One isn't enough for Morgan nut
Allan Duffy’s indisputably a Morgan nut – he’s got three, and he’s the president of the club. But it wasn’t always that way. Unlike those folk who’d lusted after their classic when they were lads, and it was new, he wasn’t looking for a Morgan. He wanted a car with character, that was fun to drive, and would be enjoyable.
“I’d barely heard of Morgan, it was the luck of the draw.” But the brand made sense. Morgans use supplied mechanicals, so they’re easy to get parts for, and he liked that it’s a third-generation family-owned company still operating from the Malvern premises from which it launched in 1910. “I’ve been to the factory, there are no robots, it’s all handmade, and they still use English Ash for the wooden frame.”
He now also owns a 4/4, a Plus 8, and the car we’re admiring, his 1933 Morgan Aero Super Sports, with its Matchless V-twin engine quite literally up front, mounted ahead of the bodywork. It’s essentially a motorbike engine, with three forward and one reverse gear, which makes it a far easier proposition than its 1930 predecessor, which had two forward gears using a twin-chain system that required the stars to align in the heavens, your tongue at the right angle, and a bit of witchcraft before it would change cogs, or so the story goes. And to go backwards, you got out to push it…
Allan’s first three-wheeler was a 1934 car, then he spotted this one. “It arrived in New Zealand in 2004 and I saw it at the Art Deco weekend in Napier, and it came up for sale. This is the only car I’d have sold the other one for. It came with a custom trailer which provides a mobile garage, which is quite useful…”
He says you do need reasonable mechanical knowledge to run it. “You need to lube the front suspension, oil the chain, and go over it with a grease gun.” He does tow it for long trips, “I wouldn’t drive it to Napier, the wear and tear on the car – and driver – would be ridiculous, though there are people who’d drive to Taupo.”You can get a hood, but he wouldn’t bother – the noise beneath it is unbelievable, he says. If it rains, you just get wet… He does wear golfing gear, it’s waterproof and above all, not too bulky, as the cabin’s quite snug. “With cables for the steering wheel running down past the pedals, you wouldn't want big feet, and as the driver you generally have your right elbow over the side, the heat deflector is otherwise known as an elbow warmer.”
Which Morgan he drives depends on the time of year, and where he’s going, “the 4/4 for the city, the Plus 8 for Taupo, you wouldn’t drive this round town, it’d overheat.”
Driving it certainly keeps you busy. “It has a hand throttle, no synchro and the gearbox is back to front. There’s no foot throttle, you have to double declutch and the steering is quite heavy, so when you corner you have to decide in advance whether you want to change gear, or you don’t have enough arms. Fortunately the 995cc motor is quite torquey, there’s a big gap from second to third so you need to be slow enough, get all your ducks in a row, have the revs right and then change – so it’s fortunate you don’t have to change gear that often.”
It certainly gets along quite nicely, it only weighs 470kg, plus passengers. The format was designed around early tax laws. At under 500kg, and with fewer than four wheels, it was taxed and licenced as a motorbike.
The car’s in great condition. “It was restored in Canada, I understand it took 10 years. The body panels would be original, the frame was new, the chassis mainly original,” though it does have upgraded brakes, “They’re off a Morris 8. Originality means different things to different people. I’m prepared to compromise some things for durability in modern traffic.” This car has electric start, but you still have to flood the carb, and retard the spark to use it.
Allan says, “When you drive it you get lots of smiles, lots of looks as if you’ve come off a different planet. I’m often staggered by the people who’ve associated with Morgan at some point, but young people won’t have heard of them.”
What still appeals is the sense of occasion these cars impart to the simplest journey. “If you just want to get from A to B, get a good Japanese car. I wouldn’t want everyone driving Morgans, they’d be too common, though you do have to adjust your standards, and even with a hood, you will get wet.”
I have to say though that this short driver has put the exploits of Mrs Gwenda Stewart into perspective. Back in 1930 she broke the One Hour World Record at Monthlery at a speed of over 160kph. Rather her than me…