Modifications and Upgrades: 1963 to 2015

The Morgan being described is not the same vehicle that was purchased in 1963, but is the result of many modifications and upgrades that have taken place since then. The initial modifications were in response to period SCCA rules, and later modifications and upgrades were in response to safety concerns and the emerging Vintage Racing regulations.

AutoX 1965

At an AutoX, 1965, bolt-in roll bar, wire wheels, dark hair, no beard.

DSC_0121 BIR, 2010, fixed roll bar, aluminum wheels, gray hair and beard.

So, as part of the Website’s Vehicle Description, the following is a Chronological List of the Modifications and Upgrades from 1963 to 2015. Many modifications required design and fabrication, which was done by the owner, who had assistance with machining and welding operations.  The word “custom” refers to such items.

1963-64:  MAJOR REBUILD.

At the end of my first year racing the Morgan, I wanted to examine the entire car, so the body was removed, the suspension dismantled, and many problems were found. There were cracks in the front fender panels and in the front frame piece.DSC_0044

Front suspension components were badly worn, and the rear body was breaking away from the chassis. Also, I had experienced severe brake fade and bent the Morgan brake pedal(!), so a stronger pedal was needed, along with better linings. And, SCCA rules allowed engine modifications, so I built a mild racing engine with raised compression, a short duration-high lift cam, bored out liners and 87mm pistons.

The following are scans of notes  that were written in 1964  summarizing the rebuilding effort ( note the prices ). Some items involved making copies of bent or worn brackets out of heavier materials, and all Whitworth bolt and nut combinations were replaced with SAE fasteners.

Mods 64:1

Mods 64:2

NOTE: “M&L” was a Motor Supply Shop in St. Paul, no longer in business.  “Honest C.” is Honest Charley Speedshop in Chattanooga, TN.

M 1964 1

Garage Scene During Assembly, Spring 1964.  (Steve Conroy Photo)

1966:  Airscoops for the front drum brakes were fabricated and bolted to the studs that were previously brazed on backing plates.

Version 2

1967:  Designed and fabricated a 4-2-1 exhaust header, which exited through the hole in the frame used by the stock exhaust.

1969:  Fabricated 6 inch wide knock-off steel wheels. Buick wheels were bored to fit the center pieces from junk wire wheels, radial ribs added, then aligned and welded together.

1970-71: CONVERSION TO A “RACE CAR”.

SCCA had new roll bar requirements and allowed more modifications, and racing tires were getting wider.

One major modification involved the front suspension and brakes. To use wide tires on a Morgan and stay within the allowed track requires the spring/kingpin assembly to move inward on the front frame, otherwise the tire will contact the spring. And, either the use of wheels with a large negative offset, which would be hard on the already suspect Morgan spindles (one had failed magnaflux, and the factory option exceeded my grad student budget), or creation of a custom spindle with the axle portion farther out from the kingpin. I chose the latter approach. Examining the exploded views of various front suspensions in Chilton’s repair manuals, I saw that AMC vehicles had a stub axle that bolted to a vertical surface on the front upright. And, the Javelin model had disc brakes with a disc diameter the same as those that became available for Morgan in 1959. I designed a Morgan style spindle with a stronger (larger diameter) tube to hold the kingpin bushings, a robust steering arm, and a flat machined surface for the AMC stub axle. Components from a 1968 Javelin were obtained from a scrap yard and the stub axles were magnafluxed. The spindle was constructed of mild steel materials, and while it was heavier than stock, it was bullet-proof.

Modifications in the Conversion to a Race Car included:

Design and Fabricate Custom Front Spindles that incorporated AMC Stub Axles and Hubs.

Convert to Javelin Disc Brakes at front.

NOTE: During the 1999-2003 Major Upgrade, the Spindle was re-designed, still utilizing the AMC Stub Axle, Hub and Disc.

Relocate Kingpin Mounting Brackets on front frame tubes to accommodate wider wheels and tires.

Roll Bar Structure having a main hoop and diagonal, a tube from the top to the passenger footwell, and two rear supports to the frame rails.

Design and Fabricate a Watts Linkage to laterally locate the rear axle. Brackets were welded to the axle housing.

Design and Fabricate Rear Traction Bars to limit spring wind up under braking. Brackets were welded to the axle housing

Convert to Dual Master Cylinders (Girling and Ford) with a custom adjustable balance bar.

Chrysler six inch wide bolt-on wheels at front.

Welded Differential (Locked).

Electric fuel pump and a pressure regulator.

Oil Cooler, finned tube type, and  a custom sandwich plate.

Lowering Blocks at the rear. U-Bolts altered for shock mounts.

Front Springs cut one inch.

Transmission: Modified a Jaguar input shaft to use the wider ratio Jaguar gears for more torque in 3rd gear turns.

Modified the Muff Coupling to join the Jaguar input shaft to the Morgan clutch shaft.

Engine Rebuilt : Forged 87mm JE Pistons, Stockton S-342 Cam, Head milled 0.140 in., Ports cleaned up at M&L, Balanced, etc.

1972. RESUMED SCCA RACING.

Driver’s school and Regional race at BIR, a Regional race at Road America, and a final race at BIR in Sept. 1973, finishing with a noisy, rod bearing.

1974-75. PAUSE IN RACING
1976. STARTED VINTAGE RACING.

The VSCR club was formed and started running events in conjunction with IMSA, Trans-Am and Can-Am races at BIR.

A Mild Engine was assembled with a used Isky TR555 short duration-high lift cam, used 87mm Hepolite pistons, and a lower compression head. Morgan was sanded and painted. Semperit 165×15 street radial tires were fitted.

1978.  Adapted 6 in. wide Bolt-on Wheels to the rear hubs. During a practice at BIR, a weld on one of the fabricated rear knock-off steel wheels failed, but was still drivable. My son and I drove the Morgan to “Brainerd Welding” and had it re-welded, and continued racing. This incident helped overcome my resistance to alter the wire wheel hubs. The splines were machined off and the hubs were drilled for a 5 bolt pattern. Studs were installed, and 6 inch wide Buick wheels were fitted.

1983. Last year of Morgan racing before running the Peyote.

1984-1990. RACED THE PEYOTE.

1991. RESUMED VINTAGE RACING THE MORGAN.

Major Engine Rebuild: New 89mm pistons and liners, Erson 23 cam, larger exhaust valves, new valve gear, lightened TR4-A flywheel, MGB pressure plate and TR4-A clutch disc, head professionally ported and flow tested, crankshaft damper installed, components balanced, and generator removed.
Bell Housing Upgraded: stainless steel tube inserted to limit wear on the magnesium bell housing from the sliding throwout bearing sleeve. (Solow’s Engine Room)
Master Cylinders Upgraded to two Girling units.
Balance Bar Upgraded to a Tilton unit and a new brake pedal fabricated.
Replaced the AMC-Bendix front calipers with used aftermarket units taken off the Demar racecar.
Oil Cooler Upgraded to a radiator type, and Aeroquip lines.
Fuel Cell Installed, Fuel Safe, 10 gallon, with custom brackets.

1993. Replaced Rear Axles.During a race at BIR, the left rear axle broke in turn 2 at over 100 mph. Fortunately the fender prevented the wheel from coming off (!) Used axles were obtained, magnafluxed and installed in the race car.

1994. Cooling Holes in Front Wheels. During the 1993 ELVF event, the front brakes faded going into turn 5 on the second lap while following 3 Porsches. I was trying a softer brake pad, which worked fine in practice, but not in racing conditions. Rather than collect a Porsche, I drove off course, and took the escape road. To improve brake cooling with the solid Chrysler wheels, a pattern of holes was carefully laid out and drilled.  Fortunately, the wheels balanced.

1995. Engine Rebuild. Badly worn lifters and cam were discovered in the fall of 1994. The Triumph community spoke of this as “batch of bad lifters” being sold through suppliers. A new Erson 23 cam, nitrided lifters, rings, bearings and clutch were installed. The crankshaft was ground to use the lip style oil seal. Other Upgrades included:
TR4A intake manifold.
HS6 SU carbs and air cleaners.
Super Sports Airscoop, (Morgan Spares) to accommodate  air cleaners.
Kirkey Racing Seat, (Summit) with custom steel mounting brackets.

1999-2003. PAUSE IN RACING and MAJOR UPGRADE.

Major Upgrades, with the body off the frame, were planned, motivated by (1) cracks in the front frame, indicating that its service life was finally over, (2) the desire for side impact protection, and (3) the upgrade of various systems. They included:

A New Roll Bar Structure was designed and fabricated, including a Main Roll Hoop with Diagonal and Cross Tubes, Two Rear Supports extending to the rear crossmember, a Cowl Hoop, Cockpit Side Tubes and Front Suspension Supports.
A Stronger Front Frame was designed and fabricated, with kingpin inclination angle of zero degrees.
Lighter Front Spindles were designed and fabricated, still using the AMC stub axles, hubs, and brake discs.
New aftermarket front calipers.
Converted to Tube Shocks at rear, with upper mounts on the roll bar structure and custom lower mounting brackets that bolt to the axle housing.
Tilton Master Cylinders replaced the Girling units.
Traction Bars and chassis end pivots upgraded.
Aftermarket Gages and Electric Tach.
Remote Canton oil filter and a redesigned sandwich plate that routes all oil to the filter before the by-pass valve.
Re-arched rear springs, allowing removal of lowering blocks.
Aluminum floor panels replacing the wood panels.
Aluminum panels behind driver, integrated with the Roll Bar.

2004. RESUMED VINTAGE RACING.

2006 UPGRADES.
Custom Griffin Aluminum Radiator.
Custom Header Tank with Super Sports style water routing.
Hi-Torque Gear Type Starter.
New Electric Fuel Pump.
Keizer Aluminum Wheels adapted to the Front. Longer SAE studs were reworked to fit the hubs and wheels.

2007 UPGRADES.
Keizer Aluminum Wheels adapted to the Rear. Used wire wheel hubs were obtained and modified for bolt-on wheels and fitted with longer SAE studs.
Datsun 240Z Aluminum Brake Drums were modified to fit to the rear hubs.

2008 UPGRADES.
Two Quart Accusump with electric valve was installed. A pressure valve was added in 2013

2010 UPGRADES.
Replaced front Brake Discs. (Old ones were 1968 originals).
Designed and Fabricated a 4-1 Exhaust Header having 36 inch primaries, exiting through the inner fender panel.

2011 MORE UPGRADES.
Major Engine Rebuild: see Engine Details.
Right Front Inner Fender Panel Modifications: welded a doubler plate around the exhaust header exit and made a clearance notch for the front SU float bowl.
Replaced Steering Box with a good used one.
New steel brake line to rear, replacing the original 1958 line (!)  Aeroquip hose to the axle.
Electric Fan installed behind the radiator, requiring brackets to be modified.
Custom Gilmer Belt Drive for the water pump.
Transmission Rebuilt: New Bearings, Seals, Shims adjusted.

2012 UPGRADE.
Replaced original ¼ in. fuel line
that ran inside the driver’s compartment with a 5/16 in. line that runs outside the frame.

2013 UPGRADE.
Replaced the Fuel Cell Bladder. 

2014 UPGRADES.
Kirkey aluminum passenger seat installed.
New Koni Shocks at front.
New Front Springs and shorter rebound springs that do not touch the spindle at static ride height.

2015 UPGRADES.
Engine “Refreshed” in July. New rings, coated bearings, new cam and lifters, head resurfaced (0.003 in.), valve job, crankshaft measured, magnafluxed and polished, flywheel resurfaced, new clutch disc and pressure plate, and flywheel, press. plate and crankshaft balanced. (See  Engine Details).

Rear Shocks rebuilt.