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North American Trike Issue #3

INDEX:  |||A Personal Story|||Trike Tips |||Breakerless Ignition|||Reinventing the Wheel|||Clarrie's Corner ||| |||Rebuilding Report 3|||     GO TO North American Trike


A Personal Story

Bob Macintyre

I was a junior in High School and already well on my way to becoming an auto enthusiast (read "nut"). I bought magazines when I could afford them and I splurged (75) on a copy of True's Automobile Yearbook for 1953. Among the great articles it contained was one by Ken Purdy titled Three Wheels Are Enough. It convinced my impressionable young mind that a Morgan Trike would be a whole lot of fun... I never forgot that article, and in fact, still have the magazine.

Though it seems like yesterday, some of it is rather historic now. One of the photographs is identified as a "current model," our Founder was still with us, and Purdy wrote of him:

"Mr. H.F.S. Morgan is in his seventy-third year just now, and shows no sign of a wish to retire. His sons run the Malvern factory, but twice a week he hops into his Bentley and runs the 120 miles from his home to the factory at a good clip, usually hitting a true 100 MPH somewhere along the route. In his time, Mr. Morgan has owned a good number of Rolls-Royce and Rolls-Royce-built Bentley automobiles. 'Next to a Morgan,' he likes to say, 'a Rolls-Royce is as good a car as you can buy.'"

Another of the pictures shows "one of the few US owned trikes running a California hill climb." I wonder who it was?

By 1962, I was married and had a couple of kids, but my desire to own a funny old car was as strong as ever, and I stumbled across a 1926 Stutz sedan. (It was on a Studebaker dealer's used car lot!) It was a full classic and had a wonderful overhead-cam straight eight engine. It ran strong, but it was so huge. Restoring the body seemed an awesome job and the car just got put away for a long time. In 1974 I met a man who made his living just by knowing who was looking for what and he immediately started pressuring me to sell him the Stutz. (Sample conversation... Him: "Boy, did I get a great deal on a Baldwin 4-6-2." Me: "You mean you bought a locomotive?" Him: "Yeah! I know this guy who has a ton of money....") I really had no idea what the Stutz was worth and I finally put him off by telling him that it was easy to sell an antique car, but difficult to buy one, and that I would not part with the Stutz until I had found something to replace it.

When he asked what I wanted to replace it, I told him I wanted a J.A.P. engined Morgan Three-Wheeler. He threw his hands in the air, walked off in disgust, and that was the last time we talked about the Stutz for almost two years. After that conversation, I subscribed to both Cars & Parts and Hemmings Motor News, partially to see if there were any Morgan Trikes out there and partially to try to find out what the Stutz was really worth.

The first issue of Hemmings I received had no ads for Morgan Trikes for sale, but no less than three from people who were looking for one! I knew it was going to be tough, and it was nearly two years before I hit pay dirt.

The seller was a man in Philadelphia who had two cars and a ton (almost literally) of parts that he insisted on selling as a lot. He turned out to be a fascinating man who lived with his wife in a 17th century house, and largely in a 17th century way! His 1938 SS MX4 (EUF784) had been his daily use car until rather recently. The 1935 SS J.A.P. (F03207) had been purchased sight unseen from across the pond and was little more than a parts car. Not long before, his wife had simply refused to get groceries in something she had to crank. With considerable frustration, he had decided to get rid of all the Morgan stuff, and buy his wife something more civilized. When I was there, she was driving a Mark V Jaguar! I liked what I saw and a price was determined, but I was not certain I could raise the money, and said I would call him in a couple of days.

I went with all due haste to my friendly neighborhood Credit Union (I was on their board of directors) and determined that they would lend me the money, but would need Ohio titles to both cars. The Ohio Department of Motor Vehicles would issue titles, but only after the cars had been inspected in Ohio for verification of serial numbers, an effort to reduce the number of stolen cars brought into Ohio. In order to get the cars to Ohio, I had to give the seller his money, and of course, to get the money, I had to have Ohio titles! Talk about a "Catch 22!"

The solution went something like this, I took out four loans. 0ne was an unsecured signature loan, and the others were on the Stutz, a Volvo that was my daily driver at the time, and my household furnishings. Two of them were 30 day single payment loans! The proceeds of these four loans gave me enough to pay the man in Philadelphia and get the cars home. The next step was the inspection, but I had no idea whether the numbers were correct or not, or for that matter, where to look for them. I brought home number and letter stamps from work, and carefully stamped D1358 in a likely spot on the chassis of the 1935, and D1837 in the same spot on the 1938.

The next day, the inspector came to my home and verified that they were the right numbers. I was then able to get Ohio titles. The deputy registrar I dealt with decided that in Ohio a Trike is a car if the single wheel is in the rear, and a motorcycle if the single wheel is in front! When I took the titles to the Credit Union, they approved the loan on the Morgans, and the money was used to pay off the four loans mentioned above... well within the 30 days. The money I owed on the Morgans was largely paid off when I sold the Stutz—to the man who had been interested two years before, but for a lot more money than he had offered at that time. Whew!

The story of the trip to get the Morgans was in the Second Quarter 1976 Newsletter of the old USA Group: Since there was 400 miles of interstate between me and the cars, it was really desirable to get them both in one trip. I found a trailer that I suspect had been built to curry three motorcycles that seemed perfect for one, and borrowed a Chevy van that I hoped I could get the other into. It did prove possible, but required removing both wings, getting one front wheel in with the rear well to one side, and then straightening up and going on in.

The van had a C.B. radio in it which we were eager to play with. When we started back with the 1938 on an open trailer, the chatter hardly ever stopped. I don't think any trucker passed in either direction who didn't make some comment about our strange cargo. Some who noticed our antenna would ask us about it. "Hey two tone van... What the Sam Hill is that thing behind you?" Sometimes we told them. Sometimes we didn't. Often they would tell a buddy about it. "Hey Chicken Lips. There's an old race car up here. I think its a Bugatti!" We let him keep on thinking so. We were often used as a landmark. "Hey Boll Weevil. Did you pass that grain ricer yet?" (Those born north of the Mason-Dixon line read "green racer.") Some of the comments had us in stitches:

"OK green van, I give up! What is it"

"Its a 1938 Morgan Super Sports."

"No kidding! Wait till I tell my brother-in-law! He has a sports car too. He drives a Camero!"

I immediately joined the Morgan Three-Wheeler Club in the UK, as well as the USA Group, which at the time had its own newsletter. There, I learned of another Morgan Trike in Lorain, Ohio, and I soon made the acquaintance of Tony Gayoso. My first ride in a real live Trike was in his Beetleback.

In February of 1980, Vic Hyde announced in the USA Group Newsletter that he intended to host a gathering of the faithful at his home in Niles, Michigan. He was contemplating a move to Florida, which would involve whittling down his fantastic collection of three-wheeled vehicles, and wanted to have a get-together before that happened.

In case Vic and his collection were insufficient attraction, he also intended to have Clarrie Coombes there for the event! It all came off as planned, in spite of a lot of rain. If memory serves (other attendees please correct me!) there were 8 Morgan Trikes there, and by the end of the weekend, 7 of them were running. In addition, there were BSA's Reliants, Bonds, Ariels, Messerschmits, plus a Davis, Tempo, and lots of prototypes and one off's that I don't recall the names of. I have pictures of one that had been built for Elvis Presley, powered by a Fiat 00 drive train in the rear. Vic said it was just as fast as it looked! Vic and Clarrie were not the least of the attractions. Vic and Tony Gayoso both wrote reports of the event for Volumes 2&3, 1980 USA Group Newsletter. It was soon after this get-together that Vic and Clarrie decided to drive two of the Three-Wheelers to Florida. It was on that fateful trip that Clarrie rolled MVW816, the F4 that Vic had purchased from Clarrie many years before. Some of the scenes that will always live in my memory of that weekend fire follow.

Terry and Larry Hugenin brought a JAP engined Sports two seater that had not run in many years. Clarrie gave it a cursory glance and assured them that it would be running before the weekend was over... and it was! Clarrie assumed that after such a long time, the carburettor would have "gone wonkie," and proceeded to dismantle and clean it. He soon had a small crowd of appreciative onlookers, and conducted an impromptu seminar on the subject. At certain points, he would actually quote Amal part numbers from memory! Amazing!

Since there was no easy way to crank the Hugenin car, the first attempt to start it involved pushing. It succeeded only in starting a small fire, which was extinguished when an individual who shall remain nameless threw dirt and sand on it. The second attempt was towing it behind Vic's F4, and by Crikey, it fired and ran!

Doug Redmond was there with an SS MX4 that was a national first prize winner. It was virtually perfect, and I can easily understand his reluctance to actually drive it, exposing it to all that can result. At noon on Saturday, it was decided to head for the local Burger King. Doug was not inclined to drive his Mog, and nobody blamed him.... But when he saw no less than five snorting away from Vic's, he couldn't resist the temptation, and he drove off after them. It was a sight we all enjoyed.

I had a good friend in Muncie, Indiana who I had told about the gathering at Vic's. While he was partial to Berkeleys (anyone remember them?) he was also eager to see running Morgan Trikes. He is also partial to Burger King, and pulled in to get something to eat before hunting up Vic's. Can you imagine his amazement to find no less than six beautiful Morgans parked in their lot? It was a scene he will not soon forget.

I recall being puzzled to find at least one Morgan engine that had an external oil line running to only one valve. That didn't surprise me until I realized that it was the intake valve! It seemed to me that since the exhaust valve gets all the grief, it would be the one that was lubricated if only one was.

When I asked Clarrie about it, he was stumped. I think he said something like, "I've seen this before. I know there's a reason. Give me a few minutes."

It wasn't long before he had the explanation: It seems that proper Englishmen pride themselves on being able to achieve good "tickover," which is the ability of an engine to idle very slowly. With a little slop between the intake valve and its guide, air would be drawn in at low speed that would lean out the mixture and cause the engine to miss or quit. The oil was not supposed to lubricate anything, but simply to fill the gap so that the engine would continue to run at lower speeds. (Clarrie, do I remember that correctly?)

Vic had an assortment of buildings, each filled with treasures. One was a rather large building as garages go, that had a single overhead door in the middle of the front wall. When you stepped inside, you found that there was a "mezzanine" around three sides of the building! It was a beefy shelf about four feet off the floor, and there were cars sitting on it! Mind you, they were diminutive cars, but cars just the same. The secret was what looked like the front of a fork lift which was mounted on a platform on casters. There was an electric motor and hydraulic pump to run the forks up and down. He could push a car onto this platform, push it to where he wanted it, run it up to the level of the "shelf," and then push the car off. Just a sample of Vic's amazing ingenuity.

Vic also pulled out the Tempo, a rather large three-wheeled truck which I believe was powered by a two-stroke motor which was mounted on the front "fork" so that it moved with the powered front wheel when you steered. Mounted on this truck was a calliope, which Vic played for us. I have a picture of him standing beside it which I treasure.

Vic Hyde turned out to be a wonderful man. Clarrie Coombes was a jewel, and an amazing fount of knowledge. It was great to meet other Morgan people who were all warm and friendly. It will probably be my best Morgan memory until such time as I can fire up one of my own. Let's hear it for regional gatherings!

--END--


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Trike Tips

by Fred Sisson

(Editor's note: Down in Norcross Georgia Fred Sissons finally has his F-Special on the road!  I just gotta see this car!)

I spent an hour at the boneyard yesterday and gathered the components for juice brakes myself. I plan to use Spitfire as they are cheap and about the right size. Traffic and the nutty drivers in the Atlanta 'burbs is too nuts to drive in without good stopping ability. Even though I leave plenty of stopping room there is always someone sliding into my "space" and I gotta drop back again—just too dangerous!

I hope to make the conversion a quick and simple installation so that it could be switched back in a couple of hours.

I found a heavy washer will press right in the hole in the Spitfire backing plate. Weld it in and the plate fits on the Mog axle. Weld a piece of keystock on the backing plate for a locator. Bore the center of the drum to match the Morgan, drill four holes (two fit already) and the drum will bolt on. That's the plan so far... I'll also weld closed the Spitfire bolt holes that are not used.

Not sure of the master cylinder yet.

I am using the rear brakes as I don't think that I need the complication of dual cylinders. The single cylinder should be better than the Mog mechanicals.

These are my plans... we'll see.

* * * * *

I have been driving the Trike off and on for a few weeks now. Got front fenders, PF700 lights, SuperSports emblems. Lots of detailing that will probably go on for several months.

The clutch slips so I can't punch it, but it seems to be plenty fast enough to keep up with traffic. It's probably best that I can't abuse it at the moment, gives things a chance to settle in, and probably a better break-in for the motor.

It starts in an instant, idles smooth and exhibits few vices. I really want to put the new clutch in but don't want to stop driving it!

The conversion to juice brakes was a snap. Spitfire rear brakes are the same diameter as the Morgan, however the Morgan drums would have to have part of the lip turned off of them to fit the backing plates. I didn't want to screw up the original brakes, so I turned the center out of Spitfire drums to fit the Morgan hubs- simple job. The backing plates have a 2" hole and a 7/8" washer fit right into the hole. I MIG'd it in and welded a piece of 1/2" key stock to fit the Morgan sliders. I used a few spacers on the axle to set the drum out the proper distance to match the backing plate.

The Master cylinder is a 5/8" Girling. I made a simple spacer and it bolts right to the crossmember. They work great, however I wish that I could find a master cylinder with a 1/2" piston. This would reduce the pedal effort a bit.

In between times (midnight to 4 AM) I have completed The Morgan Driver's Bedside Reader... finally! The first batch that I had went in a day! Got more coming. This is the idea book for Morgan four-wheeler drivers. Tell your four-wheeler friends. The price is $50 US with a guarantee that they must find it the best book on living with a Morgan or I don't want them to keep it.

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Breakerless Ignition

by Pete Olson

As a new (since 1991) Trike owner in the US I have been very limited as to knowledge and background regarding the proper care and feeding of my 1932 Super Sport (WM7596). Most of my knowledge has been gleaned from Alec Knight and the 14 years worth of Bulletin back issues that came with the Trike.

After rebuilding the chassis one winter and rebuilding the JAP LTOWZ the next, I finally got on the road. The only problem was; the engine itself was strong but the ignition system was weak. The standard points-type ignition was a source of several problems: First, the parts in the United States are made of unobtainium and, second, the clearance between the distributor and the retaining boss on the crankcase was worn to the point that both the gap and dwell was affected by normal vibration and when the manual advance and retard was used which caused very uneven performance.

After researching alternatives with anyone that would contribute, Fred Sisson a MogSouth member from Atlanta, showed me a Pertronix, Hall effect, ignition system of the type that is used on VWs. This unit relies on magnetic polarity to switch current to the coil.

Functionally, the unit works as follows: A sensor is placed near the breaker cam so that there is a maximum of .050 air gap between the cam and sensor. At the point at which the points would break a magnet is substituted. When the North pole of the magnet is sensed by the unit, a current is sent to the coil and the spark plug fires. Approximately 90 degrees after this point another magnet with its south pole in position is fitted. When this is sensed by the unit the current is shut off. In this way the coil is not over stressed due to the long "on time" created by a two cylinder 60 degree twin. This configuration is called a Latching Hall effect sensor. Since a magnet triggers the unit and an air gap is required between the magnet and the sensor the sloppiness of the distributor really is not a problem.

I called Pertronix in California and spoke to Neil in their R and D department. He was very helpful and seemed interested in my problem. They sent several dummy configurations for me to trial fit to my distributor. In the end it was decided that the best unit for my engine was a 4 magnet inverted, latching module. This may seem like gibberish but a picture is worth a thousand words.

In fitting the unit, I decided rather than to mount the magnets directly on the cam lobes I would build a replacement for the distributor rotor. This configuration would allow fine tuning of the spark timing and would not ruin the cam itself. I chose aluminum for the magnet holder because it is non magnetic and because I just happened to have a chunk the right size lying around. Plastic would be just as good.

After mounting the Hall unit on the distributor base. I began to set up the ignition timing itself. As a starting point I set the points as accurately as I could then marked the cam lobes at the precise point at which the points opened. (With this system you can change ignition to what ever you wish very easily.) After checking these dimensions with a degree wheel, they were transferred to my magnet mounting ring. I filed grooves to hold the magnets at the proper angles and mounted the magnets in place with 5 minute two part epoxy. I found out later that the epoxy isn't quite strong enough to cope with the centrifugal force and vibration. After losing spark to one cylinder due to the magnet flying off I secured the unit with shrink tubing. That has proved more than adequate.

Because this unit replaces the rotor a double ended coil must be used. The electrical system must also be converted to 12 volts.

To time the spark is very simple:

  1.  Remove both spark plugs and with wires attached, ground them on their respective cylinder heads.
  2.  Loosen the point cam from its taper.
  3.  Set the driver side piston to the BTDC position you wish.
  4.  With the ignition on, rotate the cam on its taper until the spark plug fires.
  5.  Lock down cam at that point. If you used the right cam lobe you are timed properly.

The manufacturer of the unit I used is:

  • Pertronix 818-331-4801 FAX 818-967-1054
  • P.O. Box 2249
  • Covina CA 91722

Shipping address:

  • 1268 East Edna Place
  • Covina CA 91724

The part nomenclature is: Inverted Module W/onan HC on top. This unit is used on a Prestolite 2 cylinder engine. Unit must be supplied with 4 magnets Part No. 1522. The price in 1991 was $77.60. So far I have been running this system for 3 years with no problems. Both starting and drivability have been much improved.

Good Luck!

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Reinventing the Wheel

by Harris Hanser

I drive a three wheeled vehicle that, to a casual observer, resembles a 1939 Morgan Supersports. On closer examination one familiar with the real thing notices quite a few significant differences: The steering wheel is on the left, the front suspension is not sliding pillar, the foot controls are "conventional," brake, clutch, and accelerator pedal cluster, four speed with reverse transmission, and the engine is Moto-Guzzi—a feature my vehicle shares with the Triking that came out several years after my project began.

I have attempted to duplicate the 1939 Morgan in appearance based primarily on literature that I've accumulated since 1952 within the constraints of using readily available, and therefore relatively inexpensive, mechanical components when possible. My car gets driven about 1000 miles a year. Here in northern Ohio the driving season for an open car is from May to October. In addition to leisure jaunts, I drive it to work on occasion, (about 7 miles of mostly rural roads) but it has to share the "good" days with a 1976 BMW boxer twin bike.

The story begins almost 50 years ago when I first became aware of the existence of these intriguing little machines as a result of a short story about Morgan Three-Wheelers by Ken Purdy (a prolific automotive writer of the time) in a 1948 St Louis Globe-Democrat This Week Magazine supplement. Next, a 1952 True Magazine article by the same author titled "Three Wheels are Enough" rekindled the desire to experience the mystique of driving on three wheels.

Military service in Europe in the mid-fifties allowed me to visit England and actually see a Morgan Three-Wheeler parked on a residential street! In addition, the three wheel Messerschmitt and (almost 3 wheeler) BMW/Isetta—plus a strange little 3 wheel utility truck called a Hansa—were fairly common in Germany where I was stationed. Something about the Morgan Three-Wheeler intrigued me from the first time I learned about them. More modern three wheel designs such as the Messerschmitt, Triking, and "space ship" projects don't turn me on. Therefore, I zeroed in on the 1939 Supersports.

The fact that I went for a scratch built Supersports replica and not a real Morgan is the result of my background and several conclusions that I reached years ago, not all of which have stood the test of time.

I've been involved with airplanes (full size and radio control giant scale) since the 1960's. In the full size airplane world, replicas of older, rare, or no longer existing types are fairly common and well accepted. For example, the Gee-Bee racing plane replicas now flying have gotten much more exposure in recent years than the ill-fated originals. And somebody is actually building several ME 263 WW II jet fighters.

In the final analysis what I ended up with is a 1:1 scale model of a Morgan Three-Wheeler! The project used the Morgan's wheelbase, tread width wheel and tire size, engine placement, seating arrangement , and boom contours as shown, but made a few concessions to take advantage of parts availability and economies that would get the project on the road in a reasonable time. (I thought, two years and a couple thousand dollars... Wrong!)

Which brings me to a bit of philosophy regarding why the Morgan appeals to me and why I ended up with a look-alike instead of the real thing.

Having been exposed to several machine design courses on my way to becoming a mechanical engineer, I came to realize that sometimes there is more than one solution to a problem but some solutions are more elegant than others.

I guess that because life for me started in the 1930's and machines from that era form my earliest recollections, they hold an attraction for me that is missing from later designs, hence the appeal of the 1930's vintage Morgan Super Sports. A 1931 Model A Ford coupe which I've owned since college days helps meet this need. As a matter of fact, the old car buffs that I hang around with have noticed that the tendency to favor the car types of our youth is an ongoing phenomenon. With a few exceptions, when it comes to preference for "older" cars, guys that were youngsters during the US muscle car era seem to favor that type to the exclusion of most other kinds.

So there I was, enamoured by the Morgan Three-Wheeler design but being informed in all the articles about how rare (read expensive) they are. My solution: build one from scratch! The most important piece fell into place about 1970 when I ran across a two page spread in a magazine showing three view "factory drawings" plus details of a 1939 Morgan Supersports. This would provide me with enough information to begin my project someday. Unfortunately, as it turned out, there were some inaccuracies in the drawings and a major lack of information regarding a few critical details.

The final catalyst for the project occurred in 1981 when I missed an opportunity to buy a little motorcycle engined 1960 Honda coupe. This was Honda's first attempt at cars and was sold by their motorcycle dealers for a year or so. Very few ever got as far east as Ohio. I rationalized that if I was going to have a motorcycle engined car, for what I would have spent on that Honda (including renovation) I could have the one I really wanted, if I built it myself. Besides the Honda had too may wheels!

The three wheel syndrome and preference for older designs carries over to my other passion—airplanes. Although it's true that most (light) airplanes have three wheels, the majority of the newer ones get it backwards, one wheel in front, two in back. I belong to the vanishing breed of taildragger pilots, having owned two factory built taildraggers over the years, plus one homebuilt under construction. One big difference though, taildragger airplanes steer from the rear so there is a limit to the similarities in ground handling. Except, now that I think about it, some of the recent discussion in the MTWC Bulletin regarding loss of control due to rear wheel blowouts in a three wheeler (causing the rear wheel to "steer" with sometimes unexpected results) have some commonality with a tail dragger airplane phenomenon called ground looping!

My reason for building my three wheeler was the challenge it afforded as well as the fact that it would permit me to experience the sensation of driving on three wheels. Continuing to own a 1931 Model A Ford coupe that I've had since 1952 (originally my work and college car) my philosophy regarding cars is pretty firmly established, I maintain them in "go" condition, not "show" condition.

The order of priorities for the three wheeler project were as follows:

  1. Safety and Dependability.

  2. Cost.

  3. Similarity to the original design.

  4. Use of the same materials (wood, metal, etc.) as used on the original whenever possible—no fiberglass!

My biggest disappointment in this project was the cost overrun beyond the original target of $2,000—considering inflation and the time span of the project, that would probably be $4,000 today. But dividing the cost by the elapsed number of years since the project began results in a nominal cost per year for something that substitutes for counting sheep at night.

In retrospect, although I started out by paying $500 for a 10 year old motorcycle which I thought would provide many of the parts needed to build my Trike (engine, transmission, drive shaft, rear running gear, and gas tank—to name the main components that I was able to incorporate into my project), that original investment turned out to be the tip of the iceberg to date. And the project isn't finished yet! Some of the asking prices for three wheelers I've seen advertised in the Morgan Three-Wheeler Club Bulletin aren't that much different than what I have in mine (although I've also seen them asking four or five times as much for concours condition).

I didn't think my welding skills were up to the task of fabricating something as critical as the chassis, so I arranged for a skilled welder/machinist that had just retired from our company at that time (1982) to build a chassis based on my design which had been extrapolated from the "factory drawings" mentioned earlier.

The first set-back occurred when my welder/machinist dropped out of the picture due to ill heath after only the modification of VW steering knuckles to accommodate 4.00 x 18 motorcycle wheels had been accomplished. The project was actually stalled for about four years because we kept hoping he was going to get better, but that didn't happen. With the help of my brother-in-law, we then located an experienced welder (temporarily unemployed due to a labor dispute at his company), loaded up all the pieces in his pickup truck and moved them to his garage, where in two week-ends and a few evenings we had the chassis on wheels!

The project was then moved to my house where I completed the chassis, installed the engine, and made the wooden pieces by scaling up the parts shown on the "factory drawings."

Installation of the steering system at this time proved interesting. I used a Beetle steering wheel and column and a VW Rabbit rack and pinion. The arms of the Beetle steering knuckles are positioned such that the rack and pinion assembly needed to be in a location that would route it through the engine crankcase! The solution was to have both steering knuckle arms cut off and tig welded (by a weld shop) upside down to the opposite hand steering knuckle. This places the rods at the same elevation as the rack and pinion ends.

Following are some of the ways my Three-Wheeler differs from a Morgan.

1. The use of a VW Beetle torsion bar front suspension with the top torsion bar cut out places the centerline height of the Moto-Guzzi engine's crankshaft at the same elevation as the Morgan's Matchless. According to my calculations, the front end weight on my car is approximately 1/2 that of a VW Beetle (468 vs 825 pounds), so the single torsion bar is not called upon for significantly different performance than it was designed for. As a redundant source of suspension, I used spring over shocks which also helps the front suspension look a little more Morgan-like.

2. The motorcycle that provided most of the main parts was a 1972 Moto-Guzzi Eldorado 850 cc. This bike was chosen because it had a V-twin engine, transmission, and drive shaft, all pointing in the right direction. I kept the transmission up front because it doesn't take up much space and things disappear from the light of day at that point anyway. Surprisingly, this doesn't affect the fore & aft location of the engine cylinders compared to a Matchless since the original design has some "empty space" behind the engine anyway. I had also considered a Honda CX-500 motorcycle which has the same arrangement (even bought one and rode it as a bike for the duration of this building project). But I decided in favor of the Moto-Guzzi because of its larger displacement and the fact that it is air cooled compared to the water cooled Honda.

3. A major decision, based on convenience and my perception of safety more than any other reason, was making my car left hand drive—maybe the only Morgan Three-Wheeler of this configuration. Another reason for this decision was the fact that my drive shaft doesn't run down the centerline of the car but is offset to the right about 3" to align it with the bike's dive shaft located on the right side of the rear wheel. The driver's compartment on the left side is, therefore, about 6" wider than the passenger's. This leaves more room for the driver controls (a VW Beetle pedal cluster) which, even so, barely fits in the space available. This design change was accomplished by "flipping" the top view to obtain a mirror image. The (right) passenger's side has the "coal scuttle" cowl behind the windshield.

4. The drive shaft operates in the open as compared to the original's torque tube arrangement. This is a significant change since my chassis has only the two bottom tubes whereas the Morgan uses the torque tube as the third member of a triangular cross section chassis. The tubes are seamless high alloy steel with diameter and wall determined by bending moment calculations based on just two tubes.

5. The instrument panel is a complete departure from the 39 Supersports two-instrument, oval shaped panel. I went with the aircraft philosophy of a full set of instruments: tachometer, cylinder head temperature, volts, amps, and speedometer.

One unexpected problem was the drive shaft—the single most expensive component in the project. A local specialty shop that makes drive shafts for off road vehicles reluctantly agreed to build it per my drawing with no guarantees other than it would be balanced. The first try was long—about five ft.—but light, these things are made out of tubing that resembles exhaust pipe stock. It had 1/2 of a U-joint at each end with a female spline at the transmission end and a splined shaft at the aft end to mate with the Moto-Guzzi stub drive shaft.

Early road trials indicated that the Moto-Guzzi stub shaft to the rear wheel was not happy being connected to such a long shaft. So, back to the shaft shop where I had the shaft cut into two pieces and modified to accept a Chevrolet truck carrier bearing which is inserted about 3" ahead of the original aft end. Now the main drive shaft ran from the Moto-Guzzi transmission (up front, remember) to the carrier bearing (under the seat).

Except for a little frame flexing which is accommodated by spine joints, the front drive shaft now ran between fixed bearing points. This worked fine and was the way I ran the car for a few years until the Moto-Guzzi transmission centering spring that keeps the shift lever centered between shifts broke. I decided this was the time to add reverse gear which was accomplished by inserting a Ford Mustang transmission up alongside the driver's leg so that the shift lever ends up at the normal location for shift levers.

The transmission is mounted on steel structural members that connect to the chassis tubes with the upper ends attached to the gas tank support piece. This change, of course, required two new drive shafts—one fore and one aft of the transmission. The reverse gear is much appreciated after years of having to get out and push whenever I needed to back up although I realize this is how it was with the early Morgans. The down side is a whining noise in the driver's compartment and about 50 pounds more weight.

The Moto-Guzzi transmission is still there—always in high gear—I had to keep it because it also incorporates the clutch. Theoretically, I now have 20 speeds forward and five in reverse although the linkage to the Moto-Guzzi transmission no longer exists, so it can't be shifted from the drivers seat.

The radiator shell was the main departure from my policy to use the same materials in my project as were used for a given component of the original. I was unable to find a metal source for the dome shaped upper portion of the shell (the only compound curve other than the fenders—or wings—of the entire car). So, in true model airplane fashion I carved it out of wood. In that respect, my car may have more wood than a real Morgan.

Installing the 22 gauge steel skin on the wooden framework turned out to be less of a challenge than I thought although the present skin is on my list of things to be replaced. I made patterns from large pieces of cardboard (about the thickness of breakfast cereal boxes) that I obtained from my company's blueprint department. At that time, light sensitive blueprint paper came in packages with a sheet of protective cardboard top and bottom which was otherwise thrown away. Fortunately, my project got in under the wire because prints are generated by computer now and we don't buy paper that way anymore. When satisfied with the fit, the cardboard patterns were transferred to steel with 1/8" copper tube soldered to the edges to simulate a beaded edge.

Due to a misinterpretation of information, I originally had the top panels overlapping the sides sans the beading at the belt line—seemed logical from the standpoint of shedding rain. This is in the process of being changed, one side now has the beading (3/8" copper tubing split lengthwise down the center and soldered in place) and seems to replicate the appearance of the '39 Morgan.

The windshield frame was made from many pieces cut to shape from 11 gauge steel, brazed together and chrome plated. The final frame reasonably duplicates a '39 barrelback's windshield although there was an intermediate configuration that was patterned after a mysterious Morgan picture showing a car that looks like a '39 Supersports with doors! My windshield panels are Lexan. I dispensed with the windshield wiper. Without a top, I try to avoid driving in the rain. Besides, motorcycles don't have wipers! Since it is licensed in Ohio as a motorcycle, nobody has hassled me on this point.

This is an ongoing project, it probably never will be "finished." Plans for the immediate future call for installing the steel fenders (wings) that I obtained last year from England—all this time I've been running "open wheels." I was a little apprehensive about what Ohio authorities might think about that but a Harley chopper rider assured me that he had been riding for a long time with no front fender and nobody objected.

As a matter of fact, I've seen plenty of photos of Morgans running (racing?) that way in England. Ironically, I've always had a rear fender under the barrel back where you can't see it since the rear portion of the Moto-Guzzi from the beginning of the driveshaft on back was welded intact to the rear of the frame tubes.

Driving in the rain without top, windshield wiper, and fenders isn't as bad as one might think as long as it's a summer rain. I've also done some preliminary research into duplicating the Morgan Three-Wheeler folding top, but information on this subject is sparse. Very few good photos actually exist.

As previously mentioned, I've also considered having a custom body shop make new steel skins with beads. The brakes, as on the originals, have gone through many iterations. They are all cable operated. Pushing on the brake pedal moves a lever on the other side of the floorboard which has cables connected to it at two different distances from the pivot point; closer for the front wheel cables, farther for the rear brake cable which then is routed to a spring loaded lever at the rear brake. This can be adjusted to provide more or less pull on the rear brake lever for a given amount of movement of the pedal. In addition, the rear brake can be independently applied with a floor mounted emergency brake lever. Normal braking involves just pressing the brake pedal. At best, braking is weak—about on par with my Model A Ford's mechanical brakes—but the Morgan tends to be driven more aggressively so I also tend to drive a little more defensively as on a motorcycle. Hydraulic brakes may be in the future.

In the farther future, I've also thought about doing an engine swap—maybe go Harley Davidson. I wonder if there's ever been a Harley powered Morgan Three-Wheeler? I've never heard or seen pictures of one although I know a lot of different engines were used over the years.

In summing it up, I've enjoyed the project which has occupied so many years and required so much head scratching. I enjoy driving the car at moderate speeds—the brakes are definitely my car's weakest link—and have, on occasion had it up to about 70 mph in traffic. I have immense respect for those who race the Morgan Three-Wheeler. In my case, I believe getting there was at least half the fun!

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Clarrie's Corner

by Clarrie Coombes

Issue number 2 of the North American Trike is as good, if not better. than issue number 1. The style is very attractive and I will try to copy some of it in my own small literary efforts. I have to admit that some of the American vernacular has me scratching my head, and, of course, American/English spelling is often a bit different from ours

Paul Massnick's story was nicely told and for me it brought back happy memories of my visit to the U.S.A. I can confirm everything he says about the Morgan and Vic Hyde. I first met Vic in the early sixties when he put an advertisement in 'ROAD and TRACK' calling on American three wheel Morganeers to get together to form a Morgan Club. I wrote to him giving the names of all the Americans I knew who had Trikes and telling him about the M.T.W.C.

He replied saying, "Why the heck should I start another club if you already have one. I'll join yours. For the next twenty years he was a regular visitor to us and on one occasion in the 1960's, I entered him as the driver of my J.A.P. Morgan in a race at Silverstone. When I told him, he was aghast at the idea.

"I've never driven a Morgan yet," he said, "How can I drive in a race?"

A few days practising in Essex lanes and he was ready. On the track I was his passenger and in the first few laps he was way behind the crowd. He closed the throttle on the bends. On about the fifth or sixth lap, at Copse Corner, I grabbed the throttle lever so that he couldn't close it and to his amazement we went round smoothly and very fast. Having learnt the lesson, he then began to pass the tail-enders and soon was up among the leaders. Eventually he returned to the U.S.A. with a silver cup for a second class. (Perhaps I should explain that for legal reasons these events were not called 'Races'. Officially, they were 'High Speed Trials' in which 30 laps in an hour won a first class award, and 29 laps won a second class, but can you imagine a dozen Morgans on a race track not making a 'race' of it?)

Incidentally, that was the only occasion when my J.A.P. Morgan finished a race at Silverstone. Of four previous occasions, twice I had mechanical failures and twice I crashed because I had not completely learnt the lesson that I later taught Vic—close the throttle and brake just before the corner and open it wide when you reach it. The rear wheel should drift and the inside front wheel will lift and the spectators will love it.

On another occasion when using an 'F4' with an 8 h.p. engine, I knocked out a big end so the following year I fitted an extra oil pump and an oil cooler. The pressure at speed was too high and the oil poured through the rear main bearing, into the clutch housing, out through the starter motor hole, and thence all over me.

* * * * *

When the Morgan Company decided to upgrade the 'F' type with the 10 h.p. engine they found a problem with the starter motor. The 10 as used on Ford cars has a larger diameter motor which fouls on the Morgan steering column. On some 'F 4s' this can be used if the steering column is moved in order to fit it, but on the 'F Super' it just will not fit. A starter motor similar to the 8 h.p. with an adaptor plate to pick up on the wider apart bolt holes was used. The adaptor plate was 5/8| thick so the armature spindle was made 5/8" longer. Another way to do this is to turn the Bendix pinion the other way round bringing it further away from the motor body.

* * * * *

Regarding Bert Varady's rebuilding project...

My practice when making the sheet metal shell is to mock it up with large sheets of card board, tacked to the woodwork, cutting and joining as necessary. When I am satisfied with the shape, the cardboard is removed and stuck on to the sheet metal which can then be cut to shape. This is then put on to the body frame and lashed with ropes - lots and lots of rope. The ropes are tightened by what ever means are available until the metal is a snug fit on the frame and then screwed. I always use brass screws but not plated screws. During the electrolytic process of plating, something called "hydrogen embrittlement" takes place and plated brass screws are not so strong as plain brass. When screwing into hard wood like ash, this becomes obvious very soon.

* * * * *

Spence Young's piece is good common sense, obviously learnt from experience. There are. however a couple of points I would add...

Spence's car has apparently been modified to have foot brake on the front. All three speed twin engined Morgans were manufactured with foot on the rear and hand brake on the front except some late models with Girling brakes. My second point, there is, on all unmodified three speeder front hubs, a grease seal on the inner bearing retaining ring. On models with dished backplates this is a cone shaped felt pad and on flat backplates it is a plain felt washer.

* * * * *

The model Trike that Alan Isselhard has found was common here in the 1930s...

Two of them have stood on my mantlepiece for the past forty years. Around 1950, Laurie Naisby, an early member of our club, persuaded the manufacturers to make another batch which he advertised in the 'BULLETIN'. I have, this moment, looked into my early 'BULLETINS' and found that in 1956 he had a second batch of 72 made. Some were painted and some were Chromium plated. They cost 12/6d. Earlier they were advertised at 7/6d. When I can find a moment I will write to Alan and tell him.

* * * * *

Perhaps I can add a note about the front engine bearer bar, about which Fred Sisson writes...

The earliest F types had a timing cover and a bearer bar cast in one piece. Many of these cast iron bars were soon broken by engine torque and were replaced by steel bars bolted on. These were constantly becoming loose until, towards the end of the production of the model, a much wider bearer bar was used with eight bolts securing it to the timing cover. While this was successful, the effect of engine torque would sometimes loosen the bolts which held the timing cover to the engine. As Fred says, by all means do something to take the stress off the bar and cover.

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Rebuilding Report 3

by Bert Varady

The next major step in bringing RV 9178 back to life was to repair the damage done to the chassis over the last 56 years by accidents, bad roads, weather and just plain neglect.

Before continuing, I am going to back up a little and relate a unique piece of trivia I found out while engaged in my previously mentioned letter writing campaign. I wrote to Mr. Jake Alderson, Morgan Three-Wheeler Club (MTWC) Archivist and asked if he could check the old Morgan factory records and provide me with any historical information regarding the original specifications of my Three-Wheeler. I sent him the chassis, engine, transmission and body numbers. In his reply he was sorry to report that none of those items matched company records for chassis serial number D-1642. The thought once again crossed my mind that I may have bought a "bitza" Super Sports, but really could not believe it since the car looked too original.

I wrote back and asked Mr. Alderson if he could check the records again, this time a little closer and try to determine where the engine, body and transmission came from. In his second reply he said all the numbers matched chassis number D-1645 and he was familiar with this very original car. It was owned, at that time, by Mr. Vic Price and featured prominently in several back issues of the MTWC Bulletin. After checking with Mr. Price, he concluded an error was made in the factory records at the time both cars were built. My Morgan should have been recorded as D-1645 instead of as D-1642. I have the St. Christopher medal and the stamping on it and the torque tube flange reads D-1642. I now know for sure my '36 Super Sports is an original Morgan.

Back to the chassis rebuild. Off came the practice wood body and everything else that was attached to the chassis. A thorough inspection of the tubing and each lug was carefully conducted. When you really take the time to look closely and critically at something you'd be surprised at how different it looks. I could not believe the poor condition the chassis was in.

Where to begin? Three of the front lugs holding the cross members were cracked, both of the wing support lugs were broken off (one looked like it suffered damage from a side impact collision as the tubing was also bent inward), the U-bolts holding the rear leaf springs and the front of the body to the chassis had cut deeply into the underside of the tubing, rust had eaten through portions of the tubing in several areas, the lower cross member tubes must have frequently hit the roadway as the suspension bottomed out and the passenger side must have sustained significant damage since a steel plate was welded to the underside of the tubing for reinforcement. Finally just to make matters worse, the entire chassis was twisted out of alignment.

After ordering new lugs from Mr. Colin Wilson, the chassis and lugs were then shipped to my father along with measurements and diagrams I acquired from various fellow owners, none of which had the same dimensions. I told him to work some magic on the chassis and try to get it back into a usable condition. He ended up having to retube the entire chassis. It was too far gone to save. The tubing he used had a slightly thicker wall. It made the chassis a little bit heavier, but a lot stronger.

While the chassis rebuild was underway, I decided to have the engine and transmission looked at. The gearbox was sent to Mr. John Leavens who was gracious enough to check it over for me. He reported it was in surprisingly good shape, gears were a little worn, but nothing serious. It basically needed the trunnions built up and machined in order for the fork eyes to fit nice and tight and a good cleaning. As a precaution and since the gearbox was already apart new bearings were installed. The tie bar holding the rear forks tight against the trunnions was remade and a strengthening modification, described in a back issue of the Bulletin, was added to help prevent rear fork twisting problems.

I didn't feel qualified to tackle a major engine rebuild so the air cooled Matchless, was shipped in a special built wood crate (I still have the crate should anyone need to ship an engine) to Mr. Ray Olsen for what turned out to be a two year effort. The real delay was waiting for the MTWC's new press fit fly wheels to be made and delivered. Once the engine was taken apart Ray told me overall it wasn't in too bad of shape, but... The flywheels were loose in the crank pin holes and the rear flywheel was cracked at the pin keyway. The crankshaft was out of true and, as a result, wobbled damaging the front and rear bearings and cases. The camshaft hard surfacing was gone and the oil pump showed signs of wear and it appears that, at one time, the engine must have suffered a broken rod and this damaged the cylinder spigot.

The heads were in reasonable condition and required cleaning, new valves, guides, springs, grinding of the seats, and gaskets. The cylinders had been double sleeved and were 2.5mm smaller than stock, this was corrected and they are now .020 oversize.

On to the cases! The front and rear main shaft bosses were worn very badly and needed machining. An oversize front bearing solved one problem. The rear needed boring and a metal sleeve was machined from round stock for a Torrington bearing... second problem solved.

Camshaft bearings were made as new ones could not be found. The front case was welded where cracked and then machined to accept the timing cover. End play in the camshaft followers was corrected and all rollers replaced. A new oil pump was installed. Adapters were made for the spark plugs taking them from 18mm to 14mm to allow for better selection of heat ranges and to give a 3/4 inch reach (18mm plugs have a half inch reach and could cause piston erosion). A new starter dog was installed as the original was broken at the square hole. New points and condenser from a Mazda were used after appropriate modification.

When the engine returned it looked great, and with all the new parts it was actually in better than new condition, as some might say, "bulletproof." If it weren't for Mogspares, Mr. Roger Orford and especially Mr. Ray Olsen, the old Matchless would probably still be sitting in my garage collecting dust.

Once the chassis was rebuilt and work on the engine and transmission was under way, it was time to once again get busy on the wood body, the ash one this time. Almost a year had gone by since the pine body was finished... no sense in waiting any longer, you can't make any progress if you haven't started!

Off to the lumber yard I went to hand select ash boards. Back at the wood shop I laid out the first piece and on the first cut—I repeat, on the very first cut—I made a mistake and ruined a special and expensive 11 inch wide piece of ash. Since I could no longer get two pieces from this board I had to buy another. Of course this wasn't the only board I ended up cutting wrong, but what a way to start. Making the practice body and cardboard templates really paid off. My wood working techniques had greatly improved and I better understood how the body went together. This made cutting each piece out a lot easier.

As each piece was cut out, it was stored in our spare bedroom along with all the other new and reconditioned parts. The parts were laid out on the floor (it helped not to have children) just as they would eventually go together. The entire floor was neatly covered with Morgan bits and pieces. For a long time there was more of the Morgan in the bedroom than in the garage, the only pieces that didn't make it into the bedroom were the engine, chassis, wings and body sheet metal. Julie was very tolerant.

This reminds me of something and I must once again digress a moment and relate an experience I had while attending an annual TEXMOG. One of the scheduled events was a Morgan trivia challenge. Earlier I had been showing pictures of the Three-Wheeler laid out on the bedroom floor to fellow Morgan four wheeler owners. When one of the trivia questions was read, everyone looked to me for the answer. "Which part used on the earliest three-wheeler was still being used on today's Plus 8 (nuts, bolts and screws don't count)?" Out of my shirt pocket came the pictures once again. I tried, but couldn't come up with the answer even though I had a picture of almost every part that makes up a Three-Wheeler. What's the answer? The air valve stem in the tire. I guess the reason I couldn't think of the answer was that the tires were being stored in the closet and not visible in the picture.

Back to the ash wood body. Cutting out the flat pieces was easy. Pretty soon all the pieces of ash for the body were cut out, most slightly larger than needed, I learned that from practice. When it came time to begin the assembly, I would use stainless steel wood screws and an epoxy recommended by a friend who constructed wooden, home built experimental aircraft. He said this type of epoxy has tremendous strength and dries with a little bit of flex. I know a Morgan body flexes, but it couldn't flex as much as an airplane's wings and fuselage. Seemed like the right stuff to use...

Before actually starting on the assembly, I needed to figure out how to make the steam bent pieces without using steam. After careful thought, I decided to try laminating thin strips of ash together. Wood forms for the cowl and the curved side pieces were made and long, thin strips of ash were cut, a little wider than needed. The strips were glued and clamped tightly around the forms. During the clamping process the five layers of wood strips moved a little so the uneven edges and excess epoxy would need to be trimmed to achieve to right dimension after thoroughly drying. The only way I could figure out how to trim these curved pieces to the proper width was to use a table saw. I set the fence so it would take off just a little, raised the blade up and fed the curve through like you would feed a flat piece of wood standing on end. As I look back, that wasn't the safest wood shop practice and probably could have caused myself serious injury, but it sure worked great!

The practice body was assembled in my garage and I found it very inconvenient to drive back and forth to the wood shop to cut, sand, or redo a piece. This was time consuming and a real pain. Since I was in the Air Force and had access to a fully equipped wood shop on the air base, I decided to make it easier on myself and assemble it there. One problem, the wood shop didn't have enough space to let me set up my saw horse table and leave the body there while I worked on it part time in the evenings and on weekends. The solution was to rent an indoor stall at the auto hobby shop next door to the wood shop and just run back and forth. At $10 a day for the stall and $1.50 per hour for use of the wood shop, I needed to work fast. During assembly the local newspaper heard about this guy building a wooden car and arranged for a reporter to come by for an interview and photo; a little fame and glory around town.

Drilling the steering column hole was probably my most anxious time, and I put it off as long as possible. I had read were others made elaborate jigs, etc., and still had difficulties. I decided to take a simple, direct approach. I clamped boards on both sides of the areas to be drilled through. With the help of a spotter to keep the long drill bit at close to the proper angle I drilled through the bulkhead and then through the angled board under the fuel tank. Once through these two boards I used a dowel rod to mark were the column should exit above the pedals I ended up a little bit off, but it was easily adjusted for and covered up, you'd never know it. My heart was beating like crazy as I drilled, but it turned out great. Thirty days later I had most of the wood body together and settled up my bill.

On 17 July 1994, the ash wood body returned from the wood shop. It still wasn't done, but the rest could easily be done from home. Work on the body continued off and on for almost another 6 months. The ash body then took its rightful place in the garage and the practice pine body was relegated to the patio and the elements. (I eventually gave it away to an individual hoping to someday purchase a Three-Wheeler, don't think he ever did.) The homecoming was documented with a "team" photo" the original, the practice, and the new ash bodies were lined up in the driveway. Over two years had elapsed since the old Morgan entered our life.

Things were progressing quite rapidly and motivation was high. In the next installment I'll go into more detail on the acquisition, refurbishment, and fabrication of the various individual parts and what it was like to move from Texas to Missouri just when it was time to start putting the Three-Wheeler back together. Stay tuned.

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