Morgan Sports Cars

Morgan Plus 8

Alloy wheels, wider track, and a two-inch wheel-base stretch help identify Morgan Plus 8s from Plus 4s. Interior trim is more opulent, but construction remains old-world, including wooden underbody pieces. The example pictured is a 1987 model-year Plus 8.

Like every Morgan, the Plus 8 offers elemental motoring at its best -- and worst. That means a cramped, leaky, stiff-riding sports car, but one with super-responsive handling and an old-time driving feel no modern car can duplicate. It also means resolutely 1930s styling -- Morgans were "retro" decades ago -- plus patient handwork by virtuoso artists in wood, metal, and leather.

Like every Morgan since the '20s, the Plus 8 issues from the quaint Pickersleigh Road shops set up by HFS Morgan himself in the Worchestershire hamlet of Malvern Link. And though neither the company nor its cars have essentially changed over the years, Morgans have become quite costly, in part because demand far exceeds supply. Want a new one? Order now, then wait five years.

What's special about the Plus 8 is that it delivers everything Morgan at much higher velocities. That's because it has a V-8, the same all-aluminum pushrod design that was born at Buick and adopted by Rover. Actually, the 8 was a child of necessity, evolved from the Plus 4 to replace that model when its Triumph-sourced engine was discontinued.

Luckily, the V-8 was an easy fit, requiring just a two-inch-longer wheelbase and a slightly wider chassis. Better still, it was little heavier than the old four yet packed nearly 50 percent more power. Add in modest overall weight and you have a "veddy British" roadster that can out-drag some Ferraris.

Top speed? It's now an alleged 130 mph despite the vintage "aerodynamics," but only fools would attempt that. Morgans have always been best in top-down touring on smooth, snaky roads at up to, say, 80 mph; this one merely gets there a lot quicker.

When the supply of four-cylinder Triumph engines dried up, Morgan switched to the compact Rover V-8 and created the Plus 8. The new engine was an easy fit and didn’t alter the Morgan driving feel; it just made it possible to enjoy at higher velocities.

Today's Plus 8 is basically the debut 1968 model, but axles and fenders have been widened a couple times and performance improved by a mid-'80s switch from carburetors to fuel injection, then more displacement (from 3.5 liters to 3.9). Though U.S. imports have been spotty since 1972 (blame safety and emissions laws), street-legal 8s are again available to determined Yanks with deep pockets.

Twenty years ago, Road & Track described the Plus 8 as being all about "romance -- young love, moonlit motoring on winding blacktop roads and coffee stops in unlikely places. A car for F. Scott Fitzgerald heroes and heroines, yet surely as appealing to the pot generation. . . ." That's still true, thank goodness. We'd all be poorer without this defiantly individual new-old car.

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