The Morgan is back.
About five years ago I was in Havana, staying with a friend, when the first ship from Chile arrived after the (ate Salvador Allende's government broke ranks and recognized the Castro regime. My friend was overjoyed. The breaching of the blockade had meant he was able to buy two precious cloves of Chilean garlic. He held them up. "Imagine," he said, "my first garlic in 10 years!"
I dare say many American automobilists have missed the Morgan as badly as my friend missed Chilean garlic. Another friend of mine, Leon Mandel, gastronomique peculiar, wrote in Car and Driver in late 1967 that the Morgan was "the last great coal cart, a car almost unchanged since 1910." Yet he wrote these words in a lament to the Morgan's imminent passing from the shores of America.
There was one man, however, who did more than lament. He took up the fight to resurrect this old wooden cart. In a manner to make Quixote smile, he tilted with the awesome bureaucratic windmills of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation. He worked with only tacit assistance from Peter Morgan himself and with his own meager resources. And after five years of unremitting toil, he has triumphed. Friends of the Solid Axle, the Golden Age of Motoring is back.
hero is Bill Fink, a lean, quiet, blue-eyed Yalie who rides about San
Francisco on a Norton Commando and lives high above Carol Doda's electrifying
bosoms on Telegraph Hill. Fink rowed for Yale. In 1962, he went to England
to compete, and while he was there, he bought a Morgan. He then went to
Keble College and rowed for Oxford University. He was one of the four
famous "Yanks at Oxford" who made Oxford invincible on the river. In 1968,
Oxford was unbeaten, and the Morgan was barred from entry into the U.S.
for failure to meet safety and emission standards.
Fink, who also had misspent a couple years at Stanford studying business, saw a comfortable bachelor's living to be made exporting used Morgans to the U.S. Soon he had a string of cars hidden in garages in London waiting for shipment. He'd buy a 4/4 in London for about $2000, convert it to left-hand drive himself, ship it to California for $150 and sell it there privately for between $3000 and $4000. There was new money in old Morgans. Fink took a pleasant flat in Chelsea and became a regular at a number of Kings Road watering places. For four good months, life passed in a series of pleasant dalliances. But then his partners in Los Angeles began cheating him, and Mick Jagger bought himself a Morgan.
Fink could do something about the situation in LA, but there was nothing he could do about Jagger. Jagger took to being seen about town in a buttercup-yellow 4/4 and was frequently photographed en route to his Old Bailey dope trial, with Marianne Faithful sitting beside him looking for all the world like Isadora Duncan. The Morgan became trendy. The price of old Morgans soared.
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