Guest Author: A History of #33

| July 31, 2017 | 1 Comments

by Pat Starr, Greg Powell, Gordon Craig, and Ed Blake

Special thanks to authors Pat Starr, Greg Powell, and Ed Blake, as well as Gordon Craig, editor of The Morgazette, the newsletter of the Morgan Sports Car Club of Northern California for allowing us to reproduce this article.

1958 Morgan Race Car

A New Life For #33, Greg’s Excellent Adventure

Number 33 has been racing for half a century. The previous two owners, Tom Kennedy and Patrick Starr, both raced the car mostly at tracks in the U.S. mid-west and east coast. From 1959-1969 it was dual purpose, driven on the street and run in SCCA Regional and National races. It was converted to a “race only” vehicle in 1970-71 and run in a few more SCCA races, then retired. With a detuned engine and street radial tires, it started running Vintage Events in 1976. And, with a few missed seasons and some upgrades, the Morgan is still competing, having finished three events in 2015.

The original owner, Tom Kennedy of Minnetonka, MN (deceased) purchased it new from “Cars of the World” in Madison, WI in October 1958. He drove it on the street and raced it in some SCCA events in the mid-west. In fall 1962, with 13,000 miles on the odometer, he consigned the Morgan for sale to “Grand Prix Motors”, a small used car lot on East Lake Street in Minneapolis, run by Dewey Brohaugh. Pat Starr purchased it in January 1963 and drove it on the street to work, school, etc. In June 1963, he completed an SCCA Driver’s School in the Morgan and then ran four SCCA Regional Events.

1958 Morgan Race Car

After this first season, the Morgan underwent a body-off restoration and the engine was slightly modified. From 1964 through 1969 Morgan was driven on the street and ran fifteen more SCCA events, including Nationals at Lynndale Farms (’66), the June Sprints (’67,’68), and Donnybrooke (1968 Opener and 1969).

At the end of 1969, with 26,000 miles on the odometer, the Morgan was converted to a “race only” vehicle within SCCA rules. #33 Morgan has had many modifications and upgrades, including body-off rebuilds in 1963-64 and 2003-04. The engine has all the good stuff (steel crankshaft, H-Beam rods, etc.) and produces 150 HP at the rear wheels. It is fast, having turned 1:50’s on the BIR (Brainerd International Raceway) short course, and 2:44’s on Road America (Elkhart Lake).

1958 Morgan Race Car

From 1991 – 1998, Starr resumed racing the Morgan, which was upgraded with a major engine rebuild, a fuel cell, a racing seat, a Supersports style air scoop, and air filters. Thirteen Vintage Events were run at BIR, Road America, and on Minneapolis city streets with Trans-Am events. #33 was not raced from 1999 – 2003 and plans were made for upgrades, including a new roll bar structure with cockpit side tubes, a strengthened front frame, and aluminum flooring replacing the wood. In early 2004 it was announced that Morgan would be the Marque Featured Vehicle at the Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival (ELVF). Along with 37 other Morgans, #33 was part of that race.

1958 Morgan Race Car

From 2004 – 2015 #33 Morgan has run twenty-six Vintage Events at BIR, Road America, Portland Intl. Raceway, Road Atlanta, and Watkins Glen. A major engine rebuild was done in 2011 with new liners and pistons, and the Triumph crankshaft and connecting rods were finally replaced with a steel crankshaft and H-Beam rods. In July 2015 the engine was refreshed with rings, bearings, clutch, etc., and broken in at a test day at BIR in August. In September, #33 Morgan ran the 2015 ELVF and completed all practice, qualifying and race sessions.

MSSC member Greg Powell of Oakland, CA became the third owner in May 2017. Greg has had extensive Miata Competition Series experience at Sonoma Raceway and Thunderhill Track Days in his BMW Z3 for the last 5 years, the “LeMons” Racing Challenge at Sonoma and he is vintage racing the 1930 “Red Lion Special” Riley-Ford open wheel track car for owner Dale Barry at Monterey and Coronado. He has also taken instruction from veteran racer Tom Morgan to hone his skills.

1958 +4 Morgan Race Car

Many of you in the Morgan Club know of Greg, he and his parents Lynn and Karen are long time members and participate regularly in Morgan runs and multi-day driving events, like FlogMog and SpringMog. Greg was practically born in a Morgan.

Greg had been hankering for his own Morgan race car for quite some time when this one popped up online. He jumped on it, had extensive talks with the seller and bobs-your-uncle he became the caretaker of #33. This historic, long-lived race car is in its 5th decade of racing history. It is a very well sorted and substantial vehicle and came to Greg with many spares and essentials. Straight away he registered for the SVRA sanctioned Sonoma Historics and assembled his crew. Immediately I wanted to pit crew for him and he agreed and its been a privilege to do so. I got to work with him, his Dad, Karen and his knowledgeable friends (Burton Edwards, Alberto Goncalves, Michael Detmer) in prepping #33.

1958 +4 Morgan Race Car

Greg checks his gauges.

Greg had his learning curve starting Thursday, June 1st in practice laps—There is a 13 min video on his Google drive and it shows right from rolling out the grid how well he drives and handles the car. He mastered the notchy Moss box rather quickly, up and down shifting 3rd to 4th and back and double clutching when needed at speed into and out of the turns right through to Turn 11. His onboard lap timer recorded his fastest at 2’18”. Friday he had more short laps in the morning and even shorter black flagged 2 laps in the afternoon after a car from a previous group lost its oil on the track and the cleanup ate into practice time. By Saturday morning qualification he came away with a full ten seconds shaved to 2’08.5″, and he was driving on lumpy 5-year-old Hoosier race radials. He knew better and arranged to buy some new Hoosiers from the Roger Kraus Tire Shop at the track, they were ready Sunday morning. As a veteran MGB driver pit neighbor noted: “You don’t know you need new tires until you drive on them.”

As with any well-prepared racer, there wasn’t that much to do to #33 between practice, quails and the Feature Race except to check oil and gas levels, top off, replenish as needed. All hoses and external tanks for the cooling and engine “Accusump” oiling systems were good and secure. No ignition problems (points). The Moss gearbox had no leaks. There seemed to be a slight seep of wheel bearing grease from the right side hub dust cover, but nothing to worry about. The SUs needed some damping oil in the bells, bound to burn off in hot laps. Other than that, #33 got a wipe down, and she was ready for the next session.

Morgan Race Car

A Great Pit Crew, including his Mother and Father, Karen & Lynn Powell

Meantime out on the track, Greg’s lap times were getting quicker and quicker in 5-second increments and better. Once he changed to the new Hoosiers for the Feature Race, he was right in the middle of the field closing in on the chase. Group 9 had two very fast Loti and a Turner at 1-2-3 and they were way ahead of everyone else, more than half a lap at the finish. So the “race within the race” was further back, stacked with BMW 2002s, Alfas, Porsches and all our fast Morgans, led by Jeff Abramson in #145 Baby Doll, Brian Howlett #111, Greg”s #33, and Greg Solow #45 Baby Doll, right behind, all within 2 seconds of each other, around 2’00” flat. Those new Hoosier skins paid off.

1958 +4 Morgan Race Car

#33 was a Star on and off the track, ready for another Half Century.

All that, and a parade, too. The night before, Saturday was the traditional Vintage Parade to Sonoma Square, and Greg/ #33 had been selected. All of us in the crew could go and partake of the festivities, food, and wine. Greg and his mum Karen donned helmets and harness and escorted by the CHP closing intersections and leading, pulled into the horseshoe drive, parked head to tail all the way around.

#33 1958 Morgan Race Car


1 Comment on "Guest Author: A History of #33"

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  1. Rob Uhl says:

    Talked to Pat just before he sold it. Our stories are very similar except I’d never sell mine. I’m glad it has a good home on the left coast.

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