MOG 615

A tale of mixed Mog­gies

Classic Driver - - HOLMAN - STORY TONY HAY­COCK PHO­TOS ALEX MITCHELL AND TONY HAY­COCK

Tim Hill’s 1955 Mor­gan +4 has spent its life on the track, but it is a com­pli­cated life!

The orig­i­nal Mor­gan with four wheels (as op­posed to the tra­di­tional three) was the 4-4 and even though it first hit the road in 1936, if you saw one to­day, it would only be the flat ra­di­a­tor which would dif­fer­en­ti­ate it from a car 30, 40 or maybe even 50 years older, to the eye un­trained in the minu­tia of an­cient Mor­gan. The orig­i­nal started out with a Coven­try-Cli­max en­gine of a mea­gre 1122cc and 34hp. By 1939 this had been up­graded (?) to a 39hp 1267cc Stan­dard, so still by no means a fire-breather!

It stayed this way un­til 1955 when 4-4 be­came 4/4 with Ford 100E power of ac­tu­ally lit­tle power. The “Com­pe­ti­tion” ver­sion, with an im­proved head and a pair of SUs, still only was de­liv­er­ing 40hp. In short, it looked faster than it was, but this may be un­fair. With a top speed of 75mph for the stan­dard model, if we com­pare that with the 70 mph top speed of the par­ent Anglia and a zero to 60mph time three and a half sec­onds quicker than the Anglia (which took a full half minute to get up to that speed) the Mor­gan was quicker, if not sub­stan­tially, than the fam­ily car of the day.

More speed was needed and Mor­gan fi­nally pro­vided it in 1950, with the big­ger and more pow­er­ful +4. The rather breath­less Ford en­gine was gone; in its place a two litre Stan­dard Van­guard unit fit­ted to a chas­sis four inches longer and for the first time on a Mog­gie, brakes (drums all-round) were now hy­draulic. The look was mod­ernised at the same time, with the ra­di­a­tor now hid­den be­hind a curved cowl which blended into the bon­net. Power got an­other boost in 1955 when the Tri­umph TR3 was dropped in and var­i­ous tuners across Eng­land set to work mak­ing it bet­ter still.

On April 7 1955, a green +4 with black leather was dis­patched to the Mor­gan dealer in Led­bury to be reg­is­tered MVJ101 and de­liv­ered to its new owner and keen racer, John McKe­chinie. It would seem its first out­ing was on July 9 at the As­ton Martin Own­ers’ Club six-hour sprint at Sil­ver­stone, en­tered by the Mor­gan club and com­ing in sixth. This was a se­ri­ous ef­fort, the car had been re­turned to the works at the end of June for a de­coke and to get the head some pol­ish­ing and then two days be­fore the meet­ing, Mor­gan fac­tory records have MVJ101 back in for a set of Dun­lop rac­ing tyres.

THIS WAS JUST THE BE­GIN­NING

of the con­tin­ual up­grad­ing of the car dur­ing the year. Ten days af­ter the 6-Hours it was back to the fac­tory again, this time for work to the brakes, the fac­tory records stat­ing, “Lat­est brakes fit­ted”. Cu­ri­ous, as at this time, we are talk­ing about a three month-old car! Surely brake tech­nol­ogy wasn’t in­creas­ing that rapidly? Then a month later an­other trip back to Malvern where it was “brought up to date”. And still it didn’t end. Novem­ber was an over­haul of the unique slid­ing–pil­lar front sus­pen­sion and De­cem­ber wasn’t a good month ei­ther, this time not main­te­nance, in­stead “ex­ten­sive ac­ci­dent re­pairs”.

MVJ101 next ap­pears in race re­sults in June 1956, sev­enth at Oul­ton Park in the Pro­duc­tion Sports Car class, fol­lowed four days later with Good­wood’s Whit­sun meet­ing with a fourth out­right, but the high­light of the year was again at the AMOC 6 hour re­lay and an out­right win. This was a good year for both car and driver as at the end of the year they were crowned Au­tosport Pro­duc­tion Sports Car Cham­pi­ons.

Like any com­pe­ti­tion car, as it got older, the re­sults dropped away but this did not de­ter the en­thu­si­as­tic McKech­nie who con­tin­ued to cam­paign the car un­til 1962 when it was sold. Fel­low Bri­tish Mor­gan racer Mike Dun­can then re-reg­is­tered it as XWP47G and un­der­took a full rebuild of what was by now a very tired car af­ter ten years of con­stant com­pe­ti­tion use.

Here is where things get com­pli­cated. First, en­ter Chris Lawrence. The LawrenceTune con­cern was one of the top Mog­gie im­provers and they had built up an en­vi­able rep­u­ta­tion, with Chris leading the driv­ing, at sports car rac­ing across the UK with his own highly de­vel­oped +4, TOK258. Hav­ing con­quered the lo­cal rac­ing scene and want­ing to spread the LawrenceTune name to a big­ger au­di­ence, in 1961 the team looked across the English Chan­nel and the Le Mans 24 Hours, the Holy Grail of in­ter­na­tional sports car rac­ing. It was here that he hit a snag.

His mother and step-fa­ther had a ma­jor fi­nan­cial share in the busi­ness and it seems that while they were happy for Chris to run in the lower-key events at home, the risks of the 24 hours, where he would be shar­ing the track with the likes of Fer­rari’s 170 mph 250TR, in his 70 mph slower Mog­gie, seemed too great.

A court in­junc­tion made it im­pos­si­ble for the 28-year old en­gine ace to race the “1954 Mor­gan +4 mo­tor-ve­hi­cle reg­is­tered TOK 258”. It would seem that the Euro­pean ad­ven­ture was over be­fore it had started.

And they made sure they put a stop to it by get­ting a court in­junc­tion which made it im­pos­si­ble for the 28year old en­gine ace to race, “The 1954 Mor­gan +4 mo­tor-ve­hi­cle reg­is­tered TOK 258”. It would seem that the Euro­pean ad­ven­ture was over be­fore it had started.

How­ever… one should never un­der­es­ti­mate the in­ge­nu­ity of a frus­trated racer. Af­ter some in­tense re-read­ing of the In­junc­tion and some in­ven­tive think­ing, he re­alised that the in­junc­tion only re­ferred to Chris rac­ing TOK 258.

So in May 1961, a brand new +4, XRX 1 ar­rived at the LawrenceTune work­shop, “owned” by Lawrence’s works driver Richard Shep­herdBaron.

The new car was pre­pared to an iden­ti­cal spec to TOK 258 and was sent to Le Mans, one would imag­ine much to the cha­grin of the parental in­vestors.

In the 1960s (and even ten years later), scru­ti­neer­ing at Le Mans was al­ways a lot­tery for vis­it­ing teams. The lo­cals were very pro­tec­tive of their race and the rules were con­stantly changed to suit French cars (the In­dex of Per­for­mance was for many years the do­main of cu­ri­ous DB-Pan­hards which wouldn’t stand a chance of win­ning any­thing in the out­side world). If you were en­ter­ing a French car, even if you were a Ros­bif, you had the bat­tle half won. Fail­ing that, have a French­man on the driv­ing ros­ter and you too would have an easy path to the race.

Turn up with an all-Bri­tish team how­ever and you would need to be able to re­cite the rule book, in its en­tirety and in French, to have any hope of keep­ing ahead of the not ex­actly un­bi­ased scru­ti­neers. Yet the Mor­gan got through.

Al­most. At the very last minute the team was told they could not com­pete. The rea­son given? XRX1 was not a cur­rent car, but a pre-war model which had been given disc brakes and wire wheels.

Of course this was non­sense and there was more to the story than met the eye.

Stan­dard-Tri­umph had en­tered a team of three works Tri­umph TR3S’ fit­ted with their new “Sab­rina” twin­cam head. Fresh from be­ing beaten by the pri­va­teer LawrenceTune Mor­gan across Bri­tain, they were not want­ing to risk a hu­mil­i­at­ing de­feat and as­so­ci­ated bad pub­lic­ity if the same were to hap­pen in the world’s most im­por­tant and highly re­garded sports car race and they, as a fac­tory team, had pres­sured the or­gan­is­ers with some mis­in­for­ma­tion to get the up­starts with the an­cient-look­ing car tossed out.

An­noyed but de­ter­mined, XRX1 and TOK258 were en­tered for the Coppa In­ter Europa meet­ing at Monza, a three-hour race and part of the FIA GT Cup se­ries. Keep­ing to the let­ter (if not the spirit) of the in­junc­tion, Lawrence drove XRX1 sin­gle-handed, plan­ning on run­ning the en­tire race non-stop with the long-dis­tance Le Mans fuel tank still fit­ted to the car, while TOK258 had a two-driver team at the wheel.

Not want­ing to give its strat­egy away, dur­ing prac­tice the team

A valve was on the way out, al­low­ing a Porsche to take the class lead from the Mor­gan in the dy­ing min­utes of the race, rel­e­gat­ing the Mor­gan to sec­ond, still an out­stand­ing re­sult for a pri­va­teer team in a race full of works en­tries.

per­formed dummy fuel and driver­change stops for both cars and it was only with half an hour to run that Porsche’s equally de­vi­ous team man­ager, Baron Huschke von Hanstein re­alised he had been sold a dummy and the Mor­gan was not go­ing to be stop­ping, that he put out the “faster” pit-board to his driv­ers.

Due to rac­ing com­mit­ments back in the UK, Lawrence had not had time to do his usual pre-race freshen of the car’s head (it may not have raced at Le Mans, but it had run in prac­tice) and a valve was on the way out, al­low­ing a Porsche to take the class lead from the Mor­gan in the dy­ing min­utes of the race, rel­e­gat­ing the Mor­gan to sec­ond, still an out­stand­ing re­sult for a pri­va­teer team in a race full of works en­tries.

Lawrence still had un­fin­ished busi­ness at Le Mans and the 1962 race was a ma­jor ef­fort for the team. TOK258 was sent back to the fac­tory, but that reg­is­tra­tion num­ber was swapped to the chas­sis which had worn XRX1 and the car it­self had the body re­moved, which was re­tained by the fac­tory and new low line Su­per Sports body was fit­ted. This time the ACO were happy to see the car and not only was it able to start the race, they won the 2 litre GT class, beat­ing a works Sun­beam Alpine to do so. And the in­junc­tion? TOK258 was no longer “the 1958 Mor­gan +4 mo­tor ve­hi­cle” as spec­i­fied. Prob­lem solved.

So, what does all of this have to do with the yel­low Mog­gie we are look­ing at on these pages? We now go back to the tired MVJ101, in the hands of Mike Dun­can who had re­built it when he bought it in 1962.

Three years later he un­der­took a ma­jor rebuild again to bring that car up to the lat­est (for a Mor­gan) spec. The chas­sis was new, as were the wheels and brakes. The en­gine was the orig­i­nal LawrenceTune with al­loy sump and inlet man­i­fold with a pair of We­ber 48 car­bu­ret­tors. The gear­box was the 4 speed Moss fit­ted by John McKech­nie in 1958 and the body came from Mor­gan, the dis­carded high-line Le Mans body from the abortive 1961 cam­paign, still with Le Mans reg­u­la­tion full wind­screen, hood and side-screens. At this time, the reg­is­tra­tion was changed to XWP47G and the car con­tin­ued to be raced, hill­climbed and sprinted, be­fore chang­ing hands again in the late 60s.

In 1971 Andy Gar­lick bought the car, re-reg­is­ter­ing it as MOG615 and spent the next 32 years cam­paign­ing the car both in Bri­tain and on the Con­ti­nent. There was no sign of the car slow­ing as it got older, as it took wins through the 70s at places as di­verse as Zand­voort and the Nür­bür­gring. It was only in 2003 that Andy fi­nally sold MOG615, keep­ing the reg­is­tra­tion num­ber, and the new owner con­tin­ued to race what was now GAS 550 in clas­sic events and hill­climbs, but by now the en­gine was tired, with head and gas­ket prob­lems man­i­fest­ing them­selves and it was at this stage that Tim Hill first saw it and tried (un­suc­cess­fully) to buy it.

In its next set of hands there was still no sign of re­tire­ment or an easy life for a car ap­proach­ing 50 years since it left the fac­tory. In­stead it was given a sym­pa­thetic restora­tion and con­tin­ued to be raced ex­ten­sively, high­lights be­ing a sec­ond over­all in the VCSS Pomeroy tro­phy and more im­pres­sive, a run in a six hour race at Spa. When busi­ness com­mit­ments saw the car back on the mar­ket in 2006, Tim Hill was on the spot im­me­di­ately and three years af­ter first see­ing it, what must be one of, if not the world’s most ex­ten­sively cam­paigned Mor­gans was fi­nally his. In 2008 when he and Jane moved to New Zealand, the Mor­gan came with them and now wears the reg­is­tra­tion num­ber it wore the long­est in its com­pe­ti­tion his­tory, MOG 615 and continues to be used at suit­able events, the last be­ing the Roy­croft Tro­phy in March. Next year the car turns 60 but there is no sign it has reached re­tire­ment age!

LawrenceTune made their name in the late 1950s and into the 60s rac­ing their own tuned Mor­gan’s. A pair of 45mm We­bers dom­i­nate the en­gine-bay

The bon­net scoop is nec­es­sary to keep those carb.s fed

A sign of a proper sports car. The driver gets the rev counter, the pas­sen­ger the speedo

Not wel­come at Le Mans in 1961, but 2012 was a dif­fer­ent story

The en­gine tuner’s name. Worn with pride on the rocker cover

MOG615 was the UK reg­is­tra­tion the car raced with for more than 30 years

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