02 Sep

Thousands Gather for Morgan’s Inaugural Run for the Hills (www.justbritish.com)

Morgan Motor Company celebrated over a century of innovation and craftsmanship at the inaugural Run For The Hills event [August 26 – August 27] with 1000’s of Morgans from a 108-year history returning home to Malvern.

Held at the Malvern Three Counties Showground in association with the Morgan Sports Car Club, Morgan owners and aficionados from around the world gathered for two days of family fun, just a few miles from the Pickersleigh Road home of the iconic coachbuilder.

The RFTH weekend saw over 5,000 owners an enthusiasts enjoy activities for the whole family including an open house at the Morgan Motor Company factory, hot air balloon rides, Morgan AutoSOLO track experience, live aerobatic displays, racing simulators and male grooming and beauty treatments and a freestyle motocross stunt display.

Visitors were also treated to a stunning lineup of Morgan dealership displays as well as a concours and historic area celebrating Chris Lawrence and his significant impact on the Morgan marque. All three Morgan SLRs were displayed alongside TOK258, the Morgan that Chris Lawrence drove to victory at Le Mans in 1962.

Visitors on Saturday morning witnessed a special 3 Wheeler cavalcade from the factory to the showground, showcasing Morgan’s iconic 3 Wheeler models from over a century of the marque’s history. The oldest models were built in 1909 by H.F.S. Morgan while the newest model had rolled off the assembly line that week. The cavalcade included over 50 3 Wheelers and was led by the all-electric EV3, driven by Managing Director, Steve Morris.

A grand Gala Dinner took place on Saturday night, hosted by the world’s greatest living explorer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes. The British hero thrilled guests with stories from over five decades of his expeditions in the world’s most perilous climates. The Gala Dinner menu celebrated produce and companies from across the 3 Counties, and was local sourced where possible. A charity auction hosted by auctioneer Philip Serrell raised £22,000 for the British Heart Foundation. Stand-out lots included a clay model Aero 8 created by Jon Wells, and an EV3 Junior.

The climax of the weekend was the Morgan prom on Sunday evening, with the English Symphony Orchestra playing iconic pieces of music for a packed arena, with the backdrop of a spectacular fireworks display bringing the weekend’s celebrations to a close. A highlight of the event for many, the concert provided a fitting ending to a truly memorable weekend.

Steve Morris, Managing Director of Morgan Motor Company, said:

We have had such a wonderful weekend here at Run For The Hills. We are continually blown away by the unrivaled passion that our owners and enthusiasts have for the marque. There were many highlights for me, however seeing the 3 Wheelers leave the factory on Saturday morning and then watching the English Symphony Orchestra concert and fireworks closing the event were perfect book ends of the show.

We welcomed well over 1,500 Morgans home to Malvern throughout the weekend from early pre-war cars to latest production cars, returning home from all over the world. The strong attendance of the event and the superb atmosphere throughout the weekend is a signal of great strength for the Morgan community. On behalf of the Morgan family, directors and staff, I would like to thank all those involved in helping to make this event a success. We are already looking forward to our next event.


01 Sep

British EV Maker Seeks Crowdfunding (Alcraft Motor Company, IndieGoGo)

[This is the first I have heard of this.  I don’t know if Charles Morgan is still with Morgan or if he has left for this venture.  (Matt Humphies left Morgan in 2013)  It appears to me that the renderings have the flavor of the Range Rover Evoque  . . . Cheers, Mark]

The company wants to raise about $776,000 to build a running prototype To Make GT Concept A Reality

Fledgling British electric automaker the Alcraft Motor Company hopes that a crowdfunding campaign might help get its first vehicle on the road. Simply called the GT, the design plays on the look of a classic shooting brake with two doors, a long roof, and short tailgate. The firm aims for production to start as soon as 2019.

For now, the GT only exists as renderings and a 33-percent scale foam model. However, the full-size version would use three electric motors with an estimated total output of 600 horsepower (447 kilowatts) and 840 pound-feet (1,139 Newton-meters) of torque. Their arrangement would provide all-wheel drive with torque vectoring. Alcraft figures the vehicle could reach 62 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds and have a 300-mile (483-kilometer) range.

More News About Alcraft:

Inside, the GT sits two occupants, and there’s 17.66 cubic feet (500 liters) of cargo space.

Alcraft is clear that the GT’s design allows for tweaks in the future. Conceivably, the firm could add a range extender to the powertrain. Plus, the interior could sacrifice cargo space to incorporate a 2+2 layout.

Alcraft’s business team includes Charles Morgan, previously at the Morgan Motor Company. Matt Humphries, another former worker at Morgan, is handling design duties. Alcraft is partnering with outside firms to supply the engineering, including Continental for safety systems and Michelin for tires.

The automaker’s crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo aims to raise 600,000 pounds ($776,800 at current exchange rates) to build a running prototype of the GT.

As of this writing, the company has amassed 10 pounds ($13).

Alcraft has been around for a few years, and it previously produced aftermarket body parts for a variety of British vehicles. In 2013, the company unveiled a line of parts for the Land Rover Range Rover (see above) that updated the front bumper, grille, and headlights. The angular pieces were a major departure from the luxury SUV’s usual look.

14 Aug

SPORTS CARS IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA (www.mossmotoring.com)

There have been a lot of distressing items in the news lately about the future of the automobile as we know it and while we cannot predict with much accuracy what will transpire in the years to come, we are sure that it will be a different world from the one that we have known for so long. Fresh on the heels of similar news from France and Norway, the United Kingdom recently announced that it intends to ban the sale of all diesel and gasoline powered automobiles by 2040. This announcement comes not long after Volvo decided to focus on building only pure electrics and hybrids by the end of this decade.

A few months ago I read something from Bob Lutz (formerly an executive at Ford, Chrysler and GM) proclaiming his gratitude for having lived through the golden age of the automobile and personal autonomy (the implication being that such an era is now over) and his is not the only voice that has spoken longingly for a time that seems on the way out.

What does this tremulous future hold for classic automotive enthusiasts?

I think it will be an even better time than ever to drive a real classic sports car. As we surrender our personal transportation to autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles, we will feel the urge (now more than ever) to drive a car under our very own control.

With inspiration from James Earl Jones, I think that for reasons that we cannot fathom we will feel compelled to lift up the bonnet and tinker with the carbs or set the timing because it will fulfill an elemental need that we all share to fix things and make them work when they are broken.

Robbed of anything with a sonorous exhaust note, we will want to hear the noise rumble from the tailpipe as we step on the gas and yearn for the sound of the typewriter-like noises from our pushrod valve trains. Even those that have no real experience with these cars will thirst for the view from behind an iconic banjo wheel. As Terrance Mann said in that Iowa cornfield: “The memories will be so thick that they’ll have to brush them away from their faces … They remind us of all that once was good and could be again.”

As long as British sports cars survive in drivable form there will be drivers who want to drive them and we will be here to supply the parts. The coming decades may be the proverbial time of cholera for true car lovers, but maybe not. More self-driving vehicles may mean less less traffic and reduced danger for those of us in our Little British Cars.

[My professional life was centered on advanced technology and computer software. It was also concentrated in the most risk adverse and safety conscious facet of this world, aerospace.  I frequently saw software fail.  My computer at home frequently ‘freezes’ or in some other ways fails.  This software technology is the basis for autonomous cars.  They manufacturers claim they can make is safe.  I doubt it.  I personally fear driving in an autonomous car, passing a slower vehicle on a high speed bend and just then, having the damn thing fail.  I guess I can reflect on the many benefits of this technology as I sail over the edge of the road, down the precipice and into the ravine.  Just my own personal nightmare. Yours will likely be different.  I am certainly not anti-technology but I don’t envision autonomous cars in my driveway, anytime soon.   Mark]   

Whatever happens, there will always be stretches of open road (they may exist in special driving preserves or we will have to pay for the privilege) where we can exercise our [Morgans], MGs, Triumphs, Jaguars and Healeys to our heart’s content. People still ride horses and have enjoyed them throughout the automotive age, they just no longer serve any meaningful role as day-to-day transportation. Hopefully, the classic car can avoid such an ignominious fate where our cars are reduced to mere diversion (even though they are mostly that now as we haul them out for shows or putter around on the weekends.)

The only way to stave off this off is to continue driving our cars with abandon as the workers at Abingdon, Longbridge and Coventry intended. The more people that see these cars on the road, the more there will be new owners to covet them when it comes time to pass them on.

“People will come, Ray, they will most definitely come.”


28 Jul

Roadster Reborn – 2005 Morgan Roadster (Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car)

[This is an older article however it features a MOGSouth Member, Ellis King, so we just have to have it posted on the web site.  Enjoy.  Mark]

When people talk about sports car “purity,” we usually roll our eyes and simply embrace the notion that if a car is fun, it’s fun. Period.

But the Morgan aficionados who say such things might just have a point.

Take a look at the 2005 Morgan Roadster on these pages. Most non-Morgan fans would be hard pressed to tell you if this car was from 1965 or 2005. Sure, up close, we could recognize the airbag-equipped steering wheel and the thoroughly modern, electronically fuel-injected, overhead-cam engine under the hood, but in its most basic form, the Roadster looks–and acts–just like cars the company made some 50 years ago. It even has the same sliding-pillar front suspension first used before World War II.

After phasing out the Rover V-8-powered Plus 8 in 2004 as it introduced the slick BMW-powered Aero 8, Morgan announced a new model that was simply called the Roadster, clearly inspired by the Plus 8 and Plus 4 that came before it. Morgan earmarked 82 model year 2005 cars for the U.S. market, equipping the cars with airbags, among other details required by federal regulations. Under the hood, in place of the Rover V-8, Morgan installed a Ford Duratec 3.0-liter V-6 as used in the U.K. Ford Mondeo ST220.

Built on a steel ladder frame with a body of aluminum reinforced with wood, the Roadster shows that traditional, small-batch coachbuilding is indeed alive and well in the 21st century. The Roadster may have been built with air conditioning, but it has no proper side windows, just curtains. Its fenders sit well proud of the body, connected front to rear via running boards. Even the round headlamps are affixed between those “wings” and the bonnet. It’s all very old school, but calling it retro would neglect the fact that Morgan never went back to anything. Instead, they have simply maintained tradition and technique.

Ellis King, a retired professor of civil engineering at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, owns the Roadster featured here. As a longtime owner of various English sports cars, Ellis has worked out his own feelings of what he thinks a sports car should be. “I think, first, that you can drive and feel like you’re driving something, that’s part of it,” he says. “It’s something that you feel comfortable in and you feel like you can do almost anything you want within your own capabilities and the car is going to do it for you. It’s something that has classical lines to me that looks like my idea of a sports car. It doesn’t mean it has to look like a Morgan, but classical lines means the older MGs, even MGAs, MGCs, MGBs–those truly look like sports cars.”

Morgan clearly had this “sports car” thing down for decades, so, even with the advent of the newer BMW-powered Aero 8, it needed an engine to power the classically designed Roadster. Of course, Morgan has had a long history of procuring off-the-shelf engines from other manufacturers, including sourcing them from the likes of Standard, Triumph, Fiat, Rover and Ford.

The company had great success selling the Plus 8, powered by Rover’s all-aluminum, pushrod V-8. By the time Morgan produced the last models powered by this legendary powerplant, it displaced 4.6 liters and made a healthy 220 hp and 260-lb.ft. of torque. But Rover made the last of these engines in 2004, ending a remarkable run that started when the company bought the rights to the engine from General Motors in January 1965.

When Ford began developing the Mondeo sedan in the late 1980s (to be called the Contour in the U.S.), the intention was to build its first true “world” car that would be virtually the same no matter in which country it was sold, with only small localization efforts to minimize costs. Ford split the engineering up between groups in the U.S., U.K. and Germany. While one group developed the chassis, one the body and another the interior, the V-6 engine program almost became an orphan, its development not budgeted with any Ford engineering center at the time. Until the Blue Oval turned to Porsche for assistance, that is.

Porsche has a long history of acting as consulting engineers, so its involvement in the development of the Mondeo’s Duratec V-6 should surprise no one. One version of the story says that Porsche had a project of its own making that it sold outright to Ford. Another source tells us that Ford sought out Porsche’s help when internal conflicts left the project without a home at Ford and Porsche completed the engineering of the DOHC, 24-valve engine with Ford’s longtime partners at Cosworth, who know more than a thing or two about multi-valve cylinder heads themselves.

The all-aluminum V-6 started at 2.5 liters, producing 170 hp in U.S. trim in the Contour when it debuted in 1994. The engine became widely used in Ford products, including sedans, small crossovers, Mazdas and even various Jaguars. When Morgan opted for the V-6 as a replacement to the Rover engine in 2005, the 3.0-liter Duratec was rated at 225 hp at 6,200 RPM and 200-lb.ft. of torque at 5,400 RPM. While the torque figure was down quite a bit from the Rover V-8, the lighter, higher-revving Ford engine coupled to a five-speed manual transmission and a limited-slip rear axle proved a robust combination for the 2,070-pound Morgan. Testers reported 0-60 MPH times just over five seconds, a performance level exaggerated by the car’s traditional, open roadster design.

That sort of performance and the modernity of the Ford power-train appealed to Ellis. For many years, he had owned an MGA and an MGC, but he had had his eye on a Morgan, an admittedly acquired taste, for some time. His interest grew after spending time with some Morgan friends and attending their events. He and his wife, Rachel, began looking around at Plus 8s, but were scared off a bit. “It seemed like, every time we talked to someone, they kept saying they had this problem, they had that problem with their Morgans. Rachel was kind of reluctant, to say the least, to get another car that I was going to have problems with. She likes to get to a place and get back and not worry about it.”

When Ellis got wind of the new $73,950 Roadster in 2005, he decided to seriously look into it. “I said to Rachel, ‘If we could get a Morgan that would be dependable, what would you think of that? Why don’t we go take a look at one?’ Naturally, she asked how much it was. She was a little bit surprised. Her comment was, ‘Well, you’re now retiring. You’ve never done anything extravagant in your life like that. But, if you want it, get it and get it fitted out the way it should be.'”

Fitted out “the way it should be” meant Rachel having a big say in ordering “the most Morgan-looking Morgan we could find,” according to Ellis. Rachel chose the colors, Connaught Green for the exterior and a slightly darker-than-usual Muirhead Ingleston Saddle Brown for the leather interior. Ellis and Rachel also chose a host of other options to very much personalize their Morgan, including the machined-aluminum “organ-type” accelerator pedal, Lucas driving lamps, machined “bullseye” bonnet knobs, leather bonnet strap, wind deflectors, a host of stainless steel accessories, the carbon composite hardtop and the practically de rigueur badge bar for club and event affiliation.

That hardtop can only be used when the entire convertible top has been removed, not just lowered, as there is not a whole lot of storage space in the small Roadster. And that’s okay with Ellis, because he has not removed it in some 22,000 miles over the past 10 years of driving it. Only during the delivery process in 2006 as part of a demonstration at the dealership did he ever bother with lowering and raising the soft top. As for storage space, the luggage rack out back–another option–is a practical requirement, and not just for show if you travel with more than just a toothbrush.

Ellis participated in three Carolina Trophy vintage rallies with the Roadster late in the past decade, along with his close friend since childhood, Norris Haynes, who did all of the driving during the timed stages of the week-long, 1,000-mile TSD rally. The twisty mountain roads of the western Carolinas required a lot of arm strength to turn the unassisted Morgan, so Ellis had an electric power steering unit installed, the only modification he has made so far.

Getting a chance to drive Ellis’s Roadster, a mix of modern driveline engineering and traditional chassis and suspension, is not one to pass up. With the keys in hand and Ellis in the passenger seat, I gladly climb into the car. But the Morgan, like many exotic cars, takes some effort to climb in and out of, primarily to get underneath the low steering wheel. The biggest trick for Morgan to import this car to the U.S. involved fitting airbags, which required a substantially different steering column. Though there is clearly a tilting mechanism visible on the exposed parts of the column, it doesn’t work and probably just came with the parts that Morgan needed to fit the airbag.

But back to the driving position. You get low in the Morgan. Very, very low, though the seats are adjustable. Overall, the car’s 56-inch measured height does not quite tell you how low it feels when you get inside. Much like driving a prewar classic, with its long, narrow hood and separate headlamp buckets, the Morgan gives you more than an eyeful looking down its long, louvered aluminum hood. Given the low seating position, the hood looks higher than it is. The wood dash and black-on-white Smiths gauges complete the classic feel.

With the optional hardtop pretty much permanently installed, the view out the back doesn’t offer too much guidance. Apparently, when the folding soft top is installed and lowered, there is even less to see. Good thing the Roadster is fast going forward.

The transmission shifts easily, the clutch takeup as uncomplicated as that on a Honda. “It’s the easiest transmission I have ever driven,” agrees Ellis. The three pedals do have a fairly narrow space to share in the driver’s footwell, however. The beauty, of course, is in the driving. Acceleration in this slightly-more-than-one-ton car is more than brisk and the engine likes to rev.

I would imagine in a 3,700-pound Jaguar S-type or 3,400-pound Ford Taurus, the engine might feel overwhelmed, the typical driver never interested in bringing it beyond 5,000 RPM into the heart of its power band. But in the Morgan, it revs freely. Though there is no redline marked on the tach, Duratec engines are known to have a rev-limiter over 7,000 RPM, which Ellis admits to hitting from time to time. “But I only ever hit in the low gears–and not when Rachel’s in it, either!” he says.

Passing power is bountiful, and we can only imagine how much faster it scoots compared to the original Plus 4 models of the Fifties and Sixties. Road & Track reported a 5.2-second 0-60 time when the Roadster was introduced. Braking feel is nothing special from the front-disc/rear-drum setup, but the binders are effective at scrubbing off speed in our ride, taken on the outer roads of a rather spread-out and not-yet-developed suburban office park, the sort of place where no one bothers you as you tear around a traffic circle on an almost empty road.

Still family owned, as it has been since its founding in 1910, Morgan knows more than a thing or two about building truly bespoke sports cars for a dedicated group of enthusiasts, like Ellis. “I think a lot of people would drive a Morgan and simply not like it because it’s different from other sports cars. If you’re looking truly for a sports car that has all of the features that everyone thinks of a sports car having, then that’s a Morgan.”

I think this Morgan is the last true sports car. It has the classic body. It has all the power you need. It drives like a sports car should. It looks like a sports car should. I bought this particular one because I wanted a sports car that would be new and dependable. It has been dependable, and it runs good.

I don’t know anything I don’t like about it. It’s got a hard ride, which is a Morgan ride. It drives very well. It’s got plenty of power. I can think of lots of things I like, but I don’t know of anything I don’t like. If I had to answer the question, “Would you change something on it?” I’m not sure I’d change anything. -Ellis King

 DOHC V-6 with aluminum alloy block and cylinder heads
Displacement 2,967 cc (181.1-cu.in.)
Bore x stroke 89 mm x 79.5 mm
Compression ratio 10.0:1
Horsepower @ RPM 225 @ 6,200
Torque @ RPM 200-lb.ft. @ 5,400
Main bearings Four
Fuel system Electronic fuel injection
Electrical system 12 volts
Ignition system Coil-on-plug distributorless
Exhaust system Stainless-steel tubular headers; dual-exhaust outlets; catalyst equipped
Gearbox Five-speed manual transmission; single dry-plate clutch
Differential Hypoid gears with limited-slip
Steering Rack and pinion, 3.5 turns lock-to-lock with aftermarket power assist
Brakes Hydraulic dual-circuit with power assist; Front: 11-inch AP discs; Rear: 9-inch drums
Chassis and body Steel frame with Z-shaped main spars and tubular cross members; aluminum body with partial wood frame
Suspension Front: Independent sliding-pillar with coil springs and gas-filled telescopic shock absorbers; Rear: Semi-elliptic leaf springs with gas-filled telescopic shock absorbers
Wheels Stainless steel 72-spoke wire wheels, 16 x 7 inches
Tires 205/55R16

Wheelbase 96.1 inches
Overall length 158 inches
Overall width 67 inches
Overall height 56 inches
Front track 50.8 inches
Rear track 56.7 inches
Curb weight 2,070 pounds

Hp per liter 75.8
Weight per hp 9.2 pounds
Weight per cu.in. 11.43 pounds

0-60 MPH 5.2 seconds (Road & Track)
Top speed 134 MPH (factory claim)

Base price (new) $73,950
Price (new) $79,606 (optioned as driven)
Market value (today) Low: $56,700 Average: $71,000 High: $92,000

This article originally appeared in the August, 2016 issue of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.

25 Jul

Morgan Motors upgrade to 3D with PLM upgrade (http://www.plantengineer.org.uk July 2017)

Morgan Motors have upgraded its PLM !!

[The Morgan Motor Company design methods are not all ‘old wive’s tales’ or ‘scrawled notes on scraps of paper’ simply ‘handed down from generation to generation.’  

The MMC is employing the latest computer based design and manufacturing tools as they endeavor to produce the products we so enjoy.  (Well, maybe the newer ones . . . )  This news article simply states that they are upgrading to the latest version of their chosen computer design tools.   

I, for one, am pleased that the MMC is not simply complacent with the status quo, and is staying abreast of technology (at least in the design shop), while maintaining those enduring qualities we all cherish, such as the quirkiness of the company and the hand built nature of the cars.  Mark]

Design Rule, a supplier of Dassault Systèmes Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) technology and services has announced that it had been selected to manage Morgan Motors PLM upgrade to the Dassault Systèmes 3DEXPERIENCE platform from SmarTeam.

Back in 1990 Sir John Harvey Jones visited the Morgan Motor Company in the sleepy town of Malvern, Worcestershire, as part of the BBC reality business program Trouble Shooter, where he was surprised to see that the sportscar maker was still making its vehicles in a traditional manner, even continuing to use a large proportion of wood in their construction. Sir John’s advice was simple — modernise, greatly increase production and ramp up your prices.

Yet Morgan turned down his advice, the company has gone from strength to the strength. Today, the cars are still handmade in the Morgan factory and the manufacturer has become a global brand, with a long waiting list for its vehicles. Even the late Sir John admitted that he was pleased that his advice was unheeded.

In the intervening years, however, the cars have become more complex. Customers expect certain levels of quality and there are regulatory requirements for different geographical markets. Whilst the cars themselves are hand built, behind the scenes, Morgan Motors has invested significantly in modern CAD and PLM technology to support the development of their famous model line-up with long-standing partner Design Rule.

Graham Chapman, engineering director at Morgan Motors, said “SmarTeam has served us well over the past seven years, but in order to take advantage of the broader PLM capabilities we saw that it was time to move up to the 3DEXPERIENCE platform from Dassault Systèmes. We have a young design team so we need to provide them with the modern toolset that they need to develop our cars of the future. We also require an environment where we can collaborate with our partners on new and exciting projects”.

Chapman also commented “We have been working with Design Rule for approaching eight years. Having delivered our initial SmarTeam implementation they have continued to support us ever since. Their team understands our business in detail and how PLM can best serve it, so we are delighted that we will continue to work together on this business platform upgrade”.

“Morgan Motors is typical of many of our customers in that we have a very long working relationship with them,” explained Bob Hillier, Managing Director for Design Rule. “The project itself is a good example of British industry investing in the latest generation of PLM business solutions to support the development and manufacture of their product, in this case a prestige brand of sports car.   We are looking forward to sharing more information about the project as it progresses”.


20 Jul

The Voice of Experience – Gavin Green (August 2017 – Cars Magazine)

Summer is here and when the sun shines a young man’s fancy turns to sports cars.

So this (old) man heads to Malvern Link, home of Morgan, and to the driver’s seat of a 4/4, the world’s oldest new car, now in its 81st year of production.

Now of course Porsches and Ferraris go faster, Mazda MX-5s are sweeter to drive and Caterhams steer and stop better. But if your priorities are wind-in-the-hair fun, turn-up-the-volume driving engagement and a passport back to a gentler motoring era, then nothing can beat a Morgan.

They are mostly made as they always were: hand-built using mallets and files and saws and human sweat, and crafted from traditional materials. Indeed the frames of the oldest classic models, like the 4/4, are still made from ash. They are far more hand-wrought than any Bentley or Rolls-Royce, whose bodies are invariably made by machine and whose hand-craftsmanship is typically confined to cabin carpentry and trim leathersmithery, plus the odd commissioned bespoke flourish.

Little has changed since the 4/4 was new. Morgan is still an independent family-owned company. The manufacturing technique is so unusual and old-fashioned that factory tours (£20) are a popular attraction. Last year, 30,000 people took the tour and, in typical English style, it includes afternoon tea. It gets five stars on Trip Advisor.

Our Morgan has a modem 110bhp 1.6-litre Ford engine and a previous-gen Mazda MX-‘5 five-speed gearbox but in every other way it’s about as mechanically similar to a new saloon as a Spitfire is to a 787.

Take the windows. There are none. Instead, we find side screens that we unclip and leave behind. It is a beautiful summer’s day, so no need for weather protection.  Also, no need to put up the fabric roof, coiled behind our heads. There are only two seats and entry is by a tiny shallow door, opened by a latch.  The door has leather pull-straps.  It appears to weigh nothing.

The steering wheel is wood rimmed and alloy spoked -forget about an airbag – and it’s large and upright, closer to your chest than a modern car’s. The dash is a plank of varnished walnut. The only digital display is total mileage. This is not a digital-age car.

Out front there is a little upright chrome-ringed windscreen, and a long bonnet, elegantly sculpted, hand formed and tethered-by leather straps.  Little louvres help the engine breathe.  We see twin like-frog’s eyes, and elegant sweeping round fenders.

The (optional) side-exiting exhaust is just under your right shoulder. It barks into action when you turn the key – you can smell the fumes on start-up – and the engine soon settles into an uneven and throaty idle.

Its smallness and all-aluminium body makes for a light car, just under 800kg. There is no power steering, so turning the big wood-rimmed wheel when stationary or at low speed requires shoulder and arm heft. Clutch and brake pedal are also heavy.

It feels and sounds fast but isn’t. This is a car that’s all about sensation, not measurement. Just as cycling at 20mph feels faster than driving at 60mph, so the Morgan feels fast beyond the speedo’s numbers. The ride is firm and easily unsettled and the handling lacks finesse. But what do you expect from an 8o-year-old design, whose rear suspension owes more to a wheelbarrow than double wishbones? Like all old cars, it needs manhandling and heft; anticipation and concentration; and, yes, just a little love and understanding.

It’s designed for the winding narrow roads of England of 70 or 80 years ago, which still gently crisscross much of the country’s rolling green land. They are wonderful driving roads. Speed is irrelevant. The slower, the better. You’re always interacting with your environment: with the weather, with nature and its many scents and sounds, and with the car itself. It is a different type of motoring, totally alien to the hermetically sealed air-conditioned cabins in which we today rush hither and thither, isolated from everything around us, in a world bulldozed for speed.

Every once in a while, it’s good to be transported back to sports cars of yore and to the driving world of yesteryear.

Only an old classic, or a new Morgan, can do this. It helps us to understand how much cars have improved and, just as important, how much raw driving enjoyment has been diluted.

17 Jul

Brakes off for Morgan Motors’ Electric Future (www.thetimes.co.uk)

Robert Lea, July 17 2017

Skilled craftsmen at the Morgan Motor Company, the last of Britain’s family-controlled carmakers (MORGAN MOTOR COMPANY)

Of all Britain’s great heritage motoring marques founded a century or more ago, you will not find many where the founding family remains involved.

Where are the descendants of Rolls and Royce and Bentley, or Herbert Austin or William Morris or William Lyons of Jaguar or Lionel Martin who took his cars up Aston Hill?

In fact, there is just the one: founded 108 years ago and still wholly in the hands of the family, the Morgan Motor Company, whose factory nestles in the lee of the Malvern Hills, is still building retro classic sports cars with frames fashioned from the wood of the ash. That family ownership is looking a little more assured after an extraordinary bust-up with Charles Morgan, grandson of the founder HFS Morgan, was finally settled after more than three years of bitter wrangling.

The Morgan board, albeit with none of the family in an executive position, is now hoping for a period of stability so it can begin production of electric versions of its famous bullet-shaped three-wheelers by the end of the year.

The 2016 accounts just published by Morgan reveal a business employing 200 people, many of them highly skilled craftsmen, making 800 cars a year with a turnover of £30 million and a profit of £700,000. The plan is that this year will bring in £35 million of revenues and £1.3 million of profit, throwing off cash that can be invested in its electric dream, and to start paying the family again after a dividend drought.

Just last month it bought back its historic Malvern factory in a £7.2 million deal, reversing a transaction ten years ago that was used to fund the development of its top of the range all-aluminium Aero 8 cars, which start at £92,000 apiece and sales of which are fueling larger revenues and better margins.

As important is the end of the feud that threatened to tear the company — and the family — apart. Charles Morgan was relieved of his executive duties in late 2013 amid a war of words in the press and on social media. The nature of his alleged misdemeanors has never been disclosed. In an outbreak of peace, however, an embarrassing date at the employment tribunal has been averted and Mr Morgan, a 30 per cent shareholder, is back in the fold. “The family is now tightly aligned,” according to Dominic Riley, who was brought in last year as Morgan chairman.

The rest of the company is owned by Charles Morgan’s sister Jill Price, with 11 per cent; a family trust set up by their late father, Peter, which holds 48 per cent; and a further 11 per cent split between Craig Hamilton-Smith (son of Charles’s late sister Sonia and her husband, the Tory peer Lord Colwyn) and his sister Jacqui, married to the actor Sean Pertwee. It means that Mr Riley and Steve Morris, a former company apprentice who worked his way up to become Morgan’s managing director, can get on with what happens next. “We are saying ‘make it better then make it great’,” Mr Riley said. “We have been at only break-even for several years.”

That means Morgan will not be going anywhere near the mainstream soon. Production rates may reach 1,000 a year but no more. In 1991 the company was producing 400 a year when Sir John Harvey-Jones’s Troubleshooter programme visited and the Morgan family famously rejected his “change or die” advice.

The company produces 800 cars a year including the Plus 8 (MORGAN MOTOR COMPANY)

“We want to retain the exclusivity,” Mr Riley said. “We have a waiting list of six to nine months with which we are comfortable. We build to order.”

Those orders are increasingly for the Aero 8 range with its top of the range BMW engines. More than half the production remains the classic ash-framed Morgans which use Ford engines and start from £39,000. About a fifth of production is the £35,000 Morgan three-wheeler which uses a Harley-Davidson derivative motorcycle engine with a feisty Mazda MX5 powertrain.

The company’s ambitions are focused on making electric versions of the Morgan 3 in a project with Frazer-Nash, the engineering consultancy. The promise is that the new Morgan 3 will sound less like Peter Fonda in Easy Rider and more like Anakin Skywalker pod-racing in Star Wars. Mr Morris said the family was keen to avoid the mistakes of other heritage brands that have been on more than nodding acquaintance with the insolvency accountants over the years — marques such as Aston Martin, which has gone bust seven times, and Lotus, which has long been stuck in the slow lane.

“We need to build a sustainable business,” Mr Morris said. “If we are making money building 800 cars a year, that’s fine. Brilliant if we can do 1,000 a year and make money.”

07 Jul

New Book – Rover V8 – The Story of the Engine

A new book, set to be released on 15 July 2017, that might interest some of us.   Possibly a good item for the Holiday List??  Or if you just can’t wait, it is available on Amazon for pre-orders.

By James Taylor
Hardback •  144 pages • 155 pictures

ISBN: 978-1-787110-26-7





1 – Origins and GM versions of the engine
2 – Purchase of design and manufacturing rights by Rover; preparing the engine for UK production; development
3 – Production 3.5 engines, 1968-1976
4 – Production 3.5 engines, 1976-1989
5 – 3.9 and 4.2 engines, 1989-1995
6 – 4.0 and 4.6 engines, 1996-2004
7 – Afterlife in small-volume production
Appx A – V8 engine identification numbers

We will post a book report when we have one.  Enjoy, Mark

29 Jun

Goodwood Festival of Speed (www.telegraph.co.uk)

My first car – Lord March: ‘I believe I hold the land speed record from London to Goodwood’

Charles Gordon-Lennox, Earl of March and Kinrara, is one of Britain’s foremost petrolheads and opens his house and driveway this weekend for the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed. The event draws many of the world’s most storied and valuable sports and racing cars, and many of their original drivers. As for Lord March, he loves American hot rods and has owned many Porsches and Ferraris, but the motor closest to his heart is an elegant old Lancia.

Tell us about your first car…

It was a 1936 Morgan 3-wheeler , because my parents were determined to keep me off motorcycles and it seemed like a compromise. I found it for £200, and it was lethal.

It was made of plywood and had a wobbly back wheel, which actually fell off once as I drove to my girlfriend’s house in the next village. Yet I loved it; I was 16, in my leather jacket and goggles, and off I went.

How old were you when you started getting…

[For those of you interested, Lord March is the host of, and on who’s property is held, the Goodwood Festival of Speed and the Goodwood Revival.  The 2017 Goodwood Festival of Speed began today and ends on Sunday,  July 2.  The Goodwood revival is later in the Fall and runs Friday – Sunday, September 8 – 10.  I have never been to the Festival of Speed, but I have been to the Revival and trust me, it is a ‘must do’ for all of us.  Mark]


27 Jun

Morgan 4/4: Road Test Heroes (www.pistonheads.com)

[A review of the current 4/4.  I know it’s currently out of reach, however things may change in the future.  Also, it is interesting to see the MMCs progress and what the press think of it.  Cheers,  Mark]

Despite being old enough to have retired, the original Morgan four-wheeler is still going strong

Morgan has always divided enthusiasts. Some regard it as being as quaint and charming and as quintessentially English as drinking warm beer in a queue to watch a test match while complaining about the weather. While an almost equally matched cohort view it as a living anachronism, one that builds woefully outdated cars for people who routinely wear tweed and say “tally ho!” without irony.

I used to be one of the doubters, unable to see much appeal in the idea of a factory fresh classic ticking every cliche and harking back to an age when cars just weren’t very good. Morgans had wooden frames and wire wheels and leather straps, plus engines that delivered more rort than sport. The fact people were prepared to spend serious money on them, and to often wait years to take delivery, just added to this sense of eccentric madness.

But then I drove one, and the world suddenly shifted.

Having a go wasn’t easy; while the company was more than happy to let journos experience its more modern (and much more expensive) alloy bodied cars, there was no inclination to let us near the ‘classic’ side of the range. Likely in anticipation of all the rude things we’d say. I was sent to the factory to drop off an Aero 8 that had been used in a magazine story and saw a gleaming 4/4 demonstrator parked outside the office. Out of curiosity – and probably the desire to prove my prejudices right – I begged a go in it.

For the first five minutes, it was as bad as I had expected. The suspension crashed over everything, the bodywork shook like a shivering dog and – thanks to a shower – the fabric roof leaked water onto my lap. Yet, despite its flaws, it was also utterly charming – keen, benign in its responses and delivering the sort of sensory overload that made 45mph feel like double that. I returned to the factory wearing a startled grin – one I imagine they see quite often – and I’ve been a fan ever since.

History repeating
Although Morgan makes several classic models, the 4/4 was where it all began. Quite literally, its name denoting the fact that it had both four cylinders and four wheels, a novelty for Morgan in 1936. There were two production breaks, one during World War II and the other in the early 1950s, with a sizeable gap between the Series I and Series II cars. But even if you choose to date the 4/4’s origins only to the launch of the latter version in 1955 it can still lay good claim to be the longest-lived car in the world. Many details have changed over the years, but the similarities are much more striking than the differences. Park a brand new Moggy next to its mid-50s ancestor and you could pretty much swap the plates undetected.

Like Morgan’s other ‘classic’ models, the basic Runabout, the plusher Plus Four and the V6-powered Roadster, the 4/4 is built in the company’s traditional way. That means a steel chassis and aluminium bodywork, this mounted onto an ash frame. (That pub bore who insists Morgans are made entirely from timber is an idiot.) Suspension is the oldest of the old school – it probably still writes on a slate tablet – with sliding pillars at the front, a technology first used by Morgan in 1909. At the rear is a solid live axle, suspended between two elliptical leaf springs. Front disc brakes arrived in the 1960s, and the modern car uses a five-speed Mazda MX-5 gearbox, but the rest of the rolling chassis has barely altered over seven decades.

The engine is the newest part of the car, and one that continues Morgan’s long tradition of using humble powerplants in its cheaper models. These days the 4/4 packs a 1.6-litre Ford Duratec, normally seen in lowlier versions of the Focus and C-Max. With 110hp and 104lb ft it’s unlikely to strain a dyno (although for contrast the Series II launched with a 1.1-litre Ford side-valve producing 36hp.) But the Morgan’s lack of pretty much everything means it remains impressively light; the 795kg kerbweight meaning it is pretty much an Edwardian MX-5.

Safety last
The secret of Morgan appreciation is to reset your expectations. The 4/4 can’t be fairly compared to a modern sports car, or even an elderly one. For anybody arriving from something more recent – statistically pretty much anyone – early impressions will mostly be of the car’s flaws, many of which actually add more character than they subtract. The lack of modern ergonomics are obvious from the moment you get in and slide legs into the tight-fitting footwell to discover the various awkwardly shaped brackets and extrusions you have to share it with. The steering wheel of our test car is a magnificent wood and metal Moto-Lita affair that looks as if it could knock out most of your teeth in an accident, and the column doesn’t adjust for reach or rake. The only concession for differently sized drivers is the ability to slide the seat. The cabin itself is nicely trimmed, with some vintage style clocks although modern plastic control stalks. There’s plentiful evidence that it’s been built by hand, from self-tapping screws to occasional bits of swarf.

Dynamics are similarly Olde Worlde. The steering is unassisted, and vein-poppingly heavy if you try and turn the wheel when stationary. It lightens up as soon as the car starts to move, but only for the first half-turn or so of lock; add more than that and it’s back to being a workout. Precious little feedback gets through to the rim, with none of the chatter of a Caterham or a Lotus, and it also needs constant small corrections to stay on a chosen course. Grip levels are sometimes startlingly slight on the period-patterned 165/80R15 Continental tyres, with the front wheels locking on dry tarmac at low speeds under moderate pressure on the unservoed brake pedal. The Morgan comes from an era when driver aids were definitely for wimps.

Fast enough
Yet Morgan has been doing this for long enough to want to keep its customers alive to buy more of its products. Once adapted to its foibles, and the need to keep a decent distance when following other cars, the 4/4 actually feels impressively secure. It feels like there’s more lateral than longitudinal grip, the chassis tuned to stay safe and predictable as the limits get near. Excess speed sends the front running wide, but there’s no matching sensation of looseness from the rear; even the combination of a low gear, lots of steering lock and an enthusiastic application of throttle doesn’t produce any feeling of slip on dry tarmac.

This definitely isn’t a car for the ragged edge, or even a mildly unkempt one. Like riding a motorbike – or a horse – the best approach is to try and work together, anticipating risks before they arrive and deploying the 4/4’s modest power output to its best effect. With the roof down 60mph feels positively daring, and overtakes are a genuine achievement. The 4/4 isn’t fast, but it never feels slow.

Indeed the engine suits the car almost perfectly. In Fords this is a utility grade powerplant, but the Morgan’s lack of mass lets it reveal a genuine enthusiasm. Throttle response is excellent, mid-range torque is solid and the upper reaches of the rev range deliver a very rorty soundtrack through the optional sports exhaust (which exits on the driver’s side to enhance its snap, crackle and pop.) The gearbox is an absolute joy as well, as slick and accurate as it is in the MX-5; it’s a shame the floor-mounted throttle pedal is so poorly mounted for heel-and-toe blipping. But it’s still one of those cars you change gear in just for the sheer hell of it.

Getting better
Morgans have a strange ability to distort reality, to win you over. After a couple of days you stop noticing how terrible the ride is, and how much scuttle shake the car exhibits over rougher roads. The pop-fold-pop fabric roof starts to make sense; with a bit of practice you’ll get the time taken to put it up or down under three minutes, and with only a couple of swearing fits. Hell, your legs even start to grow calluses where the sills and transmission tunnel rub, to the point they barely hurt. It’s proof of just how charming the car is, and an explanation for the cultish appeal that has kept it in production for so long.

But there’s also the grubby business of money. Put simply, a Morgan 4/4 has, historically, been among the safest of automotive investments. Back in the 1980s the combination of very gentle depreciation and a multi-year waiting list meant that Morgans were actually worth a premium for a couple of years after they were first registered. These days the waiting list has fallen to months if you want to specify your own car for factory build, and a glance at the Piston Head classifieds reveals there are even unregistered cars out there ready to buy. But a tasteful Moggy still holds onto value remarkably well, with a depreciation curve that – over decades – will ultimately turn and start to climb again. It’s entirely appropriate that a solid example from the 1940s or 50s costs nearly the same as a new one.

Tally ho!
Most car companies evolve at huge pace. Often, in the case of small sports car makers, too quickly. Look at the long list of British sports car makers through the ages and see how few are still trading; the ones that have endured are the ones with a loyal following and a product line-up that plays on a familiar theme rather than heading in radical new directions. As such, Morgan is the exemplar – a company which boasts fifth- and even sixth- generation employees, and where nothing changes unless it has to. While the 4/4 definitely isn’t a car for all tastes, it’s proof that tradition, craftsmanship and just being different can carry you a very long way.

2017 MORGAN 4/4 Specifications

Engine: 1,595cc four-cyl
Transmission: 5-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 110@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 97@3,000rpm
0-62mph: 8.0sec
Top speed: 115mph
Weight: 795kg
MPG: 44.1 (NEDC)
CO2: 143g/km
Price new: £39,309 (OTR)