26 Apr

Where does Morgan go after the V8?

If you have driven on the M25 near Heathrow recently you will have seen the latest big car company advertising billboard. It’s a massive double-sided digital screen, 62 feet wide and visible to all 12 lanes of M25 traffic.

Now that’s what you call exposure. And the car in the picture? The latest hi-tech BMW or futuristic Audi perhaps? No. As the slogan makes clear – “Hand-made in Britain since 1909” – this is as retro as motoring gets…
It is the Morgan Motor Company’s first-ever billboard ad campaign in the capital; there is another huge display on the M4 between Chiswick and Hammersmith. Why? For managing director Steve Morris it’s about taking the Morgan message to a new audience.

Morgan seems to be on a bit of a roll right now. In February this year, the family-owned firm announced record growth of 19 per cent, employment at the Malvern Link works at its highest-ever level, exports up and improving margins for a £2m pre-tax profit in 2017.

To celebrate it went out and bought a London bus: the No 159 to Islington Green, and the last-but-one Routemaster to be taken out of service in 2005. Once converted into “event space”, it will be all aboard for hospitality, Morgan-style, at a range of events this year. And yes, of course, it is due to be on duty “Over the Road” at the Goodwood Revival in September.

The connection between this bus and Morgan? The Routemaster first went into service in 1968 which was the year the Morgan Plus 8 was launched. Like the No 159, the rip-roaring sports car has decades of faithful service behind it on road and track – it has been Morgan’s flagship, icon and breadwinner – but it too has now been pensioned off as the supply of BMW 4.8-litre V8s ends. The last bent-eight Morgans checked out in style at the Geneva Motor Show in March with special farewell editions of both the Plus 8 and the Aero GT.

Once the 50 Plus 8 50th Anniversary models and the eight Aero GT specials have sold out (which they virtually have, says the company), Morgan will be down to just its Classic range – 4/4, Plus 4 and Roadster – the Three-wheeler in petrol vee-twin form and, due in production by the end of 2018, the battery-powered EV3.

The Classic models are popular and the Roadster should be in line for a boost after 2018 updates that include – shock horror! – a coil-sprung multilink rear end to replace the cart-sprung live axle. But the V8s were the money-spinners (the final models are selling for around £140,000), while it is still only the Three-wheeler that is exported to the US, the Classic range stymied by its lack of airbags and signature sloping back end – it looks great but is said to fall short in the crash tests.

V8-less, it could be said that Morgan might be in a bit of a hole, despite the upbeat mood. The firm is certainly at a crossroads; question is, which direction will it take for the new audience it is carefully grooming?
Morgan marketing chief Toby Blythe might have just lost a third of his range but he is staying positive – and looking across the pond. The long-awaited changes to US low-volume exemption rules will, if approved, grant safety and emissions concessions for cars that are imported in small numbers.

GRR found out more about where Morgan is going next when we caught up with Toby Blythe recently…

Just how important is the US market to Morgan?
After 109 years it should be one of our biggest markets. We have 13 franchise partners in the US selling about 70 Three-wheelers a year, and they are crying out for the Classic four-wheelers. As soon as the exemption goes through it will open up a 500-cars-a-year market for us.
How are you getting your message across to the US administration?
I would like to offer President Trump an open invitation to visit us in Malvern Link, have the factory tour, drive some cars and experience first-hand the most iconic British sports car. We would explain that we are a small eco manufacturer that wants to support the US businesses that work with us.

It’s too late now to sell the V8 models in the US but what about their replacements?
Right now there is no direct replacement for the Aero and the Plus 8’s future in the Morgan line-up hasn’t been decided either way. We are working 3-4 years ahead on new product and have an ever-growing research and development department. It’s not just about the past 109 years, we are preparing ourselves for the next 109 years.
What engine will replace the BMW V8?
We are not expecting to make an announcement on that in 2018.

Would it be important to have a British engine? What about the JLR supercharged V8?
It’s more about finding the right power unit for the model rather than where it comes from. In terms of Britishness, we don’t need to worry about that. Everything else is British and hand-made in Malvern. There is no dilution of Britishness using different engines and never has been. The JLR V8? That would be good, 575hp. But it’s a matter of finding the right partner to supply engines for the life of the product. You know, we have never manufactured our own engines…

Would any new Plus 8 have to have a V8?
No, I wouldn’t think so. Historically the name has been synonymous with a V8 but it doesn’t have to be, as others’ naming strategies have shown.

You are about to have one electric model, what about a battery-powered or hybrid Plus 8?
People like electric cars. We are looking at all kinds of possibilities for the future.

How well is your partnership with (electric and range-extender specialists) Frazer-Nash Research working?
It’s brilliant. As new powertrain partner, they have helped us with the EV Three-wheeler which has come on leaps and bounds in terms of range and packaging. There is still some work to do but it will be on sale by the end of the year.

24 Apr

Cars On Kiawah (21 April 2018) – Report from the Field

The Kiawah event really wasn’t a MOGSouth Club event, but with the number of MOGSouth club members showing cars or just attending made it seem so.

The show field was adjacent to a golf course but didn’t appear, to me anyway, to be on an actual part of the course. No sand traps or greens to avoid. And the weather was superb. Cool, in the low seventies.  A perfect day to look at classic cars and enjoy nature.

Not really a Concours so a bit less formal.  Less stress.  I liked it.  More of high end cars and coffee.  But it was a big show.  They shut down registration at 280 cars.  I can understand the appeal.  Kiawah Island is a jewell.  Overhanging trees and winding roads that give way to marsh lands and open water.  Very, very scenic.

The Morgan marque was well represented on the field, with four 4 Wheelers, and two new Three Wheelers.

We brought the Series 1 Drop Head Coupe Pre Production Prototype up from Florida and John Bigler brought down his eye catching 2 Seater Series 1 with Cycle fenders.  I was in the British Group but John was grouped with the Race Cars.  Must of been the knobby tires as spares?? Gives off that ‘hill climb’ aura.   Having two Series 1s on the same show field is pretty special.

The other two 4 Wheelers were a wonderful yellow Moss Box Plus 8 (with an engine? swap) and Don Smith’s later model Roadster (2012/2013??).  This Roadster is not one of the 2005 bunch, rather it is the product of Dennis Glavis’ efforts out at MorganWest.  Very pretty car.

There were also several other MOGSouth members there that showed cars other than their Morgans.  Gordon and Sue King were there but chose to show their GT40 recreation in the Gulf Oil Livery and a wonderful Porsche 356.   Robert and Rosalind Minkhorst were also there but the Plus 8 stayed in the garage while Robert showed his wonderful Triumph 2000.

A number of other MOGSouth club members, not showing cars, came by.  Ken and Pat Kreuzer came down from Summerville, SC.   Mark Lloyd (a friend of the club without a current Morgan) was there.  Lee and Trisha Gaskins from Spartanburg, SC came by to say hello.

A few awards (ribbons) were given out.  Mostly Clubs awarding their own members or celebrities (Dennis Gage was there) identifying cars they liked.  Then we all dispersed for the afternoon.

Andrea and I put the DHC into the trailer and we took the trailer back to the hotel parking lot.  We left it there and went over the Minkhorst’s lovely home for an ‘after show’ beer.  Their home is on Kiawah Island with lovely views of the water and surrounding marshlands.  According to Robert they are in Kiawah more frequently than in their home in Atlanta.  I can certainly understand why.

Then it was back to the hotel to get some rest.  We had an early morning to make the run back to Orlando, with a lunch stop to see the Bernaths in Jacksonville.  A busy weekend but really good fun!!

Highly recommended to those with a yearning for the South Carolina Islands.

Cheers, Mark

PS.  See you in Nashville next week.

23 Apr

Morgan celebrates Plus 8 anniversary in a very big way – 20 April 2018 (journal.classiccars.com)

Historic double-decker Routemaster bus will share the 50th birthday spotlight

Morgan Motor Company plans a special way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its Plus 8, displaying one of the last active Routemaster buses, also produced in 1968, alongside its own historic vehicles at various events in 2018.

“The Routemaster bus is arguably one of the most iconic vehicles in existence, it serves as a symbol of Britain and is part of our national identity,” Morgan’s managing director Steve Morris said in a news release. “It therefore gives us great pleasure to continue the life of one of the last decommissioned buses as our event space.

“Morgan has an exciting year ahead, and we can’t wait to utilize the bus at events all around the UK. Our plans for the bus will make it the ideal event space for Morgan customers and enthusiasts alike.”

The car company acquired the bus, the next to last that was still in service, earlier this year. The bus traveled more than 1.5 million miles during its working life, Morgan said.

The last Routemaster in active service resides at the London Bus Museum at Brooklands. Routemasters served British transit passengers from 1956-2005. The Morgan Plus 8 roadster was built from 1068-2004 but was put back into production in updated form in 2012.

Morgan’s bus — SMK 759F — is being refurbished in-house at the Morgan company in Malvern, UK, in preparation for its use as Morgan anniversary events this year.

19 Apr

Book Report – “Buying and Maintaining a Modern Traditional Morgan” by David Wellings

The new Morgan book, “Buying and Maintaining a Modern Traditional Morgan”, by David Wellings, has just come out, and it is terrific!

While most Morgan texts deal with the history of the company that we all know, David writes about innovative ways to tweak your Morgan to make it more “you”. He concentrates primarily on the 1997 – 2018 models in the traditional line, but many of the ideas apply to any age of our 4-wheeled trads.

He writes briefly about buying a new versus older model, and provides one with good reasons for both. He underlines the major factor in buying a car – Never buy one without actually looking at it and driving it!

Other chapters deal with practical aspects of maintaining your Morgan and making it better, including ways to “keep the rain out”, protecting the wings and body tub, how to and where to select and fit various accessories, adapting the Morgan suspension, making yourself a tool tray (giving many how-to pictures), and how to construct different types of undertrays and front valances, among other ideas.

The book is packed with 192 pages of pictures as well as commentary. For example, David tells you how to cure the Morgan whistle (which I never knew existed!), and what type of hammers to use for various things.

It is a well-deserved addition to any Morgan owner’s library, and will be spending much of its time out in my garage with my car!

Buy it, you’ll like it!

Tony McLaughlin

05 Apr

First example of £120,000 Morgan Aero GT rolls off production line (Apr 4, 2018 – www.shropshirestar.com)

The first of the swansong version of the Morgan Aero 8 – the Aero GT – has been built, with just seven more slated for production

At this year’s Geneva Motor Show in March, British sports car manufacturer Morgan showed off its latest limited-run vehicle – the Aero GT – and only a few weeks later, the first example has been built.

Just eight units of the swansong version of the Aero 8, which has been in production since 2001, are set to be made and this is the first. It’s finished in Miami Blue paint, and is heading to Revolutions Morgan in Perth, Scotland, where it will be collected by its new owner.

“It was a pleasure to reveal the car to the world just a few weeks ago, to see the first car leave the factory is an honour and I know the new owner will be delighted when they take delivery.”  Steve Morris, managing director of Morgan

Powering the Morgan Aero GT is a BMW-sourced V8 engine, delivering 367bhp to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox. It’s capable of 0-60mph in 4.1 seconds with a top speed of 170mph possible.

To help keep that power to the ground, the bodywork has been heavily revised from the Aero 8 – with the GT taking inspiration from Morgan’s GT3 racing efforts in 2009 – to produce more downforce. Each car is also fitted with adjustable suspension, while a carbon fibre roof is available as an optional extra for those looking to shed more weight.