[ 1913 Morgan Grand Prix ] ::
Fascinating period photo
received from one of our senior Members Ian MacLennan (UK)
who was wondering what car this car was. Parents regularly attended
Brooklands in the early years and took a lot of photos, mainly of
We passed this lovely
historical photo to the Morgan archivist Jake Alderson,
who advised that it was one he had not seen before. A single seater
Morgan Grand Prix fitted with JAP 90 bore ohv water cooled engine. Only
one he knew like it was raced by W G McMinnies in 1913. Could be the
same car, at a later date.
We initially contacted the Archivist of the Morgan Sports Car Club
Roger Tatton who advised that their sphere of interest is mainly
4-wheeled Morgans and suggested we contact Jake Alderson of the The
Morgan Three Wheeler Club.
We advised Jake Alderso that we had received a photo from one of our
Senior Members Ian MacLennan which came from his parents' family
archives. The photo shows a Morgan GP car in a competitive event and we
were interested to determine the year and type of engine, and if
possible, the event and person. We advised that study of the photograph
made us think this was a pre-1914 car but certain features suggested
this might have been a production car rather than one of the early works
cars. Regretfully not much of the registration can be seen.
Assuming it is a registration, it reads: # R 5 .
We received a very quick response from Jake Alderson: " What an
interesting Morgan, one I have never seen before. It is a single seater
Grand Prix model fitted with a JAP 90 bore overhead valve water
cooled JAP engine. That is the easy bit. I only knew of one other
used in competition before seeing yours and that was raced by WG
McMinnies in 1914. Yours has some similarities and could conceivably be
the same car at a later date as the engine cylinder heads appear to be
of a later JAP type. The bonnet is different too. The driver I do not
recognise, and the registration is unusual and could be a trade plate.
The best I can offer is to try and look further on this and come back to
you. Thanks for sending it to me, - you have made my day!"
We then looked into the background of W G McMinnies and established that
if this was indeed a car driven by McMinnies it was then a very
important car in the History of Morgan. Morgan Motor Company was founded
by Henry Fredrick Stanley Morgan, known as HFS, and the business
was initially a couple of local garages. In 1909 HFS developed his
first prototype, a simple three-wheeler with a tubular steel chassis
fitted with a 7 h.p. Peugeot V-twin engine not originally intended as a commercial
venture. It received a favorable reaction and the first production
Morgans appeared in 1910 being the single seat 'Runabout' with either a
4HP or 8HP JAP (J.A. Prestwich) engines. A two seater followed in 1911
and was sold, amongst others, in the famous Harrods store. Some even had
HFS very quickly recognised that competition successes would help the
company sales and embarked on extensive programme of completive events
countrywide. The Morgan was in the 'cyclecar' category although there
was some serious questioning at time if a three wheeler could be
considered as a cyclecar. It did however conform marginally
closer to a 'motorcycle with sidecar' category, both having three
wheels. Cyclecars were at the time very popular in Europe, especially in
France, being a class for very small relatively fragile machines with
very thin 'cycle' type tyres. British and world records swiftly followed
for Morgans. One such was the first International Cyclecar Race at
Brooklands in 1912. In many of the more famous victories the Morgan was
driven by HFS.
The main magazine covering the cyclecar scene was 'The Cyclecar'. The
magazine's editor was one W G McMinnies, so it was very clever of HFS to
get him to become keen on Morgans, and to become a member of the Morgan
factory team. It was therefore not surprising that Morgans got good
reviews and bags of coverage. W G McMinnies in turn, was no mean driver
and contributed greatly to the Morgan hoard of silverware.
1912 had been a good year for Morgan with 10 British and World Records
for various classes of cyclecars, 24 Gold Medals in major
reliability trials and numerous victories on the race track. None was
more pleasing than for a Morgan to easily win the first International
Cyclecar Race at Brooklands.
In order to continue with the successes, Morgan were determined to enter
and do well in the inaugural International Cyclecar Grand Prix, at
Amiens in France. Morgan built four cars specifically for the race,
which was to
take place in July 1913. These were built with longer chassis to enable
the seat to be lower and were provided with water cooled engines of
under 1000cc to comply with the regs. Two of the cars used JAP 90 bore
engines and were to be driven by HFS and W G McMinnies. The other two were
fitted with Blumfield and Green-Precision engines respectively.
Cutting a long race story short, the winner of the 1913 International
Cyclecar Grand Prix was one W G McMinnies who had won against strong
opposition from many continental four-wheelers and despite having to
stop to change an inner tube in one of the front tyres, and coming into
the pits towards the end for a splash and dash ! McMinnes
subsequently named his car "Jabberwock of Picardy" and
campaigned it equally successfully until the start of the First World
War. The war curtailed production and competition.
As a result of the successes of this car and the other team cars, Morgan
began to build a series of competition cars called the "Morgan
Grand Prix". It is not known precisely what eventually happened to the two JAP
powered team Morgans but Jake Alderson provided a photo of the McMinnes
car as published in 1920.
Jake Alderson comments were: " Here is a photo of the Morgan, published July 15th 1920.
single seater is on the left with a London registration number (LT).
has an identical body to your mystery car and still differs a little in
other ways, but no doubt it was tuned and modified a little for the
event pictured in your photo. The mudguards look similar and the
headlamp brackets appear identical. My photo was apparently taken
outside 'Prince's Motor Works', could that be London? Both of the Morgans
in my photo differ from the production factory designs and I do wonder
if Prince's were body builders trying to get established in the sporting
body market. It was certainly possible to buy Morgan chassis. I'm pretty
certain your photo is not Brooklands. There appears to be a winding road
with hedge in the background, more likely a club sprint perhaps? Hope this
Jake Alderson has been in contact with us subsequently and advised as
follows: My good friend and fellow Morgan enthusiast and historian
Dennis Rushton has been able to fully identify the Morgan photo you
asked me about (Help Page 79). An early newspaper magazine photo
he has shows a rear view of this very car at the Cyclecar Club's South
Harting Hill Climb, held July 18th 1914. This hill climb was held 4
miles south of Petersfield. The driver is L W Spencer. He competed in
the Racing Class but unfortunately the race report I have fails to give
results as the times recorded needed to have a formula calculation added
to give final positions. I have attached the relevant photo (above). Of
interest, WG McMinnies had also entered in his Morgan.
Sometimes quite a lot of information can be unearthed
as a result of receiving a single photo!!