In 1963, Morgan Motors unveiled a very un-Morgan-like sports car at the annual Earls Court Motor Show. Sitting alongside its traditional, 30s-styled machines was a glassfiber-bodied coupe unlike anything produced by the company before. The Morgan Motor Company was founded in 1909 by H.F.S. Morgan, who produced a series of 3-wheeled cyclecars for the first twenty-seven years of the firm. Four wheeled vehicles didn’t arrive until 1936 with the aptly named 4-4 (four wheels, four cylinders), a car which would form the basis for virtually every Morgan produced through to today. It seemed that once Morgan found a formula that worked, they stuck with it doggedly. The early cars, known colloquially as “flat-rad” were subtly restyled in the late 1950s to feature a more rounded radiator shroud and grille that remains a trademark to this day; a look that enthusiasts have come to expect from a Morgan. And much like Morgan the company, Morgan buyers have certain expectations about what a Morgan should be, how it should look and how it should be built. “Quirky and staunchly traditional” are terms that can be used to describe both Morgan sports cars and their loyal enthusiasts.
With that background, it is perhaps easier to understand why Peter Morgan’s Plus 4 Plus was not widely accepted or understood when it made its appearance at Earls Court. The Plus 4 Plus was a dramatic departure for the company – while it utilized a fairly standard Plus 4 chassis and Triumph TR4 engine, it was wrapped in a svelte, stylish and fully enveloped body that only hinted at its Morgan roots via the familiar radiator grille. Eschewing the traditional separate fenders and pre-war looks, the Plus 4 Plus looked completely modern – and yet it still retained the traditional chassis with its sliding pillar front suspension and cart-sprung rear axle. Instead of steel, the new car was bodied in fiberglass (produced by E.B. Plastics Ltd) that was reinforced with steel tubing and structural plywood. The new Morgan was considerably lighter than the Triumph TR4 that shared its running gear, so performance was quite brisk. Given the fact that it rode on a standard Plus 4 chassis, the Plus 4 Plus shared its sibling’s excellent handling and braking – cornering flat, with direct and precise unassisted steering. Despite its strengths, the car was a bit of an anomaly, one that inadvertently alienated traditional Morgan buyers with its modern style, yet didn’t appeal to new customers because of its quirky, seemingly outdated underpinnings. As a result, the Plus 4 Plus was a commercial failure, with just 26 examples produced in total over four years. Of course, modern opinions have changed and the Plus 4 Plus is a now a serious and highly desirable collector car, a holy grail of sorts among cars from the famous Malvern-based marque.
While any Morgan Plus 4 Plus is a very special machine, our featured car stands above the others in the fact that it was the very first production example that was exhibited at the Earls Court Motor Show in 1963. In addition, there are photos of this car being used by Peter Morgan himself. It retains its original registration number of DUY997B as well as its tax disc from December of 1963. The exceptional history is backed by an exquisite restoration performed by the British car experts at Safety Fast Restoration of Mansfield, Ohio to concours standards. This rare Plus 4 Plus presents in lovely condition, wearing attractive maroon paintwork over the excellent composite body. The restoration was done to a very high standard of quality, but was also carefully judged as to not erase the character of Morgan’s first fiberglass car. The paint and detailing are to a very high level, which is reflected in the car’s award-winning appearances at world-class events such as the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in 2015 and the Ault Park Concours d’Elegance. The body, which retains factory-appropriate gaps and panel fit, is nicely detailed with an original luggage rack, Lucas fog lamps and chrome wire wheels shod with correct type Michelin XAS radial tires.
Morgan continued the modern experience with its cozy, two-passenger fixed-head cockpit. The traditional plank dash was ditched in favor of a stylish and modern molded piece that was fitted with an array of standard Morgan instrumentation in an aircraft style layout. In our car, the instruments back a Brooklands four-spoke banjo-type steering wheel and lovely gray leather upholstery covers the seats and door cards, while wind-up windows kept occupants dry in all weather conditions – a far cry from the fussy and rudimentary weather equipment of its sibling models. The leather seats, carpets and interior fittings have been restored to show-quality standards in keeping with the rest of this fine automobile.
Triumph’s gutsy and eager 110 horsepower engine is essentially unchanged as lifted from the TR4A. It is backed with a four-speed manual gearbox that features synchronizers on the top three cogs. The unit is detailed to factory-correct standards and presents in excellent order in the engine bay. Fully restored by British sports car specialists, it runs and drives beautifully, with that signature Morgan nimbleness and darty precision, as well as the addicting torque and rasp from the Triumph four-cylinder.
This exceptionally rare and desirable Morgan not only wears a fabulous restoration, but it is the very first production example and perhaps the most famous of all 26 Plus 4 Pluses constructed, having first appearing for the world to see at the Earls Court Motor Show. Since the restoration was completed, it remains in outstanding show-quality condition and is ready for action on the road or concours circuit.