1978 Morgan Plus 8 Roadster
Result: PASSED IN
Steadfastly traditional and quintessentially British, Morgan’s four-wheeled heritage can be traced back to the original 4/4 of 1936, an affordable sports car popular with enthusiastic drivers and racers before the war. Evolving into the Plus 4 in 1950, the Morgan benefited from more power from the Standard Vanguard (and, later, Triumph TR) engines, while the styling changed by degrees to the definitive Morgan ‘look’, the flat radiator giving way to the curved radiator cowling, flowing wings and integrated headlamps. In the late 1960s Morgan’s engineers began the search for a suitable engine to replace the ageing Triumph TR4 unit but most of the likely candidates, including the TR5’s new six-cylinder unit, were ultimately rejected as they simply wouldn’t fit beneath the bonnet. However, Rover’s Buick-derived small-block V8 engine was deemed ideal and, with its compact, all-alloy block, came with virtually no weight penalty over the existing four-cylinder unit. Christened the Plus 8, Morgan’s first multi-cylinder offering had a suitably reinforced chassis with Z-section side rails and cross-bracing, 11-inch disc brakes at the front and 9-inch drums at the rear, plus 15-inch alloy wheels riding on 185VR15 tyres. Strictly a two-seater, the Plus 8 was always a seriously quick motor car, thanks to its excellent power-to-weight ratio; a road test of a Plus 8 conducted by the Autocar magazine in March 1987 returned the impressive figures of 0-60mph in just 5.6 seconds and a maximum speed of 122mph. Production began in May 1968 and the Plus 8 evolved into an excellent sports car over the years, adopting Rover’s four-speed gearbox in April 1972 in place of the faithful old Moss box, the more powerful SD1 engine (still with twin SU carburettors but 155bhp on tap) and a five-speed gearbox in October 1976. These later cars also benefited from further revisions to the chassis, including wider track. The Plus 8 was hand-built at Morgan’s Malvern factory in tiny numbers and remained in production until 2004, the demise of the Rover V8 ultimately heralding the end of the road.