|Vehicle:||1968 Morgan Plus 8|
|Years Produced:||From 1968 to 1972 in this form, but with wider body and wings (1976) on to 2004. Cars built from 2012 through now got a BMW V8.|
|Number Produced:||29 in 1968. A total of 484 Moss gearbox cars were made.|
|Original List Price:||About $3,000|
|Tune Up Cost:||$200|
|Chassis Number Location:||On cross member under right seat, and on plate atop right side of firewall under hood|
|Engine Number Location:||On bellhousing flange on early engines. By dipstick tube on left of block on later engines|
|Club Info:||Morgan Sports Car Club|
|Alternatives:||1968–70 Lotus Seven S3, 1965–69 AC 289, 1968–71 Marcos 3-liter|
This car, Lot 64, sold for £61,980 ($86,390), including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ Goodwood Members’ Meeting sale near Chichester, U.K., on March 18, 2018.
This is a slightly strange one. It’s a concours-restored car got up as a racer, but it doesn’t appear to have raced.
It was offered — but didn’t sell — at Bonhams’ pre-Christmas sale at Olympia, London, when the original Holley-carbed engine was displayed on a stand behind it, but it had better luck here.
Lots of events — but not all of them
The car’s condition is beyond reproach, with several neat (though unnecessary for a racer) touches. It could easily be raced. Competition-car sales history tells us that it’s always cheaper to buy someone else’s hard graft rather than build your own, but you’d have to accept that it would rapidly acquire some patina as some of the shine got knocked off.
But here’s the thing: It’s got FIA papers, but it’s Period G1 (1966–1969) while most prestige events run to Period F (pre-1966) or have an even earlier cut-off of pre-1963.
As our subject car was built in 1968, circuit racing opportunities will not include such events as the Goodwood Revival. Perhaps its most obvious home is in the Historic Sports Car Club’s Historic Road Sports series, for road-legal cars manufactured up to 1970, with only mild modifications allowed. This series offers extra points for those cars driven to the races.
This car can take part in tour/race competitions such as Tour Britannia and Tour Auto, and it would do well in events such as the Manx Classic — a three-legged hillclimb competition whose classic category has a 1968 cut-off date.
This car is eligible for historic rallies, too. One brave soul once ran a Morgan in a British Historic Rally Championship when it was a mix of tarmac and forest events. He found that he had to rebuild the car after every thrash — and a sliding-pillar, ash-framed Morgan on rough gravel really is only for masochists.
Discouraging competition use, however, this car was in super, near-concours condition. I noted unnaturally shiny paint — although slightly orange-peeled — and stainless fasteners and lines everywhere. The mileage showing — 2,277 — was presumably all that’s been clocked up since completion.
A big price for a terrific car
A Moss-box Plus 8 (made up to mid-1972, when the Rover 4-speed was adopted) would usually sell for about £30k ($42k), perhaps a little more in this concours condition.
John Eales of JE Developments is “the man” as far as the Rover/Buick aluminum V8 is concerned, so the currently installed FIA-legal race motor, making about 250 bhp, is the best there is.
These engines cost less than you’d think at £12k ($17k). The competition fuel cell, bespoke roll cage, Sparco harnesses and plumbed-in extinguisher probably cost up to $10k to add, but you never get your money back on “lifed” items like this, so technically this car’s value is something under $60k.
At Olympia, you can see how the seller might have arrived at the $113k to $140k estimate by adding up everything spent, but it was unsold at a reported top bid of $93,642.
The estimate for the second attempt, at Goodwood, was revised down to $85k to $100k. It hammered slightly behind that, but at a price approaching twice that of a standard early (narrow-bodied, as they got wider in tub and wings after 1976) road car.
Interestingly, a similar car, chassis 7259, also rebuilt on a new chassis and ash frame and race prepared to the same specs with a John Eales motor, sold at Race Retro the month before for £57,380/$80,250, having previously been privately advertised for £69k ($96k). This car was not as cosmetically sharp as our subject car.
As a 1970, that one becomes eligible for HSCC ’70s Road Sports, though it also qualifies for HRS, being the same type as “our” car.
And that spare motor that might have made up the difference or at least added back some of the missing dollars? Well, it doesn’t have the value you might suppose — even though it’s the item that supports the catalog claim of “matching numbers.”
The car would be matching numbers if you reinstalled the spare engine, but there are several reasons why you wouldn’t.
Eales inspected the spare engine and told me it’s an early (weak) block, almost standard except for a mild cam, that Holley carb and a different set of pistons. Eales said he’d be amazed if it made 230 bhp. That’s before a bolt got dropped into it, damaging a piston and one of the heads. Eales estimates its value as £500–£1,000 ($700–$1,400) tops, as with the casting damage it’s not even an ideal candidate for rebuild.
A racer or concours queen
Even though the sums don’t quite add up, in light of the sale of the identical-spec blue car, we’ll have to call it correctly valued this time, and it would appear, also judging by the blue car, that knocking off some of the shine by racing it won’t hurt its value too much, so there’s an added bonus for the new owner.
Meanwhile, the old engine will make a stylish doorstop. ♦
(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams.)