Hangar works #23 – The Bleazey drive train upgrade

If you’ve read my previous post – Hangar works #22 – The front turn lights support – you may ask “Did you really drive 785 km to Southwest France for doing this in a proper workshop?”. Well, not really… I did this job taking advantage of the fact that I was in the M3W Services workshop.

The main reason I brought the M3W there, was to have the expert hands of Steve make several modifications to the Morgan that we consider essential to making it a true Grand Tourer. Because that’s why we bought the M3W: to tour with it! If you’re following our blog, you know now that the Speedy Marmots are not afraid to take the rocket out on the road for thousands of kilometres! Our three-wheeler is truly a GT, and we want it to be as reliable as possible. That’s why we wanted to do these improvements! And there is no better place to do them than M3W Services. And not just for proximity or friendship, but simply because there is no better place to pamper your 5-Speeder, and because some of these very important improvements can’t be done in the official Morgan workshops! This proves that M3W Services are really one step beyond!

Originally, we thought to write one single post titled “Hangar works #23 – Peace of mind”, with all the improvements explained in that single post. But the modifications made are so important that there will be six different posts, each one related to a specific modification / improvement made to the Morgan.

This first one, is dedicated to the most important one: the Phil Bleazey drive train upgrade kit. Also known in our M3W’s small world as the “Bleazey’s Centa compensator upgrade”. If you’re not a M3W 5-Speeder owner, and active in our forums and meetings, you may ask yourself: “What’s this about?”. I’ll try my best to make a proper explanation about this huge modification of the car. In my honest opinion, the most important one you should do to a 5-Speeder, even if you’re not thinking about touring with it.

First, let me “introduce” Phil Bleazey. Phil is a very skilled engineer who owns one of the new generation Morgan 5-Speeders. Living in Lancaster, in the United kingdom, he did many re-designs of critical and problematic parts of our beloved Morgans, focused to improve their reliability and make the maintenance easier. His reputation in our little world is fantastic as his modification of the Centa compensator implies a massive improvement of the 5-Speeder.

This link will take you to Phil Bleazey’s web page, where you’ll find all his designs and improvements done for our modern Morgan 3-Wheelers.

P.G.Bleazey Morgan Three wheeler drive train upgrade kit

Phil has an agreement with M3W Services to sell and install his kits. In M3W Services web page you’ll find his and other products that M3W Services offers. Have a look!

Home (m3wservices.com)

Let’s make our best possible explanation about this upgrade!

This is how our 5-Speeder drive train looks like:

The 5-Speeder power train – January 2014 and on.

Please note that our 5-Speeder is a 2020. The early ones (2012 – 2014) didn’t have this Centa compensator, but a Harley Davidson one, quite different, so the drive train looks different, as follows:

The early 5-Speeder power train – 2012 to 2014.

In this drive train, there is a specific part that implies a serious maintenance problem: the compensator. The compensator is there to absorb the high torque peaks that the massive S&S V-Twin engine spits out through its shaft. If there wasn’t a compensator, everything downstream the engine shaft would suffer those torque peaks and would be bended and torn causing irreparable damages.

The Harley Davidson one, installed until January 2014, wasn’t the best solution as it was originally designed to work in an oil bath, non-existent in our 3-Wheelers. It requires a periodic maintenance, and in case it fails, it can cause dramatic damage to the drive train or the engine crankshaft. I’ve personally seen an engine with the crankshaft bent because of a Harley Davidson compensator failure. Sad to see, and an incredibly expensive repair.

The Harley-Davidson compensator.

From January 2014, Morgan Motor Company changed this Harley Davidson compensator for a much simpler and lighter Centa one. Centa is a German company specialized in such couplings. Here is the detail of the Centa compensator:

The Centa compensator.

This Centa compensator is really much simpler. The torque peaks are absorbed by four rubber rollers. Here is a detail and a picture of these four rollers.

The Centa rollers.

Those rollers are made of very hard rubber, but much smaller than you can imagine. In the following picture you’ll realize how small they are! The four of them and the mini ratchet got inside a small box we had at home. A very small box but containing such important spares!

These are much smaller than you can imagine!

And these rollers are precisely the weakest point of the whole train drive. They wear out and, even worse, they tend to break and disintegrate. Some can last dozens of thousands of kilometres, and others break with just a few thousands. There are many discussions about why they break sooner or later, if it’s the way you drive, if you tend to lug the engine at low rpms, etc. Of course, there are factors in everyone’s driving style that can shred these rollers sooner than later, but the truth, in my honest opinion, is that they’re unpredictable!

Here below you can see a picture of one of our rollers with a missing chunk. Starting to be torn apart. We made this modification just in time!

OMG! One of our rollers was already broken!

Usually, when they break, as you’ll appreciate in the next pictures, you only find a few chunks left inside the compensator and the bell housing.

Once they start to break, the rollers are shredded really fast!
Only little chunks and black dust if left inside the bell house.

What happens when these rollers are torn apart is that you lose the connection between the engine and the drive train. The engine is totally disconnected from the rest of the car. So, you can’t drive the car anymore until you replace the rollers with a new set.

And here is where the main problem shows up: the original design of the 5-Speeder is such that you can’t replace the rollers unless you remove the engine. Yes, you read properly: remove the engine! Clearly this is something you can’t do on the side of the road or at a simple local garage in the nearest town where it broke down.

And looking for a workshop nearby to help you remove the engine is not an option unless you’re a very skilled and experience mechanic. Because removing the S&S engine is a major process. Usually, an official Morgan workshop will take no less than two or three full days of mechanic and electric works and charge you accordingly, just to replace the four rollers worth around 60 € per set… A major repair and a huge bill for just 60 € of rubber!

Therefore, if your rollers break, you’re done. It’s the end of your journey. You need to call a flatbed truck and be trailered back home and the 3-Wheeler to your Morgan’s workshop. Imagine if this happens when you live in the UK and are travelling in Spain or Portugal… or even worse: crossing the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. Four simple and cheap rubber rollers breaking mean a total disaster.

Have you seen the video of the couple who went across India? The Trans-India Challenge? This is what happened to them! And last year in Grindelwald our Dutch friends Kees and Alice suffered this same breakdown.

Steve’s precise “surgery” begins on our beloved 3-Wheeler!

And here is where Phil Bleazey appears in the equation. He solved that problem, improving the compensator and drive bell designs so you can replace these rollers with a simple micro ratchet. It won’t be an easy job on the side of the road, but still feasible. And if you can get the car lifted in a garage, this can take you about half an hour! What a major improvement! Not only it saves you a huge number of pricey manhours, but you can fix the car almost anywhere, so you won’t need a flatbed truck to take you and your beloved Morgan back home. Wouldn’t this bring you real peace of mind?

With simple look of a 3-Wheeler with its engine removed, you realize the complexity of this work.

But when you buy a Phil Bleazey’s drive train upgrade kit, the supply is not only limited to the re-designed compensator and drive bell! M3W Services also offers you the possibility to add a better Centa main bearing, an upgraded clutch plate – the original has four springs that tend to break quite easy – and it’s a nice moment to replace the clutch release cylinder. Those are not expensive pieces and can ony be changed while the engine is out.

Classic 5-Speeder clutch plate with a couple of broken springs. Fortunately this one is not ours!

Here you have more pictures of all this process done in our car. Days of precise and hard work! This is not an easy task!

The engine is placed on a proper wood crate for the job.

Disassembling the flywheel and the flywheel’s mounting is a very delicate process. You have to be very careful not to tear apart the heads of the soft Allen bolts fixing the whole. Experience and knowledge are a must!

The flywheel disassembled.

Our clutch plate was in good conditions. With less than 12.000 km there was no sign of broken springs. But it’s always good to know we have an upgraded new clutch plate now.

The bell house seems quite clean!

As commented before, it seems that we did the modification just in time! One of our rollers was missing a big chunk. From there, all of them can be torn apart really quick!

Our rollers set. One is already missing a huge chunk!

As commented before, a new and better Centa main bearing is a plus offered by M3W Services. And while the engine is out it’s advisable to change the clutch plate and the clutch release bearing cylinder too. So, we asked Steve to do all these upgrades!

A new main bearing for us, please!

Now everything is upgraded and ready to be put back in the front of our 3-Wheeler!

The original set, before being changed for the upgraded Bleazey one!
Now the engine is to be mounted back in!

Phil Bleazey has a series of videos in YouTube, explaining all the modifications and improvements he’s done to this train drive kit. It’s worth a view! His explanations are far better than mine! Here are the links related to his specific drive train upgrade:

We finally have everything back on our Morgan! The look from the outside is obviously the same.

And… done!

But this is a major improvement, only detectable beneath the car, showing a larger drive bell (housing) hole through which you can access the plate that holds the rollers.

Here you can see a couple of bell houses with the large access window:

Modified bell houses, give access to the inner rollers and their modified retaining plate.

And this is what you’ll see if you lift the car and look underneath the bell house:

Not so easy to see the inside, but this is really a major improvement!

Now we’re not afraid anymore of the disintegrating rubber rollers! This is the real and most important upgrade of the Morgan. This is what gives us the peace of mind we need for our next adventures!

Hangar works #22 – The front turn lights support

It’s time to solve a known issue of our Morgan. In fact, it’s not just our 3-Wheeler that has this issue, but every Euro4 version cars do. It’s the weakness of the front turn lights’ supports.

What’s wrong with them? And why only the latest cars seem to have this issue? Let’s answer these questions!

The standard turn lights in our 3-Wheelers are an assembly consisting of a bullet-shaped large enclosure made of plastic and an orange colour module with seven LEDs.

Left: the bullet-shaped plastic enclosure. Right: the LED module.

The LEDs module is wedged inside the bullet-shaped enclosure, as shown in this picture below.

This one on the picture is an old one been disassembled, therefore not so good looking. But fair enough as a general view of an assembled turn light.

So, again, what’s the problem with this turn light? Nothing really. It works properly. The first problem is where it is placed. Or it was. That’s why we say “first” problem. You’ll understand if you keep reading.

If you look at the following picture of an early 3-Wheeler, you can see that this turn light is screwed to a short bracket welded below the arm supporting the main headlamps.

Standard front lights’ mount on early 5-Speeders.

Here you have two more photos, courtesy of M3W Services, of an early-design spare arm, with the turn light installed. You can see the detail of the welded bracket holding the turn light.

Excellent view of an early 5-Speeder turn light fixed under the main front lights’ arm.
The welding of the early models’ turn light bracket is solid.

This early design was solid. The bracket is solidly welded to the main arm and there is no news of this breaking. But look again, more carefully, to this picture below! Do you see where the turn light is positioned?

Is the turning light too close to the exhaust header?

That’s the first problem. The exhaust headers run extremely hot, and the plastic enclosure with the turn light is too close. In fact, it’s so close that it can melt, as you can see.

It’s definetely too close!

Why are we talking about the “first” problem”? Why “first”? As this was a known problem, Morgan Motor Company redesigned this piece for the latest Euro4 machines. The main arm is still the same, but the welded little bracket holding the turn light was changed for a longer one, and repositioned: on the new design it’s welded at the very extreme side of the main arm, just above the big nut you see in the pictures.

New design on the Euro4 later models. The turn light is now far away from the exhaust header.
Detail on earlier models. The turn signal is just over the exhaust header and too close.

The idea is good, as this design takes the plastic turn light’s enclosure away from the hot exhaust header. It solves the “first” problem. The turn light will not be damaged by the exhaust header heat anymore. But with this modification, a “second” problem appeared… keep reading to know about it.

Detail of our Euro4 model, showing the turn light forward, even further than the main headlight.
On the earlier cars, it’s positioned just below the big M16 nut holding the main headlights.

Many owners of early 5-Speeder haven’t changed this front lights’ support, and they don’t complain about the melting plastic problem. It seems it’s not happening in all cars.

It might depend on how often you drive your car in heavy traffic, therefore slowly with little cooling air flowing around the exhaust headers and the turn light’s enclosure. If this kind of driving happens too often, you may suffer from this plastic meltdown.

But in the Euro4 versions as ours, it’s a different story. The heat coming out of the exhaust headers is much more because the catalysers restrict even more the exhaust gases’ flow. Don’t you trust me? Well… have a look at this next picture! This red-glowing exhaust header is our friend Pedro Freitas’ Euro4 car after a nice daily drive in Grindelwald. And not precisely slowly in heavy traffic, but at nice speeds with a lot of cool Swiss air flowing around.

Pedro Freita’s Euro4 exhaust header. Beautiful heat red colour. But please don’t touch!

It’s clear that having any plastics close-by this exhaust header is a very bad idea!

But, despite this new bracket design solves the first problem as it avoids the melting plastic issue, it comes with a new problem that makes it even worse: the “second” problem! The first one solved, the second one appears: the welding of the little bracket for the turn light is weak, and with the vibrations of the V-twin S&S engine, and the shacking while starting, they tend to break. It’s a manufacturing problem. The welding proves on and on to be too weak.

And guess where the turn light falls when its support breaks! Got it? Exactly! Just on the exhaust header… and as it’s hanging from the cables, it stays over the header melting as a marshmallow… This happened to us for the first time in September last year, on our way to Grindelwald (see our post “Long range campaign #2”, day 4).

This is what happens when the turn light’s support breaks. Our right side turn light almost disappeared, melted over the exhaust header while driving.

Our right turn light’s bracket broke, and the whole assembly melted as a marshmallow. September 2021.

When we came back to Madrid, after such a long trip without front right turn light, we went to the Morgan dealer’s workshop as asked them to fix the broken bracket. Our car was (and still is) under warranty.

It was then when I investigated a little more about this issue and got the confirmation via Facebook and, of course, the Talk Morgan forum, that ours was not an isolated case. These new Euro4 brackets are not solid enough, and we are many owners suffering this.

I started thinking about a solution, at least something to avoid the turn light to fall over the exhaust when the support breaks. But as the repair was done fast, under warranty, we picked up the car and I did nothing, hoping this new bracket will not break.

And I should have… because on a short drive, end of May, the same bracket (right side) broke again and got the turn light melting against the exhaust pipe once again.

Fortunately, this time I was driving in Madrid, and the smoke and smell warned me immediately about this issue. I could jump off the car and quickly remove the turn light from over the exhaust header. I rolled it over the main arm and drove home.

And broken again! May 2022.

But it was too late… the few seconds of the turn light being over the exhaust pipe were enough to partially melt the plastic enclosure anyway.

Just a few seconds over the exhaust header are enough to melt the plastic.

The turn light still works. But it clearly needs to be replaced again. History repeating: back to the Morgan dealer’s workshop, change under warranty faster than expected, got the same weak kind of bracket back again on my Morgan.

But this time I won’t make the same mistake. I’ll solve the problem for good before the next breakdown. I have a clear idea in mind. I’ll do a reinforcement bracket along the standard one, this one with a 3mm thick stainless-steel plate. Keep reading to know how it’s done!

I start doing the drawings and taking measures, using the still unbroken left side bracket as a template.

A detail of the bracket and the big nut holding the main headlight. The “workzone”.

The measures are not 100% accurate, but good enough to develop my idea of the additional reinforcement bracket.

For my idea, the real obstacle I have are the main headlights cables. Looking at the next scheme of the idea I have, you’ll realize why.

That’s the idea. Reinforcing bracket in red colour. Let’s see if it’s feasible!

I’ll need to totally disconnect the cables, removing them from the Econoseal connector. I mean I should unpin them from the connector, to be able to pass them through the upper big 16mm hole of the reinforcement bracket. And this is difficult, but not because of unpinning them from the connector (that can be easily done with the appropriate tool, that I have), but because you must slide them out of the protecting flexible corrugated hose they’re in, and later slide them back in.

The Econoseal connectors are accessible and easy to manipulate.

Before getting the Morgan to the dealer’s workshop, I tried this with the two cables of the turn light, and it was really complicated to do. So, as I’m using a very thick (3 mm) stainless-steel plate for the reinforcement bracket, I decide to make a simple cut, so the upper hole is open to the edge of the bracket. I’ll slide through the cables of the main headlights, so I don’t have to disconnect anything.

The reinforcement bracket should look something like this.

This is what I have in mind.

Then I think about how to build these reinforcement brackets. And, as a man who knows his limitations, I know that building these with the tools I have, and not being aside the car while doing it, will make this extremely difficult. I won’t be able to do this properly and in a decent time. I need a true workshop. And unfortunately, I don’t have it at home.

But here is the good point: we’re taking our 3-Wheeler in July to M3W Services, in Southwest France. The purpose of this trip is to leave the Morgan in the magical hands of Steve, so that he can make the improvements the car deserves. And these are:

  • Bleazey Centa drive conversion
  • Bleazey upgraded clutch plate
  • Centa main bearings
  • Clutch release cylinder
  • LED main headlights
  • Walbro fuel pump upgrade
  • M3W Services’ rear disc brake conversion
  • New front and rear Öhlins shock absorbers
  • New rear tyre

And some other small things here and there. The purpose is to make the car as much reliable as possible. As enthusiastic 3-Wheeler travellers that we are, we don’t want to see ourselves in the middle of the Portuguese countryside with a fuel pump failure, or have the Centa rollers breaking in a Moroccan mountain pass and be unable to repair them in a little local workshop.

As I know that M3W Services has a really nice workshop plenty of tools I can borrow, I’ll wait to be there to manufacture my reinforcement brackets. I hope the delicious Spanish cold meats and wines I’m bringing to Chas and Steve will be enough as “payment” for borrowing their workshop!

Before leaving, I buy all the materials I need and pack some of my own tools. The most important item is the stainless-steel profile. It’s a 1m long, 20mm wide and 3mm thick piece. And I also take the 4mm Allen bolts, washers, locknuts, metal bits, etc.

The “raw” materials are basic, and easy to find for less than 10 Euros.

Thursday, July the 7th

And it’s on Thursday July the 7th that I secure the trailer to the Land Rover Defender and hit the road to France! It’s a 785 km trip, and I shouldn’t drive faster than 90 km/h as I’m pulling the trailer. So, I leave Madrid at 07h45 in the morning and set the cruise control on the motorway. Unfortunately, Ana Maria must stay at the office, incredibly overloaded with work these summer days. So, this is a solo trip.

The new “Bomber” with the trailer, on its way to France.

Driving the new Land Rover Defender is a delice. The P400 petrol engine pulls the trailer without effort. And the comfort is amazing. I even have a small fridge between the front seats, under the armrest, with cold bottles of water! I’m really in love with this new “Bomber”. And despite travelling alone, I don’t feel tired at all during the whole journey.

With the appropriate stops to rest, refuel, and lunch, I arrive to Montignac-de-Lauzun at 18h00. The sunflowers’ fields welcome me to this quiet and beautiful French area!

The sunflowers’ fields are beautiful this time of the year.

I park and disengage the trailer in front of the M3W Services mythical barn. Four other 3-Wheelers are awaiting ours inside. This is the “temple” of the 5-Speeders. Steve shows me where are the tools I’ll need tomorrow. Apart all sorts of wrenches and all imaginable classic tools, he shows me the whole set of Makita wireless electric tools: drills, grinder, impact wrench,… they even have a bench grinder, a bench powerful drill, and a massive vice! And all this in a garage holding four beautiful 3-Wheelers. I’m drooling all over the place!

Spacious work space!

After memorizing the tools and where they are in the workshop, I jump back in the Land Rover and drive to the lovely guesthouse Le Papillon, in the village. It’s just a 3 minutes’ drive. Le Papillon is managed by lovely Annette, and it’s a super-comfortable and spacious village house. Really a peaceful place with all the commodities. Even too big for me being alone! As the house has three large rooms, I can’t decide in which one sleep!

Check Le Papillon in AirBnB! If you ever plan to take your 3-Wheeler to M3W Services, and want to stay a few days in this beautiful area, that’s an amazing place to stay!

Maison de Papillon-Charming house. Free wifi – Houses for Rent in Montignac-de-Lauzun, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France – Airbnb

Le Papillon guesthouse at Montignac-de-Lauzun.

After dropping the luggage, deciding about the room, and having a fast shower, I head to Au Bosq. Chas and Chris invited me for dinner, and I’m really happy to see them again and enjoy their fresh and comfortable terrace. Excellent dinner, fantastic wine, and the best possible company! I really like Montignac-de-Lauzun!

Friday, July the 8th

It’s Friday morning! Time to work! I get to the M3W Services workshop and start cutting the stainless-steel profile.

Having a powerful bench drill makes the difference!

Then comes the drilling, bending and grinding to reach the appropriate shape and dimensions of the piece, so it fits perfect below the turn light bracket.

This massive vice is fantastic.

The stainless-steel profile is surprisingly hard. It takes hours to make the first reinforcement bracket. But the point was to do it with precision, making sure that it fits like a glove below the standard turn light bracket. The highest difficulty I find is that the inside lower part of the standard Morgan bracket is 18mm wide, so I must file the sides of the 20mm profile to get it in there.

Then I use the big vice and a nylon hammer to bend the piece, then a metal hammer too, with patience and precision. More bench grinder, manual file, Dremel polishing… I try the piece on its position several times until I get the perfect shape, angles, and dimensions.

Bending the new reinforcement bracket. Little by little! Patience is key.

Once the first piece is done, the second one is much faster and easier. I do the final retouches with the Dremel to smooth the edges, and job finished! They might not look amazing in the pictures, but I assure you they do the job way better than I could imagine.

The new reinforcement brackets about to be finished.

I put them in place and tighten the big M16 nut that holds the main headlights in place, and now also the upper part of the new reinforcing bracket.

I make sure they fit perfect in place, without any unnecessary metal tension when tightening the big nut, I take them out again and make the final 4mm hole in the bottom part using the bench drill.

And I put them back again and, using the 4mm hole of the reinforcement bracket as a guide for the bit, I make the hole on the original bracket with the wireless drill.

The final dimensions of the reinforcement brackets are these.

Final dimensions.

I know I’m missing the angles of the elbows. I’m sorry for that, but don’t have on hand any appropriate measuring tool to get these.

A little bit of manual file to smooth the edges of the holes, and then I pass through the Allen bolt, washers, and nylon lock nut. This set is made of a stainless steel 4mm Allen head bolt, a stainless-steel standard washer and a locking star washer on the upper side, and a stainless-steel standard washer and a stainless-steel nylon lock nut on the lower side.

The final M4 Allen bolt assembly.

Once installed, the reinforcement bracket is hold by the big M16 nut and its washer, holding the main headlights. And it holds the standard bracket via this M4 Allen bolt assembly. If the standard bracket breaks again, this 3mm thick stainless-steel reinforcement bracket will hold it in place.

I have doubts about spraying these new reinforcement brackets with black paint, but I finally decide to leave them as they are, because you can barely see them, and many other pieces there aren’t painted either.

I make the final adjustments and tight hard everything in place. The result is very satisfactory. I’m really pleased with this idea. Now the turn lights’ supports look indestructible!

But the time is gone so fast! I can’t believe it’s already 17h30! And we must be at the local pub at 18h00!

With a big smile on my face and the satisfaction of a nice and productive day in the workshop, I drive back to Le Papillon, have a nice shower, and get ready for the evening. I’m joining Chas, Chris, Annette, Steve, and many other friends at the local pub.

The Old Lord Raglan. The local pub in Montignac-de-Lauzun. A British spot in the middle of the French countryside.

Tonight, there is live music at the Old Lord Raglan! And a Thai food truck is coming! It’s a sunny evening. Nice beer, nice food, excellent company. What an excellent day!

Saturday, July the 9th

After a peaceful sleep – this village is so quiet! – I wake up and talk to Chas and Steve and agree to meet around 10h00.

Today, Michel, a French owner of a really nice Super Dry Edition 3-Wheeler, is coming with his wife to pick it up after some M3W Services modifications and repairs. We meet them and have a good chat, then take the Morgans out for a short test drive. Everything is perfect, and on ours the reinforcement brackets are almost invisible. But we know now they are there. Our front turn lights should never again fall over the exhaust headers!

Chas comes with me as co-pilot, and he seems surprised of how quiet our 3-Wheeler is compared to the ones he owns. That’s a good sign. I really think our Morgan is healthy and runs smooth as it should.

I finally have to say goodbye. Because I’m supposed to drive back home today. Same 785km back to Madrid, but only this time I’m not limited to 90 km/h!

The sunflower fields that welcomed me on Thursday are gently waving goodbye with the breeze.

Goodbye Montignac-de-Lauzun! See you again very soon! And ready for the third Grindelwald adventure!

Let’s go back home!

Short fighter mission #6 – 2nd & 3rd of July 2022

It’s June. It’s hot in Madrid. Very hot. 40ºC outside! The Speedy Marmots are seeking refuge from this early heat wave in our den.

As we work intensively with the blessing of air conditioning, we receive an email from Colin Duggan. Very interesting news! Colin and Carole, with Len Critchlow and his son Bill, are sailing from the UK to Bilbao, in Northern Spain. And in the ferry hold, their superb vintage Morgan 3-Wheelers! A pair of Super Sports. We’ll make a proper presentation of the machines further in this post.

Colin’s (1933) and Len’s (1936) Super Sports.

Their plan is to arrive to Bilbao on June the 28th, and then travel down crossing the Rioja region, stopping at Sigüenza, then to Segovia, and back up to Santander via Lerma. Fantastic trip! And they’ll be so close to Madrid! Sigüenza is just a little more than an hour drive from our house!

In his email, Colin copies also Sergio Romagosa. Sergio is a Spanish owner of another amazing historical 3-Wheeler, totally restored. Sergio and I talk to each other immediately after receiving Colin’s email and agree to join them in Sigüenza with our little rockets.

Sergio is an insurance broker specialized in classic cars. In his web page – www.escuderia.com – you find a lot more information than just insurance! He is a real enthusiast of vintage and historic cars, and his knowledge and net of friends is impressive. In fact, someone from his wide “spying” net sent him a few days later this picture of Colin’s and Len’s 3-Wheelers parked somewhere near Burgos!

Already in Spain! Picture taken in Burgos area.

Unfortunately, we both can join our UK friends only for the weekend. But we’re excited to meet such experienced adventurers!

We make some calls to arrange our stay, but there is no room in the hotel that Colin, Carole, Len and Bill have booked very close to Sigüenza. We all tried at Sigüenza’s magnificent Parador Nacional, but this is fully booked for months! In fact, all the hotels in the area are busy. The reason is that the early heat waves we suffered this month of June made the lavender fields bloom earlier. The lavender fields use to bloom last week of July or beginning of August. The earlier blooming this year is the reason why this area, normally famous and crowded due to its proximity to Madrid, is unusually crowded this first weekend of July.

Lavender fields are many and famous around Brihuega.

But Ana Maria makes her magic again and sends an email to the Molino de Alcuneza, this fantastic boutique hotel we stayed a couple of years ago (see our Short fighter mission #4), and she manages to get a couple of rooms for the weekend, for Sergio and his wife Susana, and ourselves. Fortunately, being in the travel business helps a lot in these situations!

The Molino de Alcuneza is a little luxurious oasis very close to Sigüenza.

The Molino de Alcuneza is part of the high-end Relais & Chateaux hotel chain. And with its 1 Michelin Star restaurant is probably the best possible choice around Sigüenza. We can’t complain about our stay!

Saturday, July the 2nd

Today we’ll meet! We’re the first ones to arrive to the hotel, around noon. We could have driven our 5-Speeder from home, but the day is too hot, and it’s also the perfect occasion to use our new Land Rover Defender to tow the trailer, for the first time. What a machine! And maneuvering the trailer with all the aids and electronics looks like a kid’s game. We’re in love with that car and its towing capabilities.

Sergio and Susana arrive just half an hour later, also towing their fabulous 3-Wheeler.

Sergio’s 1934 Super Sports, ready to be downloaded from the trailer.

We unload the Morgans and keep them under the shade of the old watermill stone wall. Almost a hundred years of Morgan’s history together!

Susana, standing by (almost) 100 years of Morgan history!

Meanwhile, the UK team is driving past El Burgo de Osma, through Berlanga de Duero, Caltojar, Rello, Barahona, Imon, to finally reach Sigüenza. They expect to be at their hotel around 14h30.

It means we have time to enjoy a nice lunch and the swimming pool!

We created a WhatsApp group for the occasion, and Colin writes they’ve arrived on time, and they are resting too, waiting for the sun and the temperatures to drop down a little more. We agree to meet at their hotel around 17h00.

The “oldies” have arrived!

During the afternoon, Sergio calls a friend that works at the Sigüenza’s city hall. He is another classic cars lover, and he tells Sergio that he’ll arrange a “VIP parking” for our machines this evening. We’ll have a chain open by the local police, so we can park our Morgans in the middle of Sigüenza’s main square, just aside the XII century cathedral! Now that’s real VIP parking! Sergio’s network is truly amazing!

At the schedule time, we join Colin, Carole, Len and Bill at their hotel. What a scenery! Four 3-Wheelers, three of them from the 30’s, all together in Spain! That’s really unusual! Ana Maria and I have tried several times to contact other 3-Wheeler owners, but apart a couple of great exceptions (Ralph Jenner in Andalucía – far South – and Simón Martínez in Catalonia – far Northeast) the few 3-Wheelers Spanish owners have not replied our messages yet.

Morgans together!

Now it’s the right time to present the machines of this British-Spanish squadron! Let’s go from elder to youngest.

This is Colin and Carole’s beautiful green 1933 Super Sports. One of the last beetlebacks, a version with interchangeable wheels. With a nice JAP engine. Very few of these remain on the road today.

Colin’s 1933 Supet Sports beetleback.
Nice JAP engine, and classy details.

And here comes Sergio and Susana’s 1934 red and cream Super Sports. Astonishing restoration. Polished metals and neat Matchless engine.

Sergio’s 1934 Super Sports.
Neat and bright! Beautiful shining metals!

This super elegant in this blue duotone color is Len and Bill’s 1936 Super Sports. With another Matchless fantastic engine. A really fast machine for its age.

Len’s 1936 Super Sports
Classic elegance with a sporty touch.

And at least but not last, the Speedy Marmot’s 2020 Morgan Sports Green 5-Speeder, with a much bigger and thirsty S&S engine. The 21st century version!

Speedy Marmot’s 2020 5-Speeder.

At the hotel they’re celebrating a wedding. Loud music and joyful ambience. We have some of the guests being curious around the Morgans, and we even give a ride to some of them.

Enjoying the cars.

So, after the appropriate introductions, anecdotes, jokes, and of course drooling over each other’s cars, we start all engines and drive to Sigüenza. All cars but Sergio and Susana stop at the petrol station to fill up the tanks with fresh and expensive petrol. Petrol prices these days are beating all records!

Sergio and Susana did not follow us to the petrol station as they wanted to make sure that our “VIP parking” was set up. And here we are! At the “VIP parking” in the middle of the main square! The Morgans become immediately the center of attention.

VIP Parking at the main square in Sigüenza!

Soon after we park, we’re surrounded by many people taking pictures and asking questions. These machines are a true magnet to people of all ages.

The Morgans parked aside the XII century cathedral.

Sigüenza is one of the most historic cities in Spain located north of the province of Guadalajara. Undoubtedly, this municipality is marked by its castle, the current Parador National. Construction began in 1123 to serve as a palace-fortress and residence for the bishops who were lords of the city for seven centuries.

In Roman times, it was a site with a lot of trading and many inhabitants, who surely built the tower or watchtower over the valley in what is now the castle-fortress. Visigoths and Arabs inhabited this city.

The machines and their owners. From left to right: Colin, Carole, Ana Maria, Javier, Sergio, Susana, Len and Bill.

The reconquest of Sigüenza took place in the same year of 1123, being its first bishop, Don Bernardo de Agen, who commanded a powerful army and conquered the city from the Arabs who occupied it.

Perfectly aligned.

Since then, the history of Sigüenza and its castle has paralleled that of its bishops. From the XII century, these bishops and other influential people who passed through Sigüenza were raising, expanding, and fortifying the castle, until it became one of the largest and most important in the Iberian Peninsula. In its halls they put chapels, courtrooms, courts and jails. Many soldiers and servants were in the care of the Castle, where the bishops lived for long periods.

Sigüenza’s castle. Today a Parador Nacional.

We walked uphill from the main square to pay a visit to this magnificent and historic fortress. But sadly, we can’t get further than the reception of the Parador Nacional. The excuse is that there is a wedding and the whole building is hired for this private event.

We come back to the main square through some narrow medieval streets, passing in front of a couple of beautiful roman churches, to finally sit down for a few cold beers and have relaxed and interesting conversations.

We just notice that Ana Maria’s t-shirt matches with the gay flag shown on the balcony of the City Hall (this is the Gay Parade week in many cities in Spain, therefore this flag on the City Hall balcony).

Enjoying beers and sodas.

After a very nice time in this beautiful medieval square, we decide it’s time to leave for dinner. Sergio and Susana decide to stay and have dinner at the place, while the rest of the group we head back to our respective hotels.

Let’s get ready and rest for tomorrow’s route!

Sunday, July the 3rd

Today’s route is a round trip, from and back to Sigüenza, enjoying the country roads in the area. We plan to stop at Cifuentes for lunch. But before that, we’ll stop by a friend’s house to chill out a little bit, eat some appetizers and drink some wines.

This was our morning itinerary.

First section – From Sigüenza to Cifuentes

78 km and 1 h 45 min estimated driving time.

If you have a keen eye, you may notice that the map indicates 1h08min estimated driving time, and not 1h45min as I wrote. But this is because the Morgans our friends are driving are not 5-Speeders, with a powerful engine and 21st century settings. And consequently, their average speed on these roads is slower, between 45 and 50 km/h (28 to 34 mph).

Driving the old 3-Wheelers is a totally different challenge! Throttle, mechanic brakes through cables, independent brakes front and rear… the differences are many and the difficulty much higher. The skills of the pilot are key for a smooth drive, keeping the engine cool, and avoiding the brakes to fade away at the first downhill.

These are a real challenge to drive! Fearless and experienced drivers!

We planned to meet at 9h45 in front of Sigüenza’s railway station. The day is announced to be hot. Very hot. Hats and UV protective sleeves are a must for us. And of course, the essential sunscreen.

Getting started! UV sleeves and cap on!

Sergio turns the crank of his Matchless engine and it fires immediately. We drive smoothly to the meeting point, with loud pops and bangs while the old Matchless engine warms up and Sergio makes the correct adjustments.

Lovely photo of such an elegant vehicle!

After joining the Brits, we all cross the village and Sergio makes a short stop to fill his tank. Now we’re all ready to go!

We drive towards Alcolea del Pinar. The road is easy, and the old cars run faster than expected, reaching on some occasions the 70 km/h (44 mph). No one wants to drive too fast, as the day is getting hot and Sergio’s engine is still newly restored, with very few miles on it, and he doesn’t want to force it too much.

We’re really enjoying the drive, despite some confusions with the maps and routes to follow at the beginning.

As our 5-Speeder is more agile, we play back and forth taking beautiful videos with the GoPros.

We reach our friend’s house on schedule, at 12h30. Isa and Ricky’s house is beautiful, a pure oasis with water running everywhere, in the middle of the semi-arid region of Guadalajara. It’s a fully restored water mill, with a lot of history, and one of the oldest hydro power plants in Spain. Small size, of course, but surprisingly still generating.

Isn’t this looking fantastic as a pit stop?

Our friends delight us with a delicious Spanish potato tortilla, cold meats, homemade croquettes, and of course excellent wines and soft drinks that we enjoy by the pool. This stop in such a fresh environment is highly appreciated by all of us.

Green oasis in the middle of a very dry region.

The day is very hot, and despite wearing hats and caps, sunscreen and UV protecting sleeves, we could feel that the sun is merciless today, and hitting hard. We do feel the dehydration! The air in this Spanish region is incredibly dry, and you can get easily dehydrated while driving the 3-Wheeler if you’re not careful and drink a lot of water.

Enjoying our friends and their fabulous hospitality.

After a nice hour and a half enjoying our friend’s company, house, and kitchen, we fire the engines and head to the village center. It’s just five minutes’ drive. We’ll have a light lunch at the restaurant La Esquinita. A nice spot with a terrace covered with a large centennial vine.

Parked aside Adam’s beautiful 1931 Alvis.

Arriving there, we have another surprise arranged by Sergio. He called a friend he knows through vintage and historic cars insurance business, and he was waiting for us at the restaurant with a fabulous and pristine 1931 Alvis!

Adam is British, and he lives in Cifuentes. And as you can see, he is another enthusiast of vintage and historic cars! Apart this Alvis, he owns an old Seat 600 too, that we missed to see yesterday in Cifuentes as there was a Seat 600 club meeting there!

Alvis’ bunny guarding the vehicles!

We park the Morgans around this beautiful machine and, as usual, we have plenty of curious people asking and taking many photos.

We stay around the cars chatting and enjoying the conversation, but soon we realize that the sun is still up there, cooking everything that’s not under a shade, and we take refugee inside the restaurant. The thick stone walls and some air conditioning make the interior really comfortable compared to the outer inferno! We are reaching the 40ºC right now outside!

The cars outside, under the sun… with 40ºC ambient temperature!

Lunch is again a very pleasant moment of rest, with excellent conversations and fantastic company. After rehydrating as much as possible, and with not too much food to digest in our bellies (hard to say in Spain, generally), we go out again under the sun and restart our route.

Lovely bunny.

We do some videos and take the mandatory pictures after lunch, before saying goodbye to Adam and his daughter.

At Cifuentes, after a nice lunch.

We fire the engines and head now towards Brihuega and its famous lavender fields. With a short stop at the exit of the village to refuel again the old machines.

This was our afternoon itinerary.

Second section – From Cifuentes to Sigüenza

75 km and 1 h 45 min estimated driving time.

We drive at very good rhythm, with the engines staying relatively cool for the heat of the day. Nice average speeds heading to Brihuega through Solanillos del Extremo. Definitely, this Spanish region is really dry.

We do a couple of stops before reaching Brihuega, to enjoy the first lavender fields we see in bloom.

Lavender fields are blooming earlier this year!

There is very little traffic on this road, and we drive easily crossing very few vehicles, and comfortably stopping at will whenever we see a nice sight over the purple fields.

We finally reach Brihuega. And we must climb from the bottom of the canyon on one side to the top of the hill on the other side of town. The road is too demanding for the old engines, and Sergio’s Matchless gives him the overheating alarm and he needs to stop just before the end of the uphill.

Waiting for Sergio’s Matchless engine to cool down.

After a few minutes waiting for the temperature of his cooling system to drop down, he restarts and joins us a few hundred meters further on the plain. There we stop for a good half an hour, drink some water and enjoy the views while the Morgans rest under the shade of the short trees, engines cooling down to reasonable temperatures.

We finally restart with crews and machines refreshed, and drive easy back to Sigüenza, enjoying the landscapes, more lavender fields in blossom, and even spotting few deer on the high grass fields aside the road.

After reaching Sigüenza, Sergio and Susana say goodbye to the British team and head direct to the Molino de Alcuneza, dreaming about the freshwater swimming pool. We can’t blame them, as not only their machine overheated today! Meanwhile, Ana Maria and I follow Colin, Carole, Len and Bill to their hotel, where we spend a really nice time chatting and having some dinner with beers and sodas.

Tomorrow, they drive to Segovia. We talk about the route, and we recommend them some mountain passes around this impressive city.

What a fantastic day! We are really happy we joined our friends. The experience of driving with such skilled drivers and their historic machines is an amazing experience we hope we’ll repeat again!

After a fond farewell, our day and our 3-Wheeler adventure ends with a short drive to the Molino de Alcuneza. Tomorrow, we drive back home with a lot of new great memories!

Hangar works #21 – New lithium battery

I’m writing this post a little bit late… as our flat battery problem happened beginning of February! We’ve been travelling quite a while since then, and very busy with our work when in Madrid, so I couldn’t write this post earlier. My apologies for that!

So, let’s go to business! The battery…. Yes, this infamous Banner standard battery equipped in our Morgan 3-Wheelers… Why “infamous”? Because we are too many complaining about this battery that our little rockets equip as a standard.

The exact model is the Banner Starting Bull 530 30. It looks nice, with a red angry bull charging out of a yellow flame-looking explosive background. But don’t get fooled by its looks… It’s famous for getting flat without any previous warning. At random. Any moment, any place. Some get flat after few months, and others last for years. In our case it lasted two years, clearly too short for an average quality battery. So, it’s not average quality, but poor. At least from our experience. Therefore, driving the car with this battery onboard is a little bit like playing the Russian Roulette. It’s clearly one of those weak points you must get rid of as soon as possible.

The Banner Starting Bull 530 30.

It’s true that the 3-Wheeler is not a car that you use daily, therefore using a battery conditioner is always a good idea if you don’t plan to start and run the little rocket at least every two or three weeks. But here in Madrid it doesn’t rain that much, and, despite it can be very cold in winter, we drive the Morgan every two weeks, or three weeks maximum, and long enough to make sure that the battery gets a good amount of “juice” from the rectifier.

We go down to the garage the 5th of February, to enjoy a short Saturday drive in Madrid. Four weeks since the last drive, longer than usual, and we find the voltmeter below 9V… The Morgan doesn’t even try to start.

For a very short time, we consider reviving this Banner battery. I look on the internet to buy a portable jump starter, but this idea doesn’t convince me much. Because the S&S engine is not precisely a quick-starting motor. And most of the portable jump starters won’t give enough seconds of full amperage. They may not have “enough juice” for the 7- or 10-seconds of the S&S V-Twin cold starting procedure. And we know the standard Banner is not the best battery… investing money trying to revive it will just extend the agony and will be more expensive at the end of the day.

I discuss the matter with Ana Maria, and we finally decide to change the battery. But which one is the best alternative to the original Banner model? I look into the fantastic “M3W Alternative Parts List” file. An amazing and incredibly useful file created by Ian Brett – AKA Planenut in our beloved Talk Morgan forum – in which you find the most interesting and reliable alternative parts to replace the standard ones that our M3W equips from factory. The list shows up to fifteen possible battery candidates!

I then chatted with my good friends of M3W Services asking for their personal advice. They totally convinced me to change the battery and forget about the portable jump starter. We’re definitely on the right path.

I’m looking for a direct replacement. Or at least a good battery that doesn’t imply big modifications underneath the bonnet. Because there is no perfect match to the Banner’s dimensions. And under the 3-Wheeler bonnet there is not much room for modifications. I read carefully the Banner Starting Bull 530 30 specifications, to make sure I buy a battery with the same, if not better characteristics.

The Banner Starting Bull 530 30 data sheet.

The Starting Bull 530 30 has these dimensions: L187mm, W128mm and H165mm. None of the alternative batteries’ dimensions are exactly the same. An additional obstacle in our case is that we built a storage to keep the main tools’ bags under the bonnet, precisely very close to the battery, as you can see in the next image.

This is how our under bonnet looks like, with all the tools’ bags. Not much room near the battery!

The one on the M3W Alternative Parts List that most attires my attention is the Magnetti Marelli MM-ion15. It has a very similar size than the Banner – slightly smaller – and it’s a high-performance lithium battery. On the top of that, it happens it’s the model that Chas uses in his “Black Adder” 3-Wheeler. And with excellent results! He tells me that the first one he put in lasted for seven years! Magnetti Marelli it will be!

I buy one on the internet. It’s not a cheap battery, been a lithium one and with very good characteristics: 264,84 € in Amazon. And we receive it a couple of days after ordering it.

The new and beautiful Magnetti Marelli MM-ion15.

I never had a car or motorcycle lithium battery before, and I’m absolutely amazed with the weight. It’s so light I even think it’s fake! It’s really astonishing. Only 1.988 grams! The original Banner weights 8 kilograms! What a huge difference!

Less than 2 kg! Realy!!?? Wow!

The change of the battery is easy. The Banner is out in a few minutes, and the Magnetti Marelli is in really fast. However, I find a little problem: the metal plate that retains the battery, which is screwed via two long metal yokes, hooked at the battery base under the bonnet and with threaded upper end where the retaining plate and a couple of nuts go, don’t keep solidly enough the new battery. Because the yokes are too long, designed for the taller Banner battery, and the threads not long enough for the nuts to fix down the retaining plate.

Finally in place!

But this little issue is easily fixed by sticking below the plate a couple of Teflon skates. The kind you stick below the feet of your furniture or the legs of your tables, to move them easy and without scratching the floor. Cheap and easy solution, for less than 5 Euros.

A couple of Teflon Skates. Such an easy and cheap solution!

Now the plate makes enough downforce on the battery, so it doesn’t move at all. And another advantage is that the skates are made of Teflon, so there is not a direct touch of the metal plate over the battery, and it won’t be scratch nor damaged in any way.

Here below you have a few pictures of the final result.

Perfect fit now.

After all the fixing and cabling, Im about to start the engine, still been sceptic because of the super-light new battery. Can this really give more crank amperage than the heavy Banner? The answer comes a couple of seconds just after pushing the start button! The engine fires up immediately. Wow! I’m happily surprised.

I drive to the dealer’s workshop to give them the old dead Banner battery for them to recycle it, and chat with them about the new Magnetti Marelli I just installed. Those guys are always interested and pay a lot of attention to all the modifications I make in my 3-Wheeler. It wouldn’t be the first time they ask me for advice! Now they know about a much better battery!

Since the change, we notice a real improvement, as our M3W starts faster. This new lithium battery is really an excellent choice. We hope it will last many years from now!

Fighters and bombers #5 – The Land Rover Defender

  • Model – Land Rover Defender 110 HSE
  • Year of manufacture – 2022
  • Engine – L6, 3.0 biturbo petrol – 400 bhp / 550 Nm
  • 8-Speed automatic gearbox
  • Performance : 0-100 km/h in 6,1 s
  • Top speed : 191 km/h

After returning our beloved Jaguar F-Pace in June 2021, we need a replacement SUV, again capable of towing our trailer with the Morgan 3-Wheeler. Our first idea is to buy another Jaguar F-Pace, as the size of the vehicle was ideal for the two of us: not too big, and really sporty (despite being an SUV) with any of the six cylinders engines.

This time, the new Ingenium P400 is the preferred choice; a petrol in-line six cylinders engine, with an incredible amount of power – 400 bhp – and enough torque – 550 Nm – to pull the trailer.

But then Jaguar Land Rover tells us that they can’t order the F-Pace with this engine and, even worse, with the options we are asking for. Because of a tremendous Worldwide lack of microprocessors! Been the towing ball the most important one. If we are thinking about spending such a huge amount of money on a new car, we really want it configured our way… so, we decide to wait until we can buy the car we really want.

Then I started looking at other options outside the Jaguar Land Rover brand. After some test drives and visits to different dealers, the only real option is the smallest new Porsche Macan S. But again, Porsche tells us they can’t guarantee all the options because of the microprocessor’s crisis, and the delivery time is “undefined” but for sure longer than six months… So, we decide to keep waiting.

Then, end of January this year 2022, I go a Monday morning to collect our fabulous 1988 fully restored Range Rover Vogue SE, after its last revision before been sold. I get into the showroom, sit down with our nice friend and salesman Guillermo, and ask again about a new F-Pace with a six cylinders P400 engine. He tells me again that it’s still impossible to order the car we want, but then asks me if I mind about the size of the car. Well, it depends on the model, and the price, of course…

And then he shows me the beast. A brand-new white Land Rover Defender 110 with all the extras we want. Just arrived fresh from factory last Friday. The car was in the showroom just for few hours! And they already had calls from other dealer’s shops asking for it and offering a reserve.

With the HSE termination, black alloy 22” wheels, and a lot of gadgets and options, this humungous white beast, with its black leather interior, is really stunning. And of course, it has the towing options we need! I call Ana Maria and send her a few pictures. She loves it too! Guillermo puts a reservation for us, to avoid the car “flying away” before we send all the paperwork.

We come back the afternoon so she can see the car live too. Give all the paperwork, and the operation is fortunately approved really quick and easy. We have a new car!

The delivery takes a little longer than usual, as we ask for an extra option: the front and rear Land Rover dashcams. It’s a security item that I personally wanted. In Spain it’s still not mandatory, but the recording of the dashcams is already accepted as a proof in case you have a trial against another driver.

Three weeks after signing all the papers, the Land Rover is parked at home, aside our trailer with the 3-Wheeler.

Fantastic! We’re really happy with this super comfortable new machine! Now it’s time to enjoy it!