Offered for sale is an extremely original and mechanically excellent 1980 Morgan Plus 8 Roadster with only three California owners and 43k documented original miles from new. Ordered through San Francisco’s Isis Imports, Ltd., the largest Morgan distributor in the U.S., the original owner was Mr. Richard Rivoir, the owner of Ferrari Los Gatos at the time. He owned the car until June, 1987 when it was sold to Mr. David Sherwood, an attorney in San Francisco. He would own the car through October, 1988 before selling it to its present owner, a professor at the University of California Santa Barbara. During each of their tenures, the car was always as a well-cared-for weekend driver, maintained by Isis Imports while still in the SF Bay area, and then by marque expert Roy Miller of East West Motors over the next 26 years here in Santa Barbara.
With the effective failure of the highly touted +4+ and the waning popularity of the then antiquated Plus 4 and 4/4 Roadsters, in 1966 Peter Morgan knew his company would have to make some changes to sustain. Coincidentally, Rover was trying to acquire Morgan at the time and he asked if he could attempt to shoehorn its new Buick-derived 3.5L V8 into a Plus 4. Surprisingly, Rover said yes, and the Plus 8 was born, transforming a rather sedate roadster into a fuel-injected, five-speed, true sports car that could actually accelerate quicker than a Jaguar E-Type, Ferrari 330GT or Maserati Ghibli. The motoring press took note and soon the Plus 8 became a highly respected and ultra-desirable cult car.
In 1974, stronger emissions laws threatened the continued importation of Morgans to the United States. Fortunately Bill Fink, the owner of Isis Imports, Ltd., instituted a way to convert the venerable Rover 3.5L engine to run on propane, allowing the Plus 8 to pass U.S. emissions regulations while providing some fantastic derivative benefits. In addition to running much more cleanly than conventional gasoline engines (the oil unaffected by the blow-by condensate that gasoline creates), due to the nature of propane, large amounts of boost can be placed on propane-fueled engines without any pre-ignition issues. Consequently, Mr. Fink also included a turbocharger in the conversion, making what was a quick car to begin with even quicker. That said, depending on the next owner’s preference and the emissions regulations in your state or country, reversing the conversion back to a gasoline powered engine is neither complicated nor costly. But before performing that work, it should be noted that the conversion provides more power, lower operating costs, lower emissions and a cleaner running, less encumbered engine.
Entirely factory original with the exception of a teak Morgan dashboard sourced through Melvyn Rutter, Ltd., this striking example reflects the care afforded by its prior owners. The Corsa Red finish is completely original and is accordingly not without its blemishes, but as the pictures exhibit, they are completely insignificant in terms of taking away from the car’s substantial overall appeal as a well-preserved original. Never in an accident, the body is straight and correct with consistent panel fits and gaps throughout, and all of the brightwork is in excellent original condition. The original glass has a single rock chip and the original tan canvas soft top and side curtains are all entirely serviceable, showing their age gracefully due to a lack of substantive use. The original alloy wheels are in great shape and are wrapped in tires with plenty of remaining tread. The car’s interior is in equally clean original condition, the original leather seats showing only minimal wear consistent with 43k miles of gentle use. The interior panels and carpets are in great shape and the gorgeous teak dash houses a fully functional array of gauges and switches. The car’s undercarriage is completely original, the wood and metal both entirely solid and factory correct.
The original numbers-matching Rover 3.5L V8 starts effortlessly, idles consistently and pulls strongly and smoothly under acceleration with excellent, even compression across all cylinders. The gearbox shifts crisply through each of the gears without any grinding or strange vibrations and the car’s cooling system functions as it should with no indication of overheating. Handling is precise, the exhaust note is fantastic and the car’s a joy to drive, whether tooling through town, putting it through its paces on quiet back roads or bombing down the highway, providing a truly vintage, visceral and grin-inducing ride quality. The car has recently been serviced by Mr. Miller to ensure that it is turn-key for its next owner and, having first-hand experience maintaining the car for the past 26 years, he is in a unique position to vouch for the car’s integrity. He’s agreed to make himself available for questions, so if you’re a serious buyer we will gladly forward his contact information. We also have a thick file of records thoroughly documenting the car’s history.
This is an excellent opportunity to acquire a beautiful, entirely original, mechanically excellent, low mileage Morgan Plus 8 with a well-documented California history. These cars are exceedingly rare: only 6,160 Plus 8s were produced over the amazing 37 year production run, with only 293 produced in 1980. That’s less than 6 per week, generating a nearly two year waiting list for commissioning buyers. Finding a Plus 8 is difficult as it is, but finding a striking, low mileage, well-sorted and documented example such as this is virtually impossible. Whether you’re a “Moggie” enthusiast or are just in the market for an exceptionally fun, honest and unique sports car, this Plus 8 deserves your serious consideration.