Why you’d want a Morgan Plus 8
Always sought-after for their uncompromised sports-car image plus effective retro styling and construction, Morgans are wrapped up in a legend that keeps them in an economic bubble. Depreciation is virtually unknown, demand is always high and values are remarkably stable and predictable.
Scarcely affected by the recent soaring of prices for contemporary machinery, Morgans are in danger of being left behind – making them overdue for a surge themselves. As one of the most desirable models that sold steadily for 35 years, the Plus 8 certainly has to be one of the safest investments in the classic car park right now.
Shoehorning the Buick V8 into the Plus 4 chassis was a challenge, ably fathomed by race engineer Maurice Owen. It necessitated a new collapsible steering column and an electric cooling fan. An alternator, triple wipers, foglamps and hazard lights joined the spec, too.
As soon as production was underway in 1969, the Plus 8 grew in width and wheelbase, making it slightly more spacious than other models. About half have aluminium rather than steel bodywork (or a mix), so check carefully which you are viewing. Ally is lighter and less prone to corrosion, but it is more susceptible to dents and paint falling off.
Plus 8s were successful in competition, driven by Charles Morgan himself as well as Rob Wells to win the 1978 and ’79 Production Sports Car Championships. And for decades it was one of the fastest-accelerating production cars, putting many much more expensive vehicles to shame.
In true Morgan tradition, the Plus 8 was progressively developed and it’s important to verify the spec of cars that you are considering. Try to keep in mind that many changes listed in the History section below, such as fuel injection, were optional at first, only later becoming standard equipment.
If neglected or driven particularly hard, a Morgan can need a full chassis or body rebuild after as little as 15,000 miles, so don’t be obsessed with low mileage. Maintenance and condition are crucial and a Plus 8 will happily exceed 150,000 miles without overhaul if it’s well looked after. While new chassis are not expensive and every part is available or can be made, a full restoration is very costly due to the hand-built, individually finished nature of the cars.
While prices are consistent, the earliest and latest cars, plus special editions such as the Le Mans 62, can command a premium of up to 25%.
Images: Tony Baker
Morgan Plus 8: what to look for
See above for trouble spots
Understressed and durable if properly maintained, the Buick-Rover V8 engine runs on low oil pressure (35psi-plus at speed hot). Lift oil-filler cap to check for mayonnaise (head-gasket failure) and check history for cooling system maintenance. A noisy top end and slack performance means that cams are worn. A rebuild costs £3-6000.
Famed sliding-pillar front suspension needs very frequent lubrication: check it’s had it. Converting to hard chrome-plated kingpins increases longevity.
Alloy V8 will silt up a radiator in no time if the corrosion-inhibitor level is not kept up. So study the temperature gauge and service history and look for signs of leaks.
A worn gearbox spoils the car and can be tricky to rebuild, notably Moss and early Rover units. Late five-speeds are best: transplants in earlier cars are not unusual.
Inspect condition of alloys: all Plus 8s had them except wire-wheel option from ’93. Limited-slip diff was standard, too: the axle should be silent and leak-free.
Some patina is charming but the leather and wood trim is costly to replace if it’s too far gone. Walnut dash (£288) with lockable glovebox was optional from ’89.
Check hood and sidescreens are present and fit well: they should be leak-free (a new mohair hood is £895). A tonneau cover is a useful bonus, too (£395).
Morgan Plus 8: on the road
A certain level of shake and rattle is inevitable on rough surfaces – Plus 8s are firmly sprung – but excessive shuddering may indicate a weakened structure and the need for an expensive body and chassis rebuild. Get an expert review if you are in any doubt. Cuprinol treatment for the wood frame came in 1986, optionally at first, and rust protection was gradually introduced.
Plus 8s began with the same foot-pedal-oiled front suspension (needing a pump a day, or every 200 miles) as Plus 4s, though with stiffer stub axles and beefed-up brakes, plus chunky 185x15 radials on alloy wheels. The steering was always heavy – especially as tyre sizes increased – but excessive stiffness indicates a lack of servicing. Some slack is inevitable pre-1983; thereafter the rack should be free of play. The much better Gemmer steering box fitted to later four-cylinder Morgans can be fitted to pre-’83 Plus 8s.
The Rover engine is reliable and durable provided alloy corrosion is avoided; pay careful attention to all parts of the cooling system. Infrequent oil changes will lead to rapid camshaft wear. Stromberg carburettors gave least power, while parts are hard to source for the ’90s Lucas electronic fuel injection. Later GEMS-injected cars can have engine-controller problems, but specialists can fix them. The Moss gearbox on early cars lacks synchro on first and needs a measured change – parts are difficult to find.
Brakes seize due to infrequent use – which is a common trait – so test them for effectiveness. A servo was fitted up to 1981 and post-’93, but in between a fair shove is needed if braking hard.
Morgan Plus 8 price guide
- Show/rebuilt: £50,000+
- Average: £30,000
- Restoration: £20,000
Morgan Plus 8 history
1968 Oct Plus 8 launched, with 168bhp V8
1969 Chassis widened 2in; alloy body option
1972 Rover all-synchro ’box replaces Moss
1973 Wider track, higher diff but only 143bhp
1975 Sports Lightweight (19 built)
1977 155bhp SD1 engine and 5-speed gearbox; new-look dash, 4in wider body, alloy bumpers replace chrome, new alloys, 205/70 tyres
1983 Electronic injection: 192bhp; rack steering
1986 Corrosion and rot treatment: galvanising (chassis), powder coating and Cuprinol
1990 3.9-litre: 235lb ft; rear telescopics replace lever arms; catalytic converter, initially optional
1993 Wires optional; Lockheed brakes
1994 Rover R380 five-speed gearbox fitted
1997 Long-door, deep-dash cockpit, airbags (optional at first); 4.6-litre 220bhp opt (300+ sold)
2000 GEMS fuel injection replaces Lucas 14CUX
2002 Le Mans 62 edition, white hardtop; 40 built
2004 Plus 8 dropped
The owner’s view
Dave Flanagan is a recent convert: “I rebuilt a TR3A and ran it for 20 years, eventually replacing it with an Alfa GT 1600 Junior, wanting more comfort on tours. It was great but I missed the rawness of the TR, so looked for a car to complement the Alfa: a Morgan seemed perfect. The torque and burble of a V8 were too much of a temptation.
“I looked at a few before buying this 1990 pre-cat 3.9 from Scotland. I have now covered just over 2300 miles. You could never describe it as refined: I am getting used to the winces from my wife in the passenger seat on a rough road, but it is in its element on smooth sweeping bends.
“With the top down, it is really enjoyable but windy at motorway speeds; the sidescreens make it a more relaxed drive. With the hood up, it is very cosy with a good heater.”
Undercutting the Plus 8 new and now, not much slower and rather more comfortable, the TR6 is still a macho sports car with great looks. Beware rot, neglect and slower carb models.
Sold 1968-’76 • No. built 91,850 • Mpg 21-30 • 0-60mph 8.2 secs • Top speed 120mph • Price new £2602 (1975) • Price now £13-25,000
Even faster than the Morgan, especially top speeds, the Wedges look a bit dated, but sound amazing. Cheap and great fun if sorted, though beware chassis rot and water damage.
Sold 1983-’91 • No. built 2618 (all) • Mpg 18-28 • 0-60mph 6.3-4.6 secs • Top speed 130-150mph • Price new £16,320 (350i, 1985) • Price now £5-15,000
Morgan Plus 8: the Classic & Sports Car verdict
There are few cars better supported by specialists and club, or with such stable, gently rising values. There are also few cars more uncompromised in their target of wind-in-the-hair motoring on smooth roads, so be sure you and your partner are going to enjoy that before buying one! Find a well-maintained example or negotiate a good price for a project.
- Unbeatable classic looks
- V8 burble; gobs of torque
- Near-guaranteed appreciation in value
- Beats hot hatches at traffic lights
- Really hard ride
- Rudimentary weather protection
- Deteriorates rapidly if not cherished
- A chassis-plus-frame rebuild is costly
Morgan Plus 8 specifications
- Sold/number built 1968-’04/c6000
- Construction Z-section steel chassis and steel or aluminium, wood-framed roadster body
- Engine all-alloy, ohv 3528/3946/4555cc V8, twin SU/Strombergs or Bosch/Lucas/GEMS injection; 143bhp @ 5200rpm-220bhp @ 5000rpm; 200lb ft @ 2700rpm-260lb ft @ 3500rpm
- Transmission 4/5-speed, 3/4/5-synchromesh manual, driving rear wheels via limited-slip diff
- Suspension: front sliding pillars, coil springs, telescopic dampers rear live axle, semi-elliptic leaf springs, lever-arm dampers (later telescopics)
- Steering cam and peg, 2.4 turns lock-to-lock, then rack and pinion, 3.4 turns
- Brakes 11in disc front, 9in drum rear, with servo (although not from 1981-’93)
- Length 12ft 9in-13ft 3in (3886-4039mm)
- Width 4ft 93/4in-5ft 7in (1467-1702mm)
- Height 4ft-4ft 4in (1219-1290mm)
- Wheelbase 8ft 21/4in (2495mm)
- Weight 1926-2442lb (876-1110kg)
- 0-60mph 6.7-5.6 secs
- Top speed 120-133mph
- Mpg 18-30
- Price new £2925 (1975)