plus Four four-seater.

Peter Morgan was preparing his Plus Four for the forthcoming R.A.C. Rally — in which, in all, eleven were entered. He and W. A. G. Goodall drive works entries in the major rallies, and so get to know their cars far more intimately than the Homberg-wearers of the vast Midlands manufacturers.

No gold-braided commissionaire waved me out, but for all that I was glad to have my Plus Four back and, as it cruised homewards with the speedometer needle at between 60 and 65 m.p.h., new “Gold Seal” Dunlops on the wheels, sump full of Castrol  XL, I realised what I had been missing while it was being repaired. Nothing passed me in the 150-mile run, nor did anything do so the next day, not even during the evening “dice” rush-hour traffic out of the Metropolis. Not only does a Plus Four leave far bigger cars behind as the bunch accelerates it usually leaves them so far away that it is a couple of crossings to the good as the others get caught at the very next set a traffic lights. At times like this there are very few cars  for which I would swap the Morgan, and they all cost over three times its modest purchase price. — W.B.