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For the love of a classic British sports car that's now banned in Canada

Colin Bray likely has his summer weekends mapped out for the foreseeable future because he and a fellow member of the Morgan Sports Car Club of Canada are restoring a classic 1937 Morgan Plus Four.

Already the proud owner of a 1961 edition of the classic English sports car, Bray says he always wanted to own a prewar Morgan and when one became available, he snapped it up.

"The only problem was it was in pretty bad condition and needed a complete rebuild right down to the last nut and bolt," Bray says.

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But his comfort level undertaking such a daunting task spiked considerably when John Fitchie volunteered to help. "He'd already rebuilt his own Morgan," Bray says. "Mind you, it took him 44 years to complete it – things like mortgages, raising kids, working, kept getting in the way."

Most members of the Morgan Club say it's "a social organization not a technical one," but information sharing, and help in problem solving are among the club's key benefits.

That's certainly the case with one of the club's newest members, Bryan Tripp, 38, who inherited his late uncle's 1961 Morgan Drophead Coupe a couple of years ago.

"The members of the club are a huge knowledge base for [a] relatively new Morgan owner like myself," Tripp says. "It's important to learn about the car, and the guys in the club pretty much know everything that can go wrong and how to fix it."

That expertise is vital with this classic English marquee because, in 1994, the Canadian government banned the import of new Morgan automobiles because the Britain-based company refused to perform the crash tests necessary to acquire a Canadian government safety certificate.

"The company would have had to crash three cars at $50,000 to $100,000 a pop just to sell maybe six new ones a year, which is the likely market here," says club member Glen Donaldson. "It just didn't make economic sense."

The result: All Morgan cars on the road in Canada are at least 15 years old, and the majority of the cars in the Canadian Morgan Club date from the 1960s and 1970s, or earlier. They're all vintage cars, and keeping them in good nick is a challenge. Being a club member helps.

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Founded in 1909, Morgan Car Co. is the last British-owned automobile manufacturer extant, and part of the car's appeal is that it looks more or less the same as it did four, five, even six decades ago.

"It's the retro styling that appeals to a lot of people," Tripp says. When he takes his Drophead Coupe for a spin on the back roads near his Guelph, Ont., home, passersby stop, stare, gawk and opine with observations such as, "That looks like a lot of fun." The essence of the Morgan mystique – and it clearly has one – is that it looks exactly like a peppy British sports car should.

For club president Alan Lytle, it's not just the car's classic look that appeals. It's the Morgan's mechanical simplicity. A physicist, Lytle spent his career doing "technical stuff," so after retiring he bought himself a car that he believes is wonderfully, defiantly "analog."

"When you drive around a corner, you drive around a corner, for heaven's sake, you don't have an automatic this and an automatic that," he says.

Unlike contemporary cars stuffed to the gills with digital doodads, Morgans, especially prewar versions, are a bit antediluvian.

"You have to be kind of a nut to want one," Bray says. "The sliding suspension is a bit primitive and it has cable, not hydraulic brakes, so they have to be adjusted every three weeks."

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Among the few design changes Morgan deigned to make over the decades was to change the shape of its radiator in the 1950s. "It used to be flat, now it's curved," says club member Dave Farmer. This modest modification was a titanic event to Morgan enthusiasts.

But it's the car's eccentricity that appeals to the club's 73 members across the country. The Morgan Sports Car Club of Canada is an intimate affair, and it's chummier than you'd think because the core of the club – 40-50 members – live in Southern Ontario, and the inner circle – those who meet once a month at the Queen's Head pub in Burlington, Ont. – are a tight group of 20-25.

Though there are several British ex-pats, such as Bray and Lytle, in the club, most are native-born Canadians but with what Tripp calls "proud British roots."

Still, Lytle claims it is a diverse group, although demographically it skews older.

"An entry-level Morgan sets you back $25,000, minimum, and since they're hobby cars, not daily drivers, it's expensive for younger guys," Bray says.

Arguably the key event in the Morgan Club calendar is mid-September's annual British Car Day in Bronte Creek Park, also in Burlington – 25 Morgans proudly lined up at last year's event. .

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However, the singular big club event this summer will be a tour of Prince Edward County and its wineries, in mid-August, with an appearance at the Boot and Bonnet car show in Kingston on Aug. 16. Don't be surprised to see 20-30 beautifully maintained vintage Morgans booting down Highway 401 around then. But a word to the wise: These vintage beauties will likely whiz right by you.

"They may look old-fashioned but they can keep up with traffic, no problem," Bray says. "Our Morgans are pretty peppy little cars."

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