Ardent sports-car fans are often surprised to discover that Morgan roadsters — which are direct descendants of the traditional British two-seaters of the distant past — can be purchased as 2004 models. After all, Morgan abandoned the U.S. market around 1970.
A revived Plus 8 roadster with a Land Rover 4.0-liter V-8 engine is priced at $75,487, plus $5,000 for shipping from England to the United States. In 2003, the revised instruments gained a distinct vintage appearance with cream-colored faces and dark brown lettering. Little has changed for the 2004 model year.
Even though the Plus 8’s basic appearance has been modernized, it’s surprisingly similar to the four-cylinder Plus 4 of the 1950s, which featured a long, louvered hood and a distinctive cowled radiator. Ash body framing is carefully crafted in the traditional manner atop a galvanized chassis. The body panels are made of steel and aluminum.
Adjustable shock absorbers are installed. Standard equipment includes a canvas-backed vinyl top, sliding sidescreens rather than roll-up windows, and a tonneau cover. Options include a hood belt, luggage rack, badge bar, extra running-board rubber and a carpeted chassis cross-member. External door handles are optional. Alloy wheels hold 15-inch tires. Center-lock cast-aluminum or chromed-wire wheels with 16-inch tires are available.
Connolly leather upholsters the two bucket seats, and walnut veneer decorates the dashboard. The steering column has a rake adjustment. Several audio options, a leather-covered instrument panel and sport seats are available.
Morgans sold in the United States are modified with such changes as increased headroom and legroom and lengthened doors to aid entry and exit. In addition, the instrument panel is slightly recessed, the control stalks are modernized, and the windshield is electrically heated.
Under the Hood
The 4.0-liter V-8 engine develops 188 horsepower and 232 pounds-feet of torque. It drives a five-speed-manual transmission.
The Plus 8 is equipped with depowered front airbags for both occupants.
No current production vehicle looks or feels remotely like a Morgan or recalls so much of the past. Peering through the windshield toward such an elongated hood is a unique experience. Getting in is a challenge, but leaning one’s arm on the upholstered upper sill of the rakishly low-cut door is a pleasure.
Even though the Plus 8 is cloaked in beautiful, old-style bodywork, it’s all modern underneath. The V-8 engine provides ample power, and it teams expertly with the clutch and easy-to-use gearbox. Turning the steering wheel for the first time lets the driver know that this car has direct steering, which requires substantial effort. The Plus 8 performs admirably even in around-town driving.
A genteel ride isn’t part of the experience, but the roadster isn’t nearly as punishing over harsh pavement as one might expect. The inside mirror blocks part of the view ahead, and the “flyaway” parking brake takes some practice before it’s used properly.