Four months with a Morgan "4/4"

ON December 13th last year I went. down to Malvern to collect a Morgarn “4/4″. Not until the little blue two-seater was handed over–a pair of those, excellent Blumel number-plates bolted on—did I know that I had missed a ” Plus Four ” and would have to he content with one of the 10-h.p. Models, now virtually obsolete.

This model was introduced on the eve of war and not much has appeared in print about it, although quite a number are now in use. To recap briefly, the “4/4” appeared early in 1936, as Morgan’s first four-wheeler, and sold readily at £225, to those who wanted an M.G. but couldn’t abide hexagons. The engine was a 34 b.h.p. 1,122 c.c. Coventry-Climax and, following good showing at Le Mans, a 1,098 c.c. 45 b.h,p. “Le Mans Replica” was listed, with Solex or S. U. d.d. carb., and Lucas or Scintilla vertical magneto. It was recognisable by its cycle-type front wings, sloping tail, aero-screens, big tank, etc., and it weighed about 14 cwt. dry. A few of these were built in 1936, but by mid-1939 the ordinary model had a 63.5 by 100 mm., 1,267 c.c. 40 b.h.p. Standard o.h.v. engine. The chassis; with its coil-spring vertical-slide i.f.s., uriderslung ½-elliptic back springs and cable Girling brakes., remained virtually maltered for fourteen years with the exception of the price, which, abetted by p.t., soared to £556. Mine weighs almost exactly 14½ cwt.

The present “Plus Four” is bigger, and different in various ways, and its Vanguard engine will, alas, not. shoehorn into the former 7 ft. 8 in.-wheelbase chassis.

There was snow on the hills behind the factory when I took delivery, and the lirst stop was to have a liberal dose of Smith’s “Bluecol” put in. Then slowly over to Cheltenham to cover the R.A.C. Championship Trial. Meeting the photographer at the station he insisted on planting a vast suitcase in the back compartment, and as the sidescreens are rather casually stored therein I erected them hastily in self defence. Some days later, when snow blew about my face so that I could hardly see, I reluctantly put up: the hood; so severe has the past, winter and spring been that it has since been furled only for a day! This seems to be the place to remark that, rigged thus, protection is good on the move, except where the rather oddly-contrived sidescreens part company with the hood, but that rain collects on the seats if you park and visibility is akin to that from the driving-slot of a tank.

I drove home over sheet-ice, with showers of road-grit shot-blasting the enamel, but it seems to have stood up well and the Morgan still looks the “pretty little car” that an old lady proclaimed it when I inquired the way of her in Cheltenham on the first day of ownership.

Running-in during that ice-bound era wasn’t easy, but I tried religiously to keep the revs, down even when the back wheels spun. The car had a particularly unhappy “childhood,” especially when ice froze into ridges that made cycling impossible and motoring at more than 10 m.p.h. likewise. The racketing experienced in 30 unavoidable miles must have been the equal of a dozen Cape Rallies stretched end to end, but nothing broke or fell off, in contrast to a Scammell lorry we overtook, temporarily converted into a five-wheeler.

After 700 miles I drained the sump and refilled with Castro! XL, at the same time having the front-suspension slides greased again—Malvern had more or less advised carrying a grease-clot in the cubby hole and attending to these two nipples at every red traffic light, if wear was to be avoided. N.B.—They actually specify every 500 miles, which I’ve done pretty conscientiously, either with one of those beautiful old Eliot.guns or the toy-affair from the tool-roll; the “Plus Four” has one-shot engine-oil lubrication here. The back spring trunnions call for similar attention, but do not retain the grease very well. After just under a month’s driving I oiled every moving part I could reach, and noted that everything seemed intact except that the pedal-rubbers had fallen off. It was some time after this that a dunderheaded lead-foot in a Vanguard couldn’t find his brakes and sailed into the Morgan’s tail when she was stationary in a city trallic jam. I got off with a dented back wing, Mr. Vanguard with a pithy lecture.

As the engine loosened up I drove faster, finally deciding that the happiest cruising speed was between 50 and 60 m.p.h. and 70 about the comfortable maximum. I have no performance figures to offer, but there seems to be as much speed in third as there is from a TD M.G. and very useful lower-end acceleration. Road-holding is excellent; the suspension softer than pre-war ” 44—ists” seem to expect; the brakes good if fairly frequently adjusted (at least, thrice in 6,000 miles), which is simplicity itself. Corners can be taken really fast with not a trace of roll. Starting wasn’t exactlyinstantaneous in cold, damp weather, but is now O.K. Pleasantly high-geared steering, very good Lucas lamps with a sensible central pass-lamp for “dim,” a good clutch and effective quick-action fuel tank filler and well-padded seats occur as credit-points. The body is best dismissed as “adequate”—I shuddered at the bare wood planks that serve as a floor. The seats are unadjustable, the two cubby holes rather too shallow, the batteries are buried beneath the screwed-down three-ply “floor” of the luggage space and this floor is smitten by the back-axle far too frequently, even at low speeds over main-road “bumps” that appear harmless. The general construction, however; seems good, as nothing much has fallen off in 8,000 miles. The fly-off hand-brake, pleasant to use, flips-off at the wrong moments andon full-lock the off-side front wheel fouls the valance.

Fuel consumption is a bright point. The average, over the last 2,500 miles of almost equally-divided fast main-road andtraffic driving has been 34.4 m.p.g.and one lucky gallon took us 37 miles. But the engine (7 to 1 compression-ratio) protests almost continually at the stuff for which our present rulers charge 3s. 7¼d. a gallon and call petrol. Redex was put in while running-in. As to oil, half-a-gallon of Castrol XL was added in 4,112 mites and then the sump was drained :and refilled with evil-smelling Mobiloil “Arctic” which, I’m told, acts as a detergent. (The makers recommend sump-draining every 4,000 miles.) With this thin oil, the same 60 lb./sq. in. pressure shows at. normal speeds when warm, but consumption is perhaps a trifle heavier. The filler in the valve cover isn’t very easy to pour into.

Mileage to date is nearly 6,200, in 19 weeks. During that time the car has taken the rough with the smooth, literally, has occasionally carried four persons (? yes, two small children will fit in the luggage space!) and has only failed me on three occasions—the first time was when, after 3,400 miles and a pleasing run in company with an exactly similar ” 4/4″‘ encountered by chance, a mysterious “short” in the distributor reduced speed to a crawl, to disappear as mysteriously after a new rotor arm had been fitted. The steering has developed the usual “play,” one dash lamp bulb has ceased to function, and the second temporary disablement was when petrol flooded from the d. d. Solex, due, I discovered on calling at the Marylebone Road service depot, to loss of the J-jet. I also discovered the price of this innocent little bit of brass! The third failure has laid the car up and thus given me time to pen these notes—some teeth have stripped front the constant-mesh pinions of the Moss gearbox. I have never been very happy with this box, which has been noisy, the gears difficult to engage from rest and working so stiffly as to mar the pleasure of using the remote-control change. No doubt it is one of those unlucky chances which happen in even the best engineering shops–even B.R.M.’s. That Malvern had no spares in stock and the Moss Gear Co. Ltd only second-hand ones rather rubbed the salt in. Incidentally, like a vintage car, the Morgan has a separate gearbox; the ratios are 16.14, 11.42, 6.7 and 4.72 to 1.

This snag apart, the “4/4” has proved a willing and useful companion. It has had a minimum of servicing during this four months hard—just the usual greasing, cleaning of the A.C. by-pass oil filter, setting of c.b. and plug gaps, and checking of oil and water levels—and no leakage of either fluid has been evident. The 4.50-17 Dunlops have not had so much as a single puncture and the treads are still very good, apart from a suggestion of i.f.s. scrub on the front ones. The recommended pressure is 18/20 lb., but I prefer 22-24 lb./sq. in. The tappets have not required adjustment. The twin spare wheels, nine-gallon fuel tank, fold-flat screen (for fog or frost) and snug, easily-erected hood are amongst the points which appeal when embarking on long journeys at short notice.