If the buyer plans sedate ice-cream runs with grandkids in the back, four seats might have an advantage

In 1936, the Morgan 4/4 debuted as the company’s first four-wheeled car. The designation 4/4 stood for four cylinders and four wheels. The vehicles that Morgan had produced prior to the 4/4 were three-wheelers with V-twin engines, hence the need to differentiate. Production of the 4/4 continued for over 70 years, except for a short halt during World War II and another in the early 1950s.

After WWII, the Morgan company was faced with a problem, which it surmounted in a sporting manner. In 1947, the Standard Motor Company informed Morgan that after 1949, the little 1,267-cc engine would not be available, due to their new “one-engine policy.”

That “one-engine” was a bigger 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder that Morgan bought, to its everlasting benefit. More powerful, it powered the new-for-1950 Plus 4 in various displacements for the next 20 years, as well as Triumph TR2s, TR3s, and TR4s.

In 1956, the Plus 4 received a Triumph TR3 engine with 100 horsepower. The Plus 4 could be ordered with lightweight aluminum bodies and was excellent for competition. In 1959, performance and safety were enhanced by the addition of Girling disc brakes.

In 1961, the Plus 4 Super Sport was introduced. With the highly-tuned Triumph engine producing 116 horsepower, speeds exceeding 115 mph were easily achieved. The Morgan Plus 4 Super Sport owes its existence to the tuning and driving skills of Chris Lawrence, who prepared, tuned, and drove his Morgan Plus 4 to resounding success in the 1959 season in England. In 1960, Lawrence entered the full 22-race schedule for the Freddie Dixon Trophy; he won 21 of them and finished third in the other.

Completely restored only three years ago in Houston, Texas, this four-seat Morgan Plus 4 has been carefully maintained since and shows only 1,000 miles on the odometer since coming out of the restoration. The paint and chrome both still appear as new. Likewise, the red interior, top, and tonneau cover are all in top condition. The car is mechanically sound, with a rebuilt engine, and the walnut trim has been refinished.

SCM Analysis

Detailing

Vehicle:1961 Morgan Plus 4
Number Produced:3,390
Original List Price:$2,645
Distributor Caps:$25
Chassis Number Location:Plate on firewall
Engine Number Location:Stamped on left side of block below cylinder head
Club Info:Morgan Sports Car Club c/o Dolphin House, Durford Wood Petersfield, England GU31 5AW
Website:http://www.mscc.uk.com
Investment Grade:B

This 1961 Morgan Plus 4 sold for $38,500 at the Worldwide Group’s Houston Classic auction in Seabrook, Texas, on May 3, 2008.

It’s always disappointing when an auction catalog simply paraphrases a standard reference source and includes little information about the actual car for sale. Not only does the potential buyer learn little about what he is bidding on, but the information may also be irrelevant at best or misleading at worst.

For example, the catalog devotes a full paragraph to Chris Lawrence and the genesis of the Super Sport competition version of the Morgan, when the only relationship between this car and the SS is that they were both produced in the same year, and both had the new 2,138-cc version of the Triumph engine.

In fact, as noted earlier in the description, the first Morgan Plus 4 was introduced in 1950, when Standard discontinued the 1.3-liter engine it had been supplying to Morgan. Morgan agreed to accept the 2.1-liter Vanguard engine later used in the TR2 (and which incidentally was also used in Ferguson tractors; hence the “tractor engine” insult often thrown at British cars). With the added power, Morgan wanted to differentiate the new model from the old 4/4, so they called it the Plus 4.

It’s nice, but it’s no Super Sport

So what were the bidders looking at in Houston? Certainly, with the 2,138-cc Triumph engine, which had just been introduced in the Triumph TR3B in the U.S. and then in the TR4 globally, this is a 1961 Plus 4.

However, unlike the Super Sport, with its Weber carbureted-engine producing 115 hp, this Morgan has the much more common version of the Triumph engine with dual SUs, capable in the day of producing 100-105 hp.

The Plus 4 was available in three body styles: a roadster, a drophead coupe, and a four-seat convertible. The Super Sport was made in the roadster body style only and used pounded aluminum for key components such as the fenders, rather than the heavier stamped steel components of the basic Morgan.

This example is the four-seat “touring” version. As with other classic cars, the four-seat body style is always less desirable than the two-seat roadster, but with Morgans the differences in value are generally small enough that they can be overshadowed by restoration quality or the uses to which the buyer puts the car.

In this case, if the buyer was visualizing sedate ice-cream runs with smiling grandkids in the back seat, rather than aggressive attacks on unsuspecting backroad curves, the body style might even have been an advantage.

The four-seaters do have convertible tops, though we rarely see them with the “hood erected,” since the lines of the car with the top up are more than a little awkward. Regardless of flapping side curtains, weather protection is still limited.

One additional interesting comparison of this car to the SS: Only the Super Sports came standard with wire wheels-and they would have been painted-while all the other Plus 4 and 4/4 cars were sold with solid steel wheels.

Chrome wires look good, not standard

The chrome wires on this Morgan Plus 4 are a great complement to shiny black paint and red upholstery, but they weren’t standard. The downside of deviations from original specifications, of course, is that they suggest the owner may have modified the car in other ways to suit his personal taste, which can be a red flag to buyers.

Sports Car Market values the Triumph-powered Morgan Plus 4 at $30,000 to $50,000, though we rarely see this price achieved at auction, since excellent examples more often change hands privately.

In this case, the seller perhaps tired of the car’s rough ride after a few years, and after paying considerably more than this price to have it restored. In any case, he got good money in this market, and while there is unlikely to be any significant upside in the near future, this was a fair enough deal for all parties involved.

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