Morgan Plus 8 Corvette Conversion (aka Morgan +8+)
Article and photographs by John H. Sheally II
Seldom does a sports car come along that is both a comfortable road machine and a race car in one package but five such species have been produced by Isis Imports in San Francisco, California. Until you have driven one you won't experience excellence in spirited motoring the likes of this on this planet in any street vehicle short of a megabuck super car. Bill Fink, (the legendary owner of Isis Imports) and his associate Keith Baldwin, (formerly a member of the Morgan Motor Company race crew and the older brother of Mark Baldwin, head of the MMC Service Department) are the men behind this phenomena. With it, they have shown clearly that the potential of the traditional Morgan two seater is still far from fully exploited or enjoyed.
If you look at one of these lovelies from a distance (or even close-up!) you have no indication that you are looking at something other than just another Morgan Plus-8 with a Rover V8 and a Rover 5 speed. Then you fire it up. There is a different, even quieter sound to the engine and exhaust note. Pop the bonnet to see the reason and you are in for a shock as there you will find LS2 Corvette 6L engine nestled in, producing 400 horsepower and 400 pounds feet of torque! (There is a great story from the time Bill casually handed the keys of a seemingly innocent Plus 8 to an visiting unsuspecting Knut Hallan (Morgan Agent in Norway, collector and racer). After a short run Knut shot from the driver's seat to open the bonnet and see what rocket was powering this Mog!)
Controlling this immense powerplant is the beefy Tremec T56 6-speed transmission (the stock unit in Vipers, Mustangs and Aston Martins) and behind that a equally solid LSD axle used in Camaros. Braking is superb with discs at the four corners actuated by a Morgan master and servo. This excellent conversion consists of over 200 parts and provides a fully controllable package weighing 2470 pounds. Compare that to the weight of a Corvette with the same components (3245 pounds) and you have the recipe for a rocket.
The suspension set up has four leading arms (trailing arms) and a panhard working together with coil-over shocks on a braced Morgan stock rear hoop. An ingenious and effective GM torque arm is used from a flange on the rear axle to the side of the transmission to further stabilize the nose of the axle. The power-to-weight ratio comfortably exceeds anything less than a Porsche GT ($400,000) or a spicy Ferrari yet this Morgan's fuel consumption is less than its Rover V8 brethren with less than 1/2 its power.
In an earlier version with less horsepower and torque, the car was independently tested at a 0-60 of 4.2 seconds and 120 mph in the quarter mile in just 12.6 seconds. This new version betters that..a lot. The LS2 simply bursts through the trad Morgan's aerodynamic limitations. Top end is in excess of 150 MPH. The immense aftermarket for this engine offers an endless buffet of more power tweaking options.
That is all the disa and data. What you really want to hear is how this baby drives and handles. It's both a road warrior and a race car combined. It is a Road Machine in that it is very smooth, calm and comfortable to drive at slow and average road speeds around town and sails steadily on Interstates/Motorways. Steering is light but with good feel and feedback. Brakes are excellent. Interior sound is better than average for a Morgan with top/hood erected and side screens in place. With Hood/Top down, it is quiet and "In the Wind".
The Race Car side of the ride is earned by its absolutely electrifying bursts of speed and torque delivered on demand at a twitch of a toe. The fly-by-wire throttle needs to move the gas pedal a mere 4 inches rather than the 6 inches of a cable throttled car, and is instantly responsive. In any gear, the +8+ just keeps pulling and delivering all the way.
It hits the curves and delivers great grip on entry but on exit of the corners you must have the car absolutely straight before you use full power or the rear end will kick out as a result of the posi-traction unit kicking in and all the power delivered to the rear wheels. Squeeze the brakes at any speed and this Plus 8 pulls down to a stop straight as an arrow.
I took the machine up to Summit Point Raceway and saw 140 to 150 MPH with wonderful control and acceleration out of the corners and handling spot on. Both on the road and at track speed the car gives no bad feedback. It runs cool (special radiator!) and never breathes hard. All this from a stock engine and drive line that will give you years of good exciting performance and reliability with normal care. The car is a real performer that needs to be respected at speed.
At the Mog 36 Autocross I managed to turn the fastest lap of the day on the track (FTD) of 70.353 in my prepared 1983 Plus-8. Would I have beat that time in a prepared Aero-8? The answer is yes. Would I have been faster than both in this rocket? Answer, most definitely WOW! YES!
$35,000 will get your post 1976 Plus-8, post-1998 Plus 4 or any post 2004 Morgan converted. Names suggested for this exhilaration on 4 wheels have been "ISIS-8", "ISIS-SS", Mogvette though one has yet to be chosen. Bill Fink thinks Peter Morgan may have called it a "PLUS-8-PLUS". Sounds right to me!
About John H. Sheally II
There are few in our Morgan world who are not familiar with the exploits and accomplishments of John H. Sheally II. Referred to by Ken Hill as "one of America's leading Morgan fanatics", John has been a consistent Morgan winner at tracks and car shows throughout this continent.
A photojournalist by profession. John H. Sheally II works full time for Landmark Communications / The Virginian-Pilot and freelances for most of the major Magazines. His show-winning family of cars must be some of the most frequently photographed and well known of all Morgans. If you check your Morgan library, you will find his name among the authors and he has another work on Plus 8s in the works.
Excerpt from Bio by Lorne Goldman, from the GoMog experts panel at gomog.com