- The Washington Times - Friday, September 28, 2007

Frank Huffman recently chronicled his adventurous journey a half century ago from Laos to London. In the book, Monks and Motorcycles, he discloses how it was on that trip that he became infatuated with British sports cars, especially Triumphs and Morgans.

But that’s another story.

Years ago, Mr. Huffman thoroughly enjoyed owning and driving a 1960 Triumph TR3A. Circumstances beyond his control led to him selling that sports car.

A couple of years ago he began casually checking the obvious places to see if there were any good deals on old Triumphs. “I also looked for Morgans,” he says, even though he didn’t think he could afford one of the cars that feature a wooden frame.

A year ago this month, the former professor and retired diplomat found a 1959 Morgan Plus 4 that had undergone a frame-off restoration and was about to be auctioned on E-Bay. The Morgan had tan wool carpeting, reconditioned gauges, new wiring, a luggage rack and the body color was beige with dark brown fenders — a color combination commonly called cookies and cream. The car had reportedly been stored in a climate controlled garage.

Mr. Huffman got caught up in the bidding and actually bid more for the car than he initially intended. Still, he considers himself fortunate and believes the car was a good deal. New, the car had a base price of about $3,360.

Mr. Huffman arranged for a truck to deliver the car two-tone sports car to his Washington address. The driver of the 18-wheel truck thought otherwise and unloaded the car near the Seven Corners area in Virginia. Mr. Huffman’s wife, Sanda, was coerced into driving her husband to take possession of the car she had yet to see.

When the Morgan came into view, he says, his wife began to warm to the sheer beauty of the car.

After signing the appropriate papers, Mr. Huffman shoehorned himself into the 12-foot-long Morgan and gingerly drove the car home. He soon discovered how nimble the 96-inch wheelbase made the handling. The Morgan can be turned in a 32-foot circle on its 5.60x15-inch tires mounted on 60-spoke wheels.

He also learned the four-speed Moss gearbox is not fully synchronized. The new owner found that if his timing was correct double clutching was not imperative when shifting up, but when shifting down, he says, “you have to double clutch.” He admits, “the gearbox is a challenge.”

In front of the driver, visible through the three-spoke laminated wooden steering wheel, is a 6,000 rpm tachometer next to a 110 mph speedometer. On the far left end of the wooden dashboard is a switch to operate the turn signals. The horn button is centrally located on the dash within easy reach of both driver and passenger. In the more traditional location for a horn button, at the center of the steering wheel, is a large hex nut which secures the steering wheel.

Air to cool the engine is drawn in through the 16 chrome-plated teeth in the grille. Down the length of the engine hood are two rows of 24 louvers. On either side of the engine hood are an additional dozen louvers to keep the 130.5-cubic-inch, four-cylinder engine from overheating.

The engine delivers 105 horsepower and requires 11 pints of oil, 16 pints of coolant and 11 gallons of gas.

A small parking light sits atop the apex of each front fender while a single “cyclops” driving light is mounted directly in front of the grille.

The pair of SU carburetors needed attention and Mr. Huffman was surprised to find his car was equipped with drum brakes. By 1959 Morgans were supposedly equipped with disc brakes. Mr. Huffman suspects that when his car was built they used whatever was on the shelf.

Behind the cozy two-seat cockpit is the only storage space in the car. In that three-foot-wide space Mr. Huffman keeps the side curtains, top amd tonneau cover.

Mr. Huffman is becoming more confidant in his Morgan as he becomes more familiar with the inner workings. He has driven his car to antique car events as far as Pasadena, Md. and Sheperdstown, W.Va. “On both trips,” he reports, “It did fine.”

When Mr. Huffman acquired his Morgan, the odometer registered 4,116 miles since it was restored. Now, a year later, the odometer reads 5,541 miles. He will undoubtedly be driving his Morgan more because he wants everyone to see what he calls, “The most beautiful car in the world.”

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