1961 Morgan Plus 4 Super Sports
[This Morgan Super Sports will be auctioned by RM Auctions at Amelia Island, Florida on March 8, 2003. Its 1966 Sebring time sheet is posted in my Sebring 12-Hour Endurance Race section.]
1961 Morgan Plus 4 Super Sports
Chassis No. 4828
125hp 2,138cc inline 4-cylinder engine, 4-speed manual transmission, 4-wheel disc brakes. Wheelbase 96″.
The Morgan Plus 4 Super Sports owes its existence to the tuning and driving skills of Chris Lawrence who prepared, tuned and drove his Morgan Plus 4 to resounding success in the 1959 season in England. Lawrence continued to race his Morgan in 1960, entering the full 22-race schedule for the Freddie Dixon Trophy. He won 21 of them … and finished 3rd in the other. In 1961 Lawrence drove his Morgan to Le Mans but the car was rejected by the technical inspectors as being too old, although there is speculation their attitude may have been influenced by the presence of a factory team of special Triumphs which didn’t want to be shown up by the Triumph-engined Morgan.
Peter Morgan recognized the value of Lawrence’s competition success and agreed to give him full works support for the 1962 season which paid off at Le Mans where Lawrence won his class.
Earlier, however, Lawrence had established a commercial relationship with the Morgan factory, preparing engines to special order in the facility which eventually became Lawrencetune. Chris Lawrence’s engine modifications were comprehensive, including full static and dynamic balancing of the crank, rods, flywheel and clutch by Jack Brabham Motors, high compression pistons, high performance camshaft, Weber DCO carburetors, 4-branch exhaust headers and meticulous porting, polishing, flow bench testing and assembly of the entire engine. An engine oil cooler was standard equipment. The Lawrence-tuned cars eventually were cataloged by Morgan as the Plus 4 Super Sports, using the aluminum alloy “low-line” body developed for Le Mans. But, before the low-line Super Sports entered production a few hybrid Plus 4’s were built with the original steel high-line bodies, aluminum fenders and Lawrencetune engines.
The car offered here is one of these very rare and special early Plus 4 Super Sports.
4828 was first purchased by Ben Hall through Stanley Stone Foreign Cars in Cleveland, Ohio. Imported by Fergus Motors in New York, Morgan’s US distributor, it was delivered in the fall of 1961 and is believed to be the first high-line body, aluminum fender Super Sports in the US. Hall actively raced his Super Sports throughout the US for several years. Competing almost every weekend by Hall and his mechanic George Shauer, the Super Sports saw action at Indianapolis Raceway Park, Pewaukee, Elkhart Lake, Minneapolis, Watkins Glen, Meadowdale, Lime Rock and Nelson Ledges. Hall won the 1962 and 1963 Chicago Region SCCA C-Production championship with it. In 1966 Hall and Al Costner took the Super Sports to Sebring where, entered by the importer Fergus Motors, they were a dnf.
The 1966 Sebring entry was poetic justice for Chris Lawrence’s 1961 rejection by the Le Mans scrutineers as well as a comment on Morgan’s “if it works, don’t change it” philosophy. At Le Mans the officials claimed Lawrence’s Morgan was an updated prewar car. At Sebring in 1966 the organizers rejected any car more than four years old, so Fergus successfully passed off Hall’s 1961 Super Sports as a 1962.
Ben Hall retired his Super Sports in 1967 and its recent history picks up in 1976 when it was acquired by Bryce Bannatyne in California who drove it on the street until selling it in 1980 to Milton Ianzen. After a restoration Ianzen historic raced it until the front fender and grille were damaged in a 1987 racing accident at Palm Springs. In 1989 Sam Foster bought it, repaired the damage and repainted the car, racing it in the 1990 Monterey Historics. In 1991 David Trueman purchased 4828 and began a comprehensive long term restoration which culminated in its superb condition today.
Body-off restored by Bob Couch, who is renowned for his Morgan restorations, Ben Hall’s 1961 Morgan Plus 4 Super Sports is today resplendent in Black with Dark Red leather interior. Befitting its competition heritage and history, it is prepared to modern historic racing standards with a fire system, external battery cutoff switch and competition belts. It has a removable roll bar which comes with the car. The restoration and the Super Sports’ history is of such quality that it was selected to be displayed at the 1999 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in Class “T”, the featured Morgan marque class, and it comes with a copy of the 1999 Pebble Beach Concours program autographed by Peter Morgan, the man responsible for the Super Sports’ existence, and its Pebble Beach Concours plaque.
The Morgan Plus 4 Super Sports are regarded as the very best of postwar Morgan cars. Lightweight and superbly balanced, their Lawrencetune engines give 125 or more horsepower and Morgan Super Sports can – and do – compete successfully in historic racing with much more powerful and expensive cars, validating the 1961 Le Mans whisper about Triumph’s reluctance to compete with Chris Lawrence’s Morgan. 4828 has an exceptional history in the US and is impeccably restored, prepared and presented. It is as much at home on the show field as it is on the starting grid, and equally rewarding to own and drive.
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