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FLAT-RAD FOUR-SEATER

IT COULD HAVE BEEN this Salon feature of a Morgan Plus 4 Tourer, R&T, March 1954, that initiated my love affair with the Morgan Four-Seater. Indeed, the magazine’s cover was quite enough to warp the perspective of an 11-year-old Cleveland kid.

R&T, March 1954. The following images are from this issue.

I didn’t see a real Siata spyder until years later, and it wasn’t nearly this large an automobile. Or was the perky blonde really petite? 

A Morgan Salon. “Arguments pro and con on classic styling may rage on forever,” R&T wrote, “but there is no denying that one of the greatest charms of the imported sports car is its ability to bring back memories of the past, with the added advantage of greatly reduced depreciation to keep the argument on a firm dollar and cents basis.”

By the early 1950s, a flat radiator was already classic.

The Morgan Motor Company began changing its front-end styling from flat-rad to a more modern configuration in the early 1950s, primarily because its supply of individual headlights dried up. What with one thing and another, flat-rads continued leaving the Pickersleigh Road works now and again. Though not specifically identified by year, this March 1954 Salon car is likely a late-1953 or early-1954 example of Morgan’s four-seater, later listed as a “Four-Passenger Family Tourer.”

Royal Seating. R&T observed, “One of the problems associated with small 4-seater sports cars is the provision of a neat appearing top with full headroom for all passengers. In the Morgan the rear seat is over the rear axle and as a result, the rear passengers sit slightly higher than those in front.”

Indeed, more than slightly. I recall with our 1965 Four-Passenger Family Tourer that those adventurous enough to experience rear seating expressed the opinion that it felt like “royal exposure.” 

R&T commented, “From the rear, and with the top folded, the Plus 4 is clean-lined. But should it rain, the Morgan might well hide its head.”

God’s Way. Truth be known, the fiddling while erecting a Morgan “hood” with its retractable framework and separate canvas was God’s way of getting even with those afraid of getting wet.

As R&T noted, “But a sports car owner usually buys a car such as this to enjoy the benefits of open-air motoring, and the top is inevitably folded at every reasonable opportunity.”

A Bentley Illusion. What’s more, R&T noted, “When the rear seat is unoccupied, the tonneau cover gives the Plus 4 the unmistakable air of a smaller replica of one of the great old Bentleys at Le Mans.” 

Tell that to an impressionable kid and he’s hooked for life.

“The Bentley illusion,” R&T said, “is further heightened by the firm ride, the quick steering and the flexibility of an engine large enough to do the job. Yet, the smooth acting, four-speed transmission is a joy to use and gives the Morgan a dual personality.” 

The car’s minimal instrumentation resided in a wooden dashboard. The motor, at top center, drove those largely ineffective windscreen wipers.

This particular model omitted a tachometer and placed the speedometer ahead of the passenger, all the better to instill driver-dependent respect or fear.

Our 1965 Four-Passenger Family Tourer on the Arizona Copperstate’s Yarnell Grade, 1997. Ali Sirotta, daughter of other Copperstate entrants, was a great passenger.

“Driven conservatively,” R&T said, “the car has no trouble keeping up with traffic; driven briskly, the performance is more than satisfying.” 

It took only 37 years for that Cleveland kid to confirm this first-hand. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021

2 comments on “FLAT-RAD FOUR-SEATER

  1. Michael Rubin
    April 13, 2021

    The Plus 4 four seater with the hood up always looks like a baby’s pram to me, including my own Morgan. While I love it with the top down, it’s left up these days per the wishes of my dermatologist. The rear “seat” is an excellent spot for dogs, luggage, boxes of wine, picnic gear etc., not so much for humans over four feet tall.

    • simanaitissays
      April 13, 2021

      Unless they felt particularly regal and knew that gracious wave of the hand.

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