75 Years of the Morgan — A Tribute
It could be said that there are too many people and organisations ready to have an anniversary celebration at the slightest provocation these days. But no one will deny the Morgan motor car, that unique so-British sports car, its 75th birthday recognition, and Morgan fanatics are doing just that, later this month. Indeed, it is expected that “Mog-84” will bring some 400 or more Morgans to Malvern, Worcestershire, home of the Morgan since 1909, for celebrations on July 27th / 29th, with masses of Overseas Morganists arriving a week before this, from America, Canada, California, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, as well as from most European countries. An anniversary of this dimension cannot be ignored, as if anyone would wish it, and MOTOR SPORT hopes to report on this one, in its September issue — incidentally, those who want to celebrate even sooner should remember that the Morgan 3-wheeler Club’s Long Marston, Stratford-on-Avon speed trials are due on July 14th, with the Morgan SCC’s Curborough, Lichfield sprint on July 15th, Meanwhile, W.B. pays the following tribute:
What a number of facets are covered by the long run of the Morgan! It was started in 1909 by the indomitable H. F. S. Morgan, son of the Rev George H. G. Morgan who was a great supporter of his son, even to watching, in tall hat and gaiters, at Brooklands “H.F.S.” taking The Cyclecar Trophy Hour Record in 1912, at just under 60 mph. There were many other tricars from 1912 onwards, but none so popular as the Morgan. It spanned everything, from the pluttering economy transport (the twin-cylinder Family model, selling for £92 by 1928, having two tiny seats over its rear wheel, even less accommodating for a couple of kids than the back seat of the Chummy A7), to those very fierce and even frightening sports vee-twins that lapped Brooklands at over 100 mph and in one of which I, usually a fatalistic passenger, came close to fear for the first time in my life . . . Remember, too, that no matter what MG fans tell you, the Morgan (driven by courageous Gwenda Stewart) was the first 750 cc-class vehicle to officially exceed 100 mph. . . .
It has been implied that the Morgan 3-wheelers were crude — they were, but it was clever crudeness, which certainly worked. It has been said that “H.F.S.” never used a yoke end and cotter pin when a bent-over rod held by a split-pin would do, unlike his contemporary, “Archie” Frazer-Nash, on the ON, which was the Morgan’s counterpart in the four-wheeler cyclecar world. In fact, this seems to be a libellous legend, because I have just looked again at my 1927 JAP-engined Family-model Morgan and can see no evidence of such penny-pinching. The sports Aero Morgan was sheer inspiration; with its exposed air-cooled engine, aeroscreens, and hand throttle control. RFC pilots returning from the Front must have felt especially at home in it. . . .
The whole period of Morgan production has been that of highly individual sports cars which changed their vintage traditions only with reluctance — eventually adopting inbuilt headlamps, a radiator grille, unit gearbox, etc — whether in three-wheeled or four-wheeled guise. They have been marked also with those idiosyncrasies to be expected of true sports cars. Who but Morgan could have used untreated wood planks as floorboards in the 4/4, have oiled the front suspension of the Plus-4 from the engine lubrication system, so that the hot fluid oil went everywhere, as well as sometimes onto the ifs struts as intended, have had no seat adjustment for the driver at least up to the time of the Editorial Plus-4 I used in 1951 or have possessed steering of a geometry that failed to resist the most appalling wheel shimmy if a pot-hole or man-hole cover was run over, a shortcoming cured by damping the struts with bronze rings — which was fine until the thin steel-strips, with which these rings were anchored to the side-members, developed cracks, as the struts moved up and down, bending them, so that they soon broke! It was then necessary to dismantle the entire complex suspension-strut before the damper could be replaced, until, that is, a mod was introduced, consisting of two more bolts so that the broken part of the strip could be taken off and a new piece put in its place.
It was things like this that which made the Morgan such a highly-individualistic job, with a character all its own. Those of the “Chain-Gang” who have devoted themselves to the chain-drive Frazer Nash, if they refuse to compare their favoured sports car with the Morgan, will I think understand fully the philosophy of Peter Morgan.
He continues the family business down at Malvern Link, where his cars, from 1.6-litre Ford-engined £8,596 4/4 to 3.5-litre Rover V8-powered 125 mph £11,651 Plus-8 are made, still largely by hand (is the body panels still attached with tin-tacks and hammer?) in a small factory not far from where Peter Morgan’s father started it all in 1909, using that simple tubular frame, two-speed dog-and-chain transmission, and the still used Morgan vertical-strut coil-spring ifs.
The Morgan in all its forms has been a very English sort of car and one remembers the staunch way in which the Rev Prebendary H. G. Morgan, Rector of Stoke Lacy in the Diocese of Hereford, in numerous letters to the Motor Press, supported “H.F.S.’s” bold venture. H. F. S. Morgan and his wife competed in trials with the Morgan tricars and these also made a great name for themselves at Brooklands, Donington, Montlhéry, and elsewhere, in the hands of stalwarts such as “H.F.S.” himself, E. B. Ware, Clive Lones, Robin Jackson, Harold Beart, Douglas Hawkes, Gwenda Stewart, Henry Laird, and a host of others — if you are in any doubt as to just how potent, highly-exciting, and successful these racing Morgan three-wheelers were, I beseech you to get hold of a copy of “Morgan Sweeps The Board” by Dr J. D. Alderson and D. M. Rushton (Gentry Books, 1978), one of many Morgan studies, MOTOR SPORT itself publishing a Morgan history. . . .
All of which indicates, I hope, why the great celebrations for the 75th year of the Morgan are planned, for the latter part of July. — W.B.