In 1973 I purchased an immaculate dark blue Morgan 4/4, which had less than 5000 miles on the clock. The car was less than one year old and had been garaged since new. Back in the nineteen seventies there was a three year waiting list for new Morgans and the cost of a one year old model was considerably more. I was lucky to pick this one up for the price of a new one. The Morgan today is still worth more than my wifes new car and costs considerably less to insure.
Unfortunately, my future wife and I lived in a flat and the the Morgan was kept on the street for six years until we had a house of our own. If that was not bad enough, the car also suffered from another interest of ours. We loved sailing and the Morgan would spend most of its weekends in a boat yard. This was not so bad in the summer when we were out on the water, but the car stood there during the winter whilst the yacht demanded our attention. The boat yard was alongside the sea and on stormy weekends the car would be exposed to salt water spray.
It was not due to a lack of enthusiasm for the car, that made me treat the Morgan this way. I have never named any of my other cars, but this one was affectionately named "Le Faye" after
"Morgan Le Faye",the character in Celtic legend who in Sir Thomas Mallory's "Le Morte d'Arthur" is portrayed as beautiful, but dangerous.
Le Fayes Demise
During the early hours of 16th October 1987
The Great Storm felled 15 million trees in Britain. One of those trees fell on the garage which housed the Morgan. The Morgan was badly damaged and although it was insured, it was not covered due to a liability exception, termed " An act of God ". As we had a young family at the time and were responsible for the removal of a large beech tree from our back garden, I decided repairs on the Morgan could wait. Ironically the garage and house insurance were covered for storm damage, but we had to pay for the removal of the tree. I could have bought another Morgan for what that cost!
Due to the widespread damage in 1987, builders and tree surgeons were in short supply and it was quite a long time before things returned to normal. During that time the damaged Morgan was exposed to the elements, trapped beneath the collapsed garage roof and the canopy of a huge beech tree. When the garage was eventually repaired I locked the Morgan in the garage and forgot about her for a while.
One day when I opened the garage, a new neighbour asked me what the old wreck was that I had stored there. He seemed shocked when I explained that the old wreck was most probably more valuable than my new car. Parked in her garage the night before the Great Storm, my Morgan was a gleaming roadworthy vehicle that had never failed an MOT. Although she had suffered from slightly over enthusiastic driving and poor conditions, I serviced and polished her regularly. Now she was being described as a " sad old wreck " . It was at that moment I decided that I would have to sell Le Faye at a loss or rebuild her. It was a " no brainer " .
I would restore " Le Faye " to her original condition. All I had to do was reverse out of the garage and assess the car in daylight, bash out the dented bodywork, apply a lick of paint and I would be on the road in no time. If I had known what lay ahead, I would most probably have parted with her. Thankfully I decided to attempt a rebuild which resulted in a most enjoyable and rewarding experience.
The car had not been moved from the damp garage for quite a long time, so the first problem was to start the engine. I fitted a brand new battery, primed the carburetor and poured a small quantity of oil into each cylinder via the spark plug holes. The Ford crossflow engine started with ease although the oil in the bores made it smoke a little. When I tried to reverse out of the garage my luck changed. I could not select reverse gear! The clutch friction plate was firmly stuck to the fly wheel. I jacked up the rear of the car and supported it firmly on axle stands. I then started the engine with the car in gear, depressed the clutch and stamped on the brakes whilst applying a little throttle and prayed that I wouldn't damage the gear box. After a few attempts the clutch freed itself. I am not sure if this is a safe method, but I recently found an MG club web site which gives similar advice and alternative methods should this fail. Now all I had to do, was reverse out of the garage. That's when I discovered the front brake pads had adhered themselves to the discs. Luckily, the clutch was still strong and when the engine had warmed up, it had enough power to overcome the seized brakes.
My ideas of a quick rebuild faded when I examined the car. I had no experience of panel beating, paint finishing, welding or coach building. Nearly every panel required work and the wooden frame was in a terrible condition. If you look deeper into this web site, you may think Morgans do not last long. I hope I have not given a poor impression of them. Most cars built at the same time as my Morgan, would have been in the scrap yard by the time my rebuild was taking place. Nowadays Morgans are built to a much higher standard. They include stainless steel bulkheads, chemically treated rot resistant frames, and superformed aluminium wings. Customers are also offered the choice of a galvanised or powder coated chassis. Many other makes of cars manufactured in the twentieth century have been restored, but spare parts are often no longer manufactured and may have to be specially made at high cost.
The best thing about restoring a Morgan is the availability of spare parts. The Morgan agents and factory can usually supply replacement parts for almost any Morgan, however old it is. I hope this website will be of interest and encourage anyone out there who is contemplating a classic car restoration. It was not my intention to produce a manual, although this web site seems to appear more like one as I add to it. Maybe experienced mechanics and coach builders may not agree with my methods. I do not claim to be as skilled as the craftspeople at Morgan or their agents. I can only admire their skills and the speed with which they apply their trade. During the time I spent rebuilding the car I would occasionally phone the factory for advice. I have never dealt with an organisation that was more helpful.
Although the techniques used during the restoration of my Morgan are not always the same as professionals may use, they enabled me to rebuild a car that since the rebuild looks as it did when brand new. Apart from replacing rotten parts of the frame and rusted out panels, the car still has its original parts. I feel it is important to restore old cars as near to original as possible. This way they are working museum pieces reflecting the heritage of motoring.