Morgan Fly Off Handbrake

Fly off hand brakes are usually only found on sports cars and over the years I have heard some people voice their dislike of them. Personally I really like the fly off handbrake on Morgans. It is situated alongside the gear shift. When pulling away, you can push the gear stick into first gear with your thumb, whilst simultaneously flicking the handbrake off with the other four fingers. This is because the driver does not have to depress the button to release it. Not only is the left hand close to both gear shift and handbrake, but the steering wheel is just a few inches away. Nowadays many modern cars with brake assist have no handbrake so I suppose you could argue that this is better. However, if you like hanging the tail out by applying the handbrake, there can't be a better choice than a fly off handbrake.

Figure 1

Handbrake Layout

Handbrake Layout

The construction and layout of the fly off hand brake on most Morgans is straightforward. On my 1972 4/4, the handbrake is mounted on a steel plate, which is bolted to longitudinal members of the chassis as shown in Figure 1. A bracket bolted to the steel plate spans the gap to the opposite longitudinal member, to which it is also bolted. This forms a rigid mounting plate, which takes up the minimum of space in the transmission tunnel. A ratchet with a microswitch attached is bolted to the mounting plate. The handbrake lever pivots on a bolt which passes through the mounting plate and ratchet. At the bottom of the lever a 'U' shaped bracket (yoke) houses a ferrule, to which the inner wire of a Bowden cable is soldered. The outer sleeve at the front end of the cable is located by a bracket behind the ratchet quadrant. The rear end of the cable passes through a barrel adjuster which is mounted to a bracket on the bottom of the rear axle. A ferrule and yoke on the rear end of the cable is fixed to the handbrake compensator lever by a clevis pin. The barrel adjuster allows the correct angle of the compensator lever to be set.

Handbrake Construction

The handbrake shaft is fixed to a robust base which straddles the ratchet quadrant. Inside the shaft is a rod which is threaded at either end. The bottom of the rod screws into a pawl which engages with the ratchet quadrant. A Coiled spring around the rod exerts upward pressure on a knob, which is screwed to the top of the rod. This upward pressure results in the pawl being disengaged from the ratchet quadrant. The handbrake lever is pulled back without depressing the button on the top. When the rear wheels lock, the button on the top is pressed down. The tension on the handbrake cable causes enough friction between the ratchet and pawl to lock them together. When the handbrake is pulled backwards, the spring around the pawl rod pops the button up and the handbrake is released.

Figure 2

Handbrake Details

Servicing the hand brake

The most important stage in servicing the Morgan handbrake is to ensure the rear drum brakes are properly serviced first. See Rear Brake Service. Inspection of the Bowden cable is also necessary before making any adjustments. Any signs of deterioration will require a replacement. When ordered, it will most probably come with the front end ferrule separate from the cable. This is because the the cable passes through a bracket on the rear axle and another behind the ratchet quadrant. The cable is then threaded through the yoke and ferrule. The end of the cable is splayed out and soldered to the ferrule, using a flux free plumbers solder. The end of the cable wire and ferrule must be grease free. Methanol can be used to clean both the ferrule and cable end, before coating with plumbers flux. The hole in the ferrule should be slightly tapered with the wire threaded through the narrow end and splayed out on the wide end (see Figure 2). This creates a cone shape on the end of the soldered wire which cannot be dragged back through the hole when the cable is under tension. The solder securing the end of the cable should cool with a shiny finish. If it appears dull, it will have formed a dry joint and fail in service.

Access to the front end of the handbrake cable is quite restricted when working underneath the car and it is easier to remove the transmission tunnel cover and work on it from inside the car. I fitted my handbrake with the body off the car during the rebuild, which makes the job extremely easy. The photograph and diagram in Figure 2 illustrates how simple working on the handbrake assembly is with the body removed. With the transmission tunnel and floor boards fitted, the only working space is between the chassis rails. At The rear end of the car access to the handbrake components is much better. If the panel behind the rear seats is removed, all of the handbrake linkages to the rear drum drums are exposed.

Regular lubrication of the linkage clevis pins will ensure smooth operation of the handbrake. The rear of the hand brake cable terminates at the compensator adjustment lever, which is the only adjustment necessary in the maintenance schedule of the handbrake. The centre line of the lever should lay backwards at 15 to 20 degrees from the centre line of the axle. This will ensure the optimum leverage on the brake connecting rods.

Handbrake Wiring

Figure 3

Handbrake Wiring

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