Thoughts on Restoring a Morgan
How Did I Get Into This Mess?

©By: John T. Blair (WA4OHZ)
dot_clear 1133 Chatmoss Dr., Va. Beach, Va. 23464; (757) 495-8229

Originally Written in 1988

Last updated: June 13, 2009 - Reformatted page

As an introduction (for those of you that don't know me - which should be just about everyone in the club - MCCDC), my name is John T. Blair. I am married and have 2 boys ages 6 and 10. I own a 65 Morgan 4/4 Series V which I have had since 1968. How I got the car is a story in itself:
The story dot_clear
In 1968, I was a freshman in college, with a 67 Spitfire which I rallied and autocrossed almost every weekend. After being asked to take a leave of absence from college by the school (I flunked out), Uncle Sam's Army decided I was a good prospect to fill some of their vacancies caused by the brawl going on in South East Asia. OK, I didn't like to camp out because of the bugs, snakes and other creatures of nature, I decided to enlist in the Navy. After boot camp, I came home on leave and took the Spitfire to see my girlfriend. On the way to her house, a gentleman in a Olds Jet Star 88 decided to remodel the car. He lost his brakes at 40 miles per hour, while I was stopped for a traffic light. Needless to say, the Spit was totaled.

After I got the insurance check, I started looking for a new car. To my surprise, there was a Morgan for sale. The owner had the Morgan and an older car. His wife had just totaled the older car when the accelerator stuck. Luckily, neither she nor her baby was hurt, but she decided all the junk would go and they would get a new car. I called the owner, and headed to his house. I didn't pass go, didn't collect $200, but just gave him a deposit on the car! I had the Morgan for 3 days when I was hit collage in the rear again (I was stopped for a traffic light). Two cars totaled in 21 days should be some kind of a record. My dad and I spent the next year restoring the Morgan.

Now I'm a 40+ year old Electronic Engineer and system programmer living in Va. Beach, Va. If any of you get down here, consider this an open invitation to drop by. I'd love to meet you and talk Morgan.
How did I get into this mess? dot_clear
For the last 10 years while I was busy with getting married, starting a family and pursuing my carrier, the Morgan sat fairly idle. My dad used it as is bad weather show car when he didn't want to take his 1947 TR1800 out. Luckily, my dad had enough room for me to keep the car in his garage. About 1987 my office moved off the Naval base and I was no longer faced with a 16 mile drive in rush hour traffic with some 100,000 other people. I decided to bring the Morgan out of moth balls.

*** Attention Morgan Owners ***
Crack is not just an illegal drug. As I started doing some minor tinkering on the car, I noticed a crack on the right side of the chassis just forward of the firewall. The crack ended up being worse that I thought. It went across the lower horizontal lip and half way up the vertical wall of the chassis. These cracks in the chassis are a common occurrence for a Morgan.

I decided to have the crack fixed by welding it up, and placing a small plate over it (fishscaling it). I removed the bonnet (hood), inner fender wells, and the front wings (fenders). While I was doing this, I met a Morgan +8 owner from Philadelphia who had just finished restoring his car. I told him about my problem, and he suggested I put a new chassis under the car. He gave me Don Shimpkins (Morgan-Fab Industries in Georgia) name and phone number. I called Don, and asked about repairing the chassis. He said, "you could do that, but if you are going to do a restoration, you might as well put a new chassis under it". He gave me an estimate for the chassis, and I said I'd get back to him. While I was trying to figure out where the money would come from, I called John Shelly to ask him about the problem. He agreed, that if at all possible, I should replace the chassis. After discussing the problem with my wife, we decided to start with a new chassis from Don and do a complete restoration.

As I see it, there are three ways to restore a car:

  1. If you have lots and lots of money, send it to a restoration shop like White Post.
  2. If you have money but not lots of it, do some of the work yourself, but replace anything you can instead of re-working it.

  3. If you are on a shoe string (the category I fit into) you do as much as you can yourself. You spend lots of hours re-working pieces because you don't have the money to replace it.

When starting a restoration, let me give you some advice. First, make sure you have a camera. Take a lot of pictures as you dismantle the car. These will be invaluable when you start to put it back together. But don't do what I did. I shot 2 rolls of film, then decided it was so much fun, I used the same 2 rolls again. That effectively trashed 4 rolls of documentation. Several of the pictures were of sentimental value as this was boys (5 and 9 year old at the time) first mechanical endeavor. They had helped me pull the engine and transmission. On the next 4 rolls of film, several of the pictures didn't turn out due to poor lighting. To help prevent any loss of information, I also suggest that you draw some pictures of things, ie. what goes through all those holes in the fire wall, or what color wires hooked to where on the voltage regulator and fuse block. Luckily, I have about 10 pages of sketches to compensate for the lost film.

Finally, when you encounter an problem and figure it out, write some notes about lessons learned. This makes the job easier next time! That is how my first two articles started. Send them to the club so others can profit from your hard work. (This does not apply if you are a computer programmer. They have a saying "If it was hard to write (the program) it should be hard to read".)
Closing dot_clear
You can look forward to more articles from me (that's not a threat it's a promise) as I now have over 400 hours taking my car apart, cleaning, painting, polishing, and reworking the wood. I would like to ask every club member who has worked on his car to please write an article about what you did, the problems you had, the solution you found or any parts substitution you uncover. We all need to help one another and there is always a novice in the crowd.

Speaking of parts substitution:

The windshield wiper motor a Lucas DR3 was used on almost every British car (Triumph, MGs, Morris Minor, English Ford, etc.).

dot_clear Enjoy your Morgan

dot_clear John

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