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TIME MACHINES TYPICALLY TAKE YOU to the future or to the past, but this one has a multiple-feature: R&T’s February 1955 road test of the Morgan Plus Four describes the 1965 Plus Four that I owned and enjoyed forty years later. And I’m gleaning tidbits about it today, almost two decades on from my custodianship.
Calibrating the Time Machine. “There are no two ways about it,” R&T wrote in February 1955. “The new Morgan with the 1991 cc triumph TR-2 engine is a true sports car in the ‘grand tradition,’ and not even the most fastidious purist will be disappointed in driving it.”
It isn’t often that the adjective “new” and noun “Morgan” appear in the same sentence. R&T observed, “The Morgan company has had a reputation for producing a sporting breed of 4-wheelers since 1936, but their quantity has always been meagre, not exceeding a few hundred cars a year.”
The 1936 car was appropriately called the 4/4: four-cylinder engine/four-wheel chassis. Beginning in 1911, Morgans had three wheels and were propelled by various two-cylinder powerplants. A significant change (geez—any change) came in 1932 with the F-series trike’s four-cylinder engine. These remained in production until 1952.
Reason for the “Plus.” R&T wrote, “In 1951 the company began using the 2088 cc Vanguard engine in their car, yielding 68 bhp, but now, switching to the very reliable TR-2 engine, horsepower has been upped to 90 with no increase in weight, and the car becomes a very tempting package with its $2595 price tag.”
Certainly a 32-percent boost in power is reason for celebration with any car. Figure the Morgan’s $2595 equivalent to $28,795 in today’s dollar. And, to put its price in perspective, note that a 1955 Chevrolet V-8 (with Powerpack and Overdrive) tested in the same R&T had a list price of $2285, a Triumph T.R. 2 was $2499, and a Jaguar XK-140 Roadster was $3450.
“There is little change in the outside appearance of the new Morgan,” R&T observed, “and its low, rugged lines are retained along with the unique characteristic of two rear-mounted spare tires.”
No Longer a “Flat Rad.” R&T noted, “The grille has been altered (but not necessarily improved) by curving the top section back into the hood, and the hood itself is copiously louvered along its top and sides. The wheels are still the same disk type with small holes cut out, and their replacement with wire wheels, shortly to be offered as an optional extra, would definitely brighten up the car’s overall character.”
Heritage. “One of the first impressions that nearly everyone seems to gain about the car is that it is strongly reminiscent of the old MG TC—but with lots of muscle. The chassis is now extremely rigid, and the suspension (coil springs and sliding stub axles in front, semi-elliptics in rear) gives a ride which can only be described with kindness as ‘firm.’ However, as a result, the car handles with astounding precision and accuracy, and the driver is never without a feeling of complete control”
I’d beg to differ with the “extremely rigid” comment. In fact, a supple chassis and firm springs combine to give that astounding precision. This also explains how the doors can warp tightly shut if the car is parked on an uneven surface.
Creature Comforts. “On the inside,” R&T observed, “not many concessions have been made to comfort. The seating arrangements consist of nothing more than a straight-across back and two unattached cushions placed on wood; and since nothing is adjustable, you have to fit the car instead of the other way around.”
However, the Four-Passenger Family Tourer’s front seats were adjustable, with an upright driving position providing proper shoulder contribution to the Morgan’s cam-and-peg steering effort.
Driving Impressions. R&T reported, “The four-speed gearbox is free and easy to handle, and the speed of shifting is limited only by the driver’s technique.”
Shifting up, of course. The Moss gearbox’s fragility called for artful double-clutching coming down through the gears.
“Strangely enough,” R&T wrote, “the tachometer is ‘redlined’ at 4500 rpm, but the engine’s peaking point is 4800. With the engine’s capabilities in mind, the suggestion might be ventured that the tach be ‘yellow-lined’ at 4500 and ‘red-lined’ at 5000 rpm.”
“Quietness,” said R&T, “is not one of the car’s virtues, but engine and exhaust noise does not reach an objectionable degree, and the most noticeable sound at speed is a carburetor whistle that makes the car resemble a barreling tea-kettle.”
How very British. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022