Morgan 4-4
Le Mans 1939
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Dick Anthony
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Prudence Fawcett

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John Clarke
Chris Acklam
Brian Gateson
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1939 Morgan 4-4 Le Mans Recreation

John Clarke’s Morgan 4-4 has been painstakingly assembled by the team at Techniques over 2 years using period photographs and research gathered by the owner.

Morgan 4-4 at British Empire Trophy Meeting, Donington Park, June 2002 (Ref 14)


The car was supplied by the Morgan Factory to the Coventry Motor Mart on 1 July 1938. The car was a 2 seater, painted blue and fitted with a 1100cc Coventry Climax engine and Meadows gearbox. The chassis number is 616. It was registered with the number SL 2490.

The history of the car is patchy but it is safe to say it has passed through many hands, though, thankfully, the main components have stayed together.

John Clarke purchased the car in 2000 as a box of bits. The car came with a partly clothed 2 seater body frame, the engine, gearbox and axle and bag upon bag of rusty components.

The Rebuild Phase 1

Brian Gateson, the owner of Techniques and John Clarke planned the rebuild at the local café in Stotfold, close to Brian’s garage. The café became the planning department to what unravelled a daunting task. Brian agreed to build the car himself and to co-ordinate work from his various friends in the Morgan world.

1938 Body frame altered to Le Mans specification (Ref 14)

It was decided to purchase a new chassis and cross head, to the original specification. Meanwhile, the body tub was altered according to period photographs. The sill board was found to be ½” longer on one side than the other – it was left this way, as that was how it came out of the factory!!

Meanwhile, Brian was stripping down the gearbox, back axle and steering box and refurbishing as necessary.

The engine had gone off to be stripped and examined. Whereas the Le Mans car ran with a capacity of 1104cc, it was decided to rebuild John’s car with a 1098cc capacity so that it could compete in the 1100cc category of historic racing.

The Le Mans car also had a unique multiple carburettor set up and unfortunately no photographs appear to have survived. It was well known that the single overhead inlet port was complemented by creating two further inlet ports at each end of the head. It was therefore decided to commission a special inlet manifold that fed an air fuel mix into the top and ends of the head. SU carburettors, as per the Le Mans car, were then mounted on the manifold.

Once the body frame had been completed it was shipped down to the Morgan factory to be panelled. After much research into the car, it was decided to clothe the doorless body in aluminium as this seemed to be the most likely material used. The artisans at the factory did a brilliant job, as usual, and the gleaming body tub was delivered to Techniques.

Now came the first defining moment. Armed with the new chassis, cross frame, engine, body tub, axle and gearbox, Brian at Techniques carefully assembled a rolling chassis. As this was going to be a race car, extra care was taken to ensure the alignment was perfect. New stub axles were fitted together with front and rear springs and the car was beginning to come alive.

On a warm summers day, the car took its first trip, albeit on a trailer, to have the special exhaust manifold made. The Le Mans car had an elegant exhaust exiting through the bonnet on the near side. A new exhaust was made from period photographs but bearing in mind that the car must be able to breathe freely. The result was indistinguishable from the original.

Now that the exhaust manifold was on, the car was taken back to the Morgan factory for a bonnet, wings, rear cover for the parcel shelf and sundry panels for the interior. By this time, the factory was under immense pressure to complete the first batch of Aero 8’s for the dealers, but true to their word and a few months later, the car emerged looking stunning.

1938 Morgan back from the factory tin shop (Ref 14)

The Rebuild Phase 2

The rebuild then entered its 2nd phase. Before the car could go to the paint shop, all the sundry items were drilled and screwed onto the body and then removed. The wiring loom was also installed.

For the past few months Brian and John had been discussing colour. The Le Mans car was green but John has always raced a blue car and blue, was the colour of chassis number 616. John also wanted to differentiate this car from the actual Le Mans car – after all, it was a copy and John did not want people to confuse his recreation with the real thing. A front wing was sprayed Bugatti blue, but John was not convinced. Then one afternoon, John turned up with the dark blue bonnet from his Morgan +4 Supersports and lay it over the car – it looked terrific. So the decision was made to paint the car in dark blue cellulose and John would have two matching race cars!!!

When the car came back from the paint shop, it was obvious that Brian and John had made the right decision. The car was gorgeous.

In the preceding 18 months, John had been on a quest to track down a pair of headlights and a set of instruments. After scouring autojumbles, John found some instrument components but no complete instruments. A call to an instrument specialist started the ball rolling and 12 months to the day, John collected a brand new set of dials. The headlights came from a chance meeting with an auto jumbler at a VSCC race meeting who turned up with not one, but two sets of these rare lamps. Once completely restored, John went up to the Midlands to collect them. They were too valuable to post.

The Rebuild Phase 3

Morgan 4-4 at British Empire Trophy Meeting, Donington Park, June 2002 (Ref 14)

With the wiring and dashboard complete the car was once again on the move – this time to the trimmers. A bench seat was made and John went for a fitting to ensure that the seats would give sufficient support for racing. The seats and tunnel were covered in black leather and a tonneau made from double duck. A pair of headlight covers were also made with special vinyl windows so John could flash other cars when he was about to overtake them!!!!

The car was then delivered back to Techniques for final finishing. The car was complete in time for the pre arranged rolling road session in April 2002 and should be on the track during May. Its main race this year will be a return to Le Mans in September for the Le Mans Classic where it will be driven by John Clarke and Chris Acklam.

It is difficult to convey, how difficult it is to build a car from photographs with only rudimentary evidence on specification to go on. Techniques rose to the challenge magnificently and the car is a credit to their skills and resourcefulness.

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© 2002 John Clarke