April Update On Sol – The African Rally +4

Since I last wrote about progress on Sol, a good deal has happened, as following on from the making of the brake lines the car was despatched to VSM for the wings to be fitted. We had sourced a set of new Superform wings from the factory. Not strictly correct, or quite the right style for Sol, but more readily available and also having a link to Holden, in that Holden Aluminium (now part of the Sapa Group) form the extruded outer edge wing beading for Superform. In fact, prior to Holden Aluminium relocating to Bromyard, the wing beading was formed in the very building in which Sol is being restored!

In an amazingly short period of four days, Steve had managed to trim and fit all four wings, Sol being retrieved on the fourth day to take up a position on the Morgan Sports Car Club stand at the Practical Classics Restoration Show, gaining much admiration and questions about the rebuild, the specification, the general construction of a Morgan, as well as the ever present ‘I thought these cars had a wooden chassis’ question!

Following the Show were four days until Sol could return to VSM, so as the wings were fitted the opportunity was taken to fit the wing stays. Front wings are supported at the centre line of the front wheel, the other end being attached to the top of the cross head. Previously, making these has been something akin to Blacksmithing, as the Factory supplied items were only ever somewhere near to fitting, in that there was a bolt hole at each end and a shape something like the wing profile. However, nowadays things are different! Someone at Morgan has discovered that by making the bracket a shape much more like the wing and putting slotted holes at each end, one part can fit a multitude of cars! This main front stay aside, all the rest had to be made from flat steel strip. There is still one more to do, but this can only be done once there is an exhaust system in place.

Whilst ferreting through a box of parts for the car, we found the door locks which thankfully had been rescued off the old doors. With a little bit of a clean up and some light oil they appeared to work well and showed little signs of much wear, so as the doors were currently being held shut with a small piece of wood and a screw, they were fitted. Not without having to make a packing piece from a piece of thin steel! A little careful adjustment and they latched shut, albeit being a bit on the tight side – but as the body settles and once it is firmly bolted to the chassis the locks will no doubt need some more fettling to get them spot on.

Having done these relatively minor tasks, I tackled the brake line across the back axle and the main line from the front of the car to the rear. This runs down the chassis rail on the passenger side of the car, opposite to the master cylinder which makes the pipe run somewhat longer, but it does keep it well away from the exhaust!

With these few little tasks completed, Easter was upon us, and the following Tuesday Sol was due back to VSM for the bonnet to be made. Dodging the ever present rain showers Sol made the journey from the Workshop to VSM without getting wet or dirty. Amazingly!

Just over a week later, a phone call to say that Sol was done and could be collected was a bit of a surprise, as the anticipation was that it would be at least another week. Steve had done the job quicker than he had suggested and it was ready.

The bonnets and cowl were now fitted, the cowl box had been made and bolted in – this insignificant sounding and fiddly to fit bit of sheet metal is the part that holds the front of the valances together and provides the mounting point for the Morgan grille. Steve had also fitted the windscreen for us and at the same time cut the slots for the windscreen wiper wheelbox spindles in the scuttle. Both of these jobs being far easier when a template and plenty of experience are readily available! Getting the angle of the windscreen wrong can affect the aesthetics of the car, not to mention cause a nuisance when it comes to fitting side screens.

This the brings us to the point where some of the ‘furniture’ can be fitted. So far, a pair of headlights have been fitted, using period correct 3-adjuster steel headlamp bowls instead of the more modern plastic option, a set of front indicators added, which is something that we don’t think Sol would have had from new, but are being fitted from a safety point of view. With these installed, Sol has somehow taken a leap towards becoming a complete car!

Wiper wheelboxes have been put in place, together with a new piece of tube for the wiper rack. This comes as a lovely straight piece of tube and has to be carefully cut and shaped to fit, ensuring not to kink the tube or bend it too tightly, otherwise the rack simply won’t run smoothly and the motor will be straining to operate correctly. A modern 2 speed motor has been fitted in place of the original single speed one to hopefully provide better wipers, although we are hoping the trip through Africa will not see too much rain, you never know!

Another job was to fit the tread rubbers to the wings. These comprise a very soft aluminium extrusion that is bolted to the wing with plenty of small coach bolts, which are then hidden by the rubber strip. These have had to be ordered from the Factory, so a couple of old ones that had been replaced on a car in the Workshop were used as templates.

The final job that brings us currently up to date has been to fit the bellhousing to the gearbox and overhaul the clutch operating mechanism. Those readers familiar with a Moss box in a Morgan will understand this, others may not. Essentially, the Moss gearbox is mounted remotely from the engine at the end of an approximately 2 feet long Magnesium bellhousing. At the flywheel end there is a cast aluminium sleeve that contains a carbon clutch thrust pad, this slides within the magnesium casting to operate the clutch by pushing against a steel pad in the centre of the clutch cover. The sleeve is connected via a mechanical linkage to the pedal and has 5 separate pivot points, each one wears and contributes towards the linkage being sloppy, add this to a lack of grease having been applied to the grease point where the aluminium sleeve slides and the end result is a clutch that is terrible to operate at best.

The cure for the lack of grease – and hence the slide for the aluminium sleeve becoming oval – is to machine the magnesium casting back to round and press in a piece of seamless steel tube. This job was entrusted to GEE, who helpfully had one available as an exchange! The rest of the linkage was overhauled and new pivot pins and split pins fitted to make it all work correctly. Once the bellhousing was bolted to the gearbox with the connecting shaft fitted first (the muff coupling on the nose of the gearbox input shaft does not fit through the aluminium clutch sleeve) it was placed in the chassis. At this point, we could not resist fitting the propshaft – just to make sure it fitted!

The coming week or so will see the fitting of the beading to the outer edge of the wings, fitting rear lamps, the addition of the bonnet catches and sorting out the fuel tank. Once this is all done, we will be somewhere near to being ready for paint. The burning question now, is what colour……..!

SOL – The African Rally Morgan +4 at the Practical Classics Restoration Show

Built in 1955 at The Morgan Motor Company, this car was one of the early Morgans to carry the now familiar traditional Morgan body style that has been in production for over 60 years. Echos of its predecessor, the Flat Rad +4 are still evident in the rear section, where the car carries 2 spare wheels vertically behind the rear axle and the fuel tank.

Sadly, little is known of its early history, aside from it ending up near to the Solway Coast,  Scotland in the 1970 where, not too long after receiving an exchange TR2 engine from the Standard Motor Company, it was laid up in a barn. This was possibly due to the replacement engine suffering a failure of some sort, as we found a couple of bent push rods on disassembly. We believe that the recorded mileage on the odometer of approximately 75,000 miles is pretty much genuine, as other parts of the car showed little evidence of too much wear.

Fast forward to March 2017, and the car appeared in a listing on a well-known Auction website, very much a restoration project, but looking quite complete. Jeremy Holden, the car’s owner, was the successful bidder and it was decided that the car would make an interesting centre piece for the new showroom of Holden-Morgan, the Midland Morgan Agent, that was founded in the April of 2017.

Towards the middle of the year, information circulated from Rally Round regarding an event that would take place in October 2018 in Africa, going from Dar Es Salaam to Cape Town over 28 days and 7,000 Kilometres. Holden Vintage & Classic are a supporter of Rally Round, and it was felt that it may be interesting to take part in one of their events. The old, tired +4 was an ideal candidate, being rugged, simple mechanically and a vehicle which Holden are familiar with.

The rebuild commenced in earnest at the end of November 2017 with much work being carried out. Far more has been achieved than is currently on display, as the gearbox has been rebuilt, the engine is all but finished, brakes have all been fitted, as has the steering. These components have been removed currently for final finishing and painting, and for the wings to be fitted. The engineless chassis being far easier to manoeuvre around the Workshop than a complete car!

The next step is to fit the bonnet, and then to remove all the panel work and send it to the paintshop during which time the mechanical side will be completed ready for the finished body work.

New showing: The Bromyard Speed Festival – On Tour to Shelsley Walsh,  8th April 2018

Sol – The African Rally +4


Sol – so named because of its resting place for the past 40 or so years – The Solway Firth – and the incredible coincidence that the previous owner ‘s Grandfather had once owned The Solway Lass, a 2 masted Schooner on which Jeremy had once sailed around the Whitsunday Islands!!

Those of you who read MOG magazine will have already seen several instalments entitled ‘The Road to Africa’ which cover the beginnings of our story, but for those who have not, here goes….

The tale begins in March of 2017 as the plans to create ‘Holden Morgan’ the Midlands Morgan Agent, were coming to fruition, Jeremy Holden was casting his eyes around for a project, ideally as a competition car with historic circuit racing in mind, most importantly however, it had to be a Morgan. A marque with which he was more than familiar having owned several over the years, mostly competition cars for hillclimbs and circuit races, although one Moss Box +8 was used as an Historic Rally Car.

The link between Holden Vintage & Classic and Rally Round provided the inspiration in the form of details regarding an event for historic cars, starting in Dar es Salaam and finishing in Cape Town 28 days later – the perfect event – only a car meeting the required criteria was needed. It had to be something relatively simple yet rugged and reliable mechanically, ideally it needed to carry 2 spare wheels, have space for spares etc, and a decent fuel capacity, plus it HAD to be a Morgan!

Amazingly, and as with a previous Holden Project, Ebay provided the solution, although unlike the previous project (Julian’s 2CV) this one stood absolutely no chance of passing an MOT the day after collecting  it. The car then, was a 1955 Morgan +4, sad and down-at-heel looking, but most importantly, complete. This ticked nearly all of the boxes – strong and reliable Triumph TR engine, straight forward Moss gearbox and leaf sprung live axle, durable steel chassis and flexible yet strong ash body frame, carried the all important twin spare wheels vertically at the back, a decent size tank, but room to make a larger one if needed.

After a few nervous days, Jeremy ended up the winning bidder, and sallied forth to Scotland with the trailer to collect his prize. It turned out in conversation with the seller that there was, as mentioned at the head of the page, a connection in the form of a sailing boat on the opposite side of the world, and hence the car being named SOL.

During the course of the journey south, many years of storeage in the damp Solway environment proved too much for the frail side rails and the chassis gave way, the middle of the car settling down on the trailer leaving more than the required 4 contact patches with the ground. On arrival at Holden Vintage & Classic, and following a quick assessment, a plan was hatched to put the car on display in the shop, which was eventually accomplished with the addition of a set of castor wheels to act as a trolley for the chassis and a trolley jack to lift it.

During its resting period in the shop the car dried out significantly, depositing several piles of flakey rust and timber residue on the floor. It was noted during this time, that although not in the best of states, the car was very complete and surprisingly original, having a correct TR2 engine, all of its original instruments, a complete set of 16 inch steel wheels and was among the earliest cars to carry the traditional Morgan shape that has become so recognisable.

Fast forward now to July and the car has been moved out of the Shop to make way for new cars, its resting place the Holden Morgan Workshop, where work began in earnest to dismantle and carefully assess exactly what we had and formulate a plan for the ensuing rebuild.

The engine and gearbox were removed, together with the body frame and bulkhead, all this being accomplished in a manner that has been seen by very few cars! The engine was taken to one side and carefully disassembled, photographed and videoed using among other gadgets a time-lapse camera. The footage being assembled for display purposes at the Run for the Hills event. With the major mechanicals and the body removed, it was possible to see the extent of the corrosion and the work required to reconstruct the chassis. As it was by now August and the weekend of the Run for the Hills event was fast approaching, an event where Holden Morgan, along with all the other UK Morgan Dealers, would have a display stand. Sol would take pride of place, with a TV screen mounted on the front crosshead showing the video of the dismantling process, and to act as a centrepiece of the Holden stand, as well as to unveil the project to Morgan owners and enthusiasts.

In order to provide enough support to the chassis for the weekend, our ever helpful neighbours at Active Fabrication manufactured a pair of part side rails and a cross member to prop it all up, as well as producing a couple of brackets to hold the TV screen. Helpfully, these mounted on the cross head and meant no extra holes were drilled!!

Following on from the Run for the Hills event, the chassis was stripped completely and sent to GEE Ltd in Nailsworth. GEE specialise in the restoration and supply of structural steelwork components for Morgans and were not at all fazed by the chassis. In fact, they were more than happy to help, and came up with a few useful suggestions on how to strengthen the chassis at critical points and how best to increase the ground clearance. A necessity for a car heading ‘off the beaten track’!!

While GEE were performing miracles with the chassis, Steve Barnes at VSM was called upon for advice regarding the body frame and sheet metal work. Sadly, all of this was deemed to be beyond economic salvation and a new ash frame commissioned, once completed, this was expertly panelled by Steve at VSM, who at the same time made a new bulkhead and pair of front valances.

All of this work was completed by the aforementioned outside specialists leaving little to do in the Workshop, although the engine that had been the focus of the disassembly video for Run for the Hills had been sent away to Mike Jones Engines in Leominster for any necessary machine work to be undertaken. At this point, a second ‘Project’ Car enters our story, as Holdens purchased, at Auction, another +4, this time a 1953 ‘Interim’ car – so called because the front end styling was a half way house between the Flat Rad +4 and the traditional shape of Sol. This car was fitted with a more desirable (for Sol) but non original TR3 engine which offered certain improvements over our TR2, not least of which was a high port cylinder head, giving a performance improvement. It was decided therefore to do a swap and use the TR3 engine for Sol and fit the more correct TR2 to the interim car. The TR2 was retrieved from Mike’s Workshop and the TR3 delivered. Progress with the rebuild is ongoing!

Towards the end of November there was a repaired, strengthened and slightly modified chassis on the Workshop floor, together with a body frame and a bulkhead and front valances. During the course of the chassis work, the Morgan suspension guru’s at SSL got involved, working out spring rates and damper types and settings to offer improved control over the suspension system of the finished car, which incorporated a special frame over the rear axle to allow fitment of twin adjustable shock absorbers to each side of the rear axle. This has become known as ‘The Coffee Table’ due to its shape and is designed such that it does not compromise the rear luggage board behind the seats. GEE and SSL between them had come up with suitable bracketry to mount all of this as well as the lower plates to attach the leaf springs to the rear axle, and as these parts arrived with the chassis, little time was lost in bolting plates and springs to the axle with longer and stronger than standard U-bolts. Before any work could commence, the bare chassis was set up on a pair of tressles to get the whole thing at an appropriate height to work on. Fortunately, GEE had pre aligned and drilled the front crosshead to the chassis , which saved a fair amount of time in getting the critical chassis alignment correct.

First thing was to assemble the leaf springs to the rear axle with the U-bolts and lower plates which then slotted neatly into the chassis and the body frame placed on top. Modification to the inner rear wheel arches was necessary to allow the body frame to fit around the Coffee Table. These were marked out and cut with a most useful battery circular saw. Having got the coffee table in place, the body was refitted and the bulkhead placed into the chassis with the body frame pushed against this to give a close fit. At this point the whole lot was clamped down using G-clamps to hold it all in place and holes drilled for bolts. Front valances, or inner wings, soon followed in a similar way being clamped into place and checked carefully before drilling holes.

The next step was to make up some floor boards. We measured the thickness of the remnants of the old floor boards that we had and set out to source similar material. Bromyard Timber stocked a size of exterior grade ply that was of the correct, or at least the metric equivalent of the size we required. Again our trusty battery saw was put to good use cutting out the boards after measuring and marking out on the bench.

To recap, we now have a body frame mounted to a chassis, with a bulkhead, inner wings, rear axle fitted and floor boards made.

What next then?

By now, the festive season was but a distant memory and attentions turned towards some of the other parts we may need. A list was drawn up of things such as front stub axles, brakes, rear brakes, handbrake mechanism, rear hubs, plus numerous other small parts required, all of which were ordered from the Morgan Factory Spares Department. Whilst the Factory were busy assembling this collection of parts, we had to sort out the fitting of an engine and gearbox. The only issue here being that both Sol’s engine and gearbox were away being rebuilt, the engine by Mike Jones in Leominster and the gearbox by Techniques Morgan in Hertfordshire. Fortunately, the whereabouts of a redundant TR block was known of and this, combined with the gearbox from Holden’s Interim car, kindly loaned for a while, provided the necessary combination to fit to the chassis to align engine mounts, pedals , sort out the propshaft length etc.

The major order of parts from the Factory was soon with us, and included all manner of components – front stub axles, brake discs, wheel bearings and seals, steering track rods, track rod ends, plus rear brake back plates and brake drums! When ordering the stub axles, an early decision was made to upgrade to 4/4 stub axles, as these offered greater strength than the original +4 type which had a tendancy to break under the stresses of competition work, something that was discovered in period, hence the reason for the original Supersports and later cars being fitted with stronger front stub axles. First job here was to ream the bushes in the stub axles to ensure the king pins were a correct fit, accomplished here in the Holden Workshop with a fixture fitted to the large pillar drill we have and a suitable machine reamer driven very slowly to provide the correct finished size. Next step was to fit the new wheel bearings and inner hub seal to the correct 4 stud hubs which had been sourced from GEE, then to assemble the front suspension onto the chassis. As the rear axle was already in place, it was a simple matter of placing the complete back plate assembly onto the axle end (far easier and quicker than trying to remove, refurbish and overhaul 50 odd year old components!), especially as the rear brakes have barely changed since Sol was built!

We now had a bodied chassis with front end sheet metal work in place, plus an engine and gearbox installed, onto which we could now put wheels. Sol was beginning to look more and more like a car!

A decision had been made to fit a scuttle roll hoop to provide greater structural integrity to the body and chassis at the point where the door hinges hang, so one was sourced via another Morgan Specialist. Sadly, this was not of the correct dimensions for a 1950’s era Morgan so we decided that, rather than try to modify something which was nicely made and finished we would be quicker and easier to make a new one, using the incorrect one as the basis of a pattern. Jeremy had a contact no more than a couple of miles from his home who had suitable tube bending equipment and was able to bend up a hoop to the required dimensions for us. At this point, Sol made her first journey on her own wheels, being moved to the neighbouring and aforementioned Active Fabrication who made the base plates and welded the scuttle bar together for us. Whilst in their workshop, Active Fabrication made a pair of storage boxes to fit in the space immediately in front of the rear axle and to each side of the propshaft, one for tools / spares and the other to carry the battery. They also produced an enlarged tool box to fit on the bulkhead top, one with a hinged lid that again can be used for spares and tools. Space for such items is going to be fairly limited, so it is necessary to maximise the use of every space we have.

Fabrication work completed and Sol made another journey, this time back to the Holden Workshop where the handbrake cables were fitted, together with the timber work that will support the fuel tank and the spare wheel carrier was also fitted at this time. Essentially now Sol is ready to have wings fitted and the bonnet made, but as there was to be a slight time delay, the decision was made to disassemble the car and send the main structural components away for powder coating. Thus the whole thing was reduced to a pile of components, ensuring that all the holes that needed drilling had been done and the chassis, front crosshead, ‘Coffee Table’ and spare wheel carrier were all sent out to County Powdercoating for a coat of satin black.

As I write this, we are awaiting the return of the finished powdercoating so that the build can commence in earnest…….


Frazer Nash Alpine Trial 2017

Each year, over 30 cars compete in the Frazer Nash Alpine Trial, which takes place in the beautiful landscapes of the Italian French Alps. This year is particularly special because our very own Jeremy Holden will be taking part, and spent last weekend traveling to Valloire in South East France with a Frazer Nash Super Sports car he owned until twelve months ago. This week, he’s driving 200 miles per day (with a break on the Wednesday) alongside the car’s current owner Julian Rodway. The route is split into two loops, northern and southern, both of which circle back to Valloire.

Jeremy owned the Frazer Nash Super Sports for six years before Julian purchased the car from him last year. Prior to this, the car was owned by Mike Fowler, an engineer who finished rebuilding it in 1999.

Jeremy has a real love of the Frazer Nash Super Sports, and even won the Frazer Nash Club’s Geoghegan Trophy with it in 2011. It’s no wonder, therefore, that he recently got in touch with its new owner, eager to take the car out onto the open road again.

Last Thursday evening Jeremy and Julian took the overnight ferry from Portsmouth, before trailering to Dijon and then ending up in Valloire in order to prepare for the event’s start date on Monday morning. Given that the route is steep, narrow and a little bit bumpy, they were keen to ensure the Super Sports was in tip-top shape before taking to the road. Unfortunately, it wasn’t! Complications arose, but thanks to Jeremy and Julian’s collective expertise (and sheer determination) they managed to get going as planned this morning.

We’ll be giving you regular updates throughout the week about Jeremy and Julian’s progress, so keep an eye on the blog for new posts and photos!

Are we up to the challenge? Of course we are! Morgan+4 Restoration

It’s not like the team at Holden Morgan to shy away from a challenge, and this is especially true of their latest venture – a monumental restoration project of a 1955 Morgan +4 currently occupying the new service and restoration bay.

We first introduced you to this broken down +4 back in March after Jeremy picked it up from Scotland following a bit of late night impulse shopping on eBay. Coincidentally, it turned out the chap he bought it off frequented the same old haunt Jeremy was once a regular at over 30 years ago, meaning their paths may have crossed a few times before. On Monday 13th March, after a celebratory dinner at the Anchor Hotel Kipford, Jeremy loaded the Morgan onto a trailer and it was transported back to the Holden premises in Bromyard.

Unfortunately, due to its fragile state, the car actually broke in half mid-journey, meaning that a new chassis will be required, a good job the Morgan factory is just up the road!

The exciting news is that there’s now an adventurous plan for the car. Not only will it be restored, in house, by June next year (which, when it comes to car restoration, is a bit of a tall order), but it’ll be modified into a rally car and taken to Rally Round Africa in October 2018!

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Rally Round Africa is a 6700km route that begins at Dar es Salaam, passing magnificent wildlife, bustling cities, breathtaking coastlines and dusty deserts before concluding in Cape Town. The question is; can this rather sorry looking Morgan handle the heat? We believe it can!
Follow our story over the next twelve months and watch us transform this tired and forgotten Morgan into a rally car fit for the African wilderness.

Tiger Tales 8……

Time has definately passed since the last news of the Tiger rebuild. However, the painted shell has been quite literally descended on by a great collection of parts that have been carefully restored during the period whilst the shell was away. Some parts were done by Jonathan and team at Hardy Hall, some here in our own workshops – mostly things electrical – and others by outside specialists – brake calipers, rear axle etc etc, The car has now reached the stage where, it looks reasonably complete – Shiny bits are back on, dash and instruments installed, what trim there is reinstated, and most importantly front suspension and rear axle installed. The car is now in a position where it can sit on its own wheels and be moved – indeed it is imminently heading to Vehicle Wiring Services (www.vehiclewiringservices.co.uk)  who will manufacture and install the wiring loom. All we are needing now is the engine and gearbox – which currently is waiting for a set of pistons!! The deadline is looming……….


2CV Van

You may remember from an earlier post that lurking around here there is a small green 2CV van – a wrinkly bonnet type equipped with a 425cc twin cylinder air-cooled engine – which is currently with Herefordshire 2CV guru Pete Sparrow being fettled. Well, investigation of the rest of the vehicle has commenced whilst the engine is away, and removal of a distinclty home-made floor plate has revealed the original floor – or rather a lack of one!!

Fref Flintstone's 2CV!!

Fref Flintstone’s 2CV!!

Engines out….

Never one to be outdone, Jeremy has instigated rebuild projects of his own. His early Vauxhall, having been rebuilt approximately 20 years ago, is having the engine looked at to make sure all is well and to possibly extract a little more ‘Ooomph’. Whilst the engine is out of the chassis, all the signs of abuse from trialling are being attended to!

Vauxhall engine being carefully removed from the chassis

Vauxhall engine being carefully removed from the chassis

Meanwhile, across the workshop, the 2CV van is also receiving attention – This little vehicle has not as yet, received a mention in these parts, but as with Julian’s 2CV it started from an Ebay listing. Initially, Julian thought about something to use whilst his car was being rebuilt – this little crinkly bonnet van caught the eye. However, SWMBO vetoed the idea stating that ‘We were all barmy’, and ‘what a pile of junk’. To shorten a slightly lengthy story,  the result of the Ebay Auction was that Jeremy bought the van!

The above shows the van on the day it arrived. We later discovered that the engine was seized, but otherwise it’s in pretty good shape. Its destiny – get it running and roadworthy and use it as a company promotional vehicle!

The first part of which has now started – the engine initially had the bores filled with diesel to attempt to free off the stuck rings, but on advice, it was deemed quicker and easier to remove the heads to make certain that no debris had dropped down the manifolds – both inlet and exhaust ports are on the top of the 2CV cylinder head.

2CV engine out. No need for engine cranes here!

2CV engine out. No need for engine cranes here!