When in 1909, at the age of twenty-eight, Henry Frederick Stanley Morgan (HFS as he came to be known throughout the motoring world) designed and built his first single-seater three-wheeled experimental car, he could never have dreamt that he would become one of the world’s major manufacturers of three-wheeler motor cars.
The son of a country clergyman, HFS was lucky not to be forced to enter the church as a profession. Far from discouraging him from making his own way in life, his parents and grandparents gave him every assistance. He was educated at Stone House, Broadstairs, and Marlborough College and then entered Crystal Palace Engineering College in south London, and it was here that his design and artistic talents developed.” In 1906 he opened a garage in Malvern, Worcestershire. “The venture flourished and HFS was then able to turn his thoughts to making a car of his own design.
The prototype, completed in 1909, was a single-seater fitted with tiller steering. It also incorporated Morgan’s special form of sliding pillar independent front suspension. With the addition of such refinement as rebound springs and shock absorbers, this form of front suspension is still used on modern four-wheeler
Morgans. The whole car was very light and was powered by a 7 horsepower Peugeot motorcycle engine.
On Boxing Day 1910 HFS entered the first London-Exeter Two Day Trial in the JAP-engined single-seater fitted with tiller steering. He won a gold medal and received favorable press coverage. So well did his cars do in competition that at the Motor Cycle Show in November 1911 he was inundated with inquiries and orders. He realized that to maintain momentum he must enter as many sporting events as he could.
In 1912 the company became the Morgan Motor Company Ltd, and made a small but significant profit of 1314pounds…
After the war (WWI) public demand for motors far outstripped supply…By 1923 Morgan were being manufactured under license by Darmont in France.
In 1936 the government announced that the following year it was going to abolish the Road Fund Tax, which did away with the three-wheeler’s tax advantage…”
That year Morgan Motor Company introduced the four wheeler called the 4-4, for the four cylinders and four wheel car. The 4-4 model Morgan is still in production.
During World War II the company was converted to the war effort and no cars were built. After the war the company slowly began producing cars again.
They concentrated on producing cars for export.
HFS Morgan’s son, Peter Morgan, was educated at Oundle and in 1936 entered the Chelsea College of Automobile Engineering; on the out break of war he enlisted
in the Royal Army Service Corps… After being released in 1946 with the rank of captain, he immediately joined the company… in 1958 Peter took over as managing director…
In 1962 success was achieved again at the 24 hours endurance race at Le Mans. A Plus Four Super Sports prepared by the company and Christopher Lawrence
competed and won the 2 litre class. The car was driven by Lawrence and Richard Sheppard-Baron and covered a total distance of 2,261 miles at an average speed of
94 mph. Driver changes, refuelling and adjustment took a total of 32 minutes, so the actual running speed of the car was 97 mph. After the race the car was happily driven back
to England on public roads.
In 1964 the Morgan chassis was used as the basis for the SLTR, a racing car designed by Chris Lawrence and John Sprinzel. The aerodynamic body gave a top speed
far in excess of the 134 mph. Achieved by the Plus Four at Le Mans on the Mulsanne Straight.
“A traditionalist. . . and a survivor”
BY DOUG NYE
PHOTO BY GEOFFREY GODDARD
Reprinted from Road and Track Magazine August 1980
Profile: PETER MORGAN November 3 1919 – October 20 2003
PETER MORGAN MAKES no bones about it: “If it hadn’t been for the American market the Morgan Motor Co would not have survived the difficult years in the early Sixties. I mean it when I say it’s sad we’re not in the U.S. today after the help they gave us when the going was tough here at home and in Europe. Without them we would have been down to producing about two cars a week-and I’m not at all sure we could have survived at that; being down to five cars a week was bad enough.”
Since that time the evergreen Morgan sports car has gained ground rather than lost it. In an age when nostalgia and the old values of open-air sports car motoring seem so attractive, the flaring-fender traditional Moggie has the extra clout of being the real thing, not just another replicar. But at the time, 1961-1962, things looked black, and Peter had not long been in control.
We reached absolute rock bottom at five cars per week because there was a recession in the California aircraft industry. Rene Pelandini in LA couldn’t take a car off me for about 11 months, he seemed to have about 80 in stock and he’d previously been good for 10 a month. It was the east coast market which just about saved the day, and I was in LA surveying the problem when I got a call from home because they’d had a cable from New York saying to cancel cars. I could only say, on the spur of the moment, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll be there in a day or two, just tell them they’ve been shipped,’ and they did take the cars, sales recovered and we kept going. It was a worrying time, our worst, in fact.”
That worst time for the Morgan Motor Co came very early in Peter Morgan’s management of the concern. Born on November 3, 1919, he had grown up with the cars, first 3-wheelers, then four, and after spending the war years in Africa he started work in the factory at Malvern in February 1947. George Goodall retired from running the firm in 1958 and Peter’s father, H.F.S., said, “Come on, let’s see how you do as Managing Director.” The Morgans, father and son, enjoyed an all-too-short year together before H.F.S. died in June 1959. Peter was on his own. His relationship with his father had been very close, more like younger brother than son, he says. “We were tremendously close, we got on marvelously well. I used to co-drive with him on trials and rallies prewar. When I first started here as a draftsman I wanted to design a new body for the car. Working on my own I built a 14-in. model and did drawings of a new 2-seater which I brought into this office to show him, and he said, ‘Yes, that’s all right, but now go away and do the 4-seater.’ Of course, he knew it would be virtually impossible to do a really good-looking modern 4-seater body on the Morgan chassis, and that’s very important to us because remember we were always scratching to sell cars and he figured most people wanted 4-seaters.
“H.F.S. always said he had had a lot of luck but he was a very shrewd man-not only a good practical engineer and designer but also a good businessman. He loved functional things and was a superb sketcher, had a superb grasp of line at a time when bodybuilding was an art. Occasionally the engineer in him triumphed over the artist. He was so keen on making things as simple as could be that he just stuck the headlights straight onto the curving wing-line of the sports car rather than fairing them in. He reasoned that the curves would be expensive and complicated, which is true, but the result looked lousy. The same applied to the flat grille. Eventually the foreman in the sheet metal shop and myself made up bending jigs, worked out ways of making the sections and built the new front up like that.”
H.F.S. knew that his son’s period of ownership of the business was going to have troubled times, as would any specialist sports car manufacturer. “One year I remember being on the Motor Show stand when somebody came up and said, ‘Harry, you know you’re a lucky man being able to make cars as a hobby,’ and I caught father’s eye and he frowned a bit. When this chap had gone, father turned to me and said firmly, ‘Even if that were true, and plainly it’s not, you can take it from me it will never be like that in your time.’He knew … mmmm … he knew…”