REBOUND SPRINGS
by Lorne Goldman 2012 January

These have been a sadly misunderstood components, as much by the Factory as by the community of owners and dealers. It was not part of the original HFS front suspension design. It was a later add on a couple of decades later. When I first rebuilt my front end 20 years ago, they seemed an odd item. I consulted John Sheally II, the legendary Morgan racer, and he advised me to cut them down two rungs for a more compliant front end. It was not a matter of moment at the time but times and fashions change.

The community has been lately fired up about little thingies. Yet there is not much mystery to them. The now-styled "rebound springs" were originally added to act as a safety stop. At the start, they were probably never supposed to play an active part in the suspension dynamics, only a benign one. However, as been seen over and over again, those charged with MMC production do not always understand the intention of MMC designers that supposedly guide them. Designer intention gets lost in production, sometimes to the detriment of the car. As well, dynamically active rebound springs can muchly stiffen the front end at a very low cost. For example, Morgan racers lean towards a very stiff front suspension, often going so far as to fit much firmer main springs than standard as well.

For whatever the reasons, the length of the production rebound springs became such that they played anything but a benign role in the Production Department's setup. The effect of any combination of springs acting on the same point, in this case the stub axle, must be added together. An easy way of visualizing this is to steady an item with one hand/arm from one side. If you hold it with your other hand/arm from its other side as well, it will become even steadier and more resistant to movement. That resistance is a function of the force of both arms even though they are applied from different directions. Just so, the overlong rebound springs made the front suspension less compliant (aka much stiffer), often to the point where the rebounds would split.

By the 1970s, Bill Beck, Morgan Service Manager and Development Chief, noted to me that the Works was removing the rebounds on their Trials cars to better manage tough terrain!  Though owners remained unaware of the rebound spring effect, the cognoscenti quietly made adjustments to suit their preferences discovered through personal testing.

Recently, the MMC adopted shorter rebound springs (40 £) which do not stiffen the front end. If you wish more compliance, I recommend, next time your front end is due for a rebuild,  that you shorten your rebounds or replace them with shorter ones from local or Factory sources. The cost is negligible and the ride a bit more compliant with a mild loss of precision on smooth tracks.

THE SUPLEX SUSPENSION
by Lorne Goldman 2013 September 7, 2013 UPDATED February 10, 2014

THE GoMoG  LAW OF EXPENDITURE:
"The likelihood of a car enthusiast reviewing anything he has already purchased with
passionate approval is directly related to how much money he spent on it."

I am a BIG fan of any doodad that forces owners to re-examine their Morgan suspension. Too often, less-than-perfect maintenance and long wear prejudices its functioning. Most of us will incrementally and unknowingly adjust to a fault. Many even come to believe that Morgans are naturally uncomfortable and poor handling is inherent.  For that reason, even if a new gadget costs a bit and has little real effect on its own, the end result of the refurbishing involved in its installation will often reverse years of neglect, errors and anomalies . And the process increases owner knowledge and awareness. For all these reasons I am invariably for it, whatever it is, as long as it causes no grave prejudice to the car or pocketbook. The credit for the latest "miracle transformation" might be mistakenly placed, but who cares? The suspension system is functioning again and moggers are happy.

For the most part, these "enhancements" are relatively costless. However, a striking exception is a new package of components being marketed by a yet another new entry in to the Morgan aftermarket, SUPLEX. It has been very aggressively marketed by the designer and his mates on every forum. Additionally its cost seems to have caused, inevitably, an extreme example of The Law of Expenditure as its purchasers can even publicly question the motives of anyone who does not mirror their avid enthusiasm for it, sight unseen. An objective analysis seems vital.

We arranged to try a Morgan fitted with the kit and then immediately compare it to another (same model and era) without. Both cars were very well-maintained by the same Agent. Both cars have shortened rebounds (Suplex in 2013 for one and Tudor Motors in 2009 for the other) with steering races (Suplex 2013 for one and Mulberry 2006 for the other).

The theories have been exhaustively reported, often with great confusion, but I will not burden the reader further with more on this. And there are too many components in the package to give a simple nay or yea on the entire kit.   But here are some practical observations, highlighting questions that should be addressed prior to purchase.

BACKGROUND: Suplex is a German company, founded in 1991 and now situate in Willich, about 20 kms west of Dusseldorf in the North Rhine Westphalia. In 2002, they opened a separate UK division under the name of Supaflex Springs Limited. In 2009, Mr. Dan White,  joined the  company as a 50% shareholder and transfered his marketing of suspension components and packages to the UK car and truck aftermarket. They are known for a product they have dubbed Strut-Kit, a device designed to prevent truck coil springs from breaking when bottoming out.

The Morgan package was put together by Mr, White and Peter J. Ballard, a new Morgan owner (1980s 4/4). Mr, Ballard has design experience with modern automobiles (marques unknown) and enjoys working on his Morgan. (There ARE a few of us left!)  He was an active eMogger and we have had many exchanges.) He worked with Dan White, previously a free-lance UK suspension aftermarketeer. White first entered the Morgan community in 2005 as Managing Direct of Leda Suspension Ltd (receivership 2007) promoting a rear 4-leaf suspension system. From Leda, he moved onto Eibach and then to Supaflex/Suplex.

Their testing was unusual. The first rule of testing is to test each item on its own, without the others. That is the  only reliable route to knowledge. It is called the Empirical Method. In their case, they combined a number of well-known mods and new items and then tested the entire kit as a whole rather than item by item. Therefore, it is impossible to ascertain, what should take credit for an improvement. Is it the shortened rebounds,  the replacment of old worn factory shocks with new BILSTEIN shocks? Is it new Main Springs replacing old ones? Steering races replacing rusted damper blades and dirty damper plates? Is it the ride height adjustment? Or is it simply refreshening  the front end by taking it apart and its reassembly by an expert?  In my case, I found no difference between my car and SUPLEX car driven back-to-back. That being  said I am often complimented on the comfort of my suspension. I have Rutherford AVO dampers, Mulberry steering races and shortened rebounds

THE PACKAGE    (Observations, questions and offered answers by Peter J. Ballard)

SHORTER REBOUND SPRINGS, a very good idea. Mofrgan Cogniescenti have been shorting their rebounds for 30 years. You see, at some point in the past, the MMC decided to pre-load the rebounds, not understanding that this created a rock hard front end that became infamous. They effectively combined the upper and lower spring rates. N.B. It is of interest that the Suplex rebounds have a much higher (double?) rate than traditional Morgan fare and  you would imagine would stiffen the suspension. But it won't as the shorter spring it is not in play in normal circumstances as it is NOT preloaded as the MMC has done for 60 years.). But I am  curious as to why the Suplex rates are so much higher? Does not make sense. Ballard and Suplex do not give a spring rate for their rebounds but they are reported to us to be, in fact, 500 ft lb! He asserts that "A very stiff rebound spring together with rising rate mains gives significantly increased roll stiffness with good ride. which makes no sense as the rebound is not in play

STEERING RACES The kit is sold with optional steering races (aka "roller bearings") that mitigate steering effort, especially for older pre-R&P cars.

BILSTEIN DAMPERS. They are fine dampers, but other fine makes, British, have been made and tested for Morgans for decades, (notably Rutherford/MogSport AVOs and KONIs). They are also adjustable, to suit different driving styles and models. (Bilsteins have been used by the factory. But MMC damper choices have never been definitive for community. The Bilstein Catalogue does not list dampers for Morgans.)  Why is necessary to purchase replacement shockers?  Ballard and Suplex do not give a spring rate for their Main Springs or any specifocation on the Biltsteins.

Ballard: "Every change of spring rate, whether linear or nonlinear/rising rate needs a new damper setting up, as on ALL cars by all car companies. That is what SUPLEX did with Bilstein. Bilstein does not list a damper for Morgans as they supply their damper with the SUPLEX kit. It will not work well with other spring rates of course. High and low speed bump and rebound settings are quite unique in this Bilstein damper matched to this rising rate spring system, so other dampers from other reputable manufacturers will not work as well as the specified Bilsteins on this spring system. Hence matched springs and dampers." 

This Ballard answer is curious. The upgraded dampers used on Morgans for years, KONI, the special AVOs from Rutherford and Mogsport, SPAX, even the GAZ shock absorbers from the Morgan Company are all ADJUSTABLE, specifically designed to provide a perfect match for different springs. Different shocks should not be necessary..only a quick adjustment. (Curiously, the Bilsteins offered by the MMC or with the Suplex Package do NOT appear to be adjustable.).  Ballard and Suplex do not give a spring rate for their Main Springs or any specifocation on the Biltsteins.  

The same question is being asked amongst the MGF folk in the UK who have also been a target market for a Suplex kit.  From T-Bar MGF

SPRING RATE CHOICES The Kit offers none.. This is very odd on the face of it. Morgan suspension specialists traditionally carry approximately eight (8) spring rate choices in stock to properly service his customers on the spot. (He often must order others.) The wide variation in Morgan classics specifications and driving styles demand this. Yet the Suplex kit purports to be a one-size-fits-all regardless of the subject Morgan's weight (which will range from 600-1100 kilos!), steering systems,  horsepower (from 34 to 308 bhp!) or the owner driving style. How can that be possible? Is this package being sold with components created and tested for a 1980s 4/4? Ballard: the system was set up for a mid weight car but has been extensively tested from 750kg up to 950 kg (unladden) with no significant change in ride. Engines from 1.6 IL4, to 3.9 V8 and 3.7 V6. The ride frequency, which is what one feels, changes by only 6% between a 850kg car and a 950 kg car, so very little noticeable difference. Also the rising rate in bump means that in roll the spring rate increases as the car starts to roll, so a heavier car settles at a higher spring rate in roll, that in this case is less than a car on stiff linear main springs.

STEERING DAMPERS It is reported that many of the package's users, including the designer himself, have created a strong front end vibration only curable with addon steering dampers. There is no surer sign than something is very amiss up front than the happily VERY rare need to use  steering dampers on a Morgan. None of known components  included in the package (steering races or shortened springs), supplied by others for decades have ever caused a wave of shimmying Morgans requiring steering dampers. With the hundreds of emoggers who fitted these components, only one developed a shimmy and he got rid of it by reinstalling his Morgan damper blades. So why are these so often needed with the addition of Suplex kit? Ballard maintains that the shimmy is caused by the Steering races. "It is of course not the SUPLEX RS kit that causes shimmy, though the loss of friction by no longer having a compressed rebound spring will further reduce the friction in the steering. It is well known that removing the friction steering damper/blades and fitting ball thrust races can result in shimmy, hence the need often in those cases for a hydraulic steering damper, like used on many modern sports cars."

Mr. Ballard is entirely mistaken here. Steering races were popularized by eMog in the early part of the last decade and hundreds of sets, were made for the forum members and customers of Mulfab much earlier than that by Mulfab,  Different versions are available and the MMC has been using them on current production since 2008, also without need of steering dampers.

PRICE is extraordinary, £595, excluding installation or shipping. With installation, figure on £1000 +. Yet if the same components are priced ex-Suplex separately..the pricing is inexplicable. How was the pricing calculated? Ballard makes no comment on this area.

PROGRESSIVE SPRING RATE SYSTEM a theoretic plus. However, earlier attempts in this direction during the last 3-4 decades have always shown that the extremely limited travel of the Morgan front suspension (30mm) does not offer an arena for anything more than a negligible effect for this feature. And the people who publicly exclaiming this kit makes a difference are the same people who made the same exclamations when they fitted shorter rebounds a couple of years ago. In my case,  I could not discern a difference between a Suplex fitted car and a same-era model with home-shortened rebounds and steering races. The point is that one does not want to spend an extra 550£ making one's front end far more complex when 40£ and simplification will have the same effect. It is also a big fiddle to fit, adding to installation time and labor costs. Has the Suplex Progressive Spring Rate System been tested without the shorter rebounds and steering races? Ballard makes no comment here. However, since I have given my review other have also compared new Morgans (which are fitted with shortened rebounds and steering races as standards) with cars with an entire Suplex Suspension. They also find no difference.

February 2014. At the last Dealership Meeting, the Factory required the dealers to sign a new contract containing a provision requiring them to buy any similiar products available from the Factory from the Factory only or risk fines and sanctions.  Accordingly, they reversed their earlier decision on this suspension, and made a supply deal with Suplex.

SUMMARY

Until the question on just what element is actually necessary to improve your front end, whether it be;

1. Simple attention to correct the anomalies that have developed over time, be they a function of poor maintenance or uncoordinated parts.

2. Steering races. (available from many sources from 70£ to 160£

3. Shorter rebounds. (simple mod - costless for the capable)

4. A SUPLEX KIT with a rising rate progressive spring system, adjustable ride height, shortened rebounds, new dampers, steering races and the risk of needing steering dampers thereafter at 1000£ +

Hesitate before making your Morgan more complicated. Personally, I am not against improvements, especially those that do away with the extraneous. (I think of them as distilling one's Morgan!) Simplicity is the Classic's most charming virtue, acting as the principle incentive to full owner interaction.
 
Peter Ballard is a talented and welcome new addition to the Morgan community. He may not know the car or its mechanical history as well as an old timer, but he has added theory to areas that were taken for granted and neglected for too long. Hands on moggers are try-and-see folk. We fiddle until it works to our satisfaction. We do not always stop to figure out why. Though shortened rebounds are not new, Ballard addressed them agressively and theoretically and convinced the Factory, finally, to adopt them to the benefit of the cars, much like the team of John Sheally II, Peter Mulberry, Roger Shawyer and myself, popularized steering races ("bearing thingies") a decade ago. It is a great feat to contribute to the simplification and improvement of a 100 year old design! I look forward to Peter's next idea! Whether he is right or wrong in practice, does not mitigate his ultimate value to the community.

FRONT SPRING RATES
by Lorne Goldman 2009 February

Morgan front springs rates stayed constant for decades, until about 2002. They stayed constant for so long that the information was hard-to-come-by! The Plus 4 and the Plus 8, being the same weight, used 140 lbft/in springs and the light 4/4 used 95 lbft. In 2002/3 the Works began to try different rates from those used earlier. The first were colored light blue and were soon dubbed the "the blues" and often swapped by dealers before first delivery. They seemed to allow the car to "wallow" in corners. Other new springs followed..each a coated with a gay new color! I have not kept up with all the rates since 2003. If there are those who wish them added to this Manual, I shall post them on receipt. I have them somewhere in GoMoG archives. These days, a Morgan suspension specialist will normally carry as many as 8 different rates for his customers on his shelves, and will order other rates as required.

It is suspected this wave of ever-changing springs is a result of new suppliers AND a lack of understanding of how the classic Morgan chassis functions. Unlike modern automobiles, the Morgan chassis flexes (a lot!). In effect, it acts like a spring itself (and is, accordingly, a wear part). In a properly suspension-tuned Morgan, it conveys a delightful sensuous ride but over time even the best of us have learned that it is not susceptible to theoretical calculations, only trial and error. Beware of those who try to tell you different.

MAKING YOUR CLASSIC MORGAN MORE MODERN
by Lorne Goldman August 2013
 

Modernizing your Morgan has become a basic issue and point of discussion amongst owners. Of course, this issue was settled decades ago amongst vintage car enthusiasts and Morgan owners and buyers used to primarily come from their ranks. Lately, with buyers of a different demographic coming to the fore with Morgan purchases, the issue has come back into high relief. It is a constant topic amongst the Morgan cognoscenti whenever products appear that purport to alter the Morgan driving experience. These naysayers present the following perspective.

Many of  the new Morgan owners will go to great lengths to change their Morgan so that it feels and acts more like a modern car, while retaining its other-era outward appearance that attract attention. They will quickly abandon the original designs rather than understanding them and making sure that they are functioning as they were designed to do. Vintage design is confused with bad design and vintage feel (with the much greater driver control it provides) is unsettling to them, and a "sure" sign that something in the design must be wrong. Modern automobile offerings have shaped their expectations of how a car should feel along with their very limited demands for driver skill and mechanical understanding. 

But then if that is the case, with respect, why spend so much on a Classic Morgan and then alter it? It was no mistake that Henry and Peter Morgan resisted the trend of constantly "upgrading" their suspension since 1910. They tried to preserve the Golden Age of Automobiles and the precious hand-manufacturing skills that made it possible.  A universal suspension must, of necessity, divorce owners from the car and the road. This sadly creates a homogenized car, for the same reason a McDonald's hamburger is spiced to be acceptable to the greatest number of palates. If this is the goal for one's Morgan, why not simply buy a modern pretty sports car?! 

Surprisingly, Morgan designs, properly understood and tweaked to each individual's taste, can keep up and surpass most vehicles without denying the driver full expression of his skills (and mood).  Unlike modern sport car enthusiasts, you will never here a besotted mogger happily exclaiming that his Morgan "drives itself".