About Us
Social Events
First Person
Tech Talk
Morgan Market

Technical Talk

Here we publish hints which may help you maintain or enhance the pleasure of driving your Morgan. Its success will depend on you, our enthusiastic Morgan technical types or home mechanics.  Any articles/photos are welcome as long as they are original and electronic (Word format). If you know of links to other good technical pages let us know so we can include those in our links section. Send your submissions to webmaster@morganownersclub.com.au .

Please note that full or partial reproduction of the material in this section is expressly forbidden without the prior knowledge and approval of the author / copyright holder.


A Lockable Storage Box - Vern Dale-Johnson

Modifications for Touring in a Morgan  - Vern Dale-Johnson

Heater Matrix Replacement - Geoff Williams

Shrouded Electric Radiator Fan - Win Muehling

Rear Tubular Shock/Damper Conversion Geoff Williams

Keeping your Plus 8 engine cool! Geoff Williams

Fitting a Steering Damper to your Morgan - Geoff Williams

Morgan Identification Numbers  - John Merton (pdf file)

Making Engine & Gearbox Mounts for the Standard Special - John Merton (pdf file)

Thinking outside the Square (Front Suspension) - Todd Hamilton

Morgan Fuel Starvation Problems - Peter Canavan

The 4-4 Error or Morgan's Equivalent of the Unicorn - John Merton

Morgan +4 Heat Shielding & Air Filter Canister - Jack Austin

Plus 8 1973-1978 gearbox - Murphy’s Law in action - Geoff Williams

Fixing Plus 8 1973-1978 gearbox rattles/sloppiness - Peter Canavan

Front Suspension - Easy King Pin Removal Tool - Peter Wagner

Of Sliding Pillars & Axles - John Merton

Morgan Plus 8 Front Suspension Spring Restraint - John Wroe

Morgan Front Suspension Bushes - Anthony Browne

Morgan 4/4 Series 1 -  Anthony Browne

The Standard Special Engine - by John Merton

Patent Prattles Series - John Merton

Morgan 4/4: Sierra 5-speed Gearbox Conversion - Tim Hurst

Dash Rocker Switch Fix by Geoff Williams

The Coventry Climax IOE Engine by John Merton

On a wing and a prayer? by Noel Bryen

Balancing HIF SU Carburettors by Colin Jones

Removing Play from the Burman-Douglas Steering Box by John Merton

Coachbuilding Timber Selection by John Merton

High Level Stop Light by Neil Hurst

Rear End Collision Risk by John Mott

Heater Matrix Replacement
Geoff Williams

Working on a friend's 1995 4/4 Zetec I noticed some drops of liquid on the top of the transmission cover. Closer examination revealed coolant under the lower edge of the heater unit. Here are the steps to removing and replacing a faulty heater matrix. This was a 1995 4/4 Zetec engined car - I don't know which other Morgans have the same setup.

The consequences of a leaking heater matrix are obvious - coolant in cabin, soggy carpets etc once the leak gets worse but here's what can happen even with a slight leak. The original Pioneer radio was dead thanks to coolant penetrating the electrics and with the help of electrolysis corroding pretty well everything.


Once the top of the heater unit was removed it became clear that the heater matrix itself was built into the whole heater unit before it was installed in the car. The choice: either remove the complete heater unit (huge job - bonnets off, moving lots of parts, unbolting unit from car) or modifying the unit to enable convenient removal and replacement of the heater matrix.

In consultation with the owner we decided to modify the heater box by slicing off the panel which holds the heater matrix in place. Making sure all hoses, wiring etc were well out of harm's way a air-powered cut-off wheel similar to that pictured left was used to slice along the line indicated in the illustration.


The exposed matrix was then able to be removed. I tested by immersing in water and applying air pressure into the unit which showed a very slight leak under the plastic top just near the lower connection.

(The side panel, once removed was cleaned up and a new lower part was attached using sealer and rivets. This gave an overlap when the panel was replaced.)

Being an aluminium/plastic unit we established that a repair couldn't be guaranteed and so elected to buy a new unit.

The factory did have the matrix in stock but, having established the matrix is identical to a Lotus Elise S1, we bought one from www.eliseparts.com in the UK to save time. It arrived in Oz 5 days later and total cost landed was less than AU$200. This pic shows the new matrix on the left and the old one on the right. The identical unit from Lotus in Australia would have been $800!!!

The new unit was an exact fit and once in place the modified side panel was replaced using black butyl mastic as a sealant.

Before replacing the heater top panel the hoses were reconnected and the engine run up to temperature to make sure no leaks were evident.

Footnote: I have dismantled the old heater matrix and will have a go at repairing it. Watch this space.

Geoff Williams June 2013


Shrouded Electric Radiator Fan

The following article was written by Win Muehling in Vancouver and he has kindly given permission to reproduce it here. Plus 8 owners in particular will find it very interesting....

When I purchased my 1986 Plus 8 a few years ago it was plagued with chronic overheating.. I had the radiator checked and cleaned and replaced the unpressurized radiator cap with the correct pressurized one. Added water-wetter, but still only a minor improvement. I talked to a Morgan shop and they recommended an uprated electric fan with 8 blades (Plus 8 only came with electric fans). Again, it helped a bit, but it didn’t solve the problem . I did more research and it seemed that the only options left were an oil cooler or a shrouded fan. Shrouded fans are much more efficient in moving air through a radiator rather than just stirring up the air. The problem of course, where do you find a shrouded fan that will fit in the confined space behind the Plus 8 radiator?

I discounted the option of installing a pusher fan in front of the rad since it obstructs the airflow at speed and only helps at idle. Oil coolers were readily available, so I ordered an oil cooler kit from the UK. The kit arrived from the UK, but the oil filter adaptor didn’t fit.. No problem, according to the dealer, we will send you the right one.

While I am waiting for the rest of my oil cooler parts, I happen to be in the local auto supply store, and they had a sale on shrouded aftermarket fans for Honda Civics. It immediately caught my eye since it was very thin and appeared to be about the same size as a Plus 8 radiator. I took some measurements, went back home and sure enough it was the exact size of the finned area of the mog rad!. It was actually cheaper than the uprated fan I had purchased the year before from the Morgan Dealer, and which hadn’t improved matters. The only modification needed was a notch at the bottom of the shroud to accommodate the bottom hose spigot.

The fan and shroud are attached to the radiator by four nylon zip ties. . While I had the radiator out, I also had a new socket soldered on to take a standard threaded Japanese temperature switch rather than the archaic friction fit switch the rad came with. (One less source of leaks and a choice of on/off temperatures). I also used a Bosch relay to make life easier on the switch. A little extra work with the wiring but always a good investment.

I have had three summers with the shrouded fan and no more over heating problems .The oil cooler is still sitting on the shelf. 

When I purchased my 1966 Plus 4 4-seater , it came with an oil cooler and a large ugly pusher fan mounted in front of the radiator.  Lots of oil all over the radiator from previous oil leaks in the oil cooler plumbing. The car wasn’t overheating, but when it started cooling off in the fall I couldn't get the engine to warm up at all since there was no thermostatic by-pass on the oil-cooler and a 160 degree thermostat. Possibly a great set-up for a hot summer, but not for fall or winter motoring. 

I didn’t like the looks of the oil-cooler and fan in front of the radiator, plus by going to a more efficient fan, I figured the oil cooler would become unnecessary and one more possible source of oil leaks could be eliminated. If it worked on the Plus 8, why wouldn’t it work on the Plus 4? The finned area on the plus 4 rad is the same as the Plus 8, although the Plus 8 has a much thicker core.



Although there appeared to be plenty of room, the shrouded fan was actually a tighter fit than on the Plus 8. The only way I could get the fan and radiator back in was to lower the radiator and move it forward by nearly an inch. (The only way to move it forward is to also lower it in order to clear the cowl. Can’t move it too far forward as otherwise your filler extension will be inaccessible. ( At a later date I actually extended the filler extension, in order to make it more accessible) . After experimenting with some home-made radiator mounting brackets, I settled on a very simple bracket extension that utilized the original radiator mounting brackets (see photo)

Win Muehling, Vancouver, Canada


Forgot to mention that the brandname I showed doesn't be around anymore and now part of "Flexalite". I just bought another fan for my dHC a few days ago and am attaching a copy of the box. It is available with straight or curved blades and with and without sensor. About CAN$200. Depending on discount.






Rear Tubular Shock/Damper Conversion

Much has already been written about the benefits of replacing rear lever arm shocks/dampers with tubular shock absorbers so I will not repeat it here other than to say it is absolutely correct. Out of all the modifications I have made to my Morgans the biggest single improvement to handling has come from this modification.

There are many kits available to allow you to make this modification, including a factory kit. However if you are handy with a welder, it is relatively straightforward to fabricate and install your own conversion. Here is the conversion I designed for my own 75 Plus 8 and recently installed in another Plus 8.


  • Near ideal vertical positioning of dampers
  • Very rigid when bolted in
  • Easily fitted

 Detailed diagram is available by clicking here.


Keeping Your Plus 8 engine Cool!

A friend's '74 Plus 8 was having overheating problems and diagnosis showed a number of issues contributed to the problem: Front fan incorrectly fitted, recovery system not used correctly (air in system), leaking radiator plugs and insufficient coolant flow through the triple pass (racing) radiator.

Triple pass radiators need a greater flow than standard radiators. With the thermostat removed the car ran at correct temperatures but with the thermostat fitted, it ran hot under load (high speeds/steep inclines). It is important to keep the thermostat in a road car so I started looking for solutions and found that an Australian company, Tridon, now offer high flow versions of their thermostats providing 30% greater flow of coolant. In fact these are now the recommended replacement for the early '70s Range Rovers (Part # Tridon TT 2000-180). This photo shows the obvious difference between high flow (left) and standard (right).

I found fitting the high flow thermostat along with rectifying all the other issues fixed the cooling problem and the car is now running at correct temperatures. I plan to fit one of these thermostats to my road Plus 8.

Geoff Williams

Fitting a Steering Damper to your Morgan - Geoff Williams

A not uncommon trait in Morgans is their tendency to shake, rattle and roll – to borrow an expression from a ‘50s rock and roll song – at certain speeds. Additionally, Morgans can sometimes steer in an unintended direction on bumpy or uneven roads – a most disconcerting and dangerous habit. 

A popular modification is to add a hydraulic steering damper to the steering mechanism to help reduce these nasty habits. There are quite a few variations on how this is done so here is another… 

Firstly, you want the damper to act at the point where it will work most effectively. I chose to attach it to the tie rod as this acts directly on the axle through a pair of ball joints. I have seen versions which attach to the drag link but this adds another ball joint between the damper and the axles and thus introduces some undesireable slack between the damper and the axles as the ball joint twists under load.


Secondly, choose your damper carefully. There is approx 150mm of movement in the tie rod from lock to lock, therefore your damper must have at least this amount of stroke. I first bought a VW Beetle damper which turned out to have only 135mm stroke. If I had used it the car would have had a smaller turning circle and the damper would come under inappropriate loads at full lock. Fortunately, I was able to exchange this for a  Mercedes Benz damper made by Bilstein which has a generous 200mm of stroke and is perfect for the job. 

All that was left to do now was to fabricate some brackets to hold the damper in place. These are shown in the photograph. 

The final result is most pleasing – the cars thus fitted (Plus 8s and a 4/4) have all been much nicer to drive with virtual elimination of the nasty habits mentioned in the opening paragraph. There is a barely noticeable increase in steering effort.I made some extra brackets while doing this job and these are listed in the Morgan Market. I am happy to make another batch. 

My thanks to my partner in crime, Peter Canavan, who volunteered his Plus 8 for our initial experiments in the shed. We subsequently fitted dampers to Peter’s 4/4 and my ’75 Plus 8. 

Geoff Williams, Webmaster



Thinking Outside the Square (front suspension) - Todd Hamilton

This is my effort to improve the heavy steering on my plus four Morgan. Some other Morgan owners including the factory are now fitting a roller or ball race to the bottom of the main suspension spring in place of the bronze plate of which creates a fair amount of friction. 

The big problem with this is how to lubricate the bearing, keep the dust and water out and the grease in. So on with the thinking cap! Why not put the bearing on top of the spring much further away from the elements as you can see from my photos? I believe in engineering circles, this is called thinking outside the square. 

At the bottom of the main spring I machined a top hat type section to locate and to sit the spring on in place of the bronze plate. This does not move so no lubrication required here. At the top I also machined a cup section to hold the roller bearing, also centre and locate the spring. Two grease nipples are in place to supply a small amount of grease that will be needed. 

With the original bronze plate and the damper blades completely discarded I set out on a test run to Wisemans Ferry (our club run). I noticed a marked improvement in the steering, however slightly more road shock felt through the steering wheel. A VW Passat steering damper should take care of this. 

If you have five or ten minutes to spare sometime ask me how it works!

Todd Hamilton



Fabricated components



New components
installed on top
of spring



Fully assembled

Morgan Fuel Starvation Problems - Peter Canavan

As our machines become older it is evident that fuel related problems increase.In recent times several cars have had numerous fuel starvation problems leading to replacement pumps being fitted without solving the basic problem which inevitably stems from a build up of rubbish in the tank.

This is caused from rusting metal as well as perishing fuel filler hoses. The Plus 8 is particularly vulnerable over time because both filler hoses are bent as a result of misalignment of the filler neck and tank intake. As time goes by the hose cracks with small pieces of rubber falling inside and eventually making their way into the fuel filter, if fitted, carburettor(s) or pick up tube.

 There is an easy solution to the problem as follows; 

  1. Remove pick up tube from top of tank .It is a tight fit but will unscrew with a little extra effort. 

  2. Using compressed air, blow through the entire system up to the engine bay, after disconnecting the hose attached to your carburetor(s) to ensure there is no blockage. 

  3. Working at your garage bench cut a circular groove into the pipe about 50mm from the bottom. This is best done with a triangulated file or a hack saw blade. 

  4. Obtain a piece of stainless steel fly screen wire and wrap it around the intake and sides of the pipe up past the groove making sure it is not too wide to fit back in the tank. (Modern day fuels will dissolve normal fiberglass fly screen mesh). 

  5. Tie off the screen with stainless steel picture wire ensuring that the wire sits in the cuts to hold the screen in place. (Again fuel could dissolve thin household wire). 

  6. Re insert the pickup tube into the fuel tank replacing the gasket if necessary. 

  7. Replace your old fuel filter and connect up the system. 

Several people, including me, have tried this method and have not experienced further problems.

 © Peter Canavan


The 4-4 Error or Morgan's Equivalent of the Unicorn - John Merton

One of the most persistent and now well-entrenched errors in the history of early Morgan 4-wheelers is that the cars which came to be known retrospectively as Series 1's were 4-4's before World War II and 4/4's thereafter.


It is almost incomprehensible how this belief came about, when the weight of available evidence shows otherwise. The most plausible explanation so far is that someone of some standing in Morgan circles decided on it without properly checking the facts, if at all, and, given his status, others accepted it unquestioningly. That various Morgan authors have also fallen into this trap has only served to spread and perpetuate the error.

So, let's have a better look at things.


Some very early publicity and magazine write-ups had the cars as "4-4's" but up to the Second World War they were described in a variety of ways, "4-4", "4/4", "4.4", 'Four Wheels Four Cylinders", and so on. By August 1937 "Light Car" was firmly in the "4/4" camp, while its competitor "Autocar" stuck to (4-4" both before and well after the War, even describing the Series II car in its September 1956 Road Test as a "Four - Four". So even just on the PR spin the claim we are examining is spurious.

But, it is axiomatic in any historical research, that the object itself, in its original form, is definitive. Where what the object reveals contradicts the written word or entrenched belief, it is the latter which is wrong and should be changed or discarded.


What do the pre-war cars tell us?

-  the vehicle Identification Plate attached to the rear right hand engine block on most of the Coventry Climax-engined cars is stamped "4/4" in front of the      chassis;

The Identification Plate on a pre-war Coventry Climax engine

  -  arguably the most common type of alloy bell housing used with the Coventry Climax engine has "4/4"  cast into into its outer rim;



 "4/4" cast into the rim of a pre-war bell housing

  -  and the original kit issued with each new car included an Instruction Book (1937 edition pictured), authored by Morgan Motor Co. Ltd. Malvern Link Worcs., which from 1936-on referred to the cars throughout as "4/4's".

And there's more:
  -  the Factory build records, which provide virtually a forensic picture of the DNA of each car built, identify every car from the first prototype on as a "4/4";
  -  in an article in "The Morgan World", Issue 24, by Dr Jake Alderson on the first prototype with the Ford 8 hp engine, the driver of the car in a 1949                 
     university procession claimed it was stamped with the chassis number "4/4/1";
  -  my early 1950's reprint of the 4/4 Instruction Book has the English four-wheeler club listed as the Morgan 4/4 Club, not 4-4 as seems to have crept into
     various publications more recently.
So there you have it!
The unicorn was often mentioned in mythology, but never seen.  And despite the many references in Morgan lore, the Morgan Motor Company has never produced a Morgan 4-4 car.  Not a single one!

 © John Merton

c. October 2010, Revised December 2011  


Morgan +4 Heat Shielding & Air Filter Canister

Jack Austin

The subject car was a 1961 Morgan +4 Drophead Coupe. The engine was a TR3 equipped with both the short intake manifold and short SU bodies.

Two issues were addressed.

In hot weather the heat radiating from the exhaust manifold was disrupting the fuel mix by boiling off vapors in the float chambers.

It was also problematic that the engine was not equipped with an air filtration system. Allowed to remain this way the incoming air charge would have brought with it all manner of dirt and debris that would in turn cause the engine to wear prematurely.

The "normal" solution to this non-filtered air problem has been to modify the side of the bonnet with a cut-out and cover to clear various standard aftermarket filters, but the owner did not want to make any cosmetic changes. To his request, I designed and fabricated a filter canister that would prevent the bad stuff from getting to the engine innards. The entire part was constructed of sheet aluminum. The photographs show the sequence of construction ending with the desired goal of the item as appearing to be a "period correct" aluminum casting. The filter element itself is a modified stock K&N element.

The first goal was to deflect heat from the exhaust manifold that had been causing disruption of the fuel mix, especially in hot weather

From the photos you can see how the filter canister developed and how the filter element has been modified and installed.  With the canister completed and mounted it is difficult to tell its features and finish from an aluminum casting.

 © This article printed with kind permission of Jack Austin, North Carolina, USA


Plus 8 1973-1978 gearbox - Murphy’s Law in action
Anything that can go wrong will go wrong

Following on from Peter Canavan’s recent article on replacing the bushes on the gear selector shafts on the Plus 8 Rover 4 speed gearbox (1973 to 1976), I thought I would share a recent experience which provides a lesson for those who have this gearbox in their Plus 8. 

The Rover 4 speed gearbox is not particularly strong and does not have a satisfying feel to the gear change which is why it is important to rectify any excess play in the selector mechanism. About a year ago I had replaced the selector shaft bushes and it had certainly made an improvement.  

In January this year I drove the car to my local mechanic for its annual registration inspection. Everything was going really well – all the Lucas items were defying tradition and actually working, wheel bearings fine, handbrake fine etc. Next came the road check of the brakes. Then I hear this call from the car – “Geoff, is the gearlever normally this loose? And looked over to see our friendly mechanic holding the gearlever in mid air!

“Oh, s…” I said, “It’s not supposed to do that!”

These gearboxes have a plastic spherical seat at the bottom of the gearlever which plays the critical role of keeping the gear lever in contact with the selector rods as well as keeping it in the gearbox. Need I tell you what can happen to 1970s British Leyland plastic after 35 years of enduring the heat under the gearbox tunnel of a Plus 8?

 My next challenge was how to get home from Richmond to Kurrajong Heights. We found with a bit of levering of a large screwdriver it was possible to jam the gearbox in one gear. I chose 3rd knowing that even on a hill I could take off in 3rd in the Plus 8.

The drive home was accomplished without drama but with me secretly hoping a spare part would be unobtainable and I could finally replace this gearbox with a nice 5 speed Toyota unit. 

However, a bit of Googling found several sources of the original BL part. It is Rover part # 571933. I bought mine on eBay but it is available from British Motor Imports at McGraths Hill and also from Scotts Old Auto Rubber. Cost approx $60. 

The good news is that the part can be easily replaced in a few minutes, without having to remove the gearbox tunnel. 

If you have a ’73 to ’76 Plus 8 I would recommend buying this part and fitting it. Undoubtedly your little plastic spherical seat is just as likely to fall apart as mine if it is the original. 

Then again… perhaps you could just replace the gearbox with a nice 5 speed unit.  

Happy motoring! 

 © Geoff Williams


Fixing Plus 8 1973-1978 gearbox rattles/sloppiness

Peter Canavan

The Rover gearbox in Plus 8 models is maligned due to driver’s inability to successfully locate second gear when required. This operation is often accompanied by a loud crunch as reverse is found instead

A simple solution has been devised, as passed on to me by John Coneybeare, and consists of placing nylon bushes inside the webbing through which the selector shaft travels between the gear stick and gearbox.



The sequence of events to affect a fix is as follows;

I               Remove Speedo cable at both ends i.e. gearbox and Speedo This makes for a much easier removal of gearbox cover and will save the need for a new cable in time. Removal from gearbox needs to be by way of the inspection plate on the passenger's side

2              Remove all carpets etc and gearbox upholstery as well as seat squabs.

3              Remove 4 bolts holding gearbox cover to floor and upholstery/carpet location pins

4              Remove screws locating gearbox cover to bulkhead

5              Remove gearbox cover. This is a tricky operation as the handbrake lever forces the cover upward towards the dashboard. It is best to obtain assistance as four hands as better than two.

6              Unscrew three bolts holding gear stick and remove.

7              Remove extension section from top of the gearbox.

8              Working at your bench, tap out the location pin through selector arm and remove from webbing through which it travels

9              Place two nylon bushes into webbing and glue with Araldite or similar product to stop selector rattle/movement, as per diagram above.

Reassemble in reverse order.

Equipment needed for this procedure, apart from normal tools, are two early model Victa lawnmower wheel bushes (solid type) available at mower repair centres costing about $1 each

This fix also eliminated an annoying rattle in the linkage area, noted mainly when in top gear.

While the gearbox cover was removed the opportunity was taken to insulate the underside. This is achieved by using stick on aluminium reflective paper with peel off backing It does not take long to cut and attach The temperature difference is quite noticeable, especially on hot days.

 ©  Peter Canavan



Front Suspension - Easy King Pin Removal Tool

Peter Wagner

A jack, several bricks, large pieces of timber, flying springs and fraid tempers. Does this remind you of something? Maybe the last time you tackled the job of Morgan king pin replacement?

You can be rid of this joy for good with the aid of one simple length of threaded rod and a nut. The following procedure applies to all Morgans other than series 1 4/4 's -prior to 1951 -but a similar method could be adopted by the ingenious ones to suit even these cars.

First, obtain a 6 inch length of 1/2" B.S.F. threaded rod and a nut to suit. A set screw with the head removed is probably the easiest way of obtaining the rod. Next, file two flats on one end of the rod to accept a standard open ended spanner and grind a taper on the other end for about 3/8". With this piece of fine equipment in hand, the job can now be started.

After removing all the ancillary gear such as shocks, etc., remove the top king pin retaining bolt and replace with the threaded rod, taper downwards, to a depth about the same as the original. Screw the nut down to the surface of the upper support and lock king pin securely in place. Remove the two screws fastening the rebound spring retaining plate to the lower support and then proceed to unwind the nut on the threaded rod while restraining the rod from turning. The king pin will now drop by virtue of the spring pressure acting on it and can be removed after the stub axle comes to rest on the lower support.

The reassembly of the unit is done by the reverse procedure. The taper will assist in aligning the threads of the rod and king pin.

To assist in removing and replacing the suspension assembly, it is recommended that the thin outer section of the lower casting be removed to form a “U” shape hole. This section is included to aid machining of the hole, and provides no structural strength. With this section removed, the suspension unit can be withdrawn or replaced, already assembled. 

Always use H.T. bolts and flat washers, either side of the joints to secure the lower spring plate, and tension to manufacturer's specification. 

 © P.H.W

The following photograph was supplied by John Mott. It shows the above tool (two different lengths) plus kingpin and bronze bushes. It also shows steering bearings which various suppliers are now making available. The Morgan factory also make and fit steering bearings on the cars now. These can be fitted to older cars but do require shorter springs.



Of Sliding Pillars & Axles

John Merton

So you thought Morgans had a sliding pillar suspension? John Merton provides food for thought in this paper.Click here to download a copy.

Morgan Plus 8 Front Suspension Spring Restraint

John Wroe

As an adjunct to Vern Dale-Johnson’s March 2008 EAR article “Long Distance Touring” and the enclosure “Rebuild Your Own Front Suspension” by Fred Sisson 1997, referred to as “THE INSTRUCTIONS”, John describes some additional tools useful to retain the road spring compressed and to guide the King pin during re-assembly. Click here to download a copy.

Morgan Front Suspension Bushes

Article on experiences and testing of Vesconite Hi Lube by Anthony Browne. Click here to download a copy.

The Standard Special Engine

 An interesting and thorough paper on the Standard Special Engine by John Merton. Click here to download a copy.

Morgan 4/4 Series 1 - Technical Notes

Technical notes for Standard Special Motor, Burman-Douglas Steering Box, Moss Gearbox, History, Components & Suppliers
By Anthony Browne, Morgan Owners Club of Australia. Click here to download a copy.



Dash Rocker Switch Fix 

Submitted by Geoff Williams

The indicators on Issy, my '69 Plus 8, had given up the ghost! Occasionally they could be persuaded to work by switching the hazard flasher on and off. 

You might think this is not a problem for a race car (who needs indicators on a race track) but she is fully registered and indicators are checked when you go to get a pink slip! 

The wiring diagram shows the power supply to the indicators runs through the hazard switch.  When the hazard switch is off and the ignition is on, power is delivered to the indicators. When the hazard switch is on, power no longer flows through the normal indicator circuit but instead flows to the hazard flasher circuit. 

The beauty of these older (late 60’s and 70’s) switches is they can be dismantled and internally they are very simple – just a few bits of copper and plastic. Examination showed overheating through a poor contact had melted a plastic component and the switch wasn’t switching! 

I enquired about a new switch from trusty Melvyn Rutter and found there was good news and bad news. The good news was they could supply, the bad news was it would cost £39 plus postage.  Now, as much as I want to keep Issy original, $150 for a switch was starting to sound a trifle beyond a joke. 

What to do? First option was simply to bypass the hazard switch and ensure the indicators had power supply. This was easy to do but what if I was asked to demonstrate hazard flashers at the next rego check? 

I decided if the switch is simple, a simple Plus 8 owner should be able to repair it. This was achieved by remanufacturing a small plastic rod (I used a plastic welding rod and drilled it). It was a fiddly operation but in the end it worked. 

So, if your dash switches fail don’t throw them away before first checking what’s happened inside. You may just be able to fix it and save a fortune! 


The Coventry Climax IOE Engine


Submitted by John Merton

The Coventry Climax I.o.E., or rather O.I.S.E. (overhead inlet, side exhaust valve) engine used in early production Morgan four-wheelers has a number of Great Britain patents listed on a plate on one rocker cover. These, ascribed to Whatmough (Wilfred Ambrose Whatmough) are numbers 303592, 319810, 326454, 329340, 332523, 349460, and 373991.  They date from around January 1929 to May 1930.

 My interest in the above patents grew out of a statement in a book that the cylinder head was manufactured to a patented design by Whatmough.  With little previous interest in or knowledge of the origins of the I.o.E design, I (and friends I spoke to on the matter) assumed that Whatmough had invented the I.o.E configuration, as it was the essential feature of the cylinder head design.  Subsequently, an Australian historical automotive journal of good standing carried an article on Hudsons intimating that Hudson had invented the “F”-head design.  This claim had been included in a 1928 advertisement for Hudson cars.

 The matter triggered an examination solely to see, initially, which of the two had the stronger claims to having invented the I.o.E design.

The outcome follows.  It has led into fields much wider than just patents, and challenges and refutes entrenched Morgan lore in a number of areas.

 For much of the information on the Triumph connection (or more properly lack thereof as regards the particular engine used in Morgans)  my thanks to Antony (Tony) Cook, founder and past secretary of the Pre-1940 Triumph owners’ Club of the UK, and currently secretary of the Skoda and Tatra register in Australia.

BACKGROUND - the Hudson and Whatmough patents.

First,  neither Whatmough nor Hudson invented or patented the I.o.E. design.

 I.o.E. engines date almost to the dawn of motoring.  The earliest tended to have “atmospheric” or “automatic” inlet valve operation, based on the principle that gravity would assist the valve opening process.  Royce and Rolls-Royce cars before the “Silver Ghost” (except the V8 “Legalimit”) had I.o.E. engines, and they were well-established motor cycle practice by around 1910.

 Significant is their appearance in Hudson’s light car, the “Essex”, named after an English county, which had a four cylinder I.o.E. engine from around 1919 on, and was apparently quite a well-known sight on English roads in the 1920’s.  These cars were assembled for a time at  a plant on the Great West Road, Chiswick. Another make to use I.o.E engines in the 1920’s was Humber.

In January 1928, Hudson was granted a patent (US1656051, inventor Stephen I Fekete) for refinements to the I.o.E design.  The essence of this patent, which covered the arrangement of valves, head, cylinder and spark plug, was an inlet valve overlapping both piston and exhaust valve , so that cooler inlet gases could help cool the heads of the exhaust valves while still efficiently entering the combustion chamber.  The arrangement aimed at greater volumetric efficiency, higher compression without pre-ignition, higher rpm and more power, while still providing effective exhaust valve cooling.  The Patent also provided for spark plug location adjacent to the exhaust valve on the side furthest away from the piston, to spread the flame progressively from the hottest to the coolest part of the chamber, helping prevent pre-ignition.

 Hudson itself used a six-cylinder I.o.E. engine to this design for about three years in the late 1920’s, but later abandoned this in favour of side valve designs.  It was the smooth running of these later engines which made such a big impression on Rolls-Royce engineers in the 1930’s.

 The listed Whatmough patents cover, with a single exception, combustion chamber design, aimed at gas- flow, turbulence, and volumetric efficiency considerations.  While their listing on the valve cover might imply they are only cylinder head related, they also embrace gas-flow considerations affecting the cylinder block on engines with side exhaust valves.  Whatmough played around with curvilinear shapes (including relieving the bore) moving later to squaring off some faces in the interests of manufacturing convenience, the clear implication being that some of his theories didn’t amount to much if anything in actual practice!

 Some Climax engine valve covers also carry a plate stating “Whatmough  Cylinder Head”, leading to speculation that he may himself have manufactured these heads and supplied them to Coventry Climax.  The patent changes taken in the light of manufacturing experience tend to give some credibility to this speculation.

 Basically these patents (except for the one) mostly relate to the first, involving modifications or improvements to it.  A common thread is location of the spark plug over or adjacent  to the exhaust valve on the side away from the piston, for the reasons stated in Hudson’s earlier patent!  It is almost certain that Whatmough knew of the Hudson and other work in this field at the time.  “Motor Sport’s” William Boddy, and others have indicated quite a lively correspondence at the time in automotive engineering journals between Whatmough and Weslake (perhaps also Ricardo - these touted as the “big three’’ of cylinder head design, at least in the UK), concerning their particular theories.

 Whatmough’s patents are catholic in relation to valve configuration, the principles seen as applicable to side, T-head, and I.o.E., with one patent also specifying O.H.V.  In other words, the patents listed on the valve cover of the Coventry Climax I.o.E. engine are not specifically directed at an I.o.E. cylinder head configuration.

 The “exception” patent, number 332523, was for cooling passages, the idea being that if adequate cooling was provided for the “hot” part of the engine, i.e. the exhaust side, the inlet side would be overcooled, and vice-versa.  Whatmough’s approach, basically, was to provide for larger water passages on the exhaust side and smaller ones on the inlet side.  Once again, this patent covers both cylinder head and block.

 The Coventry Climax Connection

 According to a short published company history by Coventry Climax, and a separate published chronology of British Leyland, H. Pelham Lee, Coventry Climax’s founder, established a car engine manufacturing facility in 1904 called Lee Stroyer.  This evolved into Coventry Simplex Engines Ltd. in around 1907,  leading in turn to the foundation of Coventry Climax Engines Ltd. in 1917.

 The subject of our interest, the Coventry Climax I.o.E. engine, appears to have been first used in the AJS light car, from around August 1930. This, and the dates of the patents (up to May 1930), as well as Whatmough’s possible “crib” of that aspect of the Hudson patent relating to sparking plug placement, do make it tempting to speculate that the adoption of this engine configuration  owed something to the Essex example.

 The company’s Morgan connection in the 1930’s came about through the supply of an 1122cc four cylinder version of the I.o.E. engine for the production Morgan 4-4, which hit the market from 1936.  Early engines were claimed to produce 34 BHP at 4,500 rpm.  Some time in 1936, modifications were made to the design.  Reportedly, the earlier arrangement of distributor combined with  a chain-driven dynamo was changed to a separate distributor driven by skew gears, the dynamo was given belt drive, the cup and ball joint on the inlet pushrod and rocker was inverted, with the cup going to the top of the pushrod, the positioning of the oil filler was changed and the lower radiator connection was moved and enlarged.  Larger inlet  valves and a slight modification to combustion chamber shape boosted claimed horsepower to 36.

 The sideplate on the engines supplied to Morgan clearly indicates their origin.  It states “Specially made for Morgan Motor Co. Ltd. by Coventry Climax Engines Ltd.”

The Triumph Connection

Triumph first used the 4-cylinder Climax I.o.E. engine , in 1018cc configuration, from 1931 in its 9hp car. Subsequently Triumph adopted the design in both 4 and 6 cylinder guises for a range of its cars.

 There are two theories on the actual manufacture of these.  The first is that that Triumph machined and assembled them from rough castings supplied by Coventry Climax, the second that they manufactured them completely themselves given that they had suitable foundry and machine shop facilities spread over three factories, one in Priory Street, Coventry, another in Stoke Street, and the third the original “Gloria” works in Clay Lane, Coventry. Almost certainly the second was the case and this appears to be the consensus view.  The sideplate on the Triumph engines indicates they were made under a special arrangement with Coventry Climax, thus is quite different to the plate on the Morgan engines.

 Triumph used three small 4-cylinder versions of the Climax I.o.E. engine.  The smallest, of 1018cc, was used in the “9” and also, in slightly tuned form, in the early Triumph “Southern Cross” sports cars. The other two small Triumph engines, specified G10 and G12, were of 1087 and 1221cc capacity respectively.  The G10 engine developed a claimed 40BHP at 4,000 rpm, while the G12’s claimed figures were 42BHP at 4,500 rpm.  From 1934 on, both the G10 and G12 engines were fitted with water pumps. 

 Research by Tony Cook revealed no evidence that Triumph ever used the 1122cc version of this engine, even though several written works on Triumph make this claim.  For example, the late Michael Sedgewick, writing in “Vintage and Veteran” magazine, opined that this was the one motor probably not made by Triumph themselves but supplied direct by Climax.  Tony Cook believes however, that in this and other references the motor has been confused with the 1018cc unit actually used by Triumph.  (A parallel in the Morgan world is that at least three Morgan books, and several articles possibly using the books as reference sources, claim wrongly that the post-war Standard Special engine was fitted with a water pump).

 One Triumph model, the “Gloria Vitesse”, used tuned versions of the G10 and G12 engines. The smaller-engined 4-cylinder models had twin SU carburettors, consisting of one small bore side draft and one larger bore downdraft on a delayed linkage.  It is believed some early  Morgan owners may have privately fitted this, or a similar set-up, to their vehicles.

 The Triumph company ceased its involvement with Coventry Climax engines in 1937 when it completed the move to its own new in-house overhead valve designs.

 Crossley and Other Connections

Crossley used the Climax 1122cc engine in its 10hp cars from 1932 on.  The engine supplied to Morgan seems to have had the same basic internals as this engine but with slight differences in the block casting and flywheel/clutch, and with induction and sump arrangements more like those on the Triumphs.

It appears that Crossley ceased car manufacture in 1937, concentrating thereafter on commercial vehicles.  It was another company which, through a series of takeovers, finally disappeared down the British Leyland “black hole”.

 Climax engines were also used in a small number of Vale Specials in the 1930’s.

 Advantages /Disadvantages of the I.o.E. Design

The claimed advantages of the I.o.E. design were that it allowed larger valves than either side or OHV designs (the latter constricted by the narrow bore long stroke situation brought about by the RAC rating system), also better cooling around the exhaust valve because of more room for water jacketing.  Location of the spark plug near the exhaust valve enabled the flame to move from the hottest to the coolest part of the combustion chamber, helping avoid detonation, and the system was claimed to permit higher compression ratios, hence more power, than the norm for the period.  Hudson’s 6-cylinder engines, for example, ran at 6-1, about 20% higher than the norm for the mid-1920’s.  The engine supplied to Morgan in the late 1930’s had a claimed compression ratio of 6.85  to 1, also high for the period.

The big disadvantage was the heat range with which the spark plug had to cope - it had to contend with cool conditions under light load but also with very high temperatures under heavy load. Spark plug selection was a bugbear for motorists in the early 1930’s using the smaller Climax I.o.E. engines.  Hudson overcame this to some degree in its six cylinder engines by using the overlapping inlet valve, and also by fitting a water pump.  The Triumph G10 and G12 engines were also water pump-equipped from 1934 on, a feature lacking in the Morgan engines.

 Implications for Morgan Folklore

There are several claims enshrined in Morgan writ which are either incorrect or misleading.  What follows addresses some of these.

 Issue 1.  That Morgan used the same engine as in Triumph’s “Southern Cross”

 Incorrect.  Triumph did not use the 1122cc version of this engine.  Both its G10 and G12 engines were fitted with water pumps (from 1934) and there were some other differences in specification as well.

 Issue 2.  That Triumph supplied engines to Morgan under a licensing arrangement with Coventry Climax.


 When I raised this issue with Tony Cook he was most adamant and insistent that Triumph had never supplied Morgan with any engines, they would have all come from Climax .

In support:

 -the Morgan sideplates clearly state the engines are made by Coventry Climax - the Triumph engines have a quite different statement

-Morgan used the engines from 1936 to the outbreak of the War, while Triumph stopped using Climax engines from 1937      

-the Morgan engines are to a different size and specification (no water pumps)


-it is highly unlikely that Triumph would disrupt its own production lines (particularly after 1937 when they were geared to OHV engines) to produce an engine to a different specification to any it had used, for a separate company, to supply to a rival car maker.  Remember also that Triumph were operating at a loss for much of the 1930’s


Issue 3.  That Triumph owned Coventry Climax before World War 11

Incorrect.  I have been unable to find one tittle of evidence to support this claim.  Both the Climax-issued  history booklet and the British Leyland chronology make no mention of it.  In fact, the latter indicates clearly that Coventry Climax remained a separate entity until taken over by Jaguar Cars Ltd. many years later.

 One might ask how Triumph, with its history of loss-making through the 1930’s could have afforded to buy Climax.  Or who, when Triumph went into bankrupcy in 1939 it sold Climax, by then a highly profitable operation, to? Another question also is why Triumph would walk away from an engine arrangement with Climax in 1937 contributing to a situation of some stress for Climax (see later) if Climax was in fact a subsidiary?

Issue 4.  That Triumph (or somebody) must have made the engines for Morgan as Coventry Climax was too small.

Incorrect.  Coventry Climax had been manufacturing and supplying the passenger car and commercial vehicle industry with engines for many years.  In fact in 1937 it found the vagaries of car engine production left it with underutilised production capacity and moved to large-scale production of water pump trailers (complete with Climax engines). We are considering an operation which had the capacity to produce some 40,000 water pump trailers up to the end of World War 11. The engine sideplate also gives the lie to this claim.

Issue 5.  That the I.o.E. cylinder head used on these engines is the result of research by Whatmough and Weslake.

Incorrect.  Weslake is not mentioned in any of the listed Patents.  Some did have co-authors, however.  These were, variously, Findlater, Hewitt and White.

Issue 6.  That the cylinder head was manufactured to a patented design by Whatmough.

Misleading.  The distinguishing characteristic of this engine is its I.o.E. configuration.  The claim is misleading if taken at face value, ie Whatmough patented and invented this design.  Whatmough’s listed patents , some in collaboration with others, cover gas-flow/combustion chamber shape, except for one which covers cooling,.  They are not exclusive to the cylinder head, nor are they exclusive to the I.o.E. engine design.

In shorthand, the engine embodies aspects of several of the listed patents, covering gas-flow/combustion chamber design and cooling.

When did Climax Stop Car Engine Production?

By 1937, Climax’s car engine operation was under stress.  Triumph had been a major client throughout the 1930’s, and the ending of this arrangement would have caused financial concerns for Climax.  The direction of Crossley’s car making efforts was increasingly wobbly, and Morgan and other clients were small fry.

The published Climax version is that by the late 1930’s Leonard P Lee, then running the company, found that the natural evolution of the motor industry faced him with the need to look elsewhere for an outlet for the special types of engines which his father had produced for so many years.  In 1937 an opportunity occurred to consider a Government requirement for trailer fire pumps which would utilize two engines already available.  Two types of fire pumps were developed and large Government orders obtained.  (The two engines involved were both side valve designs - the smaller of the two is claimed to have been that developed for the Swift, a make which disappeared in 1930).

The publication claims that Climax stopped making car engines in 1937 (it doesn’t indicate precisely when that year) to concentrate on the fire pump contract.

But how does this accord with the continued supply of engines to Morgan into the first half of 1938?

Laban, in “Morgan: First and Last of the Real Sports Cars”, touches on the contract situation. He quotes from November 1937 factory minutes to the effect that given a delivery of a further 250 engines was in train, at a price rise from 29 pounds to 36 pounds, the company should look to seek an amendment as soon as the suitability of the  Standard  ( Special OHV) engine had been determined. However, according to Laban this engine had first been offered in 1937.  As, by design, it draws on parts from several of its contemporary Standard side-valve engines, it would appear to have been a relatively simply matter to ring it to production quickly, assuming Morgan had been able to take this route.

However, given that they had to see out the contract and were unable, apparently, to renegotiate the price suggests that Coventry Climax may have had them over a barrel.  The contract appears to have been lock-tight and the price escalation may well have been inserted by Climax at a time it was facing some uncertainties (perhaps before the fire pump contract?) and needed the cash flow .

But if they stopped making car engines in 1937, how did Morgan still get them?  As we have seen, certainly not from Triumph.

I would suggest a simple answer.  Common industry practice at the time was for the industry to “weather” engine blocks for anything up to eighteen months in the belief that this helped engines to “stabilize” by relieving stresses and thus made them more durable.. It is almost certain that Climax followed this practice.  The Morgan engines would have been assembled from castings already made.  The Climax claim therefore, is not strictly speaking incorrect but it is misleading.

Why did Morgan Move to the Standard Special Engine?

Although cost has been suggested as a factor (and the Standard engine was much cheaper), the real reason was that Morgan had no option but to look for an alternative engine. At that time also Morgan’s main competitors - MG, Singer and Triumph -  were all using full OHV designs, with Singer wedded to overhead camshaft operation.

Coventry Climax had opted out of the uncertainties of car engine production to concentrate on their fire pump trailers, and the option of a further contract  no longer existed for Morgan. Had such an option existed, Morgan may well still have switched engines, but  the Climax engine had simply departed from the equation.  

 © John Merton, c.2003. (NOTE:  This is a slightly revised version of an article which appeared in “The Morgan Ear”, May 2002)

 “The Autocar”, 2 October 1936

 “Morgan Four Wheeler Workshop Manual”  John Dowdeswell, circa late 1950’s.

 “Servicing the Morgan 4/4”  Bulletin based on Motor Trade data (addendum to Dowdeswell manual)

 “Morgan:  First and Last of the Real Sports Cars”  Brian Laban, Virgin Publishing Ltd., 2000.

 “A Short History of the Fire Pump Engine that Won Motor Races” released by Coventry Climax, circa late 1960’s.  Produced by Cogent Elliott Ltd., printed by WW Curtis Ltd.

 “Melting Pot of Britain’s Motor Industry”  Tom Northey, in “On Four Wheels”, volume 1 part 13, Orbis Publishing 1973.

“Thrilling New Limits of Performance”, advertisement for Hudson cars, page 35 “The Literary Digest” for September 1, 1928.


On a wing and a prayer?

Submitted by Noel Bryen

Having rebuilt more Mogs than I care to remember, I thought there wasn’t much more I could learn about cowled radiator front wings, but alas, I was wrong again.

This most recent educational experience began about 12 months before the Morgan Muster (remember that?). Well, Michael Watts decided to do a quick rebuild on his 1971 4/4 so that it would look pristine for the display at Bathurst. The intent was good, the timing less than perfect.

Michael’s Mog had been through a bit of a tough life prior to his ownership, and when he bought it from Ken McGuinness in the early 90’s neither of the doors were fitting correctly, there was no trim installed and the front end of the car always looked a bit lop-sided. We knew the car had been accident damaged early on and that it had been rebuilt, but that was all we knew. Despite this, the car was sound, the price was right and it drove very well.

As is usual with these things once the car was dismantled, one thing led to another, resulting in the need for some chassis and crucifix straightening, lots of new wood in the frame, some new panels and before you knew it, 2003 was here. Michael was doing the majority of this work at home, and had finished the woodwork and re-skinned the body, which was finished and bolted back in place on the chassis, with doors repaired and refitted. The rolling chassis then made an appearance at my place for some paint work.

From previous experience I knew that having replaced lots of timber in the frame, repaired the inner guards and realigned some crinkles in the chassis, the last items that were going to fit would be the bonnets, so a dummy build was necessary to make sure everything was going to fit prior to finishing and painting.

By this time the wings had been stripped back to bare metal and primed, so previous accident damage and wear and tear was plain to see. Overall, both wings were in good condition so we approached the assembly with high expectation. The fact that the bulkhead showed signs of severe panel beating around the steering column area confirmed that the car had been accident damaged on the right hand side/front, but we didn’t link this damage with the apparent good condition of the right hand front wing. In other words, it had been replaced.

The left wing went on without too many problems and seemed to fit quite well. The right also went on OK, but the balance of the car just didn’t look right, no matter how much pushing and shoving we did. Heights from ground level were correct, but still there was something just not right. The photos attached probably don’t allow a good comparison, but the right hand wing (the one without the headlight pod) is ¾ inch higher between the top of the wing (where the sidelight mounts) and the level of the inner guard behind the headlight pod. The height between the top of the wing and the inner guard on a "low" wing is about 1 ¾ inches and for a "high" wing it is about 2 ½ inches. The car had been like this since Mike owned it, but no-one had ever noticed – the car didn’t look right but that was all we could say about it. From the drivers seat the front left wing always looked lower than the front right, (which it was) so we assumed the chassis or crucifix was bent (they both were). On a "normal" Mog, (is there such a thing?), it is possible to see the left hand front side light from the driver’s seat – not so on Michael’s.

So, the puzzle now was, what model Morgan did this "high" wing belong to? My immediate thought was that it belonged to a high-line Plus 4, but now I am not convinced. On checking Alby, his wings were low, even though he is a high-line Plus 4, but this was not conclusive since his front wings were new in 1994 and the factory could have made (and probably did) whatever they felt like on the day. John Hurst provided a clue, as his Plus 4 has original wings from 1960, and lo and behold if his wings aren’t high, so I thought the mystery was solved. I have since measured Ian Southwell’s ’63 Plus 4, also a high line model, and his wings are also high, but to add further confusion, Ken Ward has a ’63 Plus 4 4 seater which has low front wings.

However, the position of the headlight pod provides another clue as to the model of the wing. All (pre ‘68) Plus 4’s have the headlight pod between the wheel arch and the inner guard, as do Series V 4/4’s, whereas post Series V 4/4s and all Plus 8s have the headlight pod embedded into the wheel arch. This occurred as a result of road regulations in various countries where a minimum distance between headlights forced the factory to move them further apart. And by the way, there are at least two versions of headlight pod position with regard to how far they are embedded into the wheel arch. From the early ‘70’s they appeared to reach their maximum distance into the wheel arch, but for a few years in between some of the pods were further inboard by about ¾ of an inch. Well within factory tolerances I hear you say? No, I believe it was deliberate. As the car grew in width in the 80’s and beyond, particularly the Plus 8, the distance between the headlights also grew further apart, but this was achieved by increasing the distance between the wheel arch and the inner guard, rather than moving the headlight pod itself.

What to do about the problem? We couldn’t carry on with the rebuild like this, as we needed a matching pair. Naturally, Ken Ward was my first port of call, as I knew he had a few wings kicking around in his rafters. This only added further confusion to the problem. Ken had four brand new, (or should I say, unused) wings which had been bought at various times over the past 30 years or so and have never been fitted to a car. When I laid them out on the ground, there were two matching pairs, one high pair and one low pair, but both had their headlight pods embedded into the wheel arch by the minimum amount rather than the maximum amount that we needed. In other words, we would have to buy a pair from Ken, increasing both the cost and the fitting time, as fitting a brand new wing is not a simple task. The confusing part is that all of these wings have been purchased at different times, and all had been ordered as 4/4 wings, so it would appear that there are some model 4/4’s that have high wings with headlight pods only partially embedded into the wheel arch. To compound the problem, Ken also has two pair of Plus 8 wings, one set from a ’68 (Moss box) model and the other from a ’74 (Rover box) model and both are high, and both have their pods embedded into their wings by the minimum amount, so this could be one of the answers. I have since measured 4 Moss box model Plus 8’s and a few post Moss Box models and they are all low, so I am now thoroughly confused. There doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason, but neither should there be, otherwise we would probably start thinking that the Morgan is a "normal" car and buy a Holden instead.

I don’t think the factory really has it under control either, because in 1991 when John Hurst first bent his 4/4, he ordered a wing from the factor quoting year model and chassis number and the one we received was the right height, but the headlight pod was too far inboard. To solve the problem we swapped the new one with a second hand one from Ken’s rafters. After the second prang in ’93, we went through the same process with the opposite side, but this time John drew several sketches showing the correct position. When the wing arrived, we were not surprised to still find the headlight pod in the wrong position, but this time it was too far forward. That was a permutation we hadn’t considered, and was when I taught myself to un-braze the pod and re-braze it in the correct position.

The other interesting point here is that Melvyn Rutter, who is renowned for being able to supply virtually any part for any model Morgan, doesn’t list the high wing as a variant in his cattle dog, nor does he list the variant in the horizontal position of the pod, so as far as he is concerned these two wings don’t exist. Melvyn lists the following:

+4 ’54 low pod

This would be the interim model when the pods were very low and is easy to distinguish.

+4 54-56 – standard pod

+4 and 4/4 56-63

+4 and 4/4 63-68

I am not sure of the difference in these wings other than the increase in width of the car over the years. I know the 60 +4 model is about 2 inches wider than the early 56 model, but I am not sure of any differences between a ’62 model 4/4 or +4 and a 64 model. The low line variant of the +4 came in at this time, but this had no affect on the front wings that I am aware of. Obviously, Melvyn Rutter knows more about these things than I give him credit for!!

4/4 69-97

This covers the period where the pods were inset into the wings, but does not include the variant at the beginning (69/70) where they were inboard by at least 3/4 an inch further than the later models.

+4 85-92

This is too modern for me! The next time I see Todd Hamilton’s Plus 4, I will be taking notes.

+8 68-70

+8 70-73

+8 73-76

+8 77-97

Again, I think overall width is the major difference in these wings, but I don’t claim to be an expert on +8s. The late 70’s models don’t seem to roll over at the front as much as the earlier models, making the wheel arch appear to be less round, but I haven’t investigated these very much. As mentioned above, I know of a ‘68 model and a ‘74 model that both have high wings. The other difference in the earlier versions of the +8 was the need to inset the right hand wing to allow the alternator to fit. I checked a couple of late model Plus 8s (post ’95) at Christmas in July this year and discovered that this is no longer done, as they are now wide enough to fit the engine in easily without having to modify the right hand wing, so there’s another one that Melvyn doesn’t list.

So, how many different cowled radiator front wings are there? I used to think there were nine. Now, I start losing count at 14.

So, there you go. I just thought I would share this bit of technical trivia with you, and if ever you need a front wing for your cowled model Morgan, remember, it isn’t as simple as you might think.

 © Noel Bryen


Balancing HIF SU Carburettors

By Colin Jones

Not having a go at your technician but I trained many of them when I was at BL who did not really understand the tweaks.  The HIF Horizontal Integral Float) is a very sensitive carb with a bi-metalic strip which trims the AFR (Air Fuel Ratio), There are no shortcuts, there are also many things that can cause EXACTLY the problem you have, here are the modifications and adjustments we used to teach, its was 30 years ago though  ;-) .

1.  Take off the carbs and turn them upside down, mark the lower float  bowl plate to carb body position with a felt pen (its possible to mess up the reposition) and remove the 4 screws and washers, remove the lower plate, let the O ring seal dry in air as it may expand.

2.  Inspect the bi-metallic strip that holds the jet in position if at  room temperature its not perfectly flat discard and replace it, note its used as part of the mixture adjustment and the 'notch'  must locate in the mixture screw pin, these can become dislodged.

3.  Check the float arm type, early ones were cross (+) section and  should be discarded as they distort, use the later (H) section which are much  more rigid.  Check the float height, this is critical. Look at the float from the side and you will see a U section moulded in the float, the LOWEST part of that U must be level with the aluminium body of the carb when it is held square and upside down and the float is under its own weight.  Use a straight edge or a drill shank to check this, a slight difference (+/- 0.025) will mess up all other settings, adjust by bending the float needle brass strip a little at a time.

4.  Rebuild the lower portion of the carb and turn to the correct way round.

 5.  Mark the position of the top vacuum chamber with the felt pen, you cant put these on wrong but it saves messing about later. Remove the 3 screws and carefully lift off the dashpot.


 6.  In the HIF dashpots that include a twin track ball roller bearing arrangement, this is to stop the piston sticking and should never give a problem, might be worth checking but its maintenance free.

7.  If the carbs have been overhauled your just doing belt and braces here but just look for wear marks in the dashpot (should not be any with the bearing system) but give it a clean out anyway.  The main reason is I want you to rebuild everything with ENGINE OIL, I know other cringe but thats what SU Butec and BL used in production, playing with oil viscosity is for later, lets just get it running!

 8.  Before topping the oil centralise the bearing, to do this you  rebuild the vacuum chamber and leave the dashpot damper out, put a finger in the venturi and lift the piston to the max lift and drop it, it should clunk with a metallic sound, this indicates a centralised bearing.

9.  Now fill with oil, to the bottom of the threaded area.  You should have retaining clips on the dashpot damper, lift the piston again (not so  high as to burp the oil out) and push the clips on the damper back into  place.  VERY careful use of a small screwdriver, do not scratch the  piston.  Screw on the damper.

 You can now base set the carb, turn in the mixture screw (on HIF's the screw is IN to richen, OUT to weaken) and then back it off two and a half turns.

 WITH THE IGNITION TIMING SET, start the car and allow to warm, turn in the  mixture screw a quarter of a turn (its + section so thats easy) until the engine  revs fall, now back out a quarter of a turn at a time until the revs increase,  stabilise and then fall again, from this position go IN one full turn.  The  mixture is now at the factory set.

For emissions you leave it just above the rpm drop off on the weak side, for performance its just above the rpm drop off on the rich side.

 THIS is now critical, when carrying out any adjustments to mixture you have  2 minutes, if you can’t achieve what you want in that time (its takes practice) you have to increase the rpm to 3000 for 30 seconds.  This is because the fuel in the float chamber becomes warm and the bi-metalic strip weakens off the mixture. You set it to compensate and when the cooler fuel arrives the mixture is wrong.  This is the main mistake mechanics make until they are taught otherwise!  So its a case of tweak, rev and hold, tweak, rev and  hold, etc.

A syncrocheck on the balance between carb air volumes, a recheck of  mixtures and a look at the exhaust (it should be like a puppies nose, wet and  dripping) and many happy hours lie ahead.

Sorry if that’s an egg sucking session for your mechanic but I have seen many well qualified people struggle. Set up correctly they give years  of trouble free service.

Please let me know what you find and what resulted from the above.

Good luck 

 © Colin Jones



Removing Play from the
Burman-Douglas Steering Box

Aside from a very few early 4-wheeler cars which had a reduction gear mounted halfway down the steering column, all Morgan Series 1 cars were fitted with a Burman-Douglas worm and nut steering box. Variations of this box were fitted to quite a number of contemporary British vehicles.

The system involves a thread, usually six start on Series1's, but sometimes five start (mainly left-hand drive), machined on the end of the inner column, carrying a bronze nut.  Right hand drive cars have a left-hand thread and vice-versa.  There is a hardened steel bush screwed into the top of the nut using a special process.  A peg at the end of the “L” shaft at the top of the rocker shaft engages in this bush. As the inner column turns, this peg transmits the up and down motion from the bronze nut via the rocker arm, to the steering drop arm attached to the bottom of the rocker arm shaft.  The drop arm is attached to the rocker arm shaft via a splined shaft and a pinch bolt. (NOTE: some cars may have been subsequently modified).  The shaft of the rocker arm rides in two bronze bushes, the top one of which has a diagonal cut for about three-quarters of its length to provide clearance for the bronze nut.

The only provision for adjustment is for end float, and is via two large thin nuts at the top of the column under the steering wheel which bear on a ball race.  The bottom of the inner column is free-floating, location being provided by the bronze nut, which is a sliding fit inside the box casing. The system on the Series 1 cars, with the common six start worm, gives one and three-quarter turns lock to lock.

This steering box continued in use, with some minor differences, on the Plus 4 cars, from 1950 up until around the 1954 season. It was then replaced with a Cam Gears Ltd steering box, which continued in use on all Morgans up to the advent of the Gemmer and rack and pinion systems. The Cam Gears box, while externally somewhat similar in appearance to the Burman-Douglas, is quite different internally. A cam and peg design, it is nothing other than the familiar old Bishop cam device, actually an earlier and cruder invention than the Burman-Douglas which it replaced!

The Burman-Douglas box can only be tested for wear properly on the car, ie under load, all connected up, with the wheels on the ground.  First, make sure there is no end float, and that the box is securely located and fastened.  Next (making sure there is a container to catch the oil) take off the end and top covers on the box and have a helper juggle the steering wheel while you (the “foreman”) check for play between the worm and the nut (ie for wear in the thread) and and between the nut and the side of the box. Check also for wear in the bushes (ie movement in the rocker arm shaft).  It is extremely unlikely that there will be any wear between the peg and the hardened steel bush in the top of the bronze nut.  If you are desperately unlucky, the bush may be loose in the nut, in which case I suggest  that you look for another nut, as I am still struggling for a way to make these stay permanently tight again.  The drop arm must also be tight on the bottom of the rocker, of course.  Note that there is an oil seal above this, usually of rope or felt, held in place by a washer, with box housing peened over to secure it.  This seal can be replaced with a modern neoprene one.

Something to watch for is that some replacement nuts are undercut on their topsides where the steel bush goes.  If you strike one of these, the peg can jump out of mesh when the wheel is turned, and you will have either to add an adjuster screw to the top cover to hold it down and/or pack out the bottom of the rocker arm for the same effect.

Address wear in the thread as follows.  Clean the nut thoroughly (Prepsol or similar)then tin the inside of the nut lightly with solder.  Grease the thread on the shaft with a good axle grease (don't use WD 40 or similar as they may well flash) and screw the nut on, about halfway along.  Melt babbit metal, heat up the nut, and pour the molten babbit metal down the bush hole, rotating the shaft until metal appears at the end of the nut.  Keep rotating the shaft as it cools down to prevent binding.

This will get rid of the play in the thread, but note that the effectiveness of the repair may be limited if the thread on the shaft has much “hourglass” wear on it.

Play between the nut and the side of the box is addressed similarly ie by building up the sides of the nut with babbit metal and machining to be a tight sliding fit in the box.  Addressing other areas of wear, eg in the drop arm shaft bushes, should be straightforward.

On reassembly, “work” the bits together using  moly compound and clean up thoroughly – remove all metal “dags”, filings etc.  Best to assemble and disassemble several times to ensure everything is scrupulously clean.

I have found the above effective in reducing play from around eight inches at the steering wheel circumference to around three quarters of an inch.

A note of warning – cultivate smooth driving habits and don't “yank” at the wheel. Never, on any car, try to operate the steering with the vehicle stationary.

By John Merton (based on an article first prepared for “The Morgan Ear” in 1990).

 © John Merton


Internals of the Burman-Douglas box. This shows the worm machined on the end of the inner steering column, the bronze nut which screws onto the worm, the rocker arm and peg which engages with the hardened steel bush in the bronze nut and the steering drop arm which attaches to the bottom of the rocker shaft

Top covers. Some replacement bronze nuts (they were available from several different manufacturers) had an undercut hardened steel bush.  The cover on the left shows the later addition of a screw in bolt to stop the peg on the rocker arm jumping out of mesh with the bronze nut as the steering wheel is turned.

Dodgy practices.  The first photograph shows that someone has added bits of shim sheet to try to take up wear between the bronze nut and the steering box casing. The second photograph, likewise aimed at reducing play caused by such wear, has involved welding spots around the inner column and filing them down to make the column a tight fit in the outer column.


Coachbuilding Timber Selection

By John Merton


Coachbuilding, in shorthand, is the practice of making a vehicle body by applying metal (or other) panelling to a wooden frame.  Morgans have nearly always had a coachbuilt body, and it has  been both the delight and despair of generations of owners.  The despair comes principally from the nature and type of framing timber used. 

Desirable properties for a framing timber are strength, resiliance/recovery, toughness, flexibility, and impact resistance. The timber traditionally used, indeed since Roman times, in Eurpean coachbuilding is the European Ash (Fraxinus excelsior), although reportedly some expensive bodies have been framed in mahogany.  In the USA, claimed framing timbers have included American white ash (Fraxinus americanus), closely related in characteristics and performance to European ash, spruce, hickory, and white oak, although coachbuilding went into considerable decline after the late 1920's as manufacturers moved to all steel body construction pioneered by Budd. 

In Australia before World War 11 there was a significant coachbuilding trade the length and breadth of the country, mainly using locally-sourced indigenous hardwoods.  Most cars were locally bodied on imported chassis. 

The Despair 

Despite the somewhat extravagant claims sometimes made for European ash, its performance is by no means outstanding, while its ability to resist racking (the tendency for the timber to compress under repeated movement, leading, for example to loose joints) is poor and its susceptibility to rot is legendary. A UK restoration specialist once said to me in an unguarded moment “It's a lovely timber to work, but it's the most rottingest timber known to man”. The British Handbook of Hardwoods (HMSO 1980)states, in relation to use of this timber in road vehicles, that it should be used with care on account of its lack of natural durability. 

The problem was recognised in the hey-day of British coachbuilding, one practice being to use oak instead of ash for the sillboards (those on the chassis rails)  because of its superior durability, despite its propensity to split. Since the mid-1980's the Morgan Company has been soaking its body frames in a copper naphthalene solution to improve durability.  However, be warned such treatment only has a finite life. 

The real reason European ash is used as a framing timber is because the trees are widely dispersed across Europe, the timber is in good supply, and it has good working properties.  However, in fairness, it must be said that in terms of flexibility, impact resistance and so on, there are few if any available indigenous substitutes in Europe. 

Better local timbers 

When I first developed an interest in coachbuilding in the early 1960's, there were still a few old-style coachbuilders around, and local libraries still had some technical training manuals on the subject.  The advice from both areas was that Australian timbers constituted the half dozen best coachbuilding timbers in the world at the very least.  The preferred timber was spotted gum, closely followed by blue gum then some other Eucalypt species and coachwood (Ceropetalum apetalum). 

Some old anecdotal evidence, from both the vehicle and boatbuilding industries, supports this. I have been told that the framework on the small numbers of completely built up expensive vehicles imported before the War generally failed to match, in either performance or durability, their Australian-bodied counterparts.  Also, boat restorers on the Murray River have told me that   imported wooden hulled vessels for the river trade in the 19th and early 20th centuries often lasted as little as 3 to 5 years whereas some Australian timbered hulls are still basically sound today. 

The contention is backed further by performance data.


Performance Data

SPECIES Modulus of 
Elasticity (gpa)
Modulus of 
Rupture (mpa)
Maximum Crushing
Strength (mpa)
Hardness (Kn)
Spotted Gum 23 150 75 11 900
Sydney Blue Gum 18 140 68 9 850
Stringy Bark
17 133 68 8.8 880
Stringy Bark
17 132 72 8.5 870
Tasmanian Oak 15 110 60 5.7 620
Coachwood 14 100 48 4.6 620
Jarrah 13 112 61 8.5 820
European Ash 12 116 53 6.1 700
English Oak 10 107 na 5.3 700
Teak 10 106 60 4.9 640


*Marketing name for a range of species, including mountain and alpine ash, etc.

Aside from coachwood, the other Australian species are all Eucalypt species.

This is but a small selection of the species available, but is representative.


Australian timbers are classed into 4 durability grades, Class 1 being heavier timbers suitable for use, untreated, in the ground or under water, class 2 and 3 timbers being suitable for outdoor use, while class 4 timbers are classified “non-durable”.  Class 4 is a catch-all.  Most of the above Australian timbers are in classes 2 or 3. Tasmanian oak is cclassified class 3 or 4 depending on the least durable timber in the particular mix, while coachwood is classified class 4.  My experience of European ash is that it is far less durable than either of these timbers, and would only enter class 4 due to the “catch-all” nature of this category. 

Related Issues. 

Most Australian hardwoods are hard and more difficult to work and shape than European ash.  However, coachwood is a lovely timber to work with. Although they glue well with appropriate modern adhesives, some older types of adhesives may be less successful. Joins should be pre-drilled and screwed, using stainless steel or phosphor bronze screws – it is too easy to turn the heads off brass screws, and plain or even zinc or cadmium plated screws should not be used because the natural oils in some of the timbers may break down the coatings.  

Preferably, treat the completed frame with an anti-fungal preparation, eg a copper naphthalene based product or one of the two pack products used in the yachting industry. Also I recommend painting the frame after the preservative soaks in and dries. 

Suitable timbers are available, seasoned, from specialist timber suppliers.  Some are used widely in the specialist furniture trade.


 © John Merton c.2005 

( Based on an article which appeared in “The Morgan Ear”, April 2002)
(Special thanks to Boral Timbers for assistance with performance data)


High Level Stop Light

Those of you who have attended the ‘Best of British’ weekends in Canberra may remember a yellow 4/4 that was shunted up the back by a tin top while out on one of the runs around our countryside. I believe the tin tops excuse was that he didn’t see the brake light of the Morgan. I decided then that when I restored my ’67 +4, I would fit a third stop light where it could be seen. In the event although I incorporated the wire for the new stoplight in the loom, I never got around to actually fitting one.

Neil's high level stop light looks completely in keeping with the Morgan

Detail view of the mount

I had been mulling around the problem of how to fit the light such that it could be seen over the top of the suitcase when we used the luggage rack and yet didn’t appear to be sticking up above the spare tyre like a trifid at other times. Then the penny dropped – lash it to the tyre with a leather strap normally and then add a further length of strap to attach the fitting to the suitcase as needed. Out came the tin snips and the result is as you see.

Materials you will need are

  • A stop light (mine came from Supercheap Auto $2.50 on special).

  • A piece of 1.5mm thick aluminium; 26 cm long x 9cm. wide (slightly more than the diameter of your chosen light).

  • A piece of thin rubber to pad the finished base from the tyre.

  • Half a dozen pop rivets.

  • Some suitable electrical wire.

  • A rubber grommet of a size to take your wire

  • A leather belt about 3cm wide to attach the fitting to the tyre (Mine came from the throw-out table at Target $8)

  • A longer leather strap of compatible width to go around the suitcase.

  • Araldite and contact adhesive

  • Etch primer, primer and top coat.

Scribe up the surface of your piece of aluminium as per the attached diagram. Cut out the curve of your stop light at one end; drill this for the stop light attaching screws, the hole for the grommet and the rivets. Bend up this end to about 60 degrees and then remove it from the stock. Cut a piece from the centre of the tongue the width of your leather belt and slightly longer than the tongue to allow the belt to fit snugly beneath the piece carrying the stop light.

Take the balance of your piece of aluminium and, placing it over your spare tyre, form it to shape as the base with your two hands. Mine is about 50/50 sidewall to tread. Place the piece which will carry the stop light in a suitable position on the base, adjust the angle, confirm the leather strap will fit between them without binding and mark out the positions of the rivets. Drill, Pop rivet and Araldite the two pieces together. Feed the leather strap through the assembly and around the tyre; mark out the strap and assembly for riveting, and cut the strap to length. Drill the assembly and the strap as marked. Prime and top coat the assembly but not the underside. When completely dry attach the strap and the stop light to the assembly remembering to use the grommet to protect the electrical wire. Cut the piece of thin rubber to the size of the base and glue with contact adhesive; this will protect the tyre from the rivet heads.

Wire to the loom with a suitable weatherproof plug in parallel with the existing stop lights, strap it on, test and have yourself a beer.

 © Neil Hurst


Rear End Collision Risk

John Mott

 Have you ever considered what would happen in an accident if another vehicle collided with the back of your Morgan?

In anything other than a minor bump there is a good chance that the petrol tank would be punctured with a consequential high risk of fire quickly engulfing the car due to the escaping petrol igniting.  This event is likely to happen due to the close proximity of the tank to the bracket that carries the hand brake mechanism on the differential and the mounting of the tank onto wooden boards with only a few securing bolts.

The following pictures show two occurrences where the tank has shifted forward in a collision and been punctured on the hand brake bracket.  One was a partially oblique sideways impact and the fuel fortunately did not ignite, The other ignited instantly and the entire car was engulfed in flames within two seconds with the occupants only just luckily managing to escape and avoid incineration despite jammed doors.


The best preventative for this scenario would probably be to fit a fuel cell in the tank as used in racing cars.  This is a costly solution and presents problems with the fuel gauge sender.  However, there is a simple modification that can be made which may help to minimise the risk of the fuel tank puncturing on the hand brake bracket and this is to fit a reinforcing plate on the tank to spread the impact.


The fuel tank on my 4/4 is just under 8 inches in height and I found a piece of 3 mm steel plate and cut a piece 11 inches by 6 inches which when bent into a U shape gave a return of one and a half inches top and bottom.  I rounded the corners to prevent them from puncturing the tank.  1/8 or ¼ inch plate would probably offer more protection, but 3mm was all I had on hand and it was easy to bend.  After painting the plate I cleaned the tank and attached the plate with some silica sealant.  So far it has stopped in place and hopefully will provide some deterrent to the fuel tank being punctured should the unthinkable happen.

This modification now gives me some peace of mind when I see in the rear vision mirror a monstrous four wheel drive tailgating me with the apparent intention of climbing into the rear seat.


 © John Mott