Summer time is more than a break from teaching classes for members of the Northwood faculty. For many, it is an opportunity to complete needed research for fall and spring classes, to attend academic conferences, or learn more about the latest industry trends and best practices. For Dr. Diana Webb, professor of finance on Northwood’s Michigan campus, summer is all that, but it is also a time to pursue one of her lifelong passions and areas of expertise: Classic automobiles and boats.
What follows is a brief background of her “love affair” with Morgans, and the bio of her Morgan, named Baby.
A Love Affair, Years in the Making
I began driving Morgans when I was nine years old. My father, Douglas Van Patten, designed racing boats and drove Morgans. He felt his children should understand automobiles, racing, and driving; so we started driving early.
My early driving days were in northern Michigan, along the western shore of Lake Michigan (what is currently called the tunnel of trees). My father would drive over to Lake Michigan from our cottage in Carp Lake, Michigan; then on the gravel road, he would turn the Morgan over to me. I was allowed to drive from Mackinaw City down to Harbor Springs. There were lots of curves and lots of down-shifting, clutching, and finding the apex of the road. Life with my daddy was fun! And I would have begun driving earlier, but my feet couldn't touch the pedals.
Those were the days before the road was paved, no police, and I think a lot of families allowed their kids to practice driving up at the family cottage.
Our Morgan DHC, Baby, was born in 1963 at a factory called Morgan Motor Company Ltd.
When we first adopted Baby she looked pretty good but her engine was suffering a cracked head, loose pistons, and a leaky carbonator. We revived Baby and now at 50 years old, she is looking better than ever. Although she began with a left hand drive set up in England, she is now a right hand drive, and has lived in the Detroit area for many years.
In addition to her usual routine of serving as a judge at auto and boat festivals throughout Michigan and the Midwest, Dr. Webb had a unique opportunity during the summer of 2012 to attend the 40th Anniversary of a Morgan victory in the Le Mans Race and to serve as a judge for the Morgan Concours show with Charles Morgan of the Morgan Automobile Factory in Great Britain—the only American and female to do so.
The following are highlights from the travel diary she and her husband, Jervis, kept to chronicle their trip.
The Trip of a Lifetime
In December of 2010, we traveled to Amsterdam and visited our friends, Machiel and Ingrid Kalf. They suggested that we should bring our Morgan over for the 2012 Morgan Owners Gathering (MOG) in Le Mans, France. We thought about it and began to save our money after making the decision to take Baby home for a European visit.
On March 15, 2012, the 1963 DHC went back to Europe for a vacation, so into a box she went from Michigan to Rotterdam, Netherlands. Arriving in April of 2012, our Morgan was picked up by a few of our friends and driven to their home in Oudendijk, where a few improvements were made.
On July 1, we arrived and enjoyed the sun and warm temperatures of Holland. Our group of friends headed out before dawn on July 6, from Holland and proceeded to Le Mans France, about 800 km away.
Everything was going fine until the 1963 DHC decided to quit. After analyzing the problem, we determined the fuel pump malfunctioned and could not be repaired, so we called the motoring service truck. Our Dutch friends protected us, offered sympathetic words, and waited about two hours on the motorway before a car retriever arrived. They were concerned we would not be able to communicate with the car retriever so they stayed, eating their lunch on the motorway, and subjected their precious Morgan automobiles to the elements of the highway. They offered candy, sandwiches, and sympathy. What good friends! The car retriever arrived, we said farewell to our Dutch friends, agreeing to meet up with them in Le Mans.
The gentleman at the auto repair had a delightful personality. Upon our arrival he smiled and said, “Ah! A Morgan, what fun!” After he replaced the fuel pump and the rotor, lubed the joints, and fixed the carbonators, we left the repair shop six hours later and headed for Le Mans, France in the rain. The repairman gave us clear directions on getting back to the motorway. Off we went, confident Baby was feeling better.
With map in hand, we missed the correct highway, and headed for Calais, France, in the rain. Despite being totally lost, we had a lovely drive. It was getting dark, and the rain ensued. We spent the night in Calais and continued on in the morning. French roads and motorways are not marked clearly on maps. We often found three different types of signs: European Union, French Province, and local. After an hour of going back and forth on countless roundabouts, we took the last roundabout, thinking this has to be the one! We finally saw the sign that said south to Le Mans. We were on our way.
We finally arrived in Le Mans. Although, we were cold, wet, and muddy, we were experiencing quite the adventure. As the Europeans say “we were on the circuit”. We saw about 500 Morgan automobiles located in one special holding area of the Le Mans Circuit. Of all the Morgans, our 1963 DHC was one of the oldest.
I must remind you that every day it was cold and rainy; however, Morgan owners enjoy any type of weather. There were no “trailer queens” at this event; the Morgan was being driven and enjoyed. It was great to meet so many nice people. A few people told us that our Morgan should have been in a special spot, due to her age.
After the Le Mans Circuit, the Holland Morgan Club ventured northwest along the Atlantic Ocean coast through the French countryside, admiring small quaint villages and the beautiful landscape of France.
We later arrived at the hotel La Sapinie’re at Wisques, near Saint Omer, France. Our accommodations were very nice, “country French”, as we say in the US. We met our group for a drink and a Dutch contingent gave a toast to me for my ability to drive. I was very surprised and at the same time felt accepted by the Dutch club.
The next morning we met for breakfast and visited the German La Coupole. This famous tourist attraction was 3 km away from the hotel. This was where the Germans fired the V-2 Rockets toward England.
After two nights at the La Sapinie’re hotel we departed for our next adventure, passing through French medieval towns and the famous 6 km tunnel under the sea. We continued to the Assen Hotel in Assen, Netherlands, which was hosting 300 Morgans for the Holland Club’s 40th anniversary.
We found our exit and the hotel with no problem. That evening we met Morgan friends for dinner and drinks. We were tired, so we left the group early, falling into bed exhausted. In the morning, as we glanced out of the hotel window, Morgan automobiles were everywhere, what a beautiful sight! Our Morgan was gleaming with droplets of rain. We thought to ourselves, does life get any better?
It was raining and Jervis, my husband, was smart to have covered the bonnet to protect the engine from the elements; Baby can be temperamental if she is wet. Now remember, it hasn’t stopped raining during the trip, maybe a little sun now and then which gave us hope, but not much. We followed our Dutch leaders, as they arranged the holding area for the Morgan. Again, out came our plastic cover for the bonnet.
That evening we met many Dutch and English Morgan owners during the dinner. The dinner started off with a new 3 wheeled Morgan being driven into the reception room. Speeches were given; Xan Morgan was on hand representing his family’s Morgan Automobile business.
Saturday evening in Assen was a 10 year theme (1962-1972) with beautiful large renditions of the Beatles, including marketing and sales brochures for Morgan. We enjoyed the evening, sitting with some lovely people who were English and Dutch. We were excited to meet people who live and breathe Morgan.
Sunday we went back to the Assen Circuit and finally got the directions clarified, without having to follow another club member. It was raining, so we tucked into Baby and had our lunch watching Morgans coming and leaving the Assen Circuit. After lunch we headed back to the paddock for more racing. Due to the rain, the racing was interesting on our corner, and every now and then there was a spin out. The three-wheelers and motorcycles with sidecars were something we rarely see in the US; I suspect because no one has the courage.
We bid our farewell to Morgan owners and later that evening joined our Dutch friends for a farewell drink. We invited our friends and all of our Dutch club members to join us in Michigan. We have plenty of room at the farm.
On July 16, we departed to return to our bed and breakfast in Grosthuizen. We traveled the long man-made dike, stopped and took pictures of this well-constructed engineering feat! The drive was simple and uneventful; the best kind of a drive to have. We arrived at the bed and breakfast early afternoon, with time to grocery shop in the village of Avenhorn. We also had time to visit our friend at his beautiful country home and make final travel arrangements back to the US.
That evening we relaxed at the bed and breakfast, and enjoyed the view of the backyard. We wondered if our Dutch friends were as exhausted as we were. My husband and I have organized this type of automobile event; we understand the amount of planning, preparation, time, and public relations that must be done several years before the actual culmination of the event. Although you can plan and prepare, there is always an unexpected glitch; a guest speaker who does not arrive, a dinner that did not satisfy the participants, weather conditions that are troublesome, and the constant concern for our participant’s safety. More often than not, however, our plans come together well.
Morgan owners are a “special breed” they love how that machine performs under conditions that are less than desirable. They have an adventuring spirit, with true appreciation for the design of a truly beautiful piece of equipment.
Many thanks for Machiel and Ingrid Kalf for helping us arrange this trip. They reserved lodging accommodations, arranged our Morgan to be picked up and delivered back to Rotterdam, and received us at their lovely country home for dinners, tea, and talk. We thank all of the Dutch club members for their kindness and informative discussions on our favorite topic, the Morgan.