Morgan and Me : 1969 Morgan Plus 4
September has to be one of my favorite months for driving. Maybe it’s the urgent feeling that you’ll soon have to tuck the car away for winter; Maybe it’s the brisk air that seems to give the car just a little bit more umph; or maybe it’s the leaf littered corners along twisting back roads next to the lake. In either case, it is a beautiful time of year to be behind the wheel. I was given a rare opportunity, by the owner of a 1969 Morgan Plus 4, to take the car for a morning and afternoon through those exact settings.
The 4/4 was released in the mid thirties. Being that it was the first vehicle Morgan produced with both four wheels, and four cylinders the simple, yet fitting name of the 4/4 was given. Previous Morgans had been built with 3 wheels, and V-twin engines, while the new generation was fitted with 1600cc Ford Kent Crossflow engines. The Plus 4 is the more sought after update of the 4/4. Minor updates like the high cowl line, and the passenger side exist exhaust, as well as a much cleaner gauge cluster with the black trim. They produced somewhere around the 90 -95 horsepower range and you feel every single one of them. The unique thing about the Morgan Motor Company is that each of their vehicles was, and is hand assembled. These aren’t mass numbers cars, these are cars assembled by people who adore driving them just as much as their owners.
I picked the car up from her owner around 10 am and quickly learnt that vehicles nowadays are built to a significantly different standard. While I’m sure we all agree that things like airbags, and blind spot detection are positive advancements, I have to say that it was refreshing to be behind the wheel of a car that had absolutely nothing more than it needed to be an absolute pleasure to drive. The four speed transmission was stiff, and the clutch felt more like a four puck than a 50 year old stock replacement. The key’s fit into the center of the hand made wooden dash, and a quick twist to the right sprung the car to life instantly. The Ford motor burbled and then dropped off. Another twist of the key and she came back to life, but this time I put my foot into it a little to keep it awake. The sound of the Morgan is raw, simple, and assertive. Pulling out of the driveway and immediately onto a curvy back-road was a dream come true. The cool morning air cleared the windscreen and reminded me that morning’s aren’t necessarily the worst time of the day. With no traffic in front of us, we set off towards the gas station to fuel up for our day together. By the time we had made it to the gas station, I had figured out a few things about the car. First gear, was for starting only. You really didn’t need it unless you were at a complete stop. Double clutching seemed to work much better on the dated transmission to keep downshifts smooth and free of any grinding. And finally, this car is a blast to drive. The seats keep you low enough that you can literally reach over the “door” and touch the pavement. The wheel fits nicely in your lap and the gear shift is exactly where you would hope for a natural feeling between the gears.
After picking up some fuel we decided it was time to wind our way out into the country for a cruise. The roads were empty and it gave the opportunity to appreciate everything about this car. If I could explain it in only one word, I would have to say “Patience”. Everything from the way it was built, to the way it drives embraced patience. The wait list for a Morgan is anywhere from 6 months to a few years, depending on the factory options you plan on having grace your roadster. The shifts between gears were slow, but yet always exciting. It is not a car you drive fast, or recklessly. It is a piece of art that is meant to be experienced and enjoyed for the entirety of the drive. You don’t need to get your foot into it to feel the power of the engine, or listen to the rumble of the engine. They’re just built into the car from the manufacturer. Even on the highway the car was a joy to drive. It maintained the speed limit at around 3000 RPM which was just loud enough to remove the sound of the wind as it passed over the windshield and ran past your face. I don’t think there was a single stoplight that we had to wait for where someone in another vehicle didn’t ask us a question about the car; the most popular question being, “What is that?”
We only had our hands on the wheel for about 4 hours and it was easy to tell why cars like this are best driving periodically. I returned back to the owners house with both a sun and a wind burn across my entire face, and what felt like 2 inches of my spine compressed in my lower back. The discomfort for me only added to the experience of the Morgan, showcasing how pure it is to drive. The car has no remorse for you, your passenger, or the unlucky people behind who get to smell the raw gasoline from the tailpipe. The Morgan drives, and she drives damn well.
All in all, it could be the most fun I have ever had at or below the speed limit. The way you sit with the wheel on your lap and arm on the door. The way the wind flows freely through the cabin is like no other convertible I’ve ever driven. Morgan built a vehicle that appeals to every sense. The sounds, smells, sights, and feel of the 69 4/4 is not something I will soon forget, however it is something I look forward to having the chance to do again soon. Until next time I suppose.