As quintessentially British as the London black cab or the red Routemaster bus, when it comes to British sportscar brands, Morgan, is one of the most recognisable.
After almost 70 years of production, it has just launched a significant update to its most significant model.
When the Morgan Plus 4 was unveiled in 1950, it was labelled as the high-performance variant of the 4/4 model. So named as it had four wheels and four cylinders, the 4/4 was the first ‘proper’ car for the company, which had at that point only made three-wheeled vehicles. The Plus Four retained the same basic formula of a steel ladder chassis and an open, curvaceous ash-framed body. For this higher performance model however, the chassis was strengthened and lengthened by a predictable 4 inches to accommodate a larger 2088cc Standard Vanguard engine. It remained the sportier variant of the Morgan range, right up until the introduction of the Plus 8, V8-engined model in 1966.
With a production run that spanned 70 years, it is easy to imagine that replacing this ever-popular model would have been a hard task for a company so steeped in tradition that it still pushes its vehicles around the factory floor on wheeled trolleys. But it is one which has arguably accomplished admirably.
Everything, and yet nothing, has changed with the launch of the new Plus Four - depending on how hard you look. Externally, the styling remains unchanged from the Morgans of old. The sweeping front wings still fall gracefully back to the rear wheels, the cabin remains a narrow cocoon within the bodywork, and the doors still lack integrated windows. If the occupants want to stay dry with the roof up, side screens must be fitted.
Under the skin however, the Plus Four is an entirely new beast. Gone is the steel ladder chassis and in its place is a thoroughly modern, bonded aluminium tub. As the basis for the vehicle, this construction is both stronger and lighter than the unit it replaces and the new Plus Four has more cabin space, larger door openings and at the same time, it’s a lot more rigid than its predecessors.
The 2 litre naturally-aspirated Ford engine of the previous generation Plus Four has been replaced with a 2 litre turbocharged BMW engine of the same capacity, meaning that the Morgan has now gained 100 bhp on its predecessor. With 30% lower CO2 emissions and greater fuel economy, the car can make the sprint from 0-60 mph in just 4.8 seconds.
It has been hailed as a masterstroke by many as following in the footsteps of the Plus Six model, it is a thoroughly modernised Morgan that stays true to its roots. Will the addition of an optional automatic gearbox be seen as one novelty too far by some purists? Perhaps, but it will surely broaden the cars appeal to a far wider audience, in a world where more and more cars are becoming similar, the Morgan Plus Four should be saluted.
What do you think about the new Morgan Plus Four? Let us know in the comments below.