When they were new

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Morgan 4/4
An original road test taken from the Motor Sport archives, May 1963 | By Michael Tee

the other cars in this series of sub-£700 sports car road tests are in the 1100cc category, but the Morgan 4/4 is available with the 1340cc or 1500cc Ford Classic engines, giving it the best performance and the worst fuel consumption, a fact of motoring life that seems inescapable.

The 1340cc Morgan 4/4 costs £659 2s 1d with the engine in standard form. With the 1½-litre engine and all-synchromesh gearbox it costs £683 5s 5d. The car submitted to us for test was in fact the Competition version of the 1340, which uses a single SU carburetter and a four-branch exhaust manifold. The standard models will of course be slower and have better fuel consumption than we experienced.

There is not a lot to be said about the Morgan that has not already been said many times: apart from engine and gearbox variations, the design changes very little over the years, only slight body changes serving to distinguish the present model from its pre-war counterparts. The front suspension is the same sliding-pillar type patented by Morgan 40 years ago except that longer coil-springs are used, the rigid rear axle runs above the chassis side-members and is sprung on semi-elliptic leaf-springs, but as a concession to modern trends the braking system uses Girling discs on the front wheels.

While the other cars in this series have been developed to the extent where they can be considered as completely weatherproof, comfortable touring cars with most of the amenities of comparable saloons, the Morgan stays determinedly spartan, with few of the refinements that most modern sports car drivers demand. Getting in and out is a problem as the cutaway doors are narrow, the door sill is high and the end of the scuttle provides a pointed edge to impale kneecaps. Driver and passenger sit on upholstered cushions on wedge-shaped wooden boxes, which have no method of adjustment, and they lean against a one-piece back-rest that is likewise non-adjustable. The driver is confronted by a huge Bluemels four-spoke steering wheel that is too large for the cockpit’s cramped conditions.

The brake and throttle pedals are well placed for heel-and-toe changes, but there is no room to rest the left foot and that makes things difficult, especially as the Morgan handbook implores the owner not to rest his foot on the pedal. The wooden dashboard has two cream-coloured instruments placed either side of the steering column, that on the right being a 90mph speedometer, and the other one containing fuel contents, ammeter and oil pressure gauges. A horn button is placed on the outer edge of the dashboard and in the centre is a batch of toggle switches. Pull-out knobs operate the choke and headlamps, and starting is by the ignition key. A socket for an inspection lamp is also fitted.

In front of the passenger is an unlidded cubby-hole, which, with the space behind the seats, forms the only luggage accommodation. There is also a vast range of extras, such as heater, washers, wire wheels, leather upholstery, rear bumper, wooden steering wheel, seat belts, luggage carriers and so on.

Despite the Morgan’s cramped driving quarters, it is quite refreshing to peer along a proper bonnet once more, with separate wings showing just where to point the car. Morgan has fitted a push-pull gearlever like that used on the older 4/4 model and the 2CV Citroën. This takes some getting used to and the change is nowhere near pleasant. We confess to hitting first occasionally when going from second to third, while we found reverse difficult to locate. The Morgan is endowed with fairly brisk acceleration, but is relatively noisy, the main source at speed coming from colossal wind roar around the windscreen pillars. This is also the source of numerous draughts that become uncomfortable in really cold weather. Fortunately with the fan switched on at full blast, the heat just about counterbalances the incoming breeze. Another fault was the lack of weather protection, the screen becoming almost as wet on the inside as on the outside in heavy rain. As there are no demisting slots on the scuttle a plentiful supply of clean rag is necessary to keep the screen clear.

The ride of the Morgan is softer than previous models we have tried, due to the longer coil springs, but it still has about the harshest ride of any current production sports car. On smooth main roads the ride is quite acceptable, but as soon as any serious undulations are crossed the suspension bottoms viciously, lifting the occupants out of their seats and dropping them back with a spine-jarring crash. The harshness of the suspension spoils high-speed driving for most people, because it is necessary to reduce speed drastically on bad roads. On smooth surfaces the 4/4 will cruise quite happily at an indicated 80mph, although the engine sounds quite busy. Acceleration to 60mph in 13.7sec is some 2sec better than the Triumph Spitfire and 2.7sec better than the MG Midget. It must be remembered, however, that the Morgan is the more expensive Competition model.

On smooth bends the Morgan handles particularly well as the taut suspension allows little roll, and it is possible to make the Dunlops squeal heavily without inducing breakaway on dry roads. On bumpy corners axle hop is experienced and the driver is given the feeling that front and rear suspensions are out of phase, the front end dancing about while the tail sits down fairly happily. The steering is reasonably light and with only 2¼ turns lock-to-lock corrections are easily made, but a smaller steering wheel and more elbow room in the cockpit would give the driver more confidence.

The brakes are smooth, powerful and progressive, and stop the car well under all circumstances with no sign of fade. However, the umbrella-type handbrake fitted under the dashboard is completely out of character with this type of car, although it works reasonably well.

Given the small detail changes since well before the war, it’s amazing this car is still selling at all, but the small factory is quite busy sending cars around the world. Much of the credit must go to Richard Shepherd-Barron and Chris Lawrence, whose exploits with the Lawrencetune Morgan Super Sports have brought the car to the notice of a larger public due to numerous competition victories. The fact remains that the present-day sports-car buyer demands a far higher degree of comfort and habitability than the Morgan offers. Compared with its competitors in the under-£700 class, the 4/4 has less interior room, less luggage space, a much firmer ride and a general lack of refinement and detail finish, while many buyers in this price class might feel that a petrol thirst of 28.5mpg, which is what we obtained, is too much compared with the 33.7mpg of the Spitfire and 39.2mpg of the Midget.

Morgan 4/4 factfile

Production: since the dawn of time…
Power: 57bhp
0-60mph: 13.7sec
Max speed: 90mph
Vintage car with modern power and brakes, depending on spec. Loads of fun despite inherent character flaws; awful ride is a badge of honour to fans. Variants too many to list, from functional four to throbbing V8, but (apart from latest hi-tech versions) all share the same classic look and feel.
Perfect spec: early Plus 8 values are rising fast…

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