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Like other UK based car factories, Morgan Motors stopped production back at the end of March to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. This week the company has resumed production at its Malvern Hills based factory on Monday 12th May, bit in a limited fashion, only twenty staff have returned back to work.
“This very small scale reintroduction provides us a good opportunity to prove some of the new social distancing measures we have put in place throughout the factory alongside government guidelines. The welfare of our employees and compliance with social distancing measures remains the number one priority when we’re considering any of our business operations. We will reintroduce more staff back to the factory only when we feel it is safe to do so.”
Morgan is probably one of very few British companies that still has a spring in its step during lockdown. The Malvern firm’s first big international launch for the Plus Four has had to be postponed due to the disruption of the pandemic, but you sense the work done just before it temporarily shut up shop was enough to get over the hill, one it had been climbing since the first digital drawings of its ground-breaking CX platform were produced more than four years ago. Along with the Plus Six, the already-popular Plus Four has put Morgan on a totally new path, one that head of design Jon Wells thinks will enable his team to make some pretty bold moves with subsequent products – both aesthetically and technically.
“It’s no secret that we’ve a space at the top of our line-up for an Aero successor,” Wells, a member of the Morgan Cars family for twelve years, tells PH. “Its successor is being worked on and, without giving too much away, we’re prepared to go further than we’ve done before thanks to the flexibility of the CX platform. There’s no monocoque so we’re certainly not tied to one look, we’ve shown with the Plus Four how different the platform can become, and with the BMW engine partnership, we’ve a great supply of powertrains to choose from.”
How does a turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 two-seater to succeed the AeroMax sound? From the tone of his voice on the phone, it seems Wells is on board with the suggestion, but he refrains from getting into the future halo model’s specifics. Right now “it’s about the Plus Four”, he says. Instead, he leaves the door wide open, stating that the “CX platform had flexibility designed into it from the start, so we could use a higher specification of BMW’s modular engines [including the Plus Six’s 3.0-litre B58] or even go down the alternative fuel route. That’s certainly something we know about thanks to the hydrogen fuel cell LIFEcar and EV3 project from a few years back”.
Ah yes, electric. Something not even a brand as firmly tied to tradition as Morgan has been able to avoid. Not that it’s ever wanted to, as the EV3 showed the firm has plenty of ideas when it comes to zero-emission motoring. He says the shelved 2016 model continues to have an impact to this day, with the response to its reveal demonstrating “that people want to see Morgan doing new things for the future”, while “keeping to [its] heritage and remaining a genuine, authentic coach-built car”. The company trained its dealer network to work on EVs so it’s ready to hit the ground running. And, handily for Wells, the packaging freedom offered by an electric car is self evident.
“But when it comes to EVs, we’re making an electric Morgan, not making a Morgan electric,” he affirms. “And there are things that I’d like to retain even the most forward-thinking designs; like the driver will always sit just behind the car’s centre line, behind an A-pillar on the centre and with a dramatic view down the bonnet. That proportion probably stays but beyond that we’re free to play with the Morgan philosophy, so you can expect something to illustrate that it has performance, but without looking too aggressive. How do you maintain the Morgan identity without an intake? We’re thinking about that, with functional design as priority.”
Wells refers to the EV3’s brass fins, there to keep the batteries cool, as an example of EV functionality that’s aesthetically-pleasing and “adds to the car’s story”. He admits that round headlights are likely to remain a staple feature of the Morgan face no matter the powerplant behind them, although new LED technology does allow for variations of the inner details.
The same goes for the wood that mounts to the CX structure, which Wells expects to remain across the board due to the production freedoms it enables, like “actually changing the shape of the car without affecting the platform beneath”. That’s not to say that Morgan wouldn’t consider other things; Wells points to the EV3’s use of sustainably-sourced carbon as evidence of the changes that could be brought about when relevant. But the company needn’t forget about the technical merits of its unique wood-framed engineering.
It does, however, need to consider the potential wider-reaches of its CX platform cars. With improvements to NVH and refinement provided by the aluminium, CAD structure (so no more “pencil and pad sketches”), Wells isn’t the only one expecting the firm’s present customer base – typically men aged between 45 and 60 – to expand. Retro style is at the height of fashion, after all, and Wells is fully aware of a growing hunger for film cameras and vintage clothes, a trend Morgan is well placed to take advantage of. It seems to be going well, despite the impacts of coronavirus; Morgan received record levels of online exposure with the Plus Four, a car the company reckons could become a driver’s favourite thanks to its manual gearbox and one-tonne kerbweight.
“We’re also at a stage now where we can consider future technological and safety regulations before they’re implemented, rather than always reacting as we used to before CX,” Wells says. “We think about pedestrian impacts, which require clear space between the car’s front and engine, and how to place cameras for driver assistance tech, which normally spoils the A-pillar’s lines. And we’ve already proven that we can effectively cool a hot turbocharged engine in what’s a very tight package, while showing that we can make modern wishbone suspension work with a bespoke wire-wheel design. Our pot of technology available for future cars is really very large.”
2020 might not go down in history as a particularly favourable year, but as far as Morgan’s story is concerned, it’s looking like a turning point. Wells says the Plus Four’s enquiry list exceeded expectation, suggesting that once things return to normal, the brand will expect to hit the ground running. Using his enthusiasm as a guide, it’s what’s to come after that which will really get the marque into its 21st century stride. For now, Morgan’s design boss is “itching to get back out on the road for a drive.” We couldn’t agree more.
On a stunning road trip to the Gamble House, we rediscover the joy of doing things the old way.
The gamble house is the greatest surviving example of American Arts and Crafts-style architecture, and it was saved by an offhand comment. Completed in 1909, the peak of that building style in Southern California, the house was considered passé by the mid-1940s. The owners wanted to sell the place until someone suggested painting all the woodwork white, “so it won’t be so dark in here.” Instead, they took the house off the market, kept it in the family, and in 1966, gifted it to the city of Pasadena. The residence is now a historic landmark, preserved and maintained by the University of Southern California School of Architecture.
Decades later, we’re in an Arts and Crafts resurgence. The forgotten style is now sought after in antique furniture and original buildings. “It’s lasted more than twice as long in its rediscovery as it did in the first place,” Robert Siminger, a docent at the Gamble House, told me.
The Morgan Plus 4 I parked in the driveway shares something with the residence. Each is of a kind, created to remind us of the joy in simplicity. Introduced in 1950, the Plus 4 was discontinued, revived, canceled, and, in 2005, reintroduced again. Built by a small, family-founded firm in England, the car has been in production as a throwback for longer than it existed as a contemporary design. And now, for the first time in years, you can buy one in the United States, brand-new. A few days before our long weekend with the Plus 4, I showed my girlfriend Natalie a picture of the car, all pouncing fenders and pert headlights. Gumballs on the doors, no bumpers. The perfect air of an old race car, despite the fact that the car is neither a race car nor technically old.
“It’s going to ride terribly,” I warned her. “If it rains, we’re screwed. If it gets cold, we’re screwed. There’s no trunk. The body is made mostly of hope, and it’s all comically unsafe.”
Natalie eyed the Plus 4 the way she looks at Christian Bale. I might as well have been warning her about sunburn while booking tickets for Waikiki. “We’ll be fine,” she scoffed.
We picked the car up at Morgan West, a dealership in Santa Monica, and spent the rest of the day roaming Southern California. Los Angeles is car-blind. Monotonously good weather and an obsession with image make six-figure supercars as common as mailboxes. You go wailing down Sepulveda Boulevard in some carbon-fiber drop-top, nobody bothers to look up from their phone. Not so with the Plus 4. Not since 1968 has the model been an official U.S. import, but it now crosses our border as a “component car,” with a drivetrain in a separate crate and installed upon delivery. Other similarly shaped Morgans (the Plus 8, the 4/4) came to the U.S. in small quantities in the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s, but any car from the marque’s small village of Malvern is a rare sight in the States.
So people stop and gawk. They snap photos and shout questions. The Plus 4 doesn’t project wealth or power. It’s approachable, and it extends that grace to anyone sitting inside. Nobody could be scowly or standoffish in a car with such a wide-eyed, pleasant face.
Or such a small footprint. Photos don’t do justice to the car’s scale. Those sweeping fenders are based on a design Morgan first put into production in the Thirties. They evoke huge, stately coupes á la Cruella De Vil, but the Plus 4 is nine inches shorter and more than a foot narrower than today’s Miata. You sit in the thing like a kayaker, bodywork barely reaching your elbow, looking like you’ve wrapped the hood around outstretched legs. And you drive it with your heels together. The steering wheel and windshield are both about a foot closer than in modern cars, coaxing you into the bent-elbow driving position of prewar racing heroes. The seat snuggles up to the rear axle, inches behind your spine and way behind the car’s longitudinal center. You turn the wheel and watch that long, tapered nose swing into the corner as if you were sitting in the back of a bus.
The ride is… taxing. Morgan founder Henry Frederick Stanley Morgan designed his signature sliding-pillar front suspension back in 1909, and the company has since seen little reason to mess with it. Our car, on sport springs, informed us of every dip, sway, and imperfection in the road. On certain stretches of freeway, the Morgan picked up a strong front-to-back seesaw motion. You nod along helplessly, looking like you’re vigorously jamming out to the eighth notes of a hot jazz number.
Bless all of it in its glorious imperfection. It is impossible to drive a Morgan distracted. The manual steering tells you how much weight is on the front axle down to the pound. The firm brake pedal will lock up all four tires on a panic stop. The exhaust thrums like the getaway car in a black-and-white movie. The drivetrain is deeply plebian—2.0-liter, direct-injected, Ford four-cylinder, and a five-speed manual borrowed from an early Miata, 180 horsepower to the leaf-sprung solid rear axle—but sitting down there, low enough to palm the pavement, wind trying to steal your sunglasses, it’s all exhilarating. And unmistakably a product of the nation that birthed Luddites, that launched the Arts and Crafts movement. A sense of keeping the old ways alive with ancient dedication. Writing about the history of the movement in 2002, British architecture historian Alan Crawford said, “Unlike their counterparts in the United States, most Arts and Crafts practitioners in Britain had strong, slightly incoherent, negative feelings about machinery.”
No wonder no other nation produces brand-new cars with structural components made from wood.
In an essay explaining Arts and Crafts at its beginning, the English artist Walter Crane in 1893 described “a protest against the turning of men into machines.” The movement began in Scotland, at the end of the 19th century, as people left their farms and villages to live in cities and work in factories. The labor was often dangerous and always dull, and the products felt cheap and artificial, designed for profitability over functional utility or enjoyment. “The concern that the Arts and Crafts movement was trying to address was that people were becoming ‘alienated from their work,’” Jennifer Trotoux, interim director and curator at the Gamble House, says. “If you were doing just one repetitive thing all day long, you didn’t see the big picture of what you were creating. That was considered an unhealthy mode of work.”
“The whole point of the movement was to go back to a simpler life,” Siminger says. “The house itself was as much a part of the art as the objects within the house.”
Every visible surface of the Gamble House has thus been shaped and styled by human hands. Huge timbers span the structure, traversing every upstairs room and making the home feel like an upturned wooden ship. The details draw your eye closer until you’re fully consumed by items you wouldn’t give a passing glance anywhere else—the metal straps cinching two joists, the joinery of a picture frame, the way every corner of every brick in a fireplace has been hand-filed to make it friendlier, more approachable. There are no finish nails covered by putty, no joints painted over. Artisans capped every fastener with a contrasting piece of wood. “The house is telling you about itself: ‘This is how I’m held together. This is what I’m made of,’” Trotoux says.
An entire generation of California bungalows have Arts and Crafts touches, but Gamble House luxuriates in the style. Architect brothers Charles and Henry Greene had an unlimited budget to create both the structure and nearly everything inside it. They finished each room in its own exotic wood—mahogany, teak, cedar, fir—with intricate custom furniture to match, all chosen to evoke a particular mood. Aunt Julia’s bedroom, upstairs in the southwest corner, is warm and hushed. The flooring and furniture are made of blond ash—the same flexible, resilient stock found in the Morgan’s wooden framework.
Gamble House cost around $50,000 to build in 1908—roughly $1.4 million in 2019. To recreate it now would take far more. Old-growth exotic woods in these sizes and quantities are basically impossible to come by. Even at the turn of the last century, amassing such a timber collection was virtually unheard of.
And that gets us to an irony. Maybe you recognize the Gamble name—as in Procter & Gamble, the giant industrial manufacturer founded in Cincinnati in 1837, still one of the world’s largest corporations. Ivory soap, and a contract to supply it to the Union Army during the Civil War, made millionaires of P&G’s founders. David Berry Gamble, second-generation, commissioned the California house as a retirement retreat. An architectural movement launched as a rebuke against industrialization came to comfort a man whose name is synonymous with America’s industrial revolution.
There’s some symmetry here. The Morgan is far from our standard definition of luxury, but with no options, a Plus 4 will run you $70,000. Our test car, loaded, commands $90,000. Door check straps are optional. The Plus 4, like every modern Mog, is clearly meant for occasional use, a plaything for those wealthy enough to spend BMW M4 money on a car built like a shed, and tenacious enough to snag one of the 50 to 100 examples Morgan says it will ship to the U.S. annually.
The car has seen updates, concessions to modernity, but Malvern has been smart enough to keep most of them buried. It took us two days to discover the stereo, a detachable-faceplate head unit tucked under the dash and against the firewall. Reaching the volume knob is like grasping for your shoelace with your seatbelt on. No matter: Wind noise completely drowns out the speakers above 30 mph. And even in sunny Southern California, the car can seem underdressed for the weather. Erecting the mohair top requires two people and a week of steady practice. Still, with the roof closed, the side curtains jabbed into place, and heat blowing from the two swivel vents hidden in the footwells, the Plus 4 is delightfully cozy. The gauges give off the warm sans-serif glow of an old console radio. A cool breeze sneaks in at the rear edge of the door and whispers at your elbow.
Every good convertible feels like a secret, special place with the roof up—an intimate, slightly clandestine hideout for two people who enjoy each other’s company. The Morgan, its side windows rising only about as high as your nose, reminds you of the joy of being hidden from the world while traveling through it. Somewhere in the middle of the crossover explosion, we forgot that we don’t need acres of glass to operate a motor vehicle. We can simply duck to a low window to check in with the rest of society.
Twenty-first-century luxury yearns to disappear, smooth and seamless, and from a certain perspective, the idea is noble. It banishes ornery design, anticipating every desire. We like to think this frees us to put our minds to greater problems. But the result is domestic amnesia, when you walk into a room and don’t know why you’re there, or when you get to your destination and recall nothing about the drive. Worry behaves like a gas; it expands to fill the space we give it. Short of giving everyone a Gamble House to hide out in, psychologists should prescribe Morgans as therapy.
These are modern problems, of course. To have too much stuff, so cheap and ubiquitous as to be sickening. To be so catered to and comforted as to be anxious. It’s hard to acknowledge these ills without sounding like a spoiled child, surrounded by toys but still not having fun.
Somehow, the auto industry manages to embody both of these diverging traits, cranking out charmless, disposable cars that do most of the thinking for us. And here, we find our brethren. Gamble House docent Robert Siminger drives a wicked little Ford Model A hot rod to give tours of the residence. I chatted with a master carpenter in the driveway as he loaded tools into a small-window 1967 GMC pickup. Several Gamble House volunteers, when they’re not in Pasadena, donate time to the Petersen Automotive Museum, just a half hour away.
Nice to know there are folks like us out there, people who aren’t satisfied by cheap consumerism or cosseting luxury. Artisans keeping the old craftsman ways alive— at home and on the road.
BY CHRIS POLLITT April 12, 2020 (https://www.carandclassic.co.uk/)
Photography by Bruce Holder
The lead shot for this feature wasn’t easy to get. A close-knit tracking shot is only ever millimetres away from looking like a Hollywood car crash, so you have to have your wits about you. On this occasion, that was somewhat difficult. There was a Morgan ARP4 ahead of me, and ahead of that was the Land Rover Defender tracking car, from which our photographer, Bruce Holder, was dangling precariously.
To my right, almost close enough to touch, was a Caterham Seven, exhausts barking while Paul, the driver, jostled for the perfect position to satisfy Bruce’s eye. As for me, I was in the Lotus Evora. I’ve already put plenty of miles on an ARP4. Plus, my mop of hair would have ruined the shot had I been in the lead car sans roof. Besides, I didn’t mind driving the Lotus, especially having discovered the button that makes the exhaust system even louder.
So why was it so difficult? Quite simply, because it was one hell of a distraction. Yes, other motorists were left agog at the sight of us three bombing along while a man on a string tried to take pictures (special acknowledgement goes to the man who’s chin was quite literally on his dash as he drank in the spectacle), but so was I. It was a hell of a moment. Three cars (four if you include the Defender) that all show why us Brits are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to going fast. When it comes to sports cars, Britain is at the top of its game.
Yes, it’s been a turbulent journey, with many great names falling by the wayside over the decades. But even though many British sports car builders have gone, that doesn’t mean we’ve been left with the dregs – far from it in fact. What we have now are the purest cars, the machines that have survived and evolved with such commitment that they have escaped our nation’s involuntary automotive cull. Basically, we’ve got the best of the best. But even so, that begs the question; which one floats my boat? And what of the ones that don’t?
To work that out, we have to look at the other cars flanking the ARP4. First of all, we have the Caterham Seven. Small enough to park under your stairs but with enough punch to rip them from the foundations, it’s a little brute. Obviously its origins are intertwined with Lotus, given that the Caterham started as Lotus Seven built under licence, but that’s where the ties end. A modern Caterham does not try to win over a modern Lotus customer. It’s too wild, too bare, and
too barmy in fact. The Caterham Seven, in any guise, exists to appeal to those of us who put speed and excitement above all else. There are no compromises with this car. There is no boot, no creature comforts of any kind. It’s just man and machine working together; nothing more, nothing less.
Power-wise, the Seven is available with various outputs. In the case of the 310 we had our hands on, 152bhp was on tap from the 1.6-litre Sigma Ti-VCT engine, pushed through a five-speed transmission to the rear wheels. If that engine sounds familiar, that’s because it is. You’ll find it under the winged bonnet of a current Morgan 4/4. In the Malvern offering though, it’s a tame 110bhp unit that gently encourages the Morgan along. In the Caterham, it’s a different animal thanks to more power and a lot less weight. The Seven moves the scales to 540kg, which is about the same as the weekly ‘big shop’.
Drive the Seven and you need to adjust. Not only is your face contorted in ways you didn’t think possible by the rushing air, your body is also shocked. This thing is wild, untamed almost. It has no godly right to be as shouty, as outright fast and ultimately, as raw as it is. It feels unfinished, but not in a negligent sense. It just feels like it’s not a full car, it’s so light and basic. Given its tiny weight and silly power combination, you’d assume that the Seven has no grip. To do so would be to assume incorrectly. The De Dion semi-independent rear can put the power down without worry, while the front double-wishbone set-up ensures that the direct and mechanical steering points the car exactly where you want it.
Disc brakes all round with no end of bite make sure you don’t end up in a tree. Driving a Morgan is an occasion, it’s an event. That’s why we love them. The Seven? It’s a swift kick to the senses. We love it, but for some, it may be a bit much. You can’t drive a Caterham in a civilised
manner. It’s the devil on your shoulder, the terrier tugging at its lead; it wants to go wild at all times. We applaud it for that but at the same time, we’re not sure we could live with it. It’s a car to be enjoyed when the mood takes you, not to be suffered when it doesn’t.
At the other end of the scale is the Lotus Evora. Full-bodied, it feels wider than it has any right to. But out of the three cars here, it also feels the most conventional and ‘car like’. Sitting in this thing, it’s obvious that the Evora is the kind of car that can swallow the miles while still rewarding the driver when he or she wants to push the pedal into the carpet. And rewarded you are. The Evora we have here is a 410, which as the name suggests, has 410bhp.
The Evora is an enigmatic beast. I won’t lie, I’ve never driven one before this and when I did, I was astonished by how quiet and civilised it was. You really could use an Evora every day, providing of course you’re limber enough to clamber into it on a regular basis. It doesn’t feel fragile or delicate; it felt tough and well engineered. It’s clear that Lotus has upped its game considerably over the years. But with a price tag around £80,000, so it damn well should.
Powered by a 3.5 litre 24-valve V6 complete with an Edelbrock supercharger, there’s no doubt that this is a powerful car. But even so, it drives around with ease and without drama. You can quickly change that. A button on the dash allows you to make the exhaust louder, which is good for a giggle. If you want more, the Sport and Race buttons focus the Evora even more. The most remarkable transformation, however, simply comes via pressure on the accelerator. Give it a stab, hold it in gear and the Evora comes alive. The bark from the engine is incredible and with it, addictive. The suspension is firm but remarkably forgiving. The gear-change is mechanical and direct.
To drive an Evora fast is to be a part of the experience, not just a passenger. Back off though, and it’s just a car – albeit one with terrible rear visibility. We liked it – a lot. You get out of an Evora what you put into it. You’re in control, and that’s nice. But at the same time, we can’t help but feel it lacks a little soul. The switch between its ‘moods’ is so vast that it’s hard to bond with. It’s one thing or the other, but without any real emotion.
Finally, we have the ARP4. Even with its 225bhp Cosworth 2.0-litre Ford engine and modern, opinion-splitting LED headlights, it’s still far more anachronistic than the Lotus and even the Caterham. It looks classic despite being new. The lines of a Morgan are from the past, and it’s proud of it. It’s charming and enigmatic just from an aesthetic standpoint. As for the drive, yes, it’s firm and somewhat unforgiving on the more poorly-maintained surfaces but even so, you know where you are with it.
The Caterham is wild and angry at any pace. The Evora? It has the potential to be many things, but it needs you to choose via the onboard nodes. The ARP4 is a mix of all that. The engine has charm and character, whether you’re going 30 or 130mph. The only difference being that it shouts a bit louder at the latter.
It’s a balanced car, by which I mean it has no shifting personality. It takes very little time to bond with any Morgan and the ARP4 is no exception. It wants you to like it from the off and when you push it, it rewards you. You don’t need to be The Stig to get the most of it, but if you are, you’ll be rewarded appropriately.
Price-wise, the ARP4 we had here can be yours for £60,000, which when put alongside the Caterham’s £30k and the Evora’s £80k, plonks it firmly in the middle. But it’s not a middling car. I’m not saying this with Morgan’s crosshairs aimed firmly at my temple, I’m saying it because I mean it: I would definitely have the Morgan. It’s a car for when the mood takes you, granted. I am certain that time spent behind the wheel purely out of necessity would mar the experience. But in a way, that thought is moot, as you would never buy such a car for ‘necessity’. You’d buy it for fun. And that’s why the ARP4 shines. It’s pure fun. You just jump in it and go. The Evora is great, but it’s too muted. The Caterham, for me at least, leans too much into compromises. It’s too raw, too full-on. It’s a machine you have to drive at 110%, and that would be exhausting.
For me, the ARP4 is a happy mix of the two, but with infinitely more charm, and charm is something I like in a car. The other two have their merits, of course. I love that as a country, we have cars like these. I loved the Lotus a lot. Its bark was infectious and had I been given more time with it, I’m sure my love would have grown. But even so, I know I would have been the one to provoke and create a reason for that love by driving it hard all the time.
As for the Caterham, I love its unabashed madness, but you’d get sick of it quickly. As I said earlier, it’s a lot. It’s in your face at all times. But don’t get me wrong, I love that we, as great Britain, have these cars on our books. I love that all three are steeped in heritage and I was staggered by how far Lotus has come as a car-maker. But even so, the allure of the Morgan shone through for me. But that’s just me. You may choose a different fighter, and if you do, I’m confident that, as long as you buy it for the right reasons, you will be very happy indeed.
With thanks to Williams Automobiles in Chipping Sodbury, Bristol, who supplied all three cars for this shoot.
The principles of family have defined the Morgan Motor Company
for generations. We’re not just talking about H.F.S Morgan – who founded the
company 111 years ago – and his descendants, but the wider Morgan family: our
workforce, our customers, our dealerships and our fans around the world.
To these people, few things are more important than building
and driving Morgan cars. Normally, our factory does not close, but today our
craftsmen and women will put down their tools.
It’s for one simple reason: without family, nothing else
matters. And at this time, our family and your family are all that matters.
For the first time since World War II, and following [UK] Government advice, we have made the decision to close the Morgan factory for at least one month. During this period, we are committed to looking after each of our employees.
We would urge you to keep your Morgan in the garage, to
follow Government advice and stay at home. The next adventure can wait, and
when all of this is over, your next drive will feel like your first.
It’s more important now than ever before that we stay
connected. We’ll still be online, so let’s keep the conversation going…
The Morgan Motor Company factory and offices are expected to
be closed from 25 March to 20 April 2020. During this period, most of our usual
business activity is suspended.
Morgan factory tour, car hire, and experience drive bookings
during this period have been cancelled. These bookings can be rescheduled, and
we will be in touch with you upon our return to work to assist you to with
Bookings made directly though Morgan Motor Company can be
refunded if you are not able to reschedule. If you have purchased a voucher
through a third party and are not able to reschedule, please contact the
provider for more details.
All vouchers with an expiry date on or after 24 March 2020
will now be redeemable until the end of 2021.
Our online shop remains open.
For sales enquiries, please contact your Morgan Dealer. You
can find your nearest Dealership here.
For Morgan Works Malvern aftersales, factory servicing or Aero Racing enquiries, please email email@example.com
For all other enquiries, please use the contact form on the
link below and we will deal with your enquiry as best we can.
Thank you for your support during this period, we wish the
best of health to all of you and we look forward to seeing you soon.
The roadster hasn’t changed much over seven decades — that goes for this send-off run, too
It would appear that the demand is still there for the traditional ladder frame cars so the MMC, not wanting to miss out on a good thing, will make a few more . . . the 70th Anniversary Plus 4s. Mark
sending its Plus 4 into the history books, where it’s pretty much been for 70
years, anyway. However, this time it’s doing something special to mark the end
of its seven decades of production of the sports car.
commemorate the life of the Plus 4, Morgan will build a special edition
feature a more powerful 2.0-litre engine from Ford, as well as a Mazda-provided
five-speed manual transmission.
four-cylinder now makes 180 horsepower thanks to in-house tuning company Aero
Racing, up from the previous 154 horsepower. Sixty miles per hour (96 km/h)
happens from a standstill in just 7.0 seconds now.
note the 70 years of manufacture of the Plus 4 weren’t continuous: the vehicle
ended production briefly in 1969, only to return in 1985 looking almost exactly
Morgan released a design sketch of this last Plus 4, showing no changes to the
design since it was revealed in 1950, and that’s a good thing. Just because the
design is ancient doesn’t mean the tech is. Heated, leather-upholstered seats
now adorn the interior, as well as a Ravenwood-veneered dashboard with a
numbered 70th Anniversary plaque in the center.
Every one of them will be painted in Platinum Metallic paint and feature dark grey wire wheels with black trim and a “motorsport-inspired” front panel.
[They also will come with is a ‘gold’ painted (coated) chassis? Something I can’t really come to grips with. Mark]
with your special vehicle, Morgan will also provide a photo book containing
images of the vehicle being built.
only going to make 20 of them, and they’ll cost £60,995 ($103,000) each. If you
want one, don’t even bother looking at the price, because they’re all sold out
anyway. Deliveries will begin in the spring.
As many of you will remember, Bill Fink was our honored guest at the MOGSouth 40th Anniversary Meet in Aiken SC. My first Morgan was a Bill Fink propane car as is my current Plus 8. ISIS Imports has been a wonderful supporter of MOGSouth for many, many years. To me he was a good friend and my Morgan hero. He will get greatly missed by us all!! Mark
Bay Area sports car importer and vintage car racer Bill Fink was identified Monday
as the victim of a house fire in Bodega.
The Sonoma County
Sheriff’s Office said Fink, 77, died late Sunday in a fire that destroyed a
single-story home on Salmon Creek Road. Although Fink’s wife and two friends
were able to escape the blaze, firefighters were prevented from getting inside
the home due to intense flames and heat.
“A number of
the volunteers and first responders knew the victim. That’s hard for anyone
that responds in a rural setting,” Gold Ridge Fire Protection District
Chief Shepley Schroth-Cary told The Press Democrat. “And in an effort to
save somebody, they were close to the victim before being driven out by fire.
That’s always tough when you’re close but not successful.”
Schroth-Cary said the fire’s origin has not yet been determined, but it is not considered suspicious.
Fink was well
known in the world of vintage British cars, especially among owners of Morgan
sports cars, a legacy brand with a cult following. For decades, he was the only
West Coast importer of Morgans through his San Francisco business Isis Imports,
now called Morgan Cars USA, which had moved to
Bodega in recent years, while still maintaining space on Pier 33. The Chronicle
dubbed him the “Morgan Master” in a 2000
profile. Fink’s company celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2018.
Morgan Motor Company, founded in 1909, still hand-builds about 800 sports cars
annually, each based on their cars from the 1930s onward, as well as more
modern versions which still feature similar lines. Fink had a close
relationship with the company in England, and is credited with helping to keep
the marque alive in the United States by working with the car maker to meet
American import requirements and emissions standards.
didn’t stop with new cars, though. Fink and his business has helped keep many
vintage cars on the road though restorations, the supply of parts and
expertise. His involvement with the Morgan Sports Car Club of Northern
California reaches back to the 1960s.
was Bill who kept Morgan’s alive in the 1980s and most of us were in some way
touched by his unbelievable efforts,” wrote one owner on a Morgan forum.
Fink spent the
hours before his death on Sunday with the club on their annual “Oyster
Run,” an organized rally through Marin and Sonoma counties, spending time
with old friends and talking cars.
Much has been made of the 3.7 Roadsters coming into the US but little of the other options, like the Plus 4. Here is a good review, thanks to John Wade in Huntsville. Enjoy.
The lack of airbags didn’t worry me. Nor did the conspicuous absence of rollover protection, ABS, traction control, stability control, and power steering. That stuff (or lack thereof) is cake; be mindful of your surroundings and your right foot, and you’ll more than likely be alright. Rather, it was the five (six? seven?) step process to erect or disassemble the cloth top of my loaner 2020 Morgan Plus 4 that caused me to sweat the most.
As if on cue, the skies above Morgan West—the home of Morgan Motors in Los Angeles and one of nine authorized dealers scattered around the U.S.—was ominously gray and heavy with the rain my weather apps declared was inevitable. Clearly, I’d need to memorize the innumerable snaps, clips, latches, and handles involved, along with the correct way to collapse the top, so I could avoid a soaking of both myself and the car’s gorgeous saddle brown interior. Beyond ruining interior electronics and leather, I ran the risk of shearing portions of the canvas lid if I didn’t fold its exposed metal joints in the correct manner.
Despite my fumbling, my instructor and Morgan West master mechanic Stefan Mincu wasn’t concerned. “You can be rough with these cars,” he explained as he leaned into the cockpit. “They look and feel delicate, but they’re quite robust. Plus, if you break anything, don’t worry—we’ll fix it.” That’s not something you expect to hear from a boutique automaker whose nationwide inventory would likely fail to fill half the lot at a Ferrari dealership.
However, if the silver blue Plus 4 roadster I got my hands on for a few days is anything to go by, that could all change in the next few years. Like many other ultra-low-production manufacturers—Superformance is the first to sprint to mind—Morgan awaits whatever comes from the Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act of 2015. That act was a dictate to NHTSA to develop specialized and more lenient regulations for small-scale automakers without requiring them to adhere to the same safety and emissions rulebook held by multinational behemoths like Toyota and Ford.
For now, all new Morgans inside Morgan West’s showroom sneak into the country via the same loophole many other kit-car and low-volume manufacturers take advantage of: The cars arrive in the U.S. sans engine and sometimes transmission, and are only introduced to their new hearts on U.S. soil. My tester Plus 4 received its transplant at Morgan West, presumably where the mass majority of L.A.-based Morgan customers opt to have their cars prepped.
Don’t call the Morgan a kit car, even if it toes the same regulatory gray lines as such machines do. All Morgans are handcrafted originally in Malvern, Worcestershire, U.K., via a blend of modern and old techniques that, yes, do still include extensive use of wood. Specifically, the frame that supports the exterior body is built from ash wood and overlaid with aluminum paneling for rigidity and longevity. Wait, you say, I thought the chassis was made of wood? No, it’s steel. Same goes for those allegedly wooden body panels that are actually aluminum.
Pep-talk over, I cut my way through the heart of Santa Monica in a vehicle I was woefully unfamiliar with. After taking stock of the interior, every preconceived notion I held about Morgan shattered. The Plus 4’s fit, finish, and quality is beyond even the best products emerging from top luxury brands. That doesn’t mean the Morgan is more luxurious or well-furnished, but the car feels hand-built and unique in a way semi-mass-produced cars do not, regardless of price. Leather appointments are tight and of the highest quality, and the metal trim and touchpoints are flawless and substantial. The floorboards have a nice strip of polished metal etched with the Morgan crest running the length of the footwell; it’s all done with a level of extreme care and artisanship you’ll be hard-pressed to find as part of anything not wearing Aston Martin wings on its snout.
All this finery and care put into presentation and build quality does an excellent job of enhancing the off-the-shelf switchgear. Buttons, knobs, warning lights, and signal stalks are surely lifted from something else, but it all seems very mise en place. Even the gauges add to the experience: Charmingly, the tach and speedo are both mounted on the center of the flat dash, just above the shifter. This attention to detail extends to the exterior with impeccable paintwork and tight panel gaps.
Just about the only thing not hand-built (or at least hand-finished) is the 2.0-liter Ford Duratec GDI four-cylinder engine under the split front cowl. This is essentially the same naturally aspirated 2.0-liter found in the recently discontinued U.S.-market Ford Focus, and it puts out 154 horesepower and 148 lb-ft of torque, routed to the rear wheels through a five-speed manual transmission purloined from an early-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata.
All of these separate ingredients—craftsmanship, 1950s styling, quality control, modern engine—add up to a rather bizarre package. As most newish Morgans do, it looks like it rolled directly out of the post-war sports car boom, but when you slide inside, you find seat belts, heated seats, a digital odometer, and Bluetooth connectivity. The engine is direct injected, electronically controlled, and eco-friendly, but as mentioned there are no driving aids, no ABS, no power steering. The car is appointed like a fine grand tourer, but the ride is excruciatingly raw, there’s no trunk whatsoever, there’s no glovebox door, and the only way to keep the weather out is to drive with the removable side-curtains installed.
Taken as a whole, the Morgan Plus 4 is a unique automotive experience. In 2020, it’s the anti-car, a flash from an alternate reality where we retained what made old cars so charming and visceral, and gussied them up with better tech and build quality. Forget restomod muscle cars; those are designed and built to drive more like a modern car than an old one. The Plus 4 is perfect parity between the Old World and New Age, warts and all.
I departed Santa Monica and took to Malibu’s nearby hills for a shakedown run. The 154 hp only has just more a ton to haul around, returning straight-line performance that’s similar to a new Miata’s, and is more than enough poke. It might be new-fangled, but Morgan fussed with the Ford 2.0-liter’s character to handily turn it from staid commuter to an effervescent and buzzy little engine befitting of the Plus 4’s antiquated persona. A Miata transmission of any age remains one of the best in the business and is a joy to snap-off quick shifts with in pursuit of the 2.0-liter’s peaky powerband. A completely redesigned exhaust system from what the engine usually mates to is partially behind the personality shift, but even without the rasp, it’s rev-happy and alive in a way you wouldn’t expect from an engine designed for basic transportation.
Then, I found a corner. I drove gingerly for the first half-hour, cognizant about the lack of any built-in safety nets. Manual steering and stiff brakes force you to think far ahead, though the steering is one of the Plus 4’s best attributes once you fall into rhythm. At speed, it’s well-weighted and exceptionally tactile, sending small (or not-so-small) jolts through the leather-wrapped polished metal steering wheel for each pebble or lane divider you cross.
Handling is more difficult to get a read on than most classic small sports roadsters I’ve driven in the past, primarily due to an antiquated suspension layout. The hardware includes thoroughly modern bushings, springs, and shocks, but the Plus 4 retains the same sliding-pillar front suspension and solid rear axle design as it did nearly 70 years ago. The whole car creaks and flexes when pushed, and feels completely disjointed over rough pavement, but once you start to learn what to expect from the chassis, your confidence builds on a smooth canyon road and you begin to push a little harder, inch by inch.
Eventually, all the ragged stuff just melts away. The squeaks and rattles become endearing, the punishing ride forgivable, and suddenly, the idea of an independent rear suspension and adaptive ride seem like futuristic follies. Who cares about entry speed when you’re having this much fun? You’ll get to where your going eventually.
Therein lies the Plus 4’s secret: manage your expectations, and it’s unfiltered, unpasteurized automotive fun of the highest caliber. Drive one around for a few hours, and while you might not rush down to Morgan West to place a deposit, you’ll get it. You’ll understand why a small group of enthusiasts plunk down brand-new Porsche Cayman S money for a car that has no trunk, a complicated cloth roof, no fixed windows, and zero safety features beyond a three-point seatbelt.
Here’s hoping the Plus 4 sticks around for another seven decades.
Morgan will send
off the current Plus 4, a heritage-drenched two-seater roadster introduced in
1950, by building a batch of commemorative models designed to celebrate. The
70th Anniversary Edition gains a more powerful engine in addition to a long
list of specific visual tweaks inside and out.
The Plus 4 hasn’t been continuously produced for 70 years. It went on hiatus between 1969 and 1985, but it remains one of the oldest designs on the market. Its demise also signals the end of an era for the small British manufacturer, because the steel chassis it’s built on will follow the Plus 4 into the pantheon of automotive history. To send it off, designers chose to coat the body in Platinum Metallic paint, install dark grey wire wheels, add black trim, and fit what Morgan calls a motorsport-inspired front panel. Sketches hint at what the droptop will look like.
The cabin receives
Ravenwood veneer on the dashboard, dark grey carpet, and a black steering
wheel, among other upgrades. Don’t let the retro design fool you, though; it’s
more comfortable to drive than it appears. The two passengers travel on heated,
leather-upholstered seats, and the 70th Anniversary model offers footwell
lighting. Morgan will add a numbered plaque on the dashboard to highlight each
commemorative model’s exclusivity, and buyers will receive a neat photo book
packed with images taken during the production process.
Over the years, Morgan has sourced engines from Triumph, Fiat, and Rover before settling on Ford. The last batch of Plus 4s will continue to receive a Blue Oval-built, 2.0-liter four-cylinder that shifts through a Mazda-provided five-speed manual transmission, but Aero Racing, the company’s in-house competition department, bumped horsepower from 154 to 180 by remapping the engine. It also exhales through a sports exhaust with black tips. The extra horses allow the Plus 4 to reach 60 mph from a stop in under 7 seconds.
Morgan will make 20
examples of the Plus 4 70th Anniversary Edition, and it priced each one at
£60,995, or nearly $80,000. Don’t start looking for loose change under your
couch cushions, because every build slot was spoken for well before Morgan made
the project public. Deliveries will begin in the spring.
Once Plus 4 production ends, motorists seeking an anachronism on wheels will need to locate the nearest Lada dealer and place an order for a Niva, a rugged off-roader in continuous production since 1977. There’s no telling how long it will stick around for, but the Russian firm recently updated it with an improved interior.
announced plans to phase out the steel chassis that underpins most of its
range, including the Plus 4. Its future models will ride on a new platform
named CX made with bonded aluminum and already found under the
335-horsepower, BMW-powered Plus Six introduced in 2019. Expect additional
models (and more engine options) to join the range during the 2020s as the
independently-owned firm recoups its sizable investment.
Morgan hasn’t revealed if it will resurrect the Plus 4 again, and what form it will take if it returns. In the meantime, the 70th Anniversary Edition is expected to make its public debut at the 2020 Geneva Motor Show in March.
I visited the Morgan factory in Malvern the other day – me and 30,000 other people. Thankfully not everyone came at the same time, but that, believe it or not, is the number of people who visit Morgan’s red brick sheds every year. This is automotive industry turned into tourism. Welcome to the future.
Not that Morgan isn’t worth a visit. It’s so quaint, it’s like it was invented by a Disney executive. The traditional production line is aided by gravity: cars are born at the top of the hill and they slowly descend the natural slope down a series of gangways that link the succession of workshops.
From the moment you step into the topmost shed – the original, built by Henry Fredrick Stanley Morgan in 1914 – the atmosphere is pungent with history. Framed by bare brick walls, wooden floorboards and exposed steel roof trusses, the top shed acts a museum, but step down a couple of stairs to enter the chassis shop and you find yourself in a messy world of hand tools, power drills, criss-crossing cables, shelves lined with box files and plastic trays full of components, bottles of glue, cans of oil, photos and memos and calendars stuck to the walls. It feels authentic – Disney would never accept this kind of health and safety.
Classic Plus 4s are still made side-by-side with the new alloy-chassis Plus Six. The new model has been a leap for a small manufacturer like Morgan – just the wiring loom of the new BMW engine and gearbox looks daunting, its multi-coloured strands sprawling out like there’s a clown’s plastic wig hanging under the dashboard.
Everyone’s favourite bit of the tour is, of course, the wood shed, where a team of master craftsmen hand-form English ash while getting high on glue fumes all day. Even the new Plus Six has an ash frame, acting as an intermediary between the boxy alloy chassis and those classically curvaceous panels. The ash ‘former’ for the rear wing – a gigantic block of wood with a curved channel cut through it – looks like it was found on the Mary Rose and dredged out of the English Channel. It’s survived so many generations of employee, no one is sure how long it’s been there.
But the thing that surprised me most about my day at Morgan was how busy it was. Instead of exiting through the gift shop, the £24 tour starts here – in the gift shop and the cafe, where I sampled the carrot cake, a perfect Morgan-esque slice, beautifully handmade by skilled artisans.
Visitors gather here, buying their Morgan caps and their Morgan branded fudge, before starting the tour, and it was packed all day. Packed with enthusiasts from around the world, a chattering congregation of English, American, Dutch and German accents. As well as the Tour, visitors can also sign up for Morgan ‘experiences’ – £25 gets you a passenger ride in a three-wheeler. Everyone I saw climbing out looked like they’d spent half an hour on a roller coaster. Or in a giant tumble dryer.
It would be unjust to call this a Morgan theme park, because it’s a working factory, steeped in history. There’s no artifice here, nothing’s contrived, and if the visitors stopped coming the cars would still be made the same way. But Morgan is also a vision of the future, specifically our passion for cars and how that will be expressed in years to come.
If Ford and Mercedes-Benz do survive the revolution (and nothing is certain these days) they’ll end up like Samsung smartphone manufacturers – mass producing plastic cases on wheels with lithium-ion batteries. But a few master craftsmen will continue, like the katana-kaji, the ancient samurai sword makers in Japan, still polishing their blades even though a samurai warrior could be felled by a traffic warden with a taser these days.
Ferrari, McLaren, Bentley, Morgan, Ariel – these will be the places we’ll visit, to tour the factory, to see how the old petrol-driven cars are still lovingly made the old-fashioned way, with carbon and English ash, and maybe we’ll also splash out on a thrilling £25 passenger ride. These factories won’t be museums – they’ll be boutique experiences for people who don’t want to let go. Yes, the automotive industry will turn into tourism, selling Bentley-branded scarves, Ferrari flat caps and McLaren fudge.