Factory support of older Morgans is incredible. With simply a serial number, the gang in Malvern Link can supply or make just about anything for a Plus 4
There has always been an enthusiastic market (albeit a limited one) for anachronisms. Vinyl records and mechanical watches are in most respects inferior to CDs and quartz watches, but they are infinitely more charming than their modern mass-market replacements. So it is with Morgans. Ironically, the distinctly pre-war Plus 4, introduced in 1950, had by 1955 already outlived several modern sports cars such as the Jowett Jupiter and Swallow Doretti.
Remarkably, the Plus 4 would last until the turn of the century, with the original car discontinued in 2000 and then revived in 2004.
As with most low-volume manufacturers who are dependent on others for major components, precise cut-off points for various production variations are often difficult to determine with precision. It is generally accepted, however, that the classic flat-radiator or "flat-rad" Series I Plus 4 was built from 1950 to '54. In 1954, the attractive cowled-radiator design that continues to this day was introduced. Initially the Plus 4 came only with the venerable Standard Vanguard 2,088-cc four that made about 68 hp.
Around 1953, the 1,991-cc TR2 unit making about 90 hp was introduced. Engine changes roughly tracked those of the latest Triumph models, with the switch made to a TR3 unit in 1956 and the TR4 2,138-cc unit standard as of 1962. All TR4s through 1969 came with a Moss 4-speed gearbox. The Super Sports introduced in 1961 came with a potent 116 hp tuned TR3 unit.
Driving position an acquired taste
Much has been made of the allegedly punishing ride of the Plus 4, which is the product of a sliding-pillar front suspension design that dates back 100 years. Having spent some time recently in a Plus 4 on some admittedly well-maintained Connecticut back roads, I have to say that while perhaps a bit jouncy and not terribly compliant, I wouldn't characterize the ride as particularly demonical.
The driving position, on the other hand, is an acquired taste. The large wheel is quite vertical and very much in your chest. The dash is a traditional wood plank with some of the prettiest Smiths gauges ever seen in a British car. Most have a cream white face and the combination gauges are unique to Morgan. Seats are rather flat and not particularly supportive. Some of the drophead coupes had air bladders in the seat cushions to allow for different levels of firmness; Morgan owners in colder climes have been known to fill the cushions with hot water before setting out on chilly mornings.
Plus 4 performance is roughly on par with the corresponding Triumph model from which the engine was sourced in most areas, with the exception of top speed, where the Morgan's aerodynamics work against it. The Super Sport obviously is a cut above the standard TR3, with Road & Track managing to push one from 0-60 mph in well under ten seconds.
More so than most cars, Morgans can conceal a huge amount of hidden body and frame issues. Cars that look sound can on further inspection become major projects. Body rust can be particularly problematic, with even cowls and firewalls susceptible to terminal rust. Contrary to popular misconception, unlike a Marcos, the frame of a Plus 4 is steel rather than wood. Plus 4 frames can (and do) rust. It is of course the body tub frames that are made of wood. The metal panels around the passenger compartment are all attached to a wood frame, which is subject to rot. Door sag and fit can give this condition away.
The horror of purchasing a tired Morgan can be somewhat mitigated by the fact that factory support of older models is nothing short of incredible. With simply a serial number, the factory in Malvern Link can supply or make just about anything for a Plus 4. Woodwork and even complete bodies can be obtained at prices that, while hardly cheap, are nothing in comparison to what Ferrari Classiche would charge. Drivetrain bits that are Triumph sourced are, of course, inexpensive and easily obtained.
Exceedingly lovely drophead coupe
Body styles consisted of the classic two-seat roadster, a rather ungraceful four-seater, and the exceedingly lovely drophead coupe. The last adds a bit of weight from roll-up windows, a more fully kitted interior, and a pretty three-position top. The Plus 4 Plus was a rather unpopular experiment in which a modern fiberglass envelope body was married to the traditional Plus 4 frame. Morgan traditionalists hated it and few others found it to be a credible Lotus alternative. It was, however, quite beautiful and rare, with only 26 units produced.
Contemporaneously with the introduction of the Plus 8 in 1968, supplies of the TR4 engine dried up and that was largely it for the Plus 4 in the U.S. The car was re-introduced on several occasions with everything from Fiat to Rover to Ford Duratec power. Few of these, however, came to the U.S.
As collectibles, ordinary Plus 4 two-seaters seldom seem to do better than the high $30k range, or around 20% better than an MG TF 1500. Given the fact that the Plus 4 is in my estimation at least 50% better than the MG, one would have to consider it rather underpriced. Ditto for the very elegant drophead coupe and potent Super Sport. Morgans tend to trade in a bit thinner market than MGs, and the 4-cylinder cars seem to be overshadowed by the Plus 8, so it's doubtful that any serious appreciation is in the cards.