Tribute to Ken Ward, our club's founder
Ken Ward – Racing in the 60’s – Morgan Sports Cars
By Noel Bryen
These three topics – Ken Ward, sports car racing in the 60’s and the Morgan sports car are synonymous, at least in Australia.
Born in 1935 and raised in the Ryde district of Sydney as well as Katoomba, Ken started his formal training as a draughtsman at the PMG. However, the office environment didn’t suit Ken and he soon found himself a job repairing engine cylinder heads at Meadowbank. After a stint at working on heads he moved to Repco, who where nearby, and was soon learning all about clutches.
By the late 50’s, Ken was running his own mechanical repair workshop behind Repco and soon decided that he wanted to own a sports car. Whilst out for a drive one weekend with his parents, Ken watched an MG TC drive past and decided that was the sort of motoring he wanted to do, but what was out there that was better?
It wasn’t long before Ken was in his first Morgan, a ten year old Series 1 Drop Head Coupe 4/4, powered by a 1260cc Standard Special engine, bought from a used car yard in Woollahra. By today’s performance figures, it was pretty standard, and nothing special, but it was potent enough for its day and faster than the equivalent MG. Incidentally, Cec Wiles was responsible for this first purchase, advising Ken of its existence.
By 1958 Ken had realised that he was pretty much on his own as far as spare parts and maintenance was concerned for the Moggie, until one day he was driving along and who should pass him in the opposite direction but an old school mate, Eddie Filmer. Eddie was easily visible because he was also driving a sports car and, you guessed it, he was also driving a Morgan, a black 4 seater.
Suffice to say, after a couple of runs and a barbecue or two, the Morgan Owners’ Club of Australia (MOCA) was born on the first Thursday of September, 1958, at Smith Street, Ryde, Ken’s home.
With the encouragement of new members and the business generated from his workshop at Meadowbank, Ken soon started to place orders for new Morgans with the factory (known in the local jargon as “The Works”) and by 1960 he was the Morgan agent in Australia.
One of the first cars Ken imported was to become immediately famous and a part of local Morgan folk lore. This was in December 1960, when an order was placed for a Morgan Plus 4, and it was destined to be used at the first meeting of the newly built Warwick Farm circuit. The owner of the car, Ron Coulston, bought it for private use, but the opening of the new circuit tempted him to loan the car to David McKay for the weekend of the opening meeting.
Starting from second place, the race was held in torrential rain, and David McKay won the race from a determined Bob Cutler in a Healey, who spun on one of the last corners. This car still exists and is owned by John Hurst, a long time Morgan member. David McKay was reunited with the car just prior to his passing in 2004.
Not without significance, the first photograph on the opening page of the MOCA photo album shows the 9 founding members on their maiden social run, lined up on the starting grid of the Catalina Circuit at Katoomba. This was in November 1958 and the circuit was still under construction.
So, Ken Ward, Morgan sports cars and two new racing circuits – what chance did he have? (and by the way, guess what other organisation started in 1958 – CAMS!).
By 1963, after a couple of visits to Gnoo Blaas (Orange) in a Plus 4, and not having much time for motor sport because of his business, Ken took delivery of one of the new model 4/4s for a customer. This was a 1340cc pushrod Ford engined car which was much lighter than the 2200cc Triumph engined Plus 4. If only it had more grunt. And then the 1500cc version came on the market in the UK. Ken was very quick to place an order, and by late that year he was in possession of the first 1500cc ford engined, aluminium clad 4/4s in Australia, and most likely the world.
It was light, quick and nimble, and Ken soon set to work at both Catalina and Warwick Farm to prove its potential. By 1965, Ken “owned” Catalina Park and was also a force to be reckoned with at Warwick Farm and the other Sydney circuits of Amaroo Park and Oran Park. He was also a frequent visitor to Bathurst. Success in motor sport was good for business as it generated sales and it was also damn good fun, so it wasn’t long before Ken was a regular on the racing calendar.
By 1965, Ken decided to expand his business and bought a Total Service Station at Boronia Park (near Gladesville) so he sold the Morgan to Bill Hucker, (he needed the cash to buy the servo) who continued to race it. Bill still owns a Morgan and is also a member of the club. By 1966 Ken was financially sound again and the bug was still there, so he ordered another rare car from “The Works”, which was destined to be known in the club as the “Twin Cam”. By this time Ken was wise to the rules of motor sport and the competition category in which he was entering – Production Sports Cars. The rules were pretty simple, original grille, and original crankshaft. The grille defined the shape of the car and the crankshaft defined the engine – the rest was free. Amazing!
Ken wanted a Lotus Twin Cam in his Morgan but had to have it approved as a “production” model to meet CAMS rules. He therefore asked “The Works” if they would be kind enough to build an aluminium clad 4/4 fitted with a Lotus Twin Cam engine and they readily agreed, except that none were available from Lotus when it was time to take delivery of the engine. Production of the Elan was in full swing and they were taking all of the production engines available.
However, that was all Ken needed, so he took delivery of the car sans the engine, which he bought locally from Mike Champion. The letter from the factory stating that the Lotus Twin Cam fitted to the 4/4 is a production model is still framed on Ken’s office wall and is another bit of MOCA folk lore. Whenever the club wants something out of the ordinary, we just suggest “a letter from the factory”.
This new car soon proved itself to be very competitive, and Ken set lap records at all of the Sydney circuits. However, it was shortlived, because later that year Ken had a “big one” at Catalina and launched himself over the fence at the right hand kink just prior to the run down to Dunlop Loop. There were two bolts sticking out of the top of one of the fence posts and these sheared straight through the chassis rail, directly beneath his backside. When the crane picked up the car it broke in two and the car came back to Sydney in virtually two pieces. The big problem was, there was an international Tasman meeting at Warwick Farm the following weekend and Ken had already entered – he desperately wanted to play. It also happened that a 1962 Series IV 4/4 had ended up in Ken’s workshop accident damaged, so Ken very quickly transferred the race bits to this steel bodied car for that event and it stayed that way for the next 6 months or so.
During this time, Ken was racing at the Bathurst Easter event when he came through The Cutting and tripped over a broken down Buckle driven by Brian Lawler. Brian was trying “this new fangled electronic ignition that was playing up”. Ken reversed out of the rear of the Buckle and continued on his way. The dent in the front wing of the Morgan can be clearly seen in the John Medley “Bathurst Book”.
In late 1967, Ken’s original 1963, aluminium bodied car came back onto the market and he lost no time in buying it back. He then transferred all of the “fast bits” to this car and at the same time took advantage of the latest tyre technology, going from 5 inch rims to 10 inch, built by Tony Simmons, and widening the wings to suit. In addition, everything that could be lightened was, and the result was very competitive indeed.
Ken went on to set more records and raced right up till the end of the sports car category in 1971. He also raced at the last Warwick Farm meeting. I wonder how many other marques can claim to have been at the first and last Warwick Farm meeting?
The car then sat in his Boronia Park service station, sulking in a corner for many years. The running gear and wings were removed and the rolling chassis remained. In 2000, the body was restored for the “Morgan Muster” at Bathurst in 2001, a 4 day national gathering of Morgans – something that had never been attempted before. Over 130 Morgans descended on Bathurst and the “Twin Cam” took pride of place in the Bathurst Car Museum for the weekend and stayed there for the following 12 months.
So, the history of the Twin Cam is a bit like your grandfather’s axe – several new heads and lots of new handles, but it is still the same old axe. Interestingly, the remains of the steel bodied car that ran up the back of Brian Lawler at Bathurst is still in Ken’s shed and it still has the dent in the front wing!
Ken is well known in Morgan circles for being a hoarder of Morgan parts and had quite a collection. One of the many Mogs he collected was a 1961 Plus 4 Supersports, originally sold through him to Alby Sedaitis, a Canberra restaurant owner, who competed with it locally until it was written off at Oran Park in 1965. Ken bought the wreck and it slowly matured in the long grass behind his Boronia Park service station until I came to the rescue in 1994. Ken wouldn’t sell it, but agreed to let me rebuild it on his behalf. “Alby” started racing again in 1997.
At about the same time other Morgans started racing historically and Ken was a very enthusiastic member of what became known as “Team Morgan” around historic racing events. He would even come to interstate events and always enjoyed meeting up with old mates and cheering on the team. On a good day, up to 6 Morgans could be on the track, 3 Plus 8s, 2 Plus 4s and 1 4/4. Ken, of course, was keen to have another go and ran Regularity events in a Plus 4 a few times before gaining his full licence again in 2003, in a Morgan of course.
Ken had a few drives in his beautifully restored Rennmax Formula Junior, a car he has owned since 1966, before falling ill towards the end of 2005. Incidentally, Ken is attributed to being the longest owner of any Rennmax in Australia! This car was restored by Mark Alchin in 2001, another mate of Ken’s and a long time, enthusiastic Morgan owner.
My aim was to have his famous Twin Cam 4/4 ready for him to race at the Tasman meeting in December, but alas, that is not to be.
Ken’s passing is not only devastating to me personally, but will be missed by all who knew him; he was one of life’s true gentlemen.
Thank you from Ken’s family
we truly don’t know how to express our gratitude to a wonderful club. Thank you to all those that saluted dad with their Morgan on the 22nd march, 2006. Thank you also to all the welcoming Queensland MOCA’s members that went to Toogoolawah and met part of Ken Wards family. We hope that the association with our family and MOCA will continue now and into the next generations.
We wanted to share with you words we taped of our father and brother on the 10th December, 2005:
“Members of a Morgan Club, a person that owns, appreciates a Morgan, is quite a unique person. What they want in life, what they appreciate in life, because the way the club culture grows is an indication of these people, comradeship. We are fortunate we are a close knit club because we love a car that is different, quite unique, so we must be special.”
Although our dad and brother, Ken Ward is…
Looking beyond the curve,
Looking beyond the horizon
On a club run to heaven
We hope as dad stated, MOCA, will continue to grow, sustain, flourish and be nourished in a life of a unique close-knit club.
Renee, Danielle, David, Diane and their families.
31st May, 2006.