Improved Stopping Power

Thanks to Kevin for supplying this article

I suppose that I am in a very fortunate and in a somewhat unique position in that I get to drive many Morgans of differing models and age. Most of you are pretty well confined to driving your own Moggie and may not appreciate the improvements made to the Morgan braking system over the years.

First a bit of history, from the early 1970's 4/4's, +4's and +8's have been fitted with a tandem circuit hydraulic brake system operating solid disks on the front and drums at the rear. The hydraulic circuit is arranged in a "H" configuration i.e. one circuit for the front and the second for the rear which is ideal for light weight vehicles. The only real difference between the various models from a given year is the size of the front callipers / brake pads, which are larger on a +8 as might be expected. Over the years the system has gradually evolved to it's current post 93 state. Sticking with the "H" circuit but, now we have a vacuum operated servo, much more efficient 4 pot front callipers and self adjusting rear drum brakes. Believe me the difference is very noticeable when it comes to both the physical effort and the distance required to stop the car.

We are sharing our roads with some very high tech vehicles most of which have anti-lock brake systems and many now have some kind of automatic emergency brake assist system. Even if you are driving a very new Morgan with perfect brakes you only have the ability to apply all the brakes simultaneously regardless of which tyres have any grip to the road surface. So at best we just can't compete with most other vehicles on the road. This leads me to believe that when it comes to the maintenance of a pre 1993 Morgan, the best answer might not always be to replace worn out or perished components with straightforward replacement parts. In fact it is my opinion that in many cases it is well worth upgrading even before parts need replacement.

There are lots of upgrades available but, it should be remembered that fundamentally the braking system is ultimately governed by the cars ability to grip the surface of the road, so it goes without saying that the tyres and suspension system also play a big part. Below I have listed, some common upgrades, my views on how effective they are and a rough guide to the costs involved.

The Rear

For normal road use the rear brakes on all post 1970 Morgans are fine, they can be converted to disc brakes which will of course dissipate heat faster than drums. I have driven a vehicle with this conversion and did not notice any vast improvement. The conversion is expensive and would certainly require some form of restriction to maintain the front - rear balance and to me there seems little point in improving the efficiency then having to compensate for the improvement.
[ standard rear ]

The Front

A simple and obvious point here is to make sure any replacement pads are of the correct compound. As a general rule competition pads are designed for competition and are pretty useless for normal road use, they wear out very quickly and often have very little effect until they become hot, this can be very scary around town. I have had good results with Mintex pads and more recently with EBC who market a special compound pad that does not give off awful black dust that corrodes your wheels. Both cost around 25 - 40 a set, the EBC one's are colour coded for appropriate use (Green for road use). I have driven many cars with both these makes fitted and they are slightly more efficient than the factory fitted originals.
[ standard front +8 ]
Serious upgrade at the front involves changing the original 2 pot callipers for 4 pot callipers, bearing in mind that Morgan have now taken this route without any modification at the rear, one has to question the front to rear balance of earlier cars fitted with two pot callipers. Have you ever had the back end lock up first on a damp day?. I have certainly experienced this in an early +8, it's ok if you are travelling in a straight line, but I was not! Upgrading callipers is not cheap, you can fit the factory type 4 pots, the difference when driving the car is fantastic, giving a more balanced feel to the system. The cost is going to be circa 600 as they do not fit onto the original brackets so you will also require new brackets, flexible hoses and I would always fit new discs. [ factory 4-pot ]
A second option is a Mulberry conversion, The kit includes 4 pot billet callipers, eroquip flexible hoses, drilled and vented discs and conversion brackets for the callipers. I am most impressed with the engineering and design, they are easier than the factory type to fit and very effective. Very slightly more expensive than the factory option but the quality is outstanding and of course the heat dissipation will be much better with the vented discs. [ Mulberry 4-pot ]
The Hydraulics The brake master cylinder after about 10 years is usually pretty soiled, new seals are available for most types, but the bores must be in perfect condition. A refurbished dual circuit or new old stock one is circa 150 - 180. A worthwhile consideration would be to fit the current type master cylinder with an integral servo this greatly reduces the amount of physical effort required to apply the brakes. The cost of the parts is around 300 - 350 they can be fitted to most Morgans though space is tight especially on +8's and most require some form of heat insulation as the exhaust system passes very close by. Fitting a servo is not really a job for the inexperienced and dependent upon the model it takes between 6 and 12 hours and is therefore not a cheap option if you are paying proffesionals to carry out the work! That said, this conversion makes a huge difference.

The Flexible brake hoses as fitted by the factory are rubber, these expand slightly when the system is pressurised and it is always a good idea to fit the stainless steel braided type which firms up the pedal a little. The cost of a set of these is around 75 a little over double the price of the standard items.
[ servo ]

So there you have it, you do not have to put up with brakes which require huge effort in an emergency situation. Please also remember, this article is based on my personal experiences and views and that my sanity has been questioned by many people.

(C) copyright Shropmog Publications (Technical Division)

Foootnote: Harald in Oslo tells us that fitting to a 4/4 may encounter problems with space for the calipers and the damper blades. He had the Mulberry roller bearing conversion to get around this.