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Magneto magazine drives thunderous V8-powered Morgan Plus 8 GTR

Words: Alex Goy | Photography: DK Engineering

In 2021, Morgan was all guns blazing with its new turbocharged era. The Plus Six and its explosive torque put grins on faces (and also strengthened some glutes with occasional ‘whoops’ moments), and the less pointy Plus Four brought refinement to the manufacturer’s smallest four-wheeler. The only car you could buy without turbo assistance was the 3 Wheeler, which was, and still is, the preserve of the truly mad.

You’d expect an announcement of a brief return to the naturally aspirated V8 would be some sort of hilarious ash-framed jape, but it wasn’t. Morgan had found nine ‘old’ chassis, and 4.8-litre BMW-sourced powerplants to match, and it was going to turn them into something special: the Plus 8 GTR. 

When the model was launched, very little was known about exactly what it would be. Its flat-topped doors and general ‘angriness’ were inspired by the Plus 8 GT racers used to test the bonded-aluminium chassis that would underpin the Aero 8, and later Plus 8s, which was a nice nod to the past. It would be sold for an undisclosed price, and whether the 362bhp output would be upped was “yet to be finalised”.

Buyers could spec their ideal colour combo, and had a choice of either six-speed manual or automatic ‘boxes, and that’s all we really knew. It’s a car that very much exists, but no one except for Morgan and its nine Plus 8 GTR customers knows very much about it. Fortunately, DK Engineering has got one for sale (via the Carhuna auction platform), and it was up for letting someone other than the lucky nine have a go.

The Plus 8 GTR is a true hand-made affair – the extra louvres on its bonnet and wings were put there by a real person, each detail of the car is hand-assembled and it feels all the better for this

The Plus 8 GTR is a true hand-made affair – the extra louvres on its bonnet and wings were put there by a real person, each detail of the car is hand-assembled and it feels all the better for this

Before the driving stuff, how did the car come to be? After all, Morgan was done with V8s at that point. Per Morgan’s website: “The Plus 8 GTR has only been possible because of the recent availability of a number of Plus 8 rolling chassis, which have been re-acquired from a third party following a discontinued project. These were all built by Morgan before 2018, and were never used for their intended purposes.”

It’s as though they’d found a bunch of powertrains round the back of one of Malvern’s many sheds. The fact that a renewed Bristol – with its promised Bullet sports car running a bonded-aluminium chassis and a 4.8-litre BMW-sourced V8 – had recently gone the way of the dodo, and that there may have been some bits left after it all went ker-pow, is a COMPLETE coincidence. No connection there at all, sir. Not one.

With a handful of cars suddenly available, and a customer base sure to buy them, why wouldn’t you create a limited run? And lo, the Plus 8 GTR was born. At first only a sketch was released, as well as vague details of what the GTR would be. Nevertheless, this was enough to sell all nine without much effort. 

Stepping into DK Engineering’s example is a bit of a blast from the past. Well, from Morgan’s past, at least, because every Morgan is a… you know what I mean. The Plus 8 hasn’t been a thing since the tail end of the previous decade, so the Plus 8 GTR’s dials and switches feel a touch out of place, as does its six-speed manual gearbox. 

One thing that won’t make you hanker for the old days is the seats, which are big, lumpy and not very comfortable. They take up a huge amount of space in the cabin, too, which isn’t ideal because, despite the Plus 8 being a chunky car, there’s not much room in there. Don’t go hoping for luggage space, either; bar a small shelf behind the seats, there’s naff all else.

The hard-top roof is a neat detail, but the blind spots it creates mean looking backward to check you’re not going to bang into a cyclist/other road user/car spotter getting up in your rear three-quarter can turn into an act of faith. The nose is enormously long, too, which (anatomical jibes aside) means you need to pay close attention to how soon you turn in.

On start-up, its V8 motor lets out a distantly familiar bark, followed by a low rumble that means fun this way comes. The ‘shifter slots easily into first, and the clutch is a dream to use. It feels box fresh, which isn’t a huge surprise considering this particular car has covered just over 530 miles since it left Malvern. 

The Plus 8 GTR is a true hand-made affair – the extra louvres on its bonnet and wings were put there by a real person, each detail of the car is hand-assembled and it feels all the better for this. You get the impression that this thing was made with extra care and attention – not just because of its limited nature, but because it’s a special thing.

Find a straight bit of road, drop a gear or two, and let its V8 bark for a dose of pure aural wonderfulness… and a surprise. The old Plus 8’s V8 was a perky thing. It had 362bhp and not much weight to push around. It was a wonderfully lazy motor, though, but it doesn’t feel that way here. It’s got more perk to it, and then some. There are no official numbers attached to the car, but if it left Malvern with ‘just’ 362bhp I’ll find some headwear to snack on. Still, while you’re pondering how close to 400 horses Morgan got in the build, you can enjoy the Plus 8 GTR’s steering. It’s not a Porsche, but it’s decently communicative in the bends. 

Giving it some stick, its ride is also rather old school – it’s a stiffly sprung, hardcore sports car, after all. Your bum’s basically over the rear axle, so every lump, bump and imperfection can be felt right to your core. Those lumps reveal that while it was put together with love, it’s still a hand-built sports machine. At no point during a trundle on mixed roads does it try to step out on me, or to change ends. It is civilised, grippy and compliant. Every inch the track special it was supposed to be. 

Much like every Morgan, it’s perfectly imperfect. It creaks, you can’t see out of it particularly well and it makes a noise you’ll be thinking about for years. It’s a British muscle car of sorts, designed not to take on the world, but to see what happens if you go to town on something familiar. The world won’t see anything quite like the Plus 8 GTR again, and that’s a huge shame, because It’s probably the best naturally aspirated Morgan I’ve ever driven. 

For more information on Morgan, please click here.

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