History of the 1968 - 1990 Morgan 4-Apr
The Morgan 4/4 was the company’s first sports car to have four cylinders and four wheels, and was known as the 4-4 until after World War II when it became the 4/4. Previous Morgans were three- wheelers with V-twin engines. The 1,122-cc Coventry Climax engine was first employed, and it was mated to a four-speed Meadows gearbox. The two-seater Series I Morgan 4/4 was introduced in 1936 and had a long-stroke overhead inlet over exhaust torquey engine providing 34 bhp. This engine was also built under licence by Triumph.
The 4/4 had a long and appealing louvered four-piece bonnet tapering forward to a large chrome radiator, which leant slightly back. Long flowing front wings and running boards joined up to the rear wings which ended in a distinctive flair that matched the slanted tail. This housed the slab fuel tank and two spare wheels strapped vertically. Suspension was by sliding pillar independent front suspension and a live rear axle located on half-elliptic springs. It was a hand-built car from the small Malvern-based company and although nowhere near the size of MG, the Morgan Motor Company's production of the 4/4 two-seater of 663 cars by 1939 was the next most popular sports car on the UK market in the 1930s.
In late 1937 Morgan introduced the 4/4 as a four-seater with 99 selling by 1939. The wheelbase was exactly the same as the two-seater, but the luggage space was reduced and the petrol tank and battery had to be repositioned in order to make the necessary room. By this time competition successes were increasing demand, which far outstripped supply. In 1938 the Meadows gearbox was replaced by the Moss gearbox which had synchromesh on second, third, and top gears.
To cater for the widening interest, Morgan introduced the 4/4 drophead coupe in 1938, which had proper window frames and the customary higher quality and heavier hood to make sure of keeping the rain out. In the short time before outbreak of war, Morgan built 58 drophead coupes, with a further 106 from 1946 to 1950 when production of the 4/4 ended and the new 2,088-cc engined Plus Four model was launched. After the war the old Coventry Climax engine was replaced by the slightly more powerful Standard 1,267-cc overhead valve engine that produced 39 bhp. The post-war production from 1946 to 1950 of the 4/4 Series I two-seater amounted to 249 and 140 Series I 4/4 four-seaters.
Morgan 4/4 production recommenced in October 1955 after much demand with the new Series II. This new car was based on the new Plus Four chassis with the familiar Morgan look that has prevailed since. With virtually the same format as the Series I, a multi-slatted vertical chrome radiator grille with recessed radiator now replaced the exposed wet-shell chrome radiator to make a more pleasing and streamlined look to the front. The same suspension set up was used as the Series I, but now the current Ford 100E 1,172-cc, 36-bhp side-valve engine was employed, mated to Ford's three-speed gearbox. Hydraulic brakes replaced the mechanical brakes and 9-inch drums were now fitted. With less performance than the immediate post-war Series I and only three speeds on the transmission, there was not much performance to be extracted from this car, and in the five years to 1960 only 386 cars were built. Options were offered of leather upholstery, a heater and a rev counter, as well as traffic indicators. In 1957 twin SU carburettors and an Aquaplane cylinder head conversion increased the power output to 40 bhp in response to demand, and the much criticised gear change linkage was improved. At £639, a top speed of 75 mph was possible, 0-60mph transpired in 26.9 seconds, and the standing 1/4 mile took 23 seconds. The Motor magazine achieved 35.1 mpg in 1956.
From October 1960 until October 1961 the short-lived Series III at £736 now featured hydraulic shock absorbers, a wider track by two inches and Ford's new 39-bhp 105E Anglia engine with a four-speed gearbox. Just 58 cars were built.
In October 1961 the £774 Series IV Morgan 4/4 was now fitted with the 1,340-cc Ford Classic 109E engine and significantly 11-inch disc brakes. A top speed of 92 mph was now possible, and an impressive 10.5 seconds was all that was needed to reach 60 mph. The standing 1/4 mile was recorded in 18.1 seconds and 32mpg was achieved during The Motor's test in 1962 when touring, making this a fun and economical Morgan 4/4. A total of 114 cars were built up until February 1963 when the Series V Morgan 4/4 was introduced. This model had another engine change to the Ford Cortina 116E’s 60-bhp, 1,498-cc engine which was also available in 78-bhp form. The price was reduced to £683 and 95 mph to 100 mph was now possible depending on which engine was specified. A total of 639 Series IV cars were built up to 1968.
Two and four-seater bodies were available again from February 1968 with the latest 1,600-cc Ford Kent crossflow engine and known as the 4/4 1600. Three engines were available over the period to March 1982 by which time 3,513 cars had been built, making this by far the most popular small-engined Morgan to date. At £858 and in 74-bhp form, 100 mph was possible. In 88-bhp form at £890, 102 mph was possible, with 0-60mph coming in 9.8 seconds and 17.2 seconds required for the standing 1/4 mile.
Another engine change came in November 1981 for the Morgan 4/4 1600 with the 96-bhp Fiat Twin Cam 1,585-cc engine. At £7,413, 115 mph was now possible, making the humble 4/4 quite entertaining. Only 96 were built in the four years to November 1985.
Alongside the Fiat option from March 1982 was the option of the 1,597-cc Ford CVH engine, which was fitted to the XR3, with a four-speed until 1984 when the Sierra's five-speed gearbox was fitted. At £7,245, 0-60 mph came up in 10 seconds, just 103 mph was possible, and 17.3 seconds was necessary for the standing 1/4 mile sprint. A total of 1,652 cars were built by November 1991 when fuel injection was added to the 96-bhp engine, making a new power output of 100 bhp. Just 187 of these 1600 fuel-injected cars were made by January 1993 when the 4/4 1800 Ford Zetec engine was introduced.
In the 54 years since the Morgan 4/4 was launched in 1936, the model had come a long way to 1993, and indeed is still being produced to this day, albeit with the latest Ford Sigma engine.
The Morgan has a huge international following and is seen as one of the great British handmade sports cars, the factory offering an otherwise long-gone personal touch to their relationship with all Morgan owners. Indeed pilgrimages are organised by Morgan car clubs all over Europe and the world to the Malvern factory each summer. The Morgan Sports Car Club is the UK club and the factory lists Morgan clubs all over the world.
Traditionally built, look at the wood frame carefully paying attention to the doors. Look at the wings, which can rust as they flex with the body. Regular chassis lubrication arrests the march of suspension wear. Examine the chassis for ripples and signs of repair. Usual checks for worn engines apply. The 1,172-cc Ford engine generally lasts for 50,000 miles before the white metal needs attention. The Anglia engine can be difficult to start if worn. The three-bearing Ford Classic engine can rattle to death. The Kent engine can wear in the camshaft area. Valve guides can wear in the CVH engine. The twin-cam Fiat engine loves to rev but likes new bearings around 80,000 miles. Parts are plentiful, but the main thing is to use these cars. Brakes seize due to lack of use and rubber hoses and pipes deteriorate, so the advice is to look for a regularly used and maintained Morgan 4/4. There are plenty of such cars to choose from, and they prove to be fun and economical traditional sports cars with lively Morgan clubs all over the world.