It was love at first sight when I finally found my vintage Bustle Back Morgan +4. In the past, I have owned an MG TD and several Jag XKE’s, but had always been enamored with the classic Morgan +4 It has always been so elusive.
Thanks to a chance meeting with Tim Kozlowski, owner of Koz’s Classics in Ottawa Lake, Michigan, I was shown pictures of a 1957 Morgan found in a garage in Parma, Ohio. It was in the estate of Jan Van Duzer who died April 27, 2010 while in the midst of restoring his deceased father’s Morgan. His father, William, had purchased the car from Car France of Cleveland in 1961 for $1,223—color black with black leather.
The car was mechanically good, but in need of some restoration. In the 1980′s William had done some restoration and painted the car British Racing Green. Jan had just recently installed new tan hides.
There was no doubt in my mind. I had to have this diamond in the rough, and Tim was the perfect one to resurrect this car since he had already restored other Morgans, including one for himself. Everything matched and was original—all I had to do was choose a color to go with the new tan interior.
Just coincidentally, my wife and I had planned a trip to London to visit our son, Brian, and his family. We left the day I took delivery of the car. When Tim heard I was going to London, he insisted that I visit the Morgan factory in MalvernLink, three hours north of London. So, I extended my stay an extra day, and Brian and I headed for the beautiful rolling hills of the Cottswall region. As we entered this quaint little village of Malvern, we could see, tucked at the end of the street, this 100-year old original Morgan factory. Every single Morgan ever built was constructed at this very site by the same Morgan family.
A tour of the factory was a walk back in time—craftsmen cutting and planning down the special ash wood for the car’s frame, artisans with tin shears cutting the sheet metal to be hammered to the wood – specialists sewing and molding the fine leather hides to the interior framework. Then after the car is totally built, it is totally disassembled and each part meticulously hand spray painted in the paint section of the factory, then reassembled. A dozen or so cars are being worked on by hand at different stages of construction at any one time in the compact factory. About 3 cars per day are completed. It takes about 5 weeks to hand build each Morgan. What a great experience—and to think that the same basic car is being built today no differently than 100 years ago – and looks basically the same as Morgans built 75 years ago.
Then things got really interesting.
Tim mentioned that while at the factory, we could possibly get a history of my car—chassis #3604. The details of every Morgan produced are meticulously recorded by the craftsmen producing the cars. Unfortunately, the historian that we were to contact was busy all day and it didn’t look as though our record search would happen.
While in the book store, Brian noticed that one of the books was authored by the gentleman we were looking for, Martyn Webb. So I decided to buy the book, and mentioned to the clerk that it would be a treat to have Martyn sign it for me. Guess who just then walked into the store! I introduced myself to him and he was more than happy to sign the book. I then asked him if he would have time to search the archives for my car #3604. Off we went with Martyn up old wooden stairs in the 100-year old factory to an office, which seemed undisturbed for the past 50 years.
Martyn found the large record book for year 1957, and there in the December entries was the handwritten record of Chassis No. 3604 – Engine No. TS 13950, gear box No. 1333 – all matching my Morgan. Then an “OH MY GOD” moment from Martyn – a complete surprise! – the color ordered was White with Blue stripe (USA Racing colors) and black leather interior. The next notation stated “Tuned Engine. Car prepared for racing” Date Dispatched Feb. 25, 1957. Martyn immediately ran to the other office and returned with a 400-page hard bound book entitled “Morgan Sports Cars – Heritage Years 1954-1960” written by Jake Alderson and Chris Chapman of England. Martyn went to page 200 and it stated the following:
“For this year’s international Sebring 12 Hour Race, to be held on Saturday, March 23rd, Joe Ferguson appears to have anticipated supporting the same two drivers who had represented the Morgan marquee in 1956, for he ordered two cars to be prepared at the Morgan factory for Mike Rothschild and John Weitz. Both cars had been fitted with strengthened front ends, presumably achieved by means of additional chassis braces from the chassis to the top of the crossheads. The car prepared for Mike Rothschild was chassis number 3610, a blue two-seater with a central white stripe. The engine was specially prepared for racing, with matched and polished ports. An aluminum bonnet and leather bonnet strap was fitted and so too were ‘Le Mans’ lamps. It was dispatched on Wednesday January 16th.
“The car for John Weitz was 3604, painted in the USA racing colours of white with a blue stripe (as in 1956). It had a tuned engine and racing tyres. Like 3610 it was fitted with black leather upholstery. On Monday January 28th it was driven to the docks for shipment to the USA, but suffered extensive damage in an accident on the way. It was returned to the Morgan factory for repairs, and was finally
dispatched on Monday February 25th.”
What a thrill to discover this unique history of my #3604 Morgan +4. Immediately, I knew what color my restored Morgan would be—what else but White with Blue Stripe and black leather interior. I had to resurrect 3604 exactly as it left the factory in Malvern 53 years ago. (Sure did like the new tan interior – Sorry Jan!)
As luck would have it, while Martyn was copying the records for me, who appeared but Charles Morgan, third generation owner of Morgan Motors. After a nice chat, we were rewarded with a great photo op—a nice bonus to a wonderful day in Malvern.
As soon as I arrived back in Toledo I immediately drove to Tim’s shop to show him my discovery. Tim, being into the racing scene all his life, was thrilled, needless to say. “Now I know why the compression registered so high when I first started the car,” exclaimed Tim. “I thought the gauge was faulty.” Tim then checked the suspension system, and sure enough, there was the track rod addition from the factory. And the accelerator was a custom “heel-toe” pedal for racing, also from the factory.
Since then I have done some research and have verified the racing history of 3604. In Jake Alderson’s book on page 208 the following paragraph reads:
“The Morgan of Norm McNamara, who lived in Boston, is particularly interesting in that it appeared to be painted in the USA racing colours (white with blue stripes), and also had the newly introduced wire wheels. We have been unable to locate this distinctive car in the Morgan factory records and wonder if it was possibly the Morgan prepared for Sebring since converted to the new wire wheels.”
Then, in conversation with Jake Alderman, he confirmed all that I have learned on 3604. He also informed me that some Morgan color photos were for sale on Ebay. Low and behold 4 of the photos were of my Morgan, still with bolt on wheels, with Gaston Andrey at the wheel.
So, how did this car end up in Cleveland, Ohio? It looks as though Fergus Motors of New York had ownership of the car from the time they ordered it in 1957. Fergus then lent the car out for various East Coast races to such famous racers as John Weitz, Dan McNamara, and Gaston Andrey. Then in 1961 Fergus sold the car to Car France in Cleveland—either Fergus or Car France repainted the car black. William Van Duzer then purchased it on 7-29-1961, as noted on the original title that came with the car. William drove the car daily during the 60′s according to his daughter Candy. He at some point painted the car British Racing Green. When he died on Nov. 16, 2003, his son Jan inherited the car, but the title stayed in William’s name. When Jan died in April 2010, he was in the midst of a minor restoration and had just completed the new tan leather seats. I am sure he would have been excited to learn of the Racing Heritage of his car.
I am thrilled and honored to carry on the resurrection of #3604 that Jan had started. As I had promised Candy, she will be the first to ride again in the Morgan that she rode in with her dad 49 years ago. I will be looking forward to the experience of watching Tim employ his expertise and craftsmanship in transforming #3604 to the original Racing Heritage that began in Malvern in 1957.
Thanks Candy, thanks Tim, and thank you Jan.
By Richard Flasck
A follow up: Here is my completed ’57 Morgan, identical to the way it left the factory for Sebring.