Morgan biography

Vern Dale-Johnson

What spurred the my interest in Morgan Sports Cars (and British Sports Cars in general was the arrival at our high school (I was 15) of one of our students in a Morgan. I loved it immediately and when I was in University (University of British Columbia) I used to drive past the Morgan distributor – Sterne Motors in Vancouver – daily.  Finally I determined enough was enough, took out a student loan, and bought my first Morgan in 1967 out of the want ads – an early 60’s 4/4. ownership only lasted a few months as practicality prevailed.  For the next few years I needed to commute from Kamloops to Vancouver… not an easy task in the winter with frozen roads and -20C temp in Kamloops, so I opted for a 55 Ford sedan instead!  When I graduated in 1968 and married my wife said “no” to another Mog and we bought a more conservative Datsun 510, recently introduced to Canada…  However, the early Mog ownership meant I continued to lust for a Morgan while a member of the Royal City Sports Car Club but those early married days meant I had to appease myself and SWMBO with a Triumph TR3A and later a Mini 998.

66 +4 SN 6252, photo taken after a rally with #3 daughter, Marissa who is pictured with the car north of Toronto.

In 1970 we moved to Toronto with my job, bringing the Mini and a Volvo 145 with us.  Our neighbour turned out to be Neil Young (pharmacist by trade not singer) and over the next 5 years the Mini was upgraded to Cooper specs, then replaced with a Datsun 240Z but the Morgan bug was still there.  Another corporate move offered me a position in Tokyo Japan, living just down the street from the Japanese Morgan dealer, but after 5 years we were back in Toronto but without anything British. When I was wooing the lady in the early 80’s who became my second wife I told her as we drove past a billboard in Sydney Australia featuring a Morgan (some oil company ad.. as I remember) I told her “you’ll have to put up with one of those in the garage”.   That did not dissuade her and in 1990, on a trip from Toronto to Vancouver we agreed we’d look for another Morgan as long as it would accommodate a seat for our young daughter.  I found the Morgan, a 66 +4 4-seater (SN6252) in Windsor Ontario and negotiated a purchase.  Our two older daughters immediately christened it “OLBDII” (reference to a name my best friend, the pharmacist, had coined for me).  We immediately joined the local club – Morgan Sports Car Club of Canada / MSCCC.  After a year or two of entertainment we decided it needed a total rebuild and proceeded to do the job with the aid of Reg Beer in Bolton Ontario.  When returned to us in 1992 the +4 was our fun in and around the Toronto area, at many MOG East events put on by the MCC DC group in the eastern US, and was our steed of choice for Morgans Over America and 1995 and 2005.  We even sent it to New Zealand for Morgans over New Zealand in 2004. 

78 +8 SN 8435 shown at  a British car show in Toronto. The Mountie did not suggest the Hoosier’s on race rims  or the lack of a front plate were issues on the street!

However, my wife Amanda knew I lusted after a +8, as did Steve & Martin Beer who did our restoration and servicing work and after we finished MOA 2000 they suggested I might be interested in the +8 for sale in the UK – Jeremy Holden’s +8 that he had used for hillclimbs and rallying (the +8 developed by Jim Deacon for endurance racing SN8435).  We bought the +8 with the aid of Jeremy Harrison, a friend from the MOA’s and gradually moved it from racer to a road car using it until we moved in 2006 from Toronto to Sydney Australia. With two Morgans in the garage, and an impending move, we needed to sell one.  Both went on the market and the +4 was immediately snapped up by Win Muehling from Vancouver Canada (who has since onsold the Mog to another enthusiast in the Vancouver area). Unfortunately shortly before we were due to leave Canada the +8, nicknamed “The Beast”, had massive engine failure – a dropped valveseat- and we decided the best option was to buy a new Rover 4.6 from RPI.  The Beer’s did the installation, we worked through the teething issues, and the +8 was shipped to Oz albeit with a small problem… the oil pressure gauge was now registering under 10 lbs.  In Oz I located a mechanic and with the aid of the Beer’s and RPI we were able to convince Ford to replace the engine (pressure drop due to a cam bearing that worked loose).  

“The Beast” with hardtop and ready for shipment to Australia in 2006.  Colour was Rolls Royce Balmoral Green

From 2006 through to 2010 we enjoyed “The Beast” in Oz but when our local Morgan Agent, Chris Van Wyk announced approval had been received to again import Morgan cars we cancelled our plans for a total rebuild and ordered a new Roadster.   This very fast +8 now resides with Julian Walters who lives near Perth in Western Australia.Our Roadster SN4117, went through production in November 2010 and we took delivery in late January 2011.  On the way from the dealer in Melbourne to our home in Sydney Amanda named this Mog the “Sage Lady” after her colour… Aston Martin California Sage metallic.  Now with over 50,000km on the odo we must admit we enjoy this Morgan almost as much as our +4 — still our choice for long distance touring.  Each year we put about 5000km on the “Sage Lady” and look forward to many more years of enjoyment from this magnificent motor car.

Over the years we’ve been very active in Morgan clubs both in North America (MSCCC, MOG NW, GoMoG, and MCC DC) and in Australia (MOCA, VicMog, MOQ) as well as the MSCC in the UK.   With friends around the Morgan world, Morgan passion is what binds us together.

2010 Roadster SN 4117, “Sage Lady” on one of our Australia fall tours

MSCCC – 1990 to 2007.  Positions of Vice President, President, Editor, and Regalia Secretary.
MOCA – 1995 to present.  President from 2011-2014 .
The Sage Lady has had many mostly safety or cosmetic mods done over the past 10 years – Geoff Williams “front nickers”, LED headlights, SS screen behind grill, Mulberry modified sump, Geoff’s remote kingpin greasing system, Moto Lita 14inch steering wheel, Librands door checks, SS round side mirrors, replaced GRP tool tray with a self-designed custom aluminium unit, custom behind the driver’s seat storage module, Hills Alive travel bags, modified hood for bimini type airflow in summer, LED turn signals and brake lights (including additional under luggage rack brake light), Datsun 240Z rear brake drums, etc….  Repairs have been minor – O2 sensor an right catalytic convertor was most troublesome, replaced by my local mechanic after I fought with it for 8 years!

Vern & Amanda Dale-Johnson Sydney, New South Wales, Australia