MORGAN PLUS 8 REVIEW

The unique appeal of a Morgan is undeniable, and with so much character on offer outright speed isn’t necessarily all that important.  However, those after some extra shove will love the Plus 8, the addition of the lightweight V8 adding a real boost to performance when it arrived in 1968.  In fact the Plus 8 was a real E-Type baiter back in the day, the relatively light construction allowing it to hit 60mph in less than seven seconds.  And with later cars benefitting from larger capacities and outputs of up to 220bhp, you’ll certainly not find yourself wanting for pace.  

There’s plenty of low down torque as well so you’ll have no trouble surprising the drivers of more modern machinery when it comes to the traffic light grand prix, although such antics aren’t really befitting of a car like this.  Instead, it’s far better to sit back and enjoy the smooth power delivery and woofling exhaust note, just using the power to squirt past the odd B-road dawdler.  

If the underpinnings seem a little archaic, don’t worry.  The Plus 8 is more than capable of getting that power to the road, although it does tend to prefer smoother surfaces as the stiff rear suspension can see the car skipping over mid-corner bumps and things can get a little unruly on bumpy surfaces.  

In any case the accurate and feelsome steering means it’s easy to correct such wandering while the brakes inspire plenty of confidence.  The latter need a firm shove on non-servo cars though but you soon get used to it and there’s plenty of feel through the pedal, making them easy to modulate. 

And if a Plus 8 is fun to drive, it’s even more special to sit in.  The cabin is cosy certainly with the steering wheel sitting close to your chest in true vintage style but consider it snug rather than cramped.  It does mean all the controls are close to hand though and there’s no arguing with the quality of the materials used.  The Plus 8 feels like a car that’s built to last.


VITAL STATISTICS

Morgan Plus 8 (1978)

Engine           3532cc/V8/OHV

Power            155bhp@5250rpm

Torque          198lb ft@2500

Top speed    124mph

0-60mph        6.5sec

Economy      21mpg

Gearbox        5-speed manual  


WHAT TO LOOK FOR

BODYWORK & CHASSIS


The steel chassis - galvanized from the late 1980s - resists corrosion remarkably well but it’s worth checking around the rear axle, rear spring hangers, and the box sections beneath the cabin.  Splitting around the engine mounts is often the result of frontal impact damage so check here too.  A replacement is around £800 but you’re looking at around 125 hours of specialist labour to fit it so the final bill will be substantial; Morgan themselves quote around 200 hours.
 

The traditional ash frame was pressure treated with Cuprinol from 1986 onwards.  Replacement is a skilled task but it’s not as rot-prone as you might expect, though it pays to get the car on a ramp to check the sill boards.  And don’t assume that vertical movement of the doors is down to rotten hinge posts - it’s just as likely to be wear in the hinges themselves, but a specialist inspection is wise.  Depending on year, body panels could be steel, aluminium, or a mix of the two - either way check them carefully as replacement costs can be high.  Earlier hand-beaten wings are more susceptible to damage, while bubbling paint signifies corrosion.

ENGINE

The V8 ied in size and output over the years but all are durable with proper maintenance.  Cooling systems can be a weak spot on early cars so keep an eye on the temperature gauge and ensure system components are healthy.  Correct anti-freeze levels are vital for longevity as are regular oil and filter changes, the latter preventing camshaft wear and sludging of the hydraulic tappets.  And watch for worn timing gear and signs of oil leaks, and for evidence of oil or coolant seepage from the head gaskets.

The original twin SU carburetors were replaced by Strombergs in 1981 and both are reliable and easy to overhaul.  Bosch L-Jetronic injection arrived in 1984 and while Lucas injection was also fitted the injectors themselves are no longer available and need replacing with Bosch items.  Later models used a Rover GEMS engine management system which suffers the odd ECU glitch, but specialist repairers can sort them.  Catalytic convertors arrived for 1992/93 and they rarely cause trouble.


TRANSMISSION

Gearboxes ranged from a 4-speed Moss unit on early cars to 5-speed LT77 and R380 units later.  Rebuilding the Moss unit is a tricky DIY task but parts are available.  They’re getting scarce for the LT77 unit though which can also suffer from oil leaks and excessive noise from bearings and gears.  It’s not unusual to find gearbox swaps in a Plus 8 so it somewhat depends on your views on originality.  Regular oil changes will keep rear axles and limited slip differentials trouble-free.
 

SUSPENSION

Sliding pillar front suspension was fitted but regular lubrication of the king pins is the important thing.  Earlier models had a remote arrangement operated by a cabin switch and fed from the main engine oil system, although some owners replaced it with conventional grease nipples which aren’t always as effective with phosphor-bronze bushes.  Watch for sagging rear leaf springs too, but neither the lever arm or later telescopic dampers give trouble.


BRAKES

Lack of use causes brake parts to seize and it’s worth noting that the Girling set-up changed to Lockheed in 1993 (the vacuum servo was removed post-1981, not returning until 1992/93)  The steering box was changed for rack and pinion in the mid-80s and neither arrangement gives particular trouble.  It’s worth checking for any stiffness that indicates a box lacking lubrication or seizing track rod ends, while excessive column movement is likely to be worn bushes.  Power assistance was never offered but some cars got aftermarket conversions.

INTERIOR AND TRIM

There’s little to worry about in the cabin other than wear and tear.  Refurbishment with quality leather and wood will cost so avoid anything too decrepit, and check for signs of water damage.  And don’t forget to check the condition of the hood and its mechanism as replacement costs will soon mount.    


OUR VERDICT

That brawny V8 added a whole new dimension to the Morgan’s appeal, and the Plus 8 is inherently robust.  Buy carefully though as major restoration is a costly business, and you need to make sure you can live with its unique approach.  But with excellent specialists and a thriving club scene, the lure of a Plus 8 is extremely hard to resist.

With a production run spanning more than 25 years and numerous developments valuing a Plus 8 isn’t especially easy.  Prices here are representative of an early-80’s model, but what’s clear is that values remain very firm.  Cheap, scruffy cars tend to be rare as even those are ideal for classic racing preparation, while early Moss-box cars can easily reach £55,000 in top condition.  While values probably haven’t topped out yet buy wisely and its nigh-on certain you won’t lose money.

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