Morgan’s Aluminium Platform Pt 1: The GTR

You may already know that the new Plus Six is the first turbocharged, production Morgan; what you may not know is that it’s actually the fourth Morgan variant to be based on an all-aluminium platform. The Morgan Motor Company was experimenting with bonded aluminium platforms as far back as 1994 when the works team decided to re-enter modern GT racing for the first time in three decades.

     

At this point in 1994, Morgan were producing just three models: the 4/4, +4 and +8. Amazingly, each of these models was a simple variation of the steel, ladder-frame architecture from the 1936 4/4. For this reason, and among others, Morgan were scarcely considered as at the forefront of technological advancements. (The now infamous) Charles Morgan desperately wanted to change this brand image and so decided to go GT racing.

     

The birth of the GTR

 

The top-of-the-range +8 was a relatively fast sports car, but even with some serious development, the 60-year old steel chassis was never going to cut it against the supercars of the day. This was not only due to the lack of torsional rigidity, but also due to the fundamental suspension design which was introduced in the very early 20th century. The cars that Morgan would be going up against would have had multiple millions spent on their development into successful race cars and obviously would be using only the most up-to-date engineering advancements. Therefore, Morgan decided to foray into new territories and enlisted the help of Roddy Harvey Bailey and Andy Rouse. An all-new platform was designed and built, taking inspiration directly from the aviation industry. Morgan created this platform with the use of lightweight aluminium; they folded, bonded and riveted it together in order to create a very rigid chassis that would underpin the 1940s-style body of the +8. This chassis could also hold double-wishbone suspension all round, which was pushrod-operated at the front, something that the Morgan shared with the rest of the supercar field. Only one of these vehicles was built, and amazingly, Morgan managed to homologate it for the highly-competitive GT2 class. The Plus 8 GTR was born and in 1995, began its racing career.

     
Credit: Dan Morgan

Although the GTR was most certainly the lightest car in the field and proved to be quick, it was clear by a flurry of DNFs in the 1995 season that the car needed more development. Enter Chris Lawrence, (who certainly knew how to build a successful Morgan race car). Chris re-joined Morgan in January 1996 after leaving Marcos, and even began living in his caravan on-site at Morgan’s factory in Malvern. The front subframe and suspension was immediately redesigned by Chris and the body was altered by flattening the headlights, lowering the front splitter, and placing a curved air dam in front of the windscreen. The car was entered into the BPR series for the 1996 season.

     
Credit: Dan Morgan

A whole new level

 

It wasn’t just the bright blue paintwork that make the +8 GTR stand out in the legendary BPR series; the majority of the body shape was unchanged from the traditional Morgan silhouette. So, when sharing a field with iconic supercars such as the McLaren F1, Lotus Esprit and 911 GT1, the Morgan looked more as though it was lost on its way back from a classic car show. For this reason, the car gained a large fan following over the 1996 season, and although reliability was still an issue, the car managed to place 6th in its class and 12th overall at the 4hr Brands Hatch event. For a car designed even before aerodynamics were considered fact, this was a hugely impressive feat and further proved to Morgan the fantastic capabilities of aluminium-bonded platforms.

     
Credit: Morgan Motor Company

The same year, Lotus unveiled their sublime Elise which used a very similar and rigid aluminium construction. This had Morgan thinking; the Plus 8 GTR’s platform, once developed, would surely make for a world-class road car … .