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30.01.2017
USA
Sector: LPG

Morgan Plus 8 LPG - out of necessity

If you're here, you're probably aware of LPG autogas' oustanding environmental record. But did you know the legendary British roadster Morgan Plus 8 had an LPG system fitted just to be sold at all? If not, be sure to head past the break to find out!
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The Unites States are a weird country. First they persist in making gas-guzzling, technologically-outdated land barges for decades, completely disregarding such notions as fuel economy or air pollution and then, as the oil crisis strikes, they suddenly introduce emission standards so harsh that engines lose half their previous power (the 1980 Chevrolet Corvette „California” has 180 PS, for crying out loud!) and some imported cars are threatened to be banned from sales in the US altogether! But because the North American market was way too important for Morgan just to close shop (and finding a new engine supplier quickly wasn't an option, either), another solution had to be found. And LPG proved to be just perfect for the job.

A 1982 Morgan Plus 8 turbo LPG© eBayAutogas tanks in these cars were located right behind rear bumpers, underneath spare wheels

The cars were imported from Morgan's Malvern, Worcestershire manufacturing plant just as before, and converted to run on autogas on the spot in the US by dealers (the first of whom was probably Bill Fink of San Francisco), starting in 1974. This way the 3,5-litre Rover V8, itself based on the Buick/Oldsmobile 215 CI unit, additionally equipped with a turbocharger across the pond, instantly became compliant with US emission standards, ensuring continued sales of the Plus 8. This single model accounted for 98% of all Morgan's North American sales, but the remaining cars were actually converted, too.

The scheme continued until 1992, which means it lasted 18 years, during which time the V8 engine used in the Morgan roadster underwent a number of modifications – the original SU HS6 carburetors were replaced with Stromberg CD175 units, and then, in late 1983, with Bosch' L-Jetronic electronic fuel injection. In 1990 a bigger, 3,9-litre version of the V8 was added, and with it came along the Lucas 14CUX injection system. However, after 1992 Rover modified the engine to comply with both European and North American emission requirements in order to make the unit usable in the US-bound Range Rover, which made LPG redundant as a means to make the Morgan more environmentally friendly. The cars were sold until 2006, when imports ceased because Morgan failed to receive exemption from the obligatory airbag regulation.

Was the Morgan Plus 8 LPG a car that actually used autogas or maybe the LPG system was a way to circumvent the law and allow sales, while in reality the roadsters drove on petrol? Yes, LPG was relatively popular stateside in the 1970s and '80s, but far from commonly available and if someone used it, he was most probably a school bus or a taxi driver or a polieman, not an individual motorist looking to cut his fuel bill. So it could be that vast majority of Morgans imported into the US between 1974 and 1992 and converted there never actually tasted LPG and when they came of age as classic, the autogas systems were removed to save weight. In 2012 a then-30-year-old Plus 8 LPG was offered for sale at a web auction, with the seller asking 50 thousand dollars as a starting bid. Was the car sold? We don't know, but if you do, be sure to let us know!



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Robert Markowski
source: Green Car Reports, Carophile, Hemmings, Wikipedia



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