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North American Trike Issue #1

INDEX:  |||North American Trike?|||Ready to Race|||Rebuilding Report|||1996 Monterey Historic Races|||Tech Tips From Across the Pond|||Book Reviews|||BOTTOM|||

GO TO North American Trike!


North American Trike? Yes, Yes, Yes!

John H. Sheally, II

(Editor's note: After we had a lengthy telephone discussion of the State of Trikesters in the States, John H. Sheally, II—the only man I know of who put 3,328 miles on a Trike in a single trip—sent in the following article to mark the launching of North American Trike. John, incidentally, has promised to contribute future articles on a variety of Three-Wheeling subjects. One small point though, John... Thus far North American Trike is scheduled to be a quarterly, not a monthly, publication! But, gee! Wouldn't it be great if...)

Bring it on Mr. Colin P. Cobb! It is nice to see someone such as yourself step up to the HAND CRANK and put out a monthly NORTH AMERICAN TRIKE publication. It is welcomed, and perhaps with help from all of us Trike types and those of the four wheel society who either have a Trike or wish that someday they will, we can come together with contributions of stories and photographs and make this a success.

The English have always had the BULLETIN, and perhaps with help and a bit of hard work, we can have a successful publication to serve the Three-Wheelers on this side of the pond. We are all very fortunate to own the Trikes that we do, and this is a great way to communicate with each other on stories, technical data, parts, and fun with these unique machines. I have always called my Trikes World War I aircraft without wings. The appeal is that they are so mechanical to drive, not to mention start up procedures. The only thing missing is a propeller to spin, but then, the hand crank can often become one!

Over the years I have had the good fortune to own five of these machines. My first was an F-Type, second a J.A.P. Beetle, followed by an MX2, then another F-Type, and finally a Barrelback MX4. The latter of the five is, of course, my favorite for many reasons. I personally feel that the MX4 is the most reliable on today's American roads and deals best with traffic in the States being water cooled. I must say that all models have their various merits and are a hoot to operate. There is nothing nicer in the world of motorcars than to blast along in my MX4 and hear that Matchless engine thump at low speeds and purr at high speeds. To look out and see those exposed valves fluttering in the breeze and hear the rasp of the pipes talking to you from the rear is a fantasy in reality. For those that love mechanical motorcars, this is the one to have. Tickle the carb after cutting on the fuel via two petcocks, cut on the oil via petcock, set the spark advance, bump up the throttle lever, turn on the ignition... mechanical! We haven't even fired off the machine yet. Insert the hand crank, pull through with thumb tucked back, and hear bop, bop, bop. Let's ride! Over the side, into the seat, then to our destination... which does not matter, as the run is fun.

The "chain gang" is the true ROUGHRIDER, in which they and their machines are from a different cut of cloth. In contradiction to this statement, I have always found it amusing that the Trikes actually ride smoother and better than the four wheel Morgans. This is the result of the Trike's rear half-elliptical spring that supports the single rear wheel, which gives a floating ride, and the tire becomes a shock absorber, especially when running to the soft side to enhance ride, comfort, and road grip.

The four wheel Morgan, on the other hand, rides harder because of the solid rear axle, even with shocks and half leafs. This is an interesting fact when you think the real Roughriders ride softer than the Johnny-come-latelys of the Morgan models.

At any rate, it is just a blast on my part to go out to the garage and fire off my 61 year old Morgan Barrelback SS MX4 Three-Wheeler that was built six years before I was born and point it down the road to fun, Nirvana, and Shangri-la.

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Ready to Race

Larry Ayers

(Editor's Note: In 1977 Larry Ayers traded two BSA Trikes for one 1930 Morgan Super Aero. After acquiring the J.A.P. engined Aero, Larry learned that it had a distinguished racing history including setting two world records (Standing Start Kilometer at 72.288 mph and Standing Start Mile at 81.568 mph) at Brooklands in 1935, breaking a record previously held by the legendary Gwenda Stewart. This same car, then known as Red Johnnie, was also the car that won the coveted Brooklands Gold Star for driver Henry Laird in 1936 when he ran at over 100 mph for three laps at Brooklands. Only three other Morgan drivers have been so honored.

After learning of Red's racing background Larry committed to return the car to the track. Finally back on the track at Laguna Seca in 1984, a loose cam damaged the engine cases idling the car for five years before replacement cases could be installed. In 1990 Red was sold and went home to England. But Larry missed the noble Three-Wheeler and, in 1995, while on a trip to England Larry repurchased the car. But, lets have Larry tell the story himself...)

While in England Red's original bronze-cased J.A.P. engine had been partially restored but improperly installed, breaking the gearbox. The body was also neglected, yet I saw potential in Red and knew I wanted it to "live again" and race. My goal was to rebuild the gearbox (something I hadn't previously attempted), sort out the engine, and get the car back on the track. These old J.A.P. twins sound so great when they're running correctly. I love listening to the thump, thump, burple, thump of a 1100 cc big twin!

The first road test in February, 1996 saw the left front brake cable end fail, the number 2 exhaust valve stick, a piston seize, and excessive oiling (splatter back) over the machine as it was driven. The oiling wasn't so bad since an engine with a "total loss" system exhibits those traits if it is receiving sufficient amounts of lubrication, but the other problems were serious.

I tore the top end down. The bronze heads received new seats and valves through a machinist friend and I ordered new pistons and rings and installed those. I did all the assembly, so if anything happens there is no one else to blame.

In May of 1996 it was testing time again. The Zoller compressor, an M.G. Special, Type 4, was installed since it was used while racing at Brooklands. But I've never trusted superchargers completely since if they fail, devastating damage can occur to the engine. The Zoller must have heard me... Stress, fatigue, or old age zapped the Zoller the next time out and a bearing collapsed, wedging in the case, cracking it and sending pieces of aluminum into the cylinders. Fortunately, I heard the noise and shut the engine down before any major damage was done. I had to take the top end apart again and get small pieces of metal out of the heads and barrels. Scrutiny showed that four thousandths piston clearance on an air cooled engine isn't enough. A little honing on the barrels and some sanding on the pistons—mainly a cleaning up process—made things better.

With the Zoller gone I decided to use two Amal carburetors which was one of the ways Red was set up for the races at Brooklands. Then, experimenting with jets commenced as the deadline for the first racing event drew excitingly near. The Mollie Stone HMSA event on June 8 and 9 had been entered and Red was only ready for testing the Tuesday before the weekend event! Yipes! Relax, it will be all right. Four hours of testing, more miles on the engine, five different jets later and Red was "re-born."

It was a ball joining the owners of three other Morgan Trikes at Sears Point for some competition although I believe I had as much fun sprinting with the Ford Model T's. My pit crew consisted of Dick Tuttle and Donna Dell'Ario. Dick replicated Red's Brooklands silencers and provided his welding skills. Donna has been enthusiastic and supportive from the beginning and fabricated red coveralls which matched the color of the car and designed a special racing logo to create team uniforms. Very striking! She also sewed up a tonneau and an engine cover for Red. A very special and talented lady—my pit crew chief!

The only problem on the track was that the engine seized briefly at the top of turn two at Sears Point. The straights were great, but that hill gave me trouble. Never mind, I finished the race on Sunday and we celebrated the fact that nothing broke and Red was back on the track.

With the entry in the Vintage Auto Racing Association (VARA) British Extravaganza at Buttonwillow the following weekend some more testing was done and I replaced the main jets in the carburetors.

We arrived at Buttonwillow on Friday, registered and breezed through Tech, noting the fact that being prewar, Red was not equipped with a roll bar, fire suppression system, or a fuel cell, although the VARA classified us as H-Mod. The Morgan Trike certainly wouldn't retain much authenticity or originality with those items installed.

This was my first VARA event and the driver's school was mandatory. I would recommend the driver's school to anyone starting out or racing with a different organization, even those with some previous experience on the track. It's a good refresher and you can't hurt your head or damage your car while attending the class with an open mind.

The following day we got in some practice time with much faster cars, there being only one other H-Mod entry. We had fun on the track with that entry, a beautiful '34 MG NE, one of several built especially for racing. I wish I was as fast as some of those Formula-V cars which zipped by me. But then, Red has only half their number of cylinders and is several times older!

Driving the track at Buttonwillow was exciting for a vehicle the size of the Morgan Trike. The straights didn't stress the engine and I felt the turns neat for leaning over and doing some power drifts. Buttonwillow may be the ideal layout for prewar machines such as mine. Let's get more of them out there for the next event.

I told Red before going to Buttonwillow that with its 3 mile length and 22 turns, the track would be very much like the old days at Donnington Park with its 3.1 mile length and 21 turns. That information seemed to reassure the "old warrior" as it performed the best it has since I've owned it. The potential engine seizure problem dissolved and Red seemed to be enjoying the moment! We sailed past the checkered flag and were presented the pennant for our performance on Sunday.

The British Extravaganza was tremendous fun with the featured concours display of various British machines, a super BBQ, and an ample amount of track time plus making new acquaintances and renewing old ones. The noon-time track tour was terrific as Donna got to do a couple of laps in Red and experience what it was all about out there.

We were charged up and anticipated having a good time at the Monterey Historics in August. It's been a struggle but the effort was worthwhile. The Brooklands machine is back on the track where its real heritage lies. And, while we may not be the fastest in our class, we're not chasing more gold stars. We're out for the enjoyment, hoping to finish at the checkered and not have any mishaps. Piloting a Morgan Trike is both a challenge and an opportunity to display a rare vehicle which the public can enjoy and appreciate.

Wouldn't it be great to see more prewar vehicles like Red participating in vintage racing events?

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Rebuilding Report

by Bert Varady

(Editor's note: Bert Varady of St. Louis, Mo. has been rebuilding his 1936 MX2 Super Sports for over four years now. This begins a series of articles in which Bert will detail his rebuild one step at a time.)

A few of you have already heard bits and pieces of my effort to rebuild RV 9178. By sharing my adventure, I hope other owners and future owners will want to get their old Trikes back on the road.

How did this adventure begin? It's been over five years and I honestly don't remember how I got the idea to buy and rebuild an old Morgan. A telephone call Friday evening, I believe 14 March 1992, from fellow Morgan owner and friend, Jeff Podmer in Ft. Worth, Texas marks the "official" start of my association with RV 9178. Jeff had just heard of an individual in Grand Prairie, Texas (about 250 miles from were I lived) who was selling a three-wheeler in need of work.

I was so excited I immediately called the owner and he told me it was a 1936 Super Sports with a Matchless air cooled engine. The owner, not a Morgan enthusiast, thought all the pieces were there, but wasn't sure since it was apart. He didn't know a lot about the car so it was tough to get details over the telephone. I drove up real early the next morning. As the old saying goes, "If you snooze, you lose."

This was going to be a unique experience, since I'd never actually seen a three-wheeler. I only saw pictures of them in the Morgan books I collected while waiting for my new 4/4 to be delivered.

The garage door opened and there before me was a the chassis, setting on three rotten tires. The first thing I asked was, "Where's the body?" It was stored in a primitive shed a mile or so away. Out came the notebook and I circled the chassis once, twice, three times jotting down what I saw.

On to the shed to view the body. It not only looked bad, it was bad. Again I jotted down more notes.

What did I see? The body was original, but full of wasp nests and dirt. It suffered from years of neglect. Most of the 56 year old ash wood had the consistency of tuna fish or had severe cracks. There were a few patched-in plywood pieces and the whole thing was painted orange and black.

The original sheet metal was complete and badly rusted with a few areas filled with fiberglass. It was red. Chassis tubes were rusted, bent and three lugs were cracked. I thought the engine, transmission and all the other parts lying around on the floor looked pretty good.

I had nothing to compare this car to and really needed someone to give me words of encouragement or caution so I decided to make a credit card call to Alec Knight and see what he had to say. I described the car the best I could to Alec and he suggested I look at a few items more closely, since a "Super Sports" may really be a "bitsa" or it may have a major mechanical shortcoming that would significantly impact on the cost or ease of rebuild. Out to the garage and back to the shed for a second round of observations and notes. Another call to Alec and this time I received words of encouragement, at least the best someone could give being 1200 miles away and knowing nothing about the history of this car.

We agreed on the price and arrangements were made to return the next weekend with a truck. Now I had to prepare Julie for the shock of seeing what I just spent hard earned money on. Like me, Julie had never seen an actual three-wheeler. After a week of explaining the condition of the Morgan and showing her magazine pictures of old cars in junk yards and parked behind old barns, I felt she was ready.

When we arrived the owner said he had moved all the parts to one location so when he raised the garage door the body was now setting on the chassis and Julie's first comment was, "It doesn't look that bad." We loaded it into the back of the pickup, tied it down and off we went.

About a half hour down the road, a car pulled up along side us and the female passenger, I am sure at the urging of the driver, held up a paper sign that read, "Is that a Morgan?" I was totally amazed that someone knew there was a three-wheel Morgan in the back. I nodded and she shortly held up another hastily written sign, "Do you want to sell it?" Wow! I just bought it and already have an offer to sell it!

After another 30 minutes a nagging thought crossed my mind: I didn't remember seeing the drive shaft when loading the pieces. We pulled to the side of the highway and I climbed in the back. After a thorough search I concluded the drive shaft was missing and was sure I saw it last week. At the next rest stop I called the now previous owner and asked him if there was a drive shaft. "Just a minute," he said, and after a few minutes returned and told me I had left it in his garage. He mailed it to me so I didn't have to go back.

At home a few friends helped unload the pieces and we laid them neatly on the drive way for the first pictures. The sheet metal wasn't attached to the rotted body too well so I used red duct tape. When the pictures were developed, the trike looked a lot better than it actually was. It was in bad shape.

Where to begin? I chose to start with the body. Stay tuned for the wood body adventure...

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1996 Monterey Historic Races

J. Dale Barry

(Editor's question: When can you have 8 Morgans racing but only a total of not more than 27 racing Morgan tires on the ground at any given time?)

The Monterey Historic Races at Laguna Seca on August 18, 19, and 20 were significant for the Morgan Three-Wheelers as five of the six west coast racing machines participated and the Three-Wheelers outnumbered their four wheeled cousins. The weekend was also significant as the "Red" machine of much racing history with Larry Ayers ran well and seems to have overcome its earlier problems of this season. Additionally, my own 1934 Super Sports, WN 6572, returned to the racing circuit with a rebuilt and modified 1934 flathead, sidevalve J.A.P./DTZ engine after 11 months of repair following a broken con rod which destroyed the earlier J.A.P. engine. WN 6572 may now be the only operating J.A.P./DTZ in a Morgan in the United States.

The five Three-Wheelers participated in the Prewar Sports and Race Group with such machines as Fords, Wolseleys, Lagondas, Mercers, BMW's, Alfa-Romeos, Bugattis, and several specials. The Morgan Three-Wheelers placed in the middle of the group and provided excitement for the spectators with their keen competition among themselves and the Lagondas and Fords. Allen Naille quickly slipped in front of the other Morgans while Spence Young and E. Alan Moss swapped positions numerous times during the race. Those participating included:

This year we missed participation by Californian Gary Byrd's 1933 Super Sports and Chris Towner's F2, both of whom raced here last year. Gary Byrd was in Europe during this race and Chris Towner attended the race to dispense invaluable support and advice to the other Three-Wheelers but didn't drive—it's hard to have the car transported over 2000 miles from Massachusetts for a week of excitement.

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1996 Monterey Historic Race Results

The Morgans at Monterey competed in a field of 30 cars in Group 2A which was won by a 1939 BMW 328 S. Four of the five Morgan Three-Wheelers at the race meet finished. The highest placed Three-Wheeler finisher was Allen Naille who placed 18th over all. Within the marque, competition was hot and heavy as all four Trikes completed 8 laps, about 18 miles. In order of their finish, the Morgan Three-Wheelers were: Naille, Ayers, Young, and Moss.

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Tech Tips From Across the Pond

by Clarrie Coombes

(Editor's note: I had a nice letter from the legendary Clarrie Coombes the other day which included an F2 booklet and some Tech Tips which seem applicable on both sides of the Atlantic. To quote Clarrie...)

A few comments on this (booklet)... Connected three wheel brakes were found to be rather dangerous and Morgans dropped them in 1938. If they were adjusted to operate efficiently at low speeds there was too much rear brake at high speeds. If they were adjusted to work at high speeds, there was nothing at low speeds. Sometime in the middle thirties Mr. Morgan advised people to disconnect them.

F-Type gearboxes... are notorious for leaking oil. Many have lost the teeth of their worm wheel for lack of oil—I did forty years ago.

Take notice of the sheet metal structure of the front frame cross head where the diagonal tie-rods connect. They commonly crack and if not dealt with the bottom cross tube may break away.

A soft rear tyre will steer the Morgan from the rear, erratically. The recommended 25 lbs is OK for a lone driver but with a passenger aboard, 30 lbs is really necessary if you intend to travel fast. I keep my rear tyre with at least 30 lbs but if I am carrying a passenger and have a load of junk in the back ( I have cupboards behind my seat), I push it up to about 35 lbs. (I have a 1500 cc GT Ford engine in my F-Type which , if pushed very hard, will creep up to close to 100 mph.)

Clarrie goes on to note that he visited the States in 1980 and...

...I spent some time in Michigan and Indiana where I met about ten three wheeler Morganists, then drove an F4 down to Florida, about 1500 miles in three days driving, with a day's rest in between. Unfortunately, 14 miles from my destination in Fort Lauderdale, the rear tyre blew out and I found myself traveling down the freeway, underneath the upturned Morgan at about 55 miles an hour. I was damaged but not really badly and was soon about again.

I then went to Canada... and after a couple of weeks drove down to north California to meet up with the Morgan group around San Jose and Saratoga where I stayed a week using a borrowed F-Type.

I still drive Morgans daily. I have two: a 1938 F Super and a 1934 Super Sports with 1100 cc J.A.P. watercooled OHV engine. These are my only means of transport and have been for nearly half a century.

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