Saturday, 02 May 2009 23:55
33rd Historic Winton - MorganWritten by MotorMarques Team
If ever a car were blessed with the secret of eternal life, it must be the Morgan. From the same tiny factory in the UK and under the same three generation family ownership, Morgan has been producing truly unique sportscars for the past 100 years.
It all started with 28 year old Henry Fredrick Stanley Morgan (or HFS), the son of a clergyman in Malvern UK who decided to build a cycle car for his own convenience.
HFS was an avid cycling enthusiast who at the time was working alongside WO Bentley as a railway engineer. It is rather interesting that WO Bentley built huge motor cars that resembled railway engines and the first HFS vehicles were more like pushbikes.
The prototype Morgan runabout developed in 1909 was a simple tiller-steered, single seater, three wheeler featuring a 7 HP Peugeot V twin engine. It also incorporated a unique independent front suspension which included the mis-named sliding pillar extension, which is still used on some of the current Morgan models.
By the end of 1910, with strong demand and financial backing from his father, the HFS runabout was now a two seater being offered for sale with a more powerful Jap V twin engine.
It was extremely light and robust with a very sprightly performance, and this has been the most important essence of all Morgans for the past 100 years - whether it be a veteran / vintage three wheeler or the latest scorching Morgan Aero 8 V6 Roadster.
Buyers were also attracted by the low tax advantage as, having three wheels, they were classified as motorcycles in the UK. However, this was not the case in Australia and imports suffered as they were considered a motor car and taxed accordingly. Over 1,500 Morgan Three Wheelers were built up until 1952.
HFS was a staunch believer of the old adage that ‘Racing improves the Breed’ and one of his early vehicles won the 1913 Cycle Car French Grand Prix.
In 1927, the high performance Super Sports Aero was introduced; it was the fastest three wheeler in the world and racing versions of the Super Sports were capable of topping 115 mph.
Advances in engine technology had brought about astonishing performances and the Morgan enjoyed considerable success against four wheeled vehicles in all forms of motor sport - from speed records at Brooklands to sand racing and sprints on the Brighton UK promenade.
In the mid 1930s, demand for 3 wheelers was dropping and HFS took the radical step of introducing another wheel. The 1936 4 + 4 (four wheels plus 4 cylinders) was powered by 1200cc standard or Coventry engines. Its structure comprised Z sections of steel chassis rails with an ash frame clad in steel body panels. The 4 – 4 Model Morgan is still in production.
In the continuing search for more power, HFS created the Morgan plus 4 which was introduced in 1950; with a larger 2 litre engine, longer wheelbase, wider track, revised suspension and hydraulic brakes, it was easily recognised by the distinctive cowled radiator surround.
The introduction of the Rover V8 engine Morgan Plus 8 in 1968 was enthusiastically received by the motoring public as it added a genuine high performance model to the Morgan Range. Then along came the Aero 8, which was launched to critical acclaim in 2000. The BMW V8 powered Aero 8 is even faster than the Plus 8 and delivers Supercar performance.
During the Centenary Year of 2009, there are celebrations all over the world for the Morgan Marque including a tour around the UK for 3 wheelers, parades at racing circuits in Europe, a return to what remains of Brooklands and, of course, our own local tribute at 2009 Historic Winton.