Rumblings, May 1960

A family company

In an age when mass-production figures are soaring, it is pleasant to find one small family business that is still going strong after fifty active years. The Company we have in mind is the Morgan Motor Company, Ltd., of Malvern Link, Worcestershire, and we were reminded of how long they have been making three-wheelers and now sports cars when we drove down to Malvern for their 50th Anniversary luncheon celebration last month.

Malvern, although it is about to receive kerbstones, is an unspoilt town nestling in the shadow of tall hills flanked by the greenest of green commons on which sheep and their lambs graze and time passes placidly. In this scene a giant automobile factory, such as has eaten into parts of rural Oxfordshire, would be out of place, and it is fitting that the Morgan concern remains quite small, assembling specialised cars, largely by hand, of proprietory components, the engines, for instance, corning front Ford and Standard.

In the Abbey Hotel, on April 7th, a large assembly of suppliers, agents, technical representatives and the Press sat down together for a celebration where, more than at any other we have attended, tribute was paid to two families for their achievements in the world of motoring—the late H. F. S. Morgan, who, sadly, just failed to see this 50th anniversary of the Company he formed in 1910, Peter, his son, who controls Morgan destiny today, and the Goodalls, father and son, both happily present, although George Goodall retired a short time ago after joining the firm in 1925.

Indeed, in this firm that employs under 100 persons, two have served there for 48 out of the full 50 years (one of whom is G. H. Jones), and ten have been with Morgans for more than 35 years. Incidentally, George Goodall lives in a house called “Doverhay,” after the well-known M.C.C. trials hill, and he claims to have organised the very last speed trial to he held on a public road in England, in Herefordshire early in 1925, after the accident at Kop instituted the R.A.C. ban on such events.

On this happy occasion A. B. Bourne, of lliffe & Sons, proposed “The Company,” to which Peter Morgan replied, both recalling numerous nostalgic Morgan memories. George Goodall, in an extremely amusing speech, followed this up by proposing ” The Guests,” to which H. Evan Price, of the Dunlop Rubber Company, replied. Peter Morgan recalled that in the days of long ago when his father made three-wheelers trade was seasonal, so that during the winter stocks piled up and cars were stored with the front wheels on the ground and the back wheels in the air, a comic sight. He thought more makes of engine had been used than by any other manufacturer, naming J.A.P., Blackburne, Coventry-Climax, Ford and Standard, to which could be added Anzani, M.A.G., Prescision, etc. In a good year 1,500 Morgan three-wheelers were turned out, but often dealers awaiting delivery would buckle to and lend a hand in finishing those they had come to collect!

Arthur Bourne thought the Morgan owed its success to the firmness with which “H. F. S.” resisted temptation to over-complicate the design. Certainly one recalls that originally the steps taken to “simplicate and add lightness” were drastic—using the frame tubes as exhaust pipes, for instance, while a rival cyclecar manufacturer never fails to remind us that whereas his steering track-rods were furnished with yoke-ends, even if the pins therein were held by split pins, Morgan merely turned over the end of his track-rod and stuck the split pin through it! Mr. Bourne spoke of the J.M.B. three-wheeler which appeared, complete with ash-frame and single-cylinder s.v. engine to sell for about £65, a few years before the last war. Over-elaboration followed and killed it stone dead.

Dear old George Goodall made the company roar with laughter many times but all his stories cannot he put into print. One joyful remark was to the effect that he didn’t know at whose hands the Company had suffered more—the technical or the non-technical Press!

In connection with their Jubilee, Morgan issued a fascinating book outlining some of the highlights of their career. This includes some excellent pictures, starting with the original 1910 tiller-steered model and a long chassis four-seater with Mr. and Mrs. Morgan (who accompanied her husband on so many trials), Miss D. Morgan (one of Peter’s several sisters) and G. Day all on board. There are also some splendid “shots” of Morgan three-wheelers in competition settings, covering the cyclecar hour record of 1912 (59 miles 1,120 yd.), H. Beart’s record-breaking Morgan Blackburne of 1925, which accomplished 104.68 m.p.h. over the f.s. kilometre, being considerably faster than the four-wheeler G.N. of the same capacity but not, as the caption states, the fastest unsupercharged car in the world, for Campbell’s Sunbeam, to name one, had exceeded 150 m.p.h., Gwenda Stewart’s Morgan-J.A.P., which did 110.69 m.p.h, for five miles at Montlhéry in 1931. and C. T. Jay and C. Curtis in the 730-c.c. Morgan-J.A.P. which won the Cyclecar Grand Prix at Brooklands in 1929. In connection with the last-named, Peter Morgan told a charming story. They wanted to caption the picture correctly and asked Jay whether it was taken before or after the race. “Before,” said Jay. “How do you know, after all these years?” asked Peter. “Easy,” replied Jay. “I overturned at the chicane in practice and Curtis was pinned underneath. When I asked him if he could get out, he said he couldn’t and that when he could he b—— -well wasn’t ever getting in again.”

Besides three-wheelers the book abounds in pictures of the Morgan four-wheelers, front the prototype Ford Ten-engined car of 1935 to the present Plus Fours. The right note on which to end would seem to be to remark that every Guild Day at Goodwood the writer enjoys most his drive in a Morgan Plus Four, which is fast and very safe and a delight to handle—especially now that it has Girling disc brakes on the front wheels.