An article, first published by:

Motor Cycling
March 13, 1936
pages 680 - 682

Motor Cycling, March 13, 1936, page 680Motor Cycling, March 13, 1936, page 681

"Mark III" tries out:
A Day Out with Henry Laird's "Blown" Morgan

Mark III and Henry
"Mark III" and Henry

HOW many three-wheeler fans — and others besides — would have leapt at the chance of driving a real world - record - breaking supercharged Morgan? There must be thousands of such potential leapers, but chances are few and far between; that is the reason why I am writing this article, having had one of those rare chances and done some successful leaping.
The Morgan in question is none other than Henry Laird's own ewe-lamb, on which, last October, he was successful in collecting two world records, over one mile and one kilometre, each from a standing start. His speeds were 81.56 m.p.h. and 72.28 m.p.h. respectively. He also gathered in the Brooklands Mountain record for three-wheelers the very next day, without having so much as laid a spanner on the motor.
So it was not without some relish that I, "Mark III," received a letter from the redoubtable Henry, saying that if I cared to spend a week-end with him in the Derby district I could do some fast motoring in "Red," as the Morgan is affectionately called.
I went to Derby as fast as my three wheels would carry me.

Conditions Unfavourable!

Whenever I have seen that sleek little red "trike," at Donington, at Brooklands, or on the road (yes, it is used on the road), I have always been immensely impressed by its simplicity and neatness. There is not a superfluous nut or bolt on it and, so far as the controls and dials are concerned, it is even more naked than most Morgans — just a pressure gauge for the blower, standard controls, and a foot accelerator.
It is at the front end that the only striking deviation from standard is apparent. Tucked away on the near side of the immaculately clean, racing, air-cooled, o.h.v. J.A.P. engine is the Zoller supercharger, which is driven by chain from a sprocket on the mainshaft of the engine. That is the secret of all those extra horses.
The week-end which I chose for my fast motoring could not have been much worse so far as weather was concerned. When the fog of Saturday had cleared away it disclosed the snow-covered slopes of Derbyshire countryside and patches of ice on the roads.

A Day Out with Henry Laird's "Blown" Morgan

Mercifully, Sunday, when "Red," which had been introduced to me the previous day, was wheeled out of its home at the McEvoy works, was fine. "Red" is fitted with a three-speed-and-reverse gearbox, which does not permit the side handle-starting system to be used, and, as the racing J.A.P. had no provision for a starting handle and no electric starter was fitted, a pushstart was called for.
Three yards sufficed to bring the engine into life, and here and now let it be said that there is no possibility of mistaking the moment when it commences to fire; in spite of a couple of Brooklands silencers, a hearty crackle is emitted from each of the two exhausts.
My passenger for most of the day's run was Mrs. Barbara Laird, Henry's very sporting wife, who is always his passenger in the big open trials and who was the "ballast" when the successful attacks were being made on the world records. With such an experienced crew aboard, poor "Mark III" could be excused a certain amount of nervousness during his first attempt at navigating a genuine supercharged racer.

Smooth Power

Somewhat naturally, I expected to have to deal with a temperamental engine which needed nursing. I was quite wrong. Never have I known a big twin to be so smooth in its power output. Provided just ordinary care was used with the magneto control, the Morgan would trickle along uncomplainingly in top gear and accelerate away without pinking.

Henry and Barbara LairdRed with Zoller supercharger
(above): Henry and Barbara Laird with "Red."

(right): Where the power comes from.
Note the neat method of housing
the Zoller supercharger on the
near side of the engine.

We headed for the open road, and there I had my first taste of real acceleration. From a standing start, a very short distance was needed in bottom gear before a change into second could be made; then, with my foot pressed hard on the throttle, we went down the road like an arrow from a bow, and it was a question of hanging on tight. I felt that at any moment I might be left behind. And revs.! In an incredibly short time the motor would scream up to speeds in the vicinity of a standard Morgan's maximum — with still another gear to go.

Fast Motoring

Snugged down, as I was, behind the big, sprung, steering wheel, the little cowling deflected most of the rushing wind over the top of my head. This was better than my wildest expectations. It was like being in an aeroplane the moment before it takes off. A change into top and more pressure on the throttle provided another surprise, for the getaway was almost as good as when in second.
We headed across the Derbyshire hills for Winster, near Matlock, where the roads were entirely bereft of other vehicles; visibility extended for miles and everything was ideal for fast motoring. Hard on my heels came Henry Laird in a supercharged McEvoy Special, acting as the "pit car." I have always maintained that Morgan steering is just right for fast road work, and the helm of this one was about the best I have tried so far — quite definite, but, at the same time, very light. Fast cornering was a joy and the brakes splendidly progressive and powerful.
"Red" demonstrated its road-holding qualities to me in no uncertain fashion. It was on a nice down-hill stretch of road, with a sharpish left-hand bend at the bottom. We were motoring at a satisfactory rate of knots. Off came my foot from the throttle to slow for the corner; immediately the revs. rose in vast quantities as I declutched — the throttle had actually frozen open!
In front of me on the dash was a switch, nicely labelled for "Off." I switched-quickly; the engine died instantly. Nevertheless, we took that corner much faster than I had intended, but, beyond a spot of tailwag on the snow, we came round as though we were on rails.

A Real Demonstration

From there to where we could get an opportunity of unfreezing the carburetter we drove, using the ignition switch to control the engine, apparently much to the amusement of Henry, who was close astern and could guess what was happening by the puffs of black smoke intermittently ejected from the twin fishtails as the engine cut in. Incidentally, throughout the proceedings the engine showed a most "unracerlike" disinclination to oil up the racing-type sparking plugs which were fitted.
In justice to "Red," it must be explained that its period of activity is during the summer racing season, when there is no likelihood of the carburetter icing up; consequently, it is not protected in any way. Such a contingency is adequately guarded against, however, on Henry's trials job, and he is never troubled in this way.
The treat of the afternoon was in store for me, and, after a brief stop at Winster, Henry took me as passenger just to "show me what she'd do," as he termed it.
And he did!
Crouched down in the passenger's department, I held on tight whilst the little red Morgan was flying into bends at high speed, braked hard until the front wheels screeched a protest and accelerated until the engine screamed with the rising r.p.m.
Only with an expert, such as Henry Laird, could one appreciate the real thrill of Morganing at its best. At the finish of the display there emerged from the Morgan a humbler "Mark III" than had climbed into it.
Owing to the unfavourable weather conditions, it was not possible to find out " Red's" absolute maximum speed over a timed quarter-mile, as I should have liked, but Henry said that 105 m.p.h. could be reached as it stood at that time. Having tried the Morgan myself, I should say that the estimate is no exaggeration. Naturally, in real racing fettle, considerably higher speeds than 105 m.p.h. are possible.
There are so many pleasant surprises about this little record-breaker; the petrol consumption is one. Over 30 miles of give-and-take road can be negotiated on a gallon of fifty-fifty. It will, however, do its stuff nobly on straight petrol if required. Another point; such is the effect of the Zoller blower that there is no harshness or "temperamental" behaviour about the machine.
Altogether, "Red" is a Morgan which I would give much to have to hand in my garage when some really quick motoring had to be done.
Thank you, Henry!

Remarks: The Super Aero of Henry Laird called "Red" has survived until today and is still being raced with great success by Larry Ayers in the USA. In our Photo Album No. 8 you will find some photos of "Red" taken during the race at Buttonwillow in May 2000. If you want to see "Red" in action check Events and Forum for Races in the U.S.A.

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