Perhaps one of the most anachronistic cars still made is the Morgan. At a time when real vintage cars are in such short supply that firms like Panther, Excalibur, Felber and Stutz make replicas of old cars, the Morgan company from Malvern are still making the same vintage car they have always made.
That is not strictly true because the car has changed in many ways over the years but it still retains its separate chassis with Zvsection: side members, the curious sliding pillar front suspension and live axle mounted on semi-elliptic leaf springs - all of which the Morgan had more than 40 years ago. Naturally, there have been many detail changes, strengthened parts and so on but were a Morgan owner who died in the 1930s to come back today he would have no difficulty in recognising the current Plus 8.
Morgan Plus 8
Morgan had used a variety of engines in their cars over the years including JAP and Matchless motorcycle engine, as well as Anzani, CoventryClimax, Ford, Standard and Triumph units. The engines fitted to the four wheel Morgans had been four cylinder engines, but for the new Plus 8 Peter Morgan opted for the Rover 3.5 litre V8 engine, a unit which had been developed from the American Buick all-aluminum engine. Some how the V8 was shoehorned in, aided by a small increase in chassis and body width, although I was amused to note when I drove an early production model that the cylindrical air cleaner atop the Rover engine had been 'persuaded' to fit under the bonnet by the simple expedient of hammering dents in the air cleaner!
When the supply of four-cylinder Triumph engines dried up, Morgan switched to compact Rover V-8s
With about 155 bhp available from the V8 engine the lightweight Morgan went like a scalded cat, reaching 100 mph from a standstill in 19 seconds and going on to a true top speed of 125 mph, although in truth it required some bravery to reach this speed on anything but a smooth road because the near solid suspension gives a very harsh ride and the car becomes airborne very easily.
The researcher for this article first drove the Plus 8 on a warm summer day when his wife and he spent a pleasant day zooming around the Vale of Evesham close to the Malvern factory, buying up all the fresh fruit in the area. It is a wonderful car for that sort of day, but on a damp February day in a Manchester traffic jam it must be purgatory. Like so many of the cramped, noisy, bouncy sports cars that the British have produced, the Morgan is either loved or loathed because there can be no half measures in evaluating this car.
It is a tribute to the regard with which the Morgan is held by owners that there is a permanent two to three year waiting list for the few hundred cars built each year. Perhaps the last word should go to a make which has done almost as much as any other in its short history to make motoring a true joy. The make is Lamborghini and the car which may well go down as the last great Supercar is the Countach.
Looks like fun, doesn't it?
The true successor to the Miura, the Countach is outrageously outlandish in almost every respect. It is only 42 inches high, it is difficult to enter and leave, it is almost impossible to reverse, it has virtually no luggage space and it is horrifically expensive. Yet, many enthusiasts would cheerfully donate one of their limbs to have one of these beautiful cars sitting in their garage!
The basis of the Countach (pronounced Contash) is a tubular steel chassis frame with front suspension by double wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers and an anti-roll bar, while the 'independent rear suspension is by wishbones and trailing arms with coil springs, telescopic dampers and an anti-roll bar. Steering is by rack and pinion and braking is by 10!-in servo assisted discs.
Lamborghini LP500S engine
The motive power of the Countach is the familiar light alloy V12, four overhead camshaft unit with a capacity of 3995cc (240 cu in) which gives 375 bhp (DIN) at 8000 rpm using six Weber 45DCOE carburetors.
Unlike the Miura, the engine is mounted in the fore-and-aft position ahead of the five speed gearbox, thus giving a true mid-engine position at the expense of cockpit and luggage space. The bodywork of the Countach is almost futuristic, reminiscent of the sort of styling studies that many manufacturers build to attract attention to themselves with no intention of putting them into production. With its almost straight-line sweep up from the air intake to the top of the screen, then the near horizontal line along the roof, the Countach is beautifully shaped to cleave its way through the air.
Countach 25th Anniversary
Let's fly away!
The one purpose of this car is to go as fast as possible, since it could hardly be called a sensible touring car. Lamborghini claim a top speed of 196 mph, which is very ambitious and very untrue, but even if it 'only' does 175 mph, that is pretty fast, and if you have just paid £50,000 for it then you are hardly likely to risk it by trying to go flat out.
With ever increasing legislation on safety, pollution and speed limits it seems that the days of the Supercar are numbered, and it may well be that the Countach will be the last of the high speed grand touring cars.
This pessimistic view may well be overtaken by events. Let us hope that science evolves a new fuel or a new power source to enable 'individual transport to remain practicable and to enable drivers to select a car to suit their needs, so that we do not have to look back on the 1970s as the 'Good old Days'.
Introduced in 1972 as the fastest production car in the world, the Ferrari Berlinetta Boxer was actually no faster than its front-engined predecessor, the Daytona. This is the 5-litre 512BB of 1979.
Straight out of the 1930s it may be, but the Morgan Plus 8 is extremely quick and very much in demand.