I believe are at least 4 different Morgan 45''s and perhaps a fifth. The Original keel/centerboarder from the 1960''s, the Out Island series, A CCA era rule beater race boat with long ends that eventually became the Starratt Jenks, and a Nelson Merek designed 45 footer that was originally built as an IOR race boat and then adapted into a nice cruising boat, albeit with very strange access to the comapanionway. The fifth boat I believe is actually a 43 or 44 footer but I have seen it listed as a 45. That boat is currently being built by Catalina and sold as a Morgan. I think they were also sold as Hersh 45''s. I have seen the design cresited to Ted Brewer but I am not sure that is actually the case.
The Orginal Morgan 45''s from the 1960''s were pretty nice boats for their day and actually pretty fast as far as boats of this era. With the centerboard down they point pretty well for a boat of that age but of course are slow and not particularly weatherly for a boat when compared to modern designs. These were simple boats that were solidly built in many ways. The engineering of that era was not too great and these boats are now over 30 years old and so you may have a variety of problems that may or may not show up in a survey. Boats of that era tended to have pretty primitive electrical systems and tiny alternators by modern standards. The deck hardware is bound to be shot and quite primitive if it has not been upgraded over the years and parts are hard to come by. Winches of that era were horibly undersized by modern standards. The mainsail roller reefing of that era was a real killer. In a survey I would check for separation of the hull in the keel area from the encapsolated ballast keel (next to imposible to repair). Other problems will be with the centerboard which is really critical to the sailing performance of these boats as they are used to balance the large amount of weather helm these boats can develop.
The Out Island 45''s were the best sailing of the OI series and had a lot going for them in terms of a huge amount of space for not a lot of money. These were slow boats on all points of sail but are at their best on a reach where they begin to come into their own. Still these are extremely slow boats compared to more modern designs. They are also very uncomfortable in a rolling as they have a very rolly motion. These boats reportedly have Hull deck problems, expecially on the pre 1980''s versions which were bolted pretty widely and counted on 3M 5200 for the hull/deck joint. This is further agrevated by the position of the joint in the topsides rather than at the deck. Other issues with these boats are a lack of backing plates on the heavily loaded hardware, large amounts of flexing which can result in fatigue, especially at harder objects like bulkheads, small tabbing areas which can separate over time, poorly executed plumbing and electrical systems, undersized deck hardware and somewhat outdated equipment.
A CCA era 45 was just plain a bad boat. It was built as an out and out race boat with very long ends. While a nice boat to look at they are poor sailing boats in anything but moderate winds and flat water. In any breeze they were a bit tender and very wet. They were useless in light air. A chop would generally stop them and they were pretty uncomfortable in bouncy conditions. This was really a boat that never should have been built. By the time it saw production the CCA rule had been eliminated and the boat was a white elephant. Very few were built. These boats were pretty lightly built by the standard of the day and without the level of engineering that allows us to build lighter stronger boats today. After Morgan gave up on these the molds showed up at Starrett-Jenks who took an already questionable boat and just downgraded it. Most (if not all of the Starrett Jenks are owner completed) Quality of finish and detailing varies between very good to very scary. If this is the class of boat you are looking at, I would really suggest that you keep looking.
Nelson Merek designed 45 footer is a neat boat. As an IOR race boat they did reasonably well. The cruising versions are typically keel/centerboarders. They are quite good on the wind with the board down. They had nice interiors and were pretty cleverly laid out. They do lack proper ventilation for the tropics and a lot of people really hate the (5 or so foot) wide bridge deck that forms the aft cabin. One issue with these boats is that the deck hardware appears to be an owner option so I have seen them beautifully fitted out but I have also seen them with too few and/or undersized winches. Having watched them underway these are real rollers on a run as was typical of most IOR designs of that era. If I remember right they also have a fairly large flat area at the forefoot which would suggest that they might pound upwind in a chop and in a bumpy anchorage.
The last 45 is actually a pretty venerable design. While it has nothing exceptional about it one way or another, they should be a reasonable cruising boat for coastal crusing or doing the islands. I understand that the ones build by Catalina are a bit upgraded in terms of gear and finish but I can''t say that is necessarily true. I exchanged comments with a fellow who had one of the Catalina Built boats and he was very bullish on the boat. I believe that he is the one who suggested that the boat was designed by Ted Brewer and the Catalina ones were better than the Morgan ones.
Good luck with which ever one you are considering.
This review is at times accurate, but mostly outright false in its characterization of the Starrett Jenks 45. Most were owner finished and the quality of the build was highly dependent on the craftsmanship of the owner who finished them out. She does like a good heel and can be wet without a dodger. As for tender and bouncy, not at all. I’ve sailed an SJ45 through the Gulf Stream in a raging Nor’easter and she was solid and trust inspiring. After that event, I would sail her anywhere with confidence. Riding straight up, her water line is limited, but once she gets some heel into her, the overhangs add to that waterline and she goes nicely. Loaded up for cruising, displacement is over 30k, so she does not respond to light air puffs, but with steady light air she does well and points like a champion. Built in the 70’s, her fiberglass is thick and solid, no waves in her sides as you look down her hull, try that with a modern production boat. Due to her narrow beam, she does not have as much space below as you would find in a modern 45, but for a cruising couple with occasional guests, she is top notch.