2022 Morgan Plus 4 & 1978 Morgan 4/4 1600 Series 6 First Drive Review : Guten Morgans
Singapore - One thing we’ve learned from our many photo-shoots is that Mother Nature can be unpredictable, because she literally took a huge piss on us on what seemed to be shaping up to be a gorgeous, sunny Saturday.
However, any morgen that involves Morgans is a good one and this was no exception!
The owners of the white Morgan 4/4 and red Plus Four scrambled to raise roofs and snap-on side-windows (yes they’re removable!). The Plus Six though, proved it isn’t just a fair-weathered sportscar, because it was unfazed by the weather and shrugged it all off.
In this ‘Touring’ spec, the Plus Six comes with a composite lightweight hard-top inspired by 1960s ‘road racers’, which not just gives it all-weather useability, but also endows it with muscular coupe looks, especially with its bulked-up body.
In case you’re wondering, Morgan Motor Cars doesn’t use retro-styling or restomods as a punchline or trendy schtick to tug on your nostalgic fancies.
With its quintessential British roadster styling and Ash Wood-laced frame, the British-based marque is one of the automotive OGs that has been around since the turn of the 20th Century, where it started out by building three-wheelers in 1911 in Malvern (where it is still based).
Snow White - 1978 Morgan 4/4 1600 Series 6
Even the 4/4 model (for four wheels / four-cylinders) can trace its roots back to the 1930s, with an unmistakable silhouette that has remained largely unchanged for the better part of 85 years!
The 4/4 started out as the brand’s first four-wheeled roadster in 1936, but evolved through the years to serve as an entry-point to newcomers to the Morgan brand right up to 2018.
The white MY1978 4/4 1600 Series 6 is a one-family car bought by the father of the current caretaker, S, in the late 1970s when the former was studying in the UK. It was then imported to Singapore in the 1980s and has become a true labour of love for S.
In fact S was hit by a streak of sentimentality when the 4/4 wasn’t running and sitting forlornly in the garage. He got it working properly and hasn’t looked back since; in fact the 4/4 has even been part of the Singapore Grand Prix F1 Drivers’ Parade for a few years running.
After the 4/4’s overhaul and restoration, S spends almost every alternate weekend shaking-it-down and bidding ‘Guten Morgen’ to the rising sun on morning drives to keep the 4/4’s mechanicals nicely lubed and running.
“It’s fun to drive, easy to maintain and parts are readily available,” S tells us. “The 4/4 is the perfect embodiment of simple, mechanical fun for our complicated times, as many modern cars are either overly complex or fussy and/or have become electrified in one form or another.”
Thankfully, our drive session with the 4/4 takes place when the sun is out and the weather is cool.
With the roof down and side-windows off, we can properly experience the 4/4’s top-down driving thrills, as Morgan’s tried-and-tested recipe for driving fun remains largely unchanged after all these years.
From timepieces to turntables and all things analog and mechanical, there are quirks and rituals to starting, driving and even parking the 4/4.
Truth be told, we appreciate these little eccentricities, flaws and foibles, because it gives the car a distinct personality – very much in the same way every person is different.
The 4/4’s quirks are a welcome throwback to simpler times – godsend in an era where the constantly-outraged cancel culture is trying to mould the world’s populace into cookie-cutter citizens.
Next, you’ll be telling us cars will have interchangeable body-shapes and ride on near-identical powertrains… waitaminit!
We do love our carbs and even more so if they’re Weber (no, not the BBQ grille, the only grille here is the familiar Morgan front grille), with the 4/4 featuring a 1.6-litre Ford engine running a progressive Weber 32/36 DGV carb set-up for a compelling blend of economy and excitement.
The engine needs to be properly warmed-up before you can enjoy the throaty Weber’s lusty singing voice as both throttle bores open fully during pedal-to-metal driving.
As long-time readers will know, hard figures tell only a small part of the story, because uncovering the magic of the drive requires you to scratch deep below the surface of paper specifications.
With the soft-top down, things feel plenty fast, but you’ll never fear for your licence.
Best of all, driving the 4/4 is a properly immersive experience that bombards all your senses from all sides: sound, sight, smell and sensation.
The 85hp/125Nm does a great job of hustling the flyweight 700+kg 4/4 around on its skinny 15s with sufficient vigour to leave a big grin permanently etched on this author’s face.
As the lateral forces load during hard cornering, you can feel the flex in the ash wood used in the 4/4’s steel frame construction.
This is no bad thing, because it gives us the impression we’re riding on a living, sentient being – especially at its cornering limits – and it’s a nice contrast to how inert and overly stiff many new sportscars have gotten.
In fact, this constant communication and audio, visual and tactile overload can quickly overwhelm those more familiar with modern cars, which tend to insulate the driver from a lot of the good stuff.
Even the slightly awkward ergonomics of working the 4spd manual gear-shifter from under the dash console take a back-seat as you’re swept up in the charm of the Morgan’s motoring experience.
There’s an intimate familiarity to the drive, mainly because of how raw and unfiltered the entire experience is – driving the 4/4 is an occasion and you’ll want to save it for the weekends to savour as a detox break from the everyday mediocre.
Red Alert - 2022 Morgan Plus Four
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This adage has never held more true, especially when you consider the 2022 Plus Four parked alongside the 1978 4/4.
Like the 4/4, this particular red Plus Four features a manual transmission – if you’re wondering, this is the first manual Plus Four registered in Singapore – and clearly has a healthy respect for tradition.
In fact, that’s not where the similarities end, because I.O.’s striking Sport Red Plus Four is also tied to his dad, who decided he liked it one day… and the rest, as they say, is history.
I.O. is no stranger to sportscars and counts an assortment of Italian and JDM machines in his garage, but the Plus Four is probably the most quirky of his collection.
I.O. tells us, “I appreciate the brand’s eclectic fusion of classic and modern beneath the hand-beaten panels, just like Morgan’s use of ash wood and aluminium in its latest CX-platform. The classic roadster look lets me travel stealthily under the radar, but the Plus Four’s naughty nature takes less savvy drivers by surprise when the turbo’d 2.0-litre’s 258hp/350Nm is unleashed!”
After the 4/4, the Plus Four’s driving position is a familiar one (you sit low-down in the low-slung roadster, roof-down, windows-off and all that exposure making for a liberating experience), except the ergonomics are friendlier.
Compared to the no-frills 4/4, the Plus Four boasts a bold interior, with supportive tan seats and a richly textured wood-layered dash console.
Best of all, there are no fiddly screens or finicky UI systems to grapple with, just perfect weighting to the driver controls, as well as instruments that are legible beyond reproach to let you focus on the headline event – the drive.
We didn’t think the 4/4 needed any extra punch, but man, the Plus Four’s modern CX-platform has plenty of talent to cope with the 258hp/350Nm from BMW’s B48 engine – if anything, I was more concerned I’d run out of talent long before the chassis did!
Don’t forget that traction control on the rear-drive Morgans is determined by your brain, right foot and good’ol common sense – manageable with the sweetly-balanced Plus Four, but the Plus Six proved to be a riot to pilot and a real beast to manhandle, especially when the roads were damp.
Moreover, the Plus Four’s turbo’d torque goodness is matched to a silky-slick 6spd manual shifter, making the Plus Four one of the few occasions you’ll get to stir the sweet honey-pot to BMW’s B48, which incidentally also sees service in the current Toyota Supra.
The shifter throw is satisfyingly positive to engage and the clutch pedal doesn’t require Thighmaster training to operate, which means it’s a cinch to drive even when you’re stuck in start/stop traffic.
Engine sharing isn’t that big a deal for niche brands, as long as the respective brands can adapt the donor engine to suit the personalities of their cars – better this solution than to have one less sportscar brand in the world, we say.
The one-tonne Plus Four roadster will blitz to 100km/h from standstill in 5.2secs, but it is more of an agile athlete than drag-strip hot-rod.
It’s hard to top the experience of top-down motoring and the Plus Four ticks all the right boxes.
With strong pull from just 1000rpm and air-conditioning, it’ll even serve daily drive duties admirably, yet there’s a predictable sense of control when you’re pushing it in the corners.
Apart from enjoying wind-in-hair motoring down your favourite winding roads, there’re also the gritty sights and sounds that accompany fast-road driving, especially since you’re always in the thick of action.
From throaty Weber carb of the 4/4 to the push-and-whoosh of the turbo’d B48 in the Plus Four, the thrilling motoring traits that have stood Morgan in good stead throughout its storied history remain unchanged even right up to today.
The level of exquisite artisanal handiwork in massaging and coaxing the metal into its breathtaking, curvaceous silhouette is perfected thanks to the brand’s century-old legacy, with the same attention to detail lavished on the cabin.
As you can see, the results speak for themselves, because every Morgan is a living, breathing and rolling art-piece that looks fabulous both stationary and at speed.
Beyond the classic car facade, the new Morgans like the Plus Four and the Plus Six run the latest BMW mechanicals and are underpinned by an advanced composite aluminium architecture for enhanced torsional rigidity and accompanying visceral handling.
With a stupendous power-to-weight ratio, Morgan roadsters like the 'old' 4/4 and 'new' Plus Four aren’t just pretty faces wrapped up in evocative, bodacious shapes, but are also capable of suitably storming performance.
1978 Morgan 4/4 1600 Series 6
Engine 1599cc, inline4, nat-asp
Transmission 4spd manual
Top Speed 170km/h
Fuel Consumption est. 10.5l/100km
Kerbweight est. 770kg
2022 Morgan Plus Four
Engine 1998cc, inline4, turbo
Transmission 6spd manual
Top Speed 240km/h
Fuel Consumption 7.3l/100km
PHOTOS Zotiq Visuals