Last year, over 20,000 visitors toured Morgan’s Worcestershire factory and museum, providing both a handy revenue stream and indicating just how popular this small British car company remains.
Anyone familiar with pre-war manufacturing techniques will feel quite at home here although look a little harder and despite the vehicles’ apparently glacial evolutionary pace, it is clear Morgan is in fact very much looking toward the future.
The factory tour is definitely worthwhile, not just to appreciate how these cars are lovingly hand-crafted but also to experience the feel-good atmosphere. So, how much of this positive karma is transferred to the final products?
Re-using many of the same model names over several decades leads to slight confusion but essentially, there are the dramatic Aero cars and the Plus 8, built on bonded aluminium chassis. Then there are the smaller-engined models with a conventional ladder chassis and finally, the 3 Wheeler, which was re-introduced in 2011 and based on the original, 1909-52 Morgan cycle-car.
With a tubular frame beneath the aluminium-covered ash superstructure, the 3 Wheeler is an eclectic mix of historical and contemporary. In light of the steampunk zeitgeist in the world of fashion and design, it could not be more apposite.
The design is quintessentially Morgan yet the external, air-cooled V2 is a thoroughly modern unit built by S&S (parts supplier to Harley Davidson) and the five-speed gearbox is from the Mazda MX5. Its single rear wheel is driven via a sturdy, toothed Kevlar belt.
Climbing in – less of an ordeal than its shape would suggest – the 3 Wheeler is snug and fits the average-sized person well. The pedals are rather close together; wearing broad brogues presents an initial challenge but with some practice, it is possible to depress just a single pedal at any one time.
The power delivery from the motorcycle twin is immediate; on that very first acceleration from standstill, it is impossible not to utter a stream of expletives out of sheer delight and exhilaration. In fact, every experience with the 3 wheeler is instantaneous: the steering, braking and that snick-snack gear change. This immediacy is all part of the car’s charm: it feels so alive.
The putt-putt sound of the engine through the two straight exhausts is tremendously addictive, right from the low-end throb to the scream as the revs escalate. The twisting roads in the Malvern Hills afford an exhilarating drive; steering is precise and despite just the single wheel at the rear, there’s never any concern that the car will behave in anything other than a gentlemanly manner (albeit a slightly loud gentleman, not wearing his brogues). Simple aero screens offer minimal protection from the elements – a worthwhile trade-off to enjoy the heady scent of the bluebells lining the roadside.
Then, a dawning realisation: the fuel gauge is indicating 0% remaining in the tank yet this little Morgan is still shouting its way through villages and demanding its driver enjoys every second. After five miles of careful driving, a petrol station appears; the tank must surely be down to fumes. It’s time to flip the racing filler lid, add a few litres and very reluctantly point its cycle-winged front wheels toward the factory.
It is in the British psyche to create wonderful things inside sheds and the Morgan factory is no exception. The alchemy of a classic design, plus exposed, raw engineering mated to a modern drive-train puts the 3 Wheeler truly at the pinnacle of motoring pleasure. It is clear the enthusiasm contained in the Morgan factory, distilled into its cars, offers something very special indeed.