1959 Morgan Plus 4
Year of manufacture1959
Number of seats2
1959 Morgan Plus 4 2.1-Litre Competition Roadster
Registration no. 403 UYS
Chassis no. 4302
Morgan's first four-seater, four-wheeled sports car - the Standard 10-engined 4/4 -appeared in 1937, forming the mainstay of production up to 1950 when it was superseded by the larger and more powerful Standard Vanguard-engined Plus 4. With 70% more power than the 4/4 courtesy of the 2,088cc Vanguard engine, the Plus 4 represented a major step forward in the evolution of the Morgan sports car. Although the traditional chassis layout was retained - what else would one expect from Morgan? - it did undergo extensive alteration, gaining in both wheelbase and track dimensions while being considerably strengthened. The centrally mounted Moss gearbox was carried over from the 4/4.
With supplies of the old flat-fronted radiator and free-standing headlamps coming to an end, Morgan opted for a front-end makeover for 1953, filling in the gap between wings and body with a sloping valance that incorporated the headlamps in a pair of cylindrical fairings. The radiator grille was cowled and gained a quarter-moon trim panel at the top, which carried the Morgan badge. A change in vehicle regulations soon forced Morgan to raise the headlights, but the result remained dissatisfying and led to a further revision that saw the 'interim' radiator grille replaced by a curved design and the headlamps placed in teardrop-shaped housings atop the valance. At last the quintessential Morgan look had arrived.
However, one unfortunate consequence of the 2,088cc Vanguard engine's adoption was the fact that it placed the Plus 4 in the over-2-litre class for racing purposes, forcing it to compete against cars of much larger capacity. As a result, the 1,991cc Triumph TR2 engine was made available from 1953, this more powerful (90bhp) option being preferred by most customers. In 1956 the revised TR3 power unit began to be phased in, offering 100bhp and making the Plus 4 'the cheapest 100mph car made in Britain' according to The Motor magazine.
Their robust and tuneable Triumph engines made the lightweight Morgans the cars to beat in production sports car racing. A legendary name in Morgan circles, Chris Lawrence (Lawrence Tune) was one of the foremost exponents, winning 19 out of 22 races in 1959 at the wheel of his home-tuned Plus 4 to take the National Championship for Production Sports Cars. Lawrence Tune was formed in October 1959, and a couple of years later supplied Morgan with a batch of specially tuned TR engines for the limited edition 'Super Sports' model of 1961. Lawrence's modifications, which included a gas-flowed cylinder head, raised compression ratio, special camshaft, twin Weber carburettors, and a four-branch exhaust manifold, increased the maximum power output to 115bhp (TR3) or 125bhp (TR4) with in excess of 150bhp available in racing trim. The Morgan might have looked like an antique but its fundamental qualities shone through in competition, no more so than at Le Mans in 1962 when Lawrence and Richard Shepherd-Barron drove their Plus 4 to 13th place overall and a class win in the GT2 category.
Morgan factory records show that chassis number '4302' was delivered new on 16th September 1959 via Worldwide Motors Inc of Los Angeles, California, and came equipped with wire wheels and a Moss gearbox. The car was originally finished in black with red interior. Its early history is not known, but it has been fitted with a performance conversion from marque specialists, Lawrence Tune.
By 1988, the Morgan was in the care of Philippe Bernard in Belgium, who would keep it until 2005. While in his ownership, some £24,000 was spent on servicing and upgrades with Melvyn Rutter, Brands Hatch Morgans, Racetorations, Legion, and Harpers. In 2014, '403 UYS' was bought by John Harper, passing into the current vendor's ownership the following year. An older restoration, the car is fitted with a 120bhp engine (rolling road dynamometer sheet available), a close-ratio gearbox, and a roll-cage. Offered from a private collection, it comes complete with a hardtop (in white) and a spare set of 74-spoke competition wheels, and is ready to resume its competition career in the hands of a new owner.