In August 2018, my 1969 Morgan Plus 8 was comprehensively destroyed in a mudslide during a severe rainstorm, but in October I heard through my local club – the Pacific Morgan Owners’ Group (PacMOG) – that an iconic car might be coming to the market.
The car, known here in British Columbia as ‘GB’s last Morgan’, was a 1972 Plus 8. Come the end of November, it was safely tucked up in my garage and I could begin to savour my new acquisition.
It is in lovely condition, but not so nice as to put me off going out in the rain, and it’s not slavishly original in its specification – which is another plus.
Everything is just as I like it, but the most interesting thing must be its history.
The ‘GB’ referred to in the car’s sobriquet was one George Beatty Sterne, a well-known local racer and western Canada’s first – and to date only – Morgan dealer.
In the mid-1950s, GB fancied replacing his MG TD race car with a Morgan and, without a local dealer, he contacted the Malvern factory direct.
The upshot was that, after a bit of back and forth, Sterne’s garage became Morgan’s west-coast distributor. For nigh-on 20 years Sterne won in Morgans on Sunday and sold them on Monday.
Then, on 1 January 1973, vehicle regulations came into effect that halted the flow of new Morgans into Canada. Local lawmakers, fearing their citizens would hurt themselves, had ruled them unsafe.
As the end of 1972 approached and the regulations waited in the wings, GB decided that the last car imported by Sterne Motors would be reserved for his own use.
He ordered a Plus 8 decked out in his traditional racing colours of pure white with black wings and black leather seats.
How this car, which was built in January 1973 and shipped from Worcestershire on 5 February, managed to slip past the Canadian bureaucrats has never been adequately explained!
On a trip to the Morgan works at around that time, GB spotted two sets of Cobra wire wheels that appeared to be surplus to requirements.
Apparently, the factory had contemplated making them available as an option on the Plus 8, but ultimately abandoned the idea.
GB was quick to make an offer on one of the sets and had them waiting at his shop when his new car arrived.
Those wheels remain on the car today, along with numerous other little ‘Sterneifcations’.
The rear bulkhead has been opened to expose the space above the fuel tank and the underside of the tail section has been boxed in – allegedly to store the gin!
An ashtray and a small, French-made radio were added to the interior.
The bumpers on GB’s last Morgan come from GB’s first Morgan – a 1957 4/4 in which he won his first class championship trophy in ’58.
By the late 1970s Sterne Motors had closed its doors, but GB kept his last Morgan until his death in 1990, at which point it passed to his eldest son, Bill, who unfortunately died in September 2018.
Subsequently, the Sterne family decided that it was time to let the car go – and that decision allowed me to become the car’s first ‘retail’ purchaser, almost 43 years after it arrived on these shores.
I grew up only a mile or so from Sterne Motors and frequently watched GB win races at our local Westwood Race Circuit, and I now look forward to many happy miles in GB’s last Morgan.
Morgan Plus 8
- Owned by Tom Morris
- From British Columbia, Canada
- First classic Jaguar E-type
- Dream classic Bentley ‘Blower’
- Best trip Along the Oregon and California coast in an MGB with my late wife, Val