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Dropheads were a rare sight new and even scarcer today, with exceedingly handsome styling in the vintage English idiom





The Morgan Motor Company, the oldest independent automobile company on the planet, crafts its unique sports cars in a turn of the century factory in Malvern Link, Worcestershire, England. To this day, Morgans are still built according to vintage coachbuilding traditions in the original facility, established in 1910.

The stately Morgan Plus 4 drophead coupe, recognizable from its roadster sibling by its tall front-opening doors, fixed windshield stanchions and elegant three-position folding top, was the sophisticate of the Morgan model lineup. It also featured walnut interior appointments, removable sliding side windows and body accent trim. Only 433 Plus 4 drophead coupes were produced between January of 1954 and September of 1969.

Through 1961, these models were powered by a dual-carburetor, 2.0-liter (1991-cc) Standard Triumph engine, mated to a Moss four-speed gearbox. Later models were fitted with a larger (2138-cc) version of the Standard, still driven through a Moss box. The drophead coupe also utilized the patented Morgan "Sliding Pillar" front suspension with its one-shot lubricating system, designed in 1910 and still standard on Morgans today.

This particular 1958 Drophead Coupe, with elegant coachwork painted in dark blue and complemented by magnolia-colored hides and dark blue Haartz top, has benefited from a ground-up, five-year professional restoration to a very high standard. Cosmetics, mechanicals and hydraulics have all been addressed. The five new chrome wire wheels are shod with Dunlop radial tires.

This highly desirable Morgan is an original left-hand-drive car, with Brooklands steering wheel, Derrington-style stainless header and exhaust system, as well as induction and cooling system upgrades. The wooden body tub has been replaced and a special cross-brace fitted to strengthen the body structure.
This Morgan Plus 4 has finished in first place in all five British car shows it has entered since its restoration. This lovely example combines great style with impressive engineering and is understood to be a fit running example ready for grand touring, British-style.

{analysis}{auto}131{/auto} This Morgan Drophead Coupe was unsold at a high bid of $44,000 at RM's Arizona auction on January 23, 2004, and then later reported as a post-block sale at $46,000, buyer's premium included.

Unlike the Plus 4 roadsters, which have pleasing but fundamental interiors, the dropheads (convertibles to us Yanks) surround the driver with posh walnut trim and buttery Connolly leather. Furthermore, the drophead's high doors give the driver and passenger a snug, secure feeling, as opposed to the roadsters' cut-down doors that can make cornering seem like an imminently elbow-scraping encounter. The only downside is that dropheads do suffer a performance penalty against roadsters, due to the extra weight of their beefier bodies. The window treatment on dropheads is typically Morgan: Instead of designing complex roll-up mechanisms, the side windows simply pop in and out according to the weather and the occupants' wishes.

Morgan devotees are fiercely loyal to the marque. They're proud of the cars' hard-riding reputation and sensational road-holding abilities. Morgan's sparkling performance and impressive list of competition successes over the years (including a class win at Le Mans in 1962), is matched only by the timeless styling that has ignored automotive fads and fashions since 1936, when the first four-wheeled Morgan models appeared. There is no mistaking its country of origin: Morgans yesterday and today look as English as the Union Jack.

Mechanically, the Plus 4s are straightforward to restore. The Triumph wet-liner engine is simple and quite cheap to overhaul, but beware of badly worn gearboxes, as Moss bits are falling into the realm of unobtainium. The Salisbury rears are rugged and hardly ever fail and a Sliding Pillar front end should be good for 30,000 miles or so, as long as it is assiduously lubricated.

It was reassuring to know that this 1958 Drophead Coupe had a new body tub, for unrestored Moggies can hide lots of rot problems in their Belgian ash frames.

What a highly attractive Morgan this was, with very good door fit and whistle-clean interior, exterior and engine bay. This Morgan had a little over 10,000 miles showing on the odometer, but we'd reckon that the actual mileage following the car's restoration is considerably less than that.

Morgans do represent a real vintage sports car bargain, with excellent roadsters steadily and readily available in the $25,000 range. Dropheads were a rare sight new and even scarcer today, and as can be seen here, their styling is exceedingly handsome in the vintage English idiom, meaning they are worth a premium over a roadster.

How much more? RM had estimated this car at $50,000-$60,000, which probably didn't begin to represent its actual restoration expenses. Nevertheless, the crowd felt that $44,000 was all the money on that day at that sale, and it took RM another couple of days to get an interested bidder to cough up the extra $2,000 it took to put the deal together.

As an owner of a 1961 Morgan Roadster myself, my conclusion is that if you want to tour and show with the drophead's extra panache and comfort, this car, in its fully and properly restored state, would not disappoint. The final sold price was exactly right, and a fair deal for buyer and seller alike.-Dave Brownell

(Photos, historical and descriptive information courtesy of the auction company.){/analysis}

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