It was the summer of 1975, and the small classified advertisement, carelessly torn from the Sunday Oregonian, was wadded in my pocket. Although I was no stranger to sports car clubs, I was a little apprehensive as I approached the designated meeting place in Portland, Oregon. The building had been recently renovated into a sort of contemporary English Tudor style pub, so at least the correct ambience was present.
What sort of people would answer an advertisement asking for persons interested in forming a Morgan car club. Snooty? Racers? Gentlemen with handle bar moustaches? Home tuners with calluses? Eccentrics (for sure!)? Other than myself and the writer of the ad, would anyone respond?
I was hoping to meet at least one other person in the Northwest who spoke the Morgan language. My recently purchased 4/4 was in dismal condition, dismantled, and I was without factual information about how to build these things.
Thick cigarette haze swirled from ceiling to knee level, making it difficult to scan the patrons’ faces. Who or what was I looking for anyway? Parked at the curb, an orange Plus 8 assured me that at least one of the ghostly, smoke shrouded figures shared my mission. Aimless wandering around the room finally paid off. A friendly fellow approached and inquired if I was looking for “Morgan people”. That was Gary Leikas, the fellow who had placed the advertisement. The orange Plus 8 was his, and he would become MOG NW’s first president.
As I recall there were 2 or 3 other people already there. About 6 interested Morgan owners arrived before we concluded the evening. I wish I could recall who exactly was present that night, but the ensuing 25 years have taken their toll on my gray cells. By the late 70s we had grown to an incredible 30 or so members. We had no idea there were so many Morgans in the Northwest. Ten years later, the roster listed 53 owners.
Virtually everyone was dealing with the day-to-day problems of keeping an old, fragile British sports car in running condition. Morgans were still considered just another used sports car and relatively inexpensive. I purchased mine for $1500 US. Generally, our cars were considered “drivers” - either in good condition, original condition or well used and bandaged. Certainly, there were no new or restored Morgans around and very little information. Thank goodness for G. H. Bowden’s first book which fortunately contained photos of cars under construction.
Parts were difficult to find. If wood components were required, an ash plank was purchased and the whittling began. Mechanical parts were acquired only after discovering someone who knew that another marque’s bits would fit your ‘Mog’. No Federal Express, no fax machines, no cheap international phone rates, no gurus to call for information. The only known oasis in the desert was Sterne Motors in Burnaby BC, and in those days Burnaby might as well have been half-way around the world.
Club activities were limited to the occasional day trip, rally or picnic. I believe our first overnighter was to Longbeach, Washington, in ‘79 or ‘80. Blue Lake Park, east of Portland, was the location of the first All British Field Meet in the northwest. In contrast to the current well-orchestrated events, those early meets were more like the instinctive herding of British cars with 9 or 10 Morgans in the mix. Often, we stood around in the rain all day comparing horror stories about what we went through to get there, and then waited to see who needed help getting home.
Morgan Owners Group Northwest has flourished with the challenge of managing expansion and change. We have grown to more than 125 members, operating in three regions: Portland, OR, Seattle, WA, and Vancouver BC. Members can now choose from a zillion well planned events each year as well as attend holiday parties and socialize at monthly gatherings all over the northwestern US and British Columbia.
Our Morgans have changed, as well. Complete and meticulous restorations are now cost effective. Our cars have grown from wash-and-go daily drivers to pristine beauties. At the last field meet, the rows of impeccably maintained historical Morgans, shiny Morgans of recent vintage, and a plethora of Plus 8s reflected our demographic migration.
And what about us? Although it has been 25 years, it seems like only yesterday that we were young and spry and the discussion concerned the health of our cars. Now the Morgans are fresh and rejuvenated and our discussions concern the health of.... Ah, well time to change the subject.
This article appeared in the September 2000 issue of Western Driver Magazine.
The Original Advertisement
By Jay Brandon
I was the person that put the ad in the Oregonian that started the club. I was builder and owner of the Horse Brass Pub and put the ad in the paper because of my love for Morgans, as I had a Plus 4 at that time. My purpose was two fold, I must admit. One, I wanted to see what would come from the ad and two, I had the selfish motive of seeing them parked around my Pub on meeting nights. Our first outing after the formation of the club was with about eight cars down Highway 101 to Laguna Seca to the car races. They were all plus fours except for a flat rad of someone from Salem. It was a great time and I do believe we all got back home without any serious maintenance problems.
The Austin Healy club also met at the Horse Brass Pub. I sold the Pub but never lost my love for the Morgans. Over the years, I have personally had the pleasure of owning three different Morgans. The first was a competition model with an aluminum body and a Ford Cortina four banger in it. The second was a Plus Four and the last one I had was a 4/4.
The Beginning of Morgan Owners Group Northwest
By Bob Hauge
A Morgan Car Club
Serving the Pacific Northwest