A good sport: life with a roofless classic British sports car
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Don’t be fooled by this Morgan’s looks — it’s a British classic, but not as old as you might assume. Allan Duffy is a bit of a fan of the breed. As well as this 1981 Morgan 4/4 he has a 1933 three-wheeler Morgan and a 1998 Plus 8.
But this was his first — bought 21 years ago, in February 1998.
“I wanted a car older than me,” he says.
So he started looking around for what was available at his budget. That meant MGs and Morgans; he liked the look of Austin Healey but it was over his budget. He hadn’t owned a classic car until then, and the Morgan name was new to him, if not to history — the company made its first three-wheeler back in 1909, and its first four-wheeled car in 1936.
“It [the three-wheeled car] competed with cars like Austin 7s, and people wanted four wheels, so until 1951 they built both,” says Allan. “A friend of mine had a huge library of magazines,” and they helped Allan develop his shortlist. Eventually this car came up for sale. I showed it to my wife and she liked it, so I bought it.”
The car was in pretty good condition when he got it, but he completed a restoration two years ago. “It was getting a bit tired, it was 35 years old. It had had a repaint before I bought it, but paint has come a long way since then, particularly in terms of what happens if you spill petrol on it.”
Atkinsons Restoration Services did the paint. “We took all the bits off that could come off and chose an original colour, Indigo Blue — which has a slight tinge of purple to it.”
He had the upholstery redone, and new carpet, but decided not to go too far. “If you have a car that’s too perfect what are you going to do with it? You’d be too worried to use it.”
The car has a three-speed manual transmission from a Ford Capri. What power there is comes from a 1600 crossflow engine from a MkI Ford Escort. Known as a Kent engine. This four-cylinder pushrod unit was originally developed by Ford of Europe for the Anglia.
Morgan never made its own mechanicals, they were bought in: “Which is how they survived, despite being so small — the company was never faced with the development costs.”
One assumes it helps that the cars still have a wooden frame on a steel chasis. “It’s ash, I think Belgian, not English.”
His car’s dash, now an original wooden one, was leather — a factory option, he thinks.
The drive experience from the passenger seat underlines this car’s delightfully characterful persona, and there’s more wind protection than expected.
On a motorway we cruise along at between 80 and 100km/h.
“The handling will run out before the power does,” says Allan.
Not that the handling isn’t up to legal road speeds, and he confirms there’s very little body roll as you sit so low.
He did replace the rear springs for something more forgiving. “It used to lurch in the back — Morgans are always a work in progress, there’s always something you can do.”