15 Mar

Morgan Plus 8 – the ultimate post‑vintage hot rod (www.goodwood.com)

It’s snowing as I write this, and has been for several days. All of which makes thoughts of open-top sports cars seem a touch perverse, especially if they involve Morgans. But the venerable Malvern company has just unveiled a new Morgan Plus 8 at Geneva.

So Morgans are in my head. The last four-wheeled one I drove, in February 2013, was that rare thing, a Fiat-powered 4/4. It was a 1985 example and it demonstrated perfectly why Morgans and winter weather don’t fit in the same sentence. The hood and side screens were no more than a minor impediment to the rainwater’s mission to soak my knees and right arm, there was as much water on the inside of the windscreen as the outside, the minimal-travel suspension pounded my intervertebral discs and I was freezing.

My previous Morgan encounter to that one was also in winter (blame two different magazine editors), but this time it was snowing. This Morgan, though, was a new one at the time (2009), a later interpretation of the entry-level 4/4 powered by a 1.6-litre Ford Sigma engine, and dynastic then-boss Charles Morgan was evangelising to me about the eco-credentials he’d suddenly realised his cheapest car had. The basic architecture might have been ancient, but the wooden body frame came from trendily renewable resources and at 795kg the 4/4 was even lighter than a Lotus Elise.

This 4/4 was a rather better drive than the earlier one, thanks to rack-and-pinion steering (more precise than the old steering box, itself improved from 1984) and dampers better matched to the stiff suspension’s characteristics. It was a car more comfortable both with itself and for its occupants, its dashboard furnished with dials and switchgear appropriate to the retro exterior style instead of, as used to be the Morgan way, just making do with whatever was current in Lucas’s or Smiths’ catalogues of generics. The ambience, and the ash-framed body on a separate chassis, all called to mind the 1930s Singer Le Mans I had owned (and now own again), which was quite surreal in a 2009 car.

I have driven various other Morgans over the years, too, and in case you have detected a touch of negativity I should point out that, in the right weather and with the roof stowed away, they are great fun. However, we opened this piece with a Plus 8. The new one is called the Plus 8 50th Anniversary Edition, and 50 of them will be made after which Morgan will build no more cars with a normally-aspirated V8.

Now, it’s possible you had forgotten that Morgan still makes a Plus 8. The model was launched, yes, 50 years ago with a Rover V8 engine mounted in a widened version of the body and chassis that had served Morgan since the mid-1950s (and, with a flat radiator grille rather than a rounded one, since the 1930s). At launch, the Plus 8 was Britain’s most accelerative production car.

It continued, getting ever more potent, until 2004 when the supply of Rover V8s dried up and Morgan concentrated on its new BMW-powered Aero 8, as hi in the tech with its bonded-aluminium chassis as the Plus 8 was not. I got to know a particular Plus 8, in bright red, very well during and after a mid-1990s Car magazine gathering of every open-top car available in Britain at the time. Part of the story involved cornering photographs taken at that staple location, the bend by the rough cobbles at the Longcross test track familiar from myriad magazine shoots.

A couple of years earlier I had much enjoyed a blast along the Gloucestershire backroads in a then-current 4/4, returning it from another test track to the factory in Pickersleigh Road, Malvern Link. The roads were a bit slippery but I had thoroughly bonded with this Morgan and its ultra-predictable if primitive, dynamics. There was a particular downhill, rightward flick with a bump in the dip before the road climbed again at the flick’s exit, and the tail snapped out as the suspension bottomed. I was pleased with how easily it was caught.

So, performing power slides for the camera in the Plus 8 should be a breeze, I thought. I revised that opinion as the Morgan got the better of me and pirouetted onto the savage cobbles. My embarrassment was worsened by the fact that the Plus 8 would no longer move forward afterwards, despite being in gear. I looked over my shoulder to discover that the right rear wheel was lying on its side under the end of the axle, although its now-jagged centre was still on the hub and rotating.

A contrite phone call to Charles Morgan was met not with annoyance that I had ruined the wheel but dismay that the wheel had broken. ‘That shouldn’t have happened,’ he said. The episode triggered a metallurgical analysis on the Plus 8’s return to Malvern, but the conclusion was that the aluminium was fine and the wheel had simply succumbed to forces more violent than it would ever normally experience. Having felt those forces, I could only agree.

I fitted the spare wheel and had a great time in the Plus 8 over the weekend that followed, no ill-effects of the mechanical trauma evident on the car’s part and a heightened sensitivity deployed on my right foot’s part. There has never been anything else quite like this post-vintage hot rod.

And that includes the new Plus 8 that arrived in 2012, using the Aero 8’s modern underpinnings clothed with an ultimate-width, slightly less un-aerodynamic incarnation of the trad-look Plus 8 body and linking the new rather neatly with the old. It is on this car that the new Anniversary Edition, in metallic blue with yellow highlights, is based, with 367bhp from its 4799cc BMW motor and a 4.5-second 0-62mph time. In its quality and finish today’s Plus 8 is a world away from the original, but the look is anything but.

It will take a while to build those 50 final normally-aspirated Plus 8s, and then what? A Plus 8 with twin turbochargers, perhaps, although nothing has been revealed.

Back in 1968, would Charles’ father Peter have imagined that a car so visually similar to his new Plus 8 would still be in production? Indeed, would anyone? I doubt it.

09 Mar

Morgan Moved Into The 21st Century And We Didn’t Even Notice (jalopnik.com)

The world of Ye Olde Worlde Cars has been quietly carrying on thanks to Morgan, a company that like to keep things pleasantly old school.  Big motors, wood frames, looks from 1950s England, and a healthy dose of good ‘ol Blighty are Morgan’s jam—but taxes and regulations mean it has to change.  And without many people noticing, it has.

The huge V-twin engine up front. The two skinny tires sticking out from the sides. The open top. A chat with Jon Wells, Morgan’s Head of Design, shows a company that is actually less 1953 and more 2053, albeit with a twist.

This year sees the 50th anniversary of the Morgan Plus 8, and maybe the end of the Morgan V8 itself. Both the Plus 8 and the Aero 8 are on the way out. Part of this is the BMW-sourced naturally aspirated V8 engine, something BMW doesn’t even use anymore.

Wells has mixed feelings about it: “It sounds brilliant, drives fantastically, but we have to look forward. Cars like this are challenged with homologation, taxation, and emissions issues. Also, BMW makes the V8 engine purely on its prototype line just for Morgan and that’s not sustainable. That journey has to come to an end.”

It’s a shame to see the V8 going away, but this may not be the end for the V8 Morgan in its entirety. Wells threw in this little gem: “This is the end of the naturally aspirated V8 for Morgan.”

Does that mean no more V8 at all? He, irritatingly, wouldn’t say. Even with batted eyelids and the sweetest smile thrown his way.

[Now this is an interesting tid bit.  Perhaps a turbo or supercharged V8?  That should be quite potent. But, as usual, we won’t see it here for a good while.   Mark]

Morgan needs to modernize, and its needs to do so quickly, but that may not be the issue you imagine it to be because while no one was looking the company has started doing really well. Last year was Morgan’s best year to date, it did so well that it bought back its previously leased factory and lobbed cash at engineering, R&D, and training. “When I started at Morgan there were eight engineers and two designers, now there are more than 20 engineers and six designers,” Wells said.

Everyone in the factory is now being given personalised training to get the best out of them, and the firm’s even using modern tech to help production: “We have a 3D printer, but no car parts are 3D printed. Tooling, things to make construction easier are made in house with it rather than outsourcing.”

We’ve known about the EV3 electric Three Wheeler for years. It’s an exciting idea, combining the car that got Morgan going as a company in the first place with modern tech, but it’s more than that. “Morgan isn’t trying to pay the mortgage with EV3,” Wells said. “What it does is softly take us in to the world of electrification. It means we do things properly and it’ll teach us how to build EVs safely and quickly.”

What it won’t be is a quiet cruiser: “It’s really bloody loud. It sounds like a pod racer out of Star Wars… It whirs, pummels you in the face with wind and stones. It’s not like a commute in a Renault Zoe, it’s still man and machine interaction but in a completely different way to a combustion engine.”

Electrification is coming, we know that, but it doesn’t mean the old school way of doing things are on the way out. It means that there will still be some quirks in the mix, but only the ones that enrich an experience rather than the ones that blight a journey, like having your V8’s motor refuse to start for no reason.

“It’s about walking a line and keeping it a Morgan,” Wells said, “keeping the impracticalities that make it fun, and get rid of the [irritations]… Still keeping the coach building alive, while bringing Morgan in to the age of electrification. Like a tailored suit, its imperfections make it perfect.”

For now Morgan is keeping a lid on what’s coming next. To see out the V8 era there’s a new take on the Plus 8 and Aero 8 GT, a harder edged modern take on the Morgans of old. At least the last cars will be special… Wells put it thus: “You can’t be naïve enough to think you can stay the same in a changing world.”

And you know what? Quietly, subtly, Morgan seems to be changing while keeping things as familiar as possible. Imperfections and all.

06 Mar

Morgan Officially Announces the Morgan Plus 8 Anniversary Edition at Geneva (MMC)

Celebrating 50 years of the iconic Morgan Plus 8, this special anniversary edition will be limited to just 50 examples and takes inspiration from Morgan’s most famed racing Plus 8’s.


The Plus 8 50th Anniversary Edition is available in two striking colour schemes and two specifications – blue ‘speedster style’ with an open cockpit, or green ‘traditional convertible’ with a soft-top.

Throughout Morgan history, significant prototypes and some of the most successful V8 race cars have all been painted blue. The most famous racing version, MMC11, was known for its distinctive blue paint, and this is reflected in the ‘speedster-style’ open cockpit version. The Plus 8’s colours were selected in celebration of this tradition.

A true British sports car, the Plus 8 50th Anniversary Edition will also be produced in British Racing Green – the most popular colour associated with over 109 years of the Morgan Motor Company. The green models will be specified with a soft-top.


Morgan’s in-house design team specially commissioned new five-stud wheels for the Plus 8 50th Anniversary Edition. These were design to reflect the forms of the original cast wheel commonly equipped to Plus 8’s throughout the years. The 50th Anniversary edition wheels are refined to  handle the increased power of the BMW V8 engine beneath the hand-crafted body.

The surface of the wheels has evolved to maintain strength and allow room for the large brake calipers whilst not only maintaining strength, but also the ‘deep dish’ so rarely seen in modern vehicle design. The wheels are finished in a specially created soft celebratory champagne colour.

Each car will be individually liveried by Morgan’s craftspeople with graphic work applied beneath the lacquer for durability, and as a clear signifier of the special nature of the vehicle. Each Plus 8 50th Anniversary Edition is also finished with a unique number on the exterior back panel of the car.


Drawing inspiration from the first production Plus 8, MMC 11, a spun aluminium domed panel adorns the rear of the Plus 8 50th Anniversary edition. A plaque inside each car denotes its unique number of production, from a limited production run of 50 examples.

Authenticity is maintained to the finest detail, with light leather wrapping used to seal the external wing panels, carrying the same colouring as used on the original prototype MMC 11. It also plays a role in accentuating the iconic wing profile of the classic Morgan.

From the front, modern LED lighting adopts a simplistic graphic blending modern and traditional. Spot lamps, painted in body colour, add to the purposeful look of the model and give it an instantly recognisable presence on the road. The addition of extra bonnet louvres and a leather bonnet belt hint at the aggressive nature of the V8 engine, whilst the number ‘8’ painted onto the front grille is a direct inspiration of the racing days of the original Plus 8.

For the interior, a naturally waterproof black leather has been chosen to provide durability essential for vehicles without a roof. A highly detailed, twin-pleated stitch has been adopted for the seat centres, in accordance to the motorsport theme that carries throughout the interior and exterior. Specially designed dial faces complete the heritage feel of the matte-finished walnut dashboard.

“Each design detail of the Plus 8 50th has been considered to celebrate the Plus 8’s significance to the Morgan company and its customers over the last 50 years. This famous V8 was a renowned model throughout the automotive industry in the Sixties, and has today evolved into an unrivaled machine, offering raw exhilaration and effortless power delivery. Overlooking the long wide bonnet, sat directly on the rear axle, when driving a Plus 8 you are very aware of, not just its soundtrack, but its significance and its capability. The design of this special final edition hopes to do both justice.”  Jon Wells, Head of Design, Morgan Motor Company

06 Mar

Morgan Officially Announces the Morgan Aero GT at Geneva (MMC)

The Morgan Motor Company are delighted to unveil two new models, the Morgan Plus 8 50th Anniversary and the Aero GT, at the 88th International Geneva Motor Show today (6/3/18).

In addition to the two new models unveiled, the company will also be exhibiting a full range of the latest Morgan models on their stand, including the 4/4, Plus 4 and Roadster from the Classic Range, the all-electric EV3 and the Morgan 3 Wheeler.

The family owned, British sports car manufacturer are present at the show following the most successful year in the company’s history. The show will run for the next two weeks, with public days beginning on Thursday (8/3/18).


Dramatic panel impressions and wing top louvres firmly establish the Aero GT as the most extreme road-going Morgan to date. Just 8 limited-edition examples will be built.

… 8 limited edition ‘gloves off’ variants of the Morgan Aero 8. Morgan’s most extreme road-going model to date, the Aero GT celebrates the end of Aero 8 production.

The Aero GT will be built by the Morgan Special Projects department, which has an established history of producing models with even greater levels of bespoke specification along with one off, individually commissioned vehicles. Morgan’s approach will see each Aero GT built as an individual special edition, rather than eight identical examples.

The dramatic evolution of the Aero GT is most striking in its restyled wing impressions and louvres. Their addition is one that serves both functional and aesthetic advantages, and were developed alongside the design of the latest Aero 8 in 2015.

Development of the latest Aero 8 focused on redeveloping the aluminium chassis to make it stiffer and introduce all-new front and rear suspension to improve driving dynamics. The introduction of a newly developed soft-top and the redesign of the rear of the car lead to further research by Morgan Special Projects into the effects that body form features have on aerodynamic performance.

Link to Press Release – Aero-GT-Press-Kit-GNV18

01 Mar

Happy 50th, ISIS Imports! Congratulations, Bill Fink! (SimanaitisSays.com)

[You will remember that Bill Fink was the Honored Guest at the MOGSouth 40th Anniversary Meet.   I have to admit I am a big fan with two ISIS cars, my 4/4 and my Plus 8.   Mark]

THE ISIS, a river renowned for its rowing and punting, flows through the English town of  Oxford. When American Bill Fink was a student at Keble College, University of Oxford, he  took part in rowing competitions. Indeed, today at the age of 75, he is still active with Oxford Old Boy crewing.

Rowing on the Isis at Oxford, England

Reflected his rowing enthusiasm, when Bill established a U.S. agency for Morgan sports cars in 1968, he named it Isis Imports Ltd. Originally on Eddy Street in San Francisco, the company outgrew this location and resettled at the end of San Francisco’s Pier 33, not far from Fisherman’s Wharf. These days, Isis Imports also has a second location in Bodega, California (yes, of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birdsfame!).

The original home of Isis Imports, Eddy Street, San Francisco, 1968.

The 1960s were great times for Morgan, with the U.S. its largest export market. Then came the 1969 advent of clean air and automotive emissions controls. Buying its engines from larger automakers, Morgan was hard-pressed to keep up with enhanced stringency of regulations. Its U.S. market all but died.

However, Bill was more than just an astute businessman (I suspect he’s snickering at this moniker as he reads it). He was, and remains, a Morgan enthusiast. After extensive discussions with federal authorities and scads of paperwork, beginning in 1974 Bill was able to convert new Morgan Plus 8s to propane power and renew their legal importation.

In addition to Bill’s propane expertise, the U.S. Plus 8 Morgan required other modifications to meet evolving federal standards: different bumpers, reinforced doors, padded sun visors, standard inertia seatbelts, and fitting of the Morgan four-passenger model’s higher windshield with added reinforcement. Eventually, Morgans got airbags, another feature Bill helped develop.

Maurice Owen, rest his soul, was the Morgan director of development and engineering. We joked at the time about his use of a state-of-the-art phone.

Maurice Owen was responsible for developing the Morgan Plus 8, whose Rover engine began life as the U.S. Buick V-8. Brit Eoin Young drove an early Plus 8 for R&T in December 1968. As R&T engineering editor, I tested other Plus 8s in August 1980 and June 1999.

Bill and his wife Judy became friends. Drives up and down the coast between Newport Beach and San Francisco’s Pier 33 were more than just pleasurable work. In fact, on a trip to Malvern Links, Worcs., the home of Morgan, Wife Dottie and I enjoyed the hospitality of Maurice and his wife.

As shown in this 1999 photo, Bill really gets into his work.

I experienced another bit of Bill’s engineering of Morgans in my drive of Isis Imports’ Chevrolet-engine Plus 8. And not just any Chevrolet engine, but a 6.0-liter LS2 Corvette V-8 producing 400 hp (versus the Rover V-8’s nominal 190) and 400 lb.-ft. of tyre-churning torque.

Dave Hill, Corvette chief engineer from 1992 to 2006, examines one of his company’s LS2s in an unfamiliar home.

R&T reported on the LS2-powered cars in April 2006. This Plus 8 Plus did the quarter mile in 12.6 seconds at 112.1 mph. Its 0-60 time was a quick 4.2 seconds; the Brit magazine Autocar shaved this to 3.8.

Morgan Cars USA (Isis Imports Ltd.) is at Pier 33 on The Embarcadero, San Francisco; 415 433-1334

The year 2018 is especially significant for Bill Fink and for Morgan. It’s the 50th anniversary of the Morgan Plus 8 and also the 50th anniversary of Isis Imports.

Double cheers, Bill!

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2018


27 Feb

A Morgan 3 Wheeler Is The Most Fun You Can Have At Any Speed (Feb 2018 – jalopnik.com)

[I removed a few photographs as they are nothing you have not seen before.   But I left one just ’cause.  Mark]

The huge V-twin engine up front. The two skinny tires sticking out from the sides. The open top. A body like a fighter plane from a war decades past. Few cars are as instantly intriguing to enthusiasts, passersby and other motorists the way the Morgan 3 Wheeler does. And you can definitely include me in that group.

There are few cars I have been so excited to drive as this one. I had my first peek at a Morgan 3 Wheeler in September 2015 during the Jalopnik Film Festival in Los Angeles. Since that time, I’ve been itching to get some proper seat time in one of these unique machines. Typically I get to experience somewhat immediate gratification, and rarely have to wait long to have a go.

Could the Morgan live up to all the hype I’d built up in my mind? Could it live up to anyone’s? Would I walk away disappointed and dejected after all that anticipation?

I didn’t care. I had to know.

(Full Disclosure: Morgan needed me to drive the 3 Wheeler so terribly that they insisted I make a trip to Southern California, pick up the car at Morgan West in Santa Monica, and drive it around for the better part of a week.)

What Is This Thing?

Morgan has produced this version of the 3 Wheeler since 2012, and they’re all bespoke, hand-built, and finished in a tiny shop in the English city of Malvern Link.. It’s a two-seat, front-engine, rear-drive roadster that’s actually homologated and registered as a motorcycle in the U.S. since it only has three wheels. Its base MSRP is around $50,000, and there are a bunch of personalization options that can bring that price up quite a bit.

It may surprise you that Morgan has actually been making three-wheeled cars since 1911—longer than most car companies have been in existence. The first run V-twin models were built from 1911 until 1939, and even had four-cylinder Ford motors in some models from 1932 through 1952.

Morgan built this machine to be all about driving fun. It’s not practical at all. There is no roof, there are no cup holders, there’s no A/C nor heater.

I couldn’t care less.

You Can’t Be In A Hurry

If you’re getting a coffee, filling up the tank at a gas station, stopping to take pictures, or standing anywhere near the 3 Wheeler, you will have people come up to you wanting to talk all about it. The first question is always “What is it?” Plenty of car people I know have never seen a Morgan 3 Wheeler in person, and fewer still have even driven one.

I was happy to play temporary host to this machine. Of the easily 100 people I talked to about this car, only three knew what it was. One guy happened to be the owner of a Morgan Aero 8 that I spotted parked at a restaurant along Topanga Canyon (Los Angeles, everybody!) and I pulled over to seek him out. The other two guys happened to be English, so they knew what was up.

Strangers are always amused by this car, and then they’re quickly curious how fast it is.

What If You Are In A Hurry?

Fortunately, the power-to-weight ratio is absurdly good in the 3 Wheeler. With an 82-horsepower 1979cc S&S V-twin mounted up front, and tipping the scales at a measly 1,157 pounds, you will have no trouble running away from the car next to you at a red light.

If you accidentally pop the clutch with a bit of throttle input, you will bark the tires instantly. I may have done this in a not so accidental manner a few times, just to be sure. Pair that to the wicked popping exhaust note from that big V-twin, and you’ve got one stellar experience.

Morgan says that the 3 Wheeler will go from 0-60 mph in just six seconds, but I felt like it might even be quicker than that. Top speed is said to be 115 mph, but I never really tried to go that fast. Highway speeds, paired with a few quick passes to get around slower freeway drivers were easy, and the torque-loaded engine wanted to pull at any RPM in any gear.

The powertrain for this Morgan is one strange combination. It’s got that big aforementioned V-twin motorcycle engine up front hooked up to a Mazda five-speed manual gearbox, and then the single rear wheel is belt driven. Find me a modern car with a more bizarre setup.

How Does It Really Drive?

Believe it or not, city driving is awesome. It’s easy to maneuver, has great visibility (seeing as it has no roof, a tiny windscreen, zero pillars, and the side view circular mirrors are easy to move around manually if you find yourself in a tight spot) and the steering is super precise when you’re in motion. That big diameter wooden wheel is light in your hands, and has no adjustment at all.

Luckily it meets up with my driving position properly. 19-inch wheels with tiny four-inch wide Avon tires provide just enough adhesion to keep you safe, but allow for a hint of slip when you’re having a little more fun on a twisty road. I couldn’t stop giggling when I was tossing the 3 Wheeler around any curve. Especially when making the back end kick out ever so slightly.

With exposed knock-off wheels and no extra body panels in your way, you’ll nail every single apex if you want to. The overall length is just 126 inches, but the wheelbase is 92 inches. That proportion helps not only sharpen handling, but keeps any bumps subtle. A tubular steel space frame keeps the chassis rigid enough to keep handling in order, while providing you reasonable cabin safety.

When you are trying to park in a tight space, things do get a little harder. With no power steering, and not much steering adjustment, you will find that you’ll want some momentum when you pull into a parking spot. If you’re trying to make a U-turn in an intersection or in the turn lane of a four lane road, you’ll have to put in some extra elbow grease.

Is It Practical At All?

Hell no. Who are we kidding?

I don’t even care that it isn’t practical. You can fit yourself and a passenger into the cabin with reasonable comfort, but seeing as there are no doors, getting in and out of the 3 Wheeler is similar to the process you find in a single-seat race car. Even with my experience in race cars, there still isn’t a truly graceful method for making your way around the cabin. Again, I don’t care about that. While it may not have climate control or heater system, the Morgan I tested was equipped with optional seat heaters, which came in nicely when cruising around Venice at night.

While the S&S V-twin cranks out a good bit of power, and you’re definitely moving around more weight than the usual motorcycle this engine typically hauls, Morgan states the combined fuel economy as 31 MPG, which isn’t bad at all. With a tank carrying about 10 gallons of unleaded, you’ll get a good amount of driving before having to hit the station for a fill-up.

Storage is minimal. There are pockets inside the cabin, next to each person, where you can throw your mobile phone or maybe a folded piece of paper, but you won’t be making a grocery run to feed a family of four with a passenger on board, and you definitely won’t take this on a long road trip. There is a rear storage compartment, which nicely fit the car’s tonneau cover on one side, my smaller camera sling bag on the other, and the tool kit in one small spot in the tail. Another reminder that the Morgan 3 Wheeler isn’t built for practicality. It is built for fun.

Cool Details Throughout

A car like this has plenty of personality on the outside, but the Morgan 3 Wheeler also has a few interesting bits inside. There’s a start button hidden behind a flap, just like you get in a Lamborghini. The horn is a toggle switch in the middle of the dash panel. The trunk is held down with leather straps. Even the headlights are activated with a switch just like the horn. It’s a simple panel, but it’s got plenty of character that perfectly fits this car.

Launch the missiles!

With the optional quilted seats and bright blue leather, the black metallic exterior really makes for a cool combination. I do wish my tester had the shark mouth front end, but this clean look worked nicely. One cool feature is that the steering wheel is removable, like a racing car, making entering and exiting the car a little easier.

No wimpy horn here. This thing could scare a Ford F-150.

There are plenty of weekend cars on the road you can get for around $50,000, and many of them will provide a great experience, but none of them will be as much fun as a Morgan 3 Wheeler.

If you’re buying a second car, to use on weekends and for quick stints around a twisty road, this car needs to get serious consideration. At any point, at any speed, in any condition, this is easily one of the most enjoyable cars I have ever driven.

Next up: this completely old-school machine is going electric. I can’t wait to see how that turns out. I guess I’ll just have to drive it again and find out…

26 Feb

Morgan Dealers Raising The Profile (www.mogmag.co.uk)

Today, glossy, hi-tech car dealerships are an everyday part of the car purchase process, but back in the day, when Harry Morgan was promoting his Runabout, dealers who could interface with customers on behalf of the factory were few and far between. MMC Archivist Martyn Webb traces the history of the early Morgan dealers and the key part they played in the success of the business.

Harry Morgan was a naturally gifted engineer and an intuitive, instinctive innovator. He also had the ability to analyse and adapt the ideas of others and to combine these features with his own designs to create machines that were clearly ahead of those of his competitors.  The Morgan Runabout proved itself to be strong, reliable and very competitive when pushed to the limit on the race track or the trials hills. Enthusiasts were effusive in their praise for the machine and the motoring press declared that this was the most competent of all Cyclecars. Additional exposure at the Olympia Motorcycle show and other exhibitions raised Morgan’s profile still further and the factory could scarcely keep pace with the extraordinary demand for their cars.


To fully exploit Morgan’s success, however, the factory needed representatives around the country to promote the Runabout to those potential customers who would not normally have read the motoring press or come into contact with these devices. Having secured a sale, the factory then required agents to collect and distribute the machines and subsequently maintain them and effect occasional repairs, most owners being unfamiliar with motor vehicles at that time.

The first-known Morgan dealer was Jack Sylvester who approached Harry Morgan at the 1911 Olympia Motorcycle Show intent on securing an agency. Despite being assured by Morgan that he “didn’t intend to make many”, Sylvester persisted and although there was never any written contract, he took on the agency for Bennetts of Nottingham and was certainly selling Morgans by the end of 1911 and continued through to his retirement

Sylvester’s Garage

Morgan’s assertion that he didn’t intend to make many was soon proved wrong since having launched the first two- seater at the show, the machine proved a huge success and he struggled to meet the demand.

Morgan’s next association was therefore rather forced upon him, not only to gain the maximum exposure for the Runabout, but to help distribute and even to assist with the building of the machine. During the show, Morgan had negotiated a new contract with Richard Burbidge of Harrods, making the Knightsbridge store officially the sole concessionary of the Runabout (presumably overlooking the verbal agreement with Sylvester). From now on Harrods would deal with all enquiries addressed not only to themselves, but also to the Morgan factory. For their part, Harrods placed an immediate order for 50 machines and paid a deposit of around £500, a sum that would at least help to finance the expansion of the works. Details of this arrangement were set out in letters between Harry Morgan and Richard Burbidge that survive in the Morgan Motor Company archives. Towards the end of 1911 Harrods introduced their own bodywork for the Morgan, allowing the Malvern factory to concentrate on the chassis alone.

Despite the existence of clear documentary evidence of the contract with Harrods, it would seem that Morgan continued to look elsewhere for other dealers, the next being pioneer motorist Billie James of Sheffield.

James of Sheffield

It was clear at this time that the arrangement with Harrods, whilst selling lots of cars, was not ideal. The Harrods body was rather too elaborate and being heavier than the simple bodies that the Morgan factory fitted, adversely affected the car’s performance. Chasing business through other channels, Harry Morgan defaulted on his commitment to Harrods and fell behind with orders, much to the displeasure of Burbidge! The sole concessionary agreement with the store was thus abandoned and although Harrods continued to sell the occasional Runabout alongside machines from other manufacturers, they were never listed by the factory as official dealers. Harry therefore continued to expand his network of dealers in major towns and cities around the UK.

By 1914 there were no fewer than 45 dealers, with four in London (not including Harrods) and foreign dealers in Switzerland (R. Voltz, Auto-Garages, oune) and in France (L. Baudelocque & R, Darmont, 128, Rue de Bois, Levallois). Darmont in Paris would eventually develop the business to build Morgans under license in France to cope with the considerable demand from the Continent. Such was the rapid increase in demand for motor vehicles following the First World War, that by the early ’20s the factory was at maximum output, whilst building new workshops to increase production further and the dealer network had grown to 78 representatives around the UK alone!


The Morgan Motor Company was now the largest cyclecar manufacturer in the UK, producing thousands of cars per year. Racing and trials successes ensured that Morgans were the most sought-after machine for the sportsman as well as those requiring more mundane transport.

By the late 1920s there were nearly 90 official Morgan dealers, plus many independent garages that regularly carried stock of used machines.

Some Morgan dealers, well-known to enthusiasts today can trace their roots back to this period. F.H. Douglass of Ealing, affectionately known as “Douggies” and still in business until a few years ago, was established in the mid-1920s, as was Lifes Motors, currently the oldest Morgan dealer in the world and still selling cars today.


Demand for the Morgan three-wheeler declined throughout the early 1930s as motorists became more demanding and knowledgeable about vehicles. The introduction of conventional small four-wheeled cars in the 1920s, such as the Austin Seven, effectively ended the fashion for cyclecars and whilst the Morgan trike survived, the factory had little option but to supplement this with the first four-wheeler: the Morgan 4/4.

Most dealers embraced the new machine with enthusiasm and the dealer network ensured the success of the 4/4. Some, however, such as E.P. “Joe” Huxham in Bournemouth remained true to the original machine. Appointed by the factory as a dealer in 1932, Joe Huxham was a larger-than-life character, famous for his “rallies”. These were fun, competitive events, which became more famous for the sessions in the pub after the day’s events, rather than the motoring activities!!

Closer to home, even Malvern Link had its own dealer. A local garage Bowman & Acock looked after sales of Morgan cars in the town, as well as after-sales servicing, a mere quarter of a mile from the factory. Established in 1935, Bowman & Acock bought the original Worcester Road factory when the last workshop (the machine shop) finally moved to Pickersleigh Road.

There is little doubt that the extensive network of dealers established by Harry Morgan in the early years was fundamental to the success of the business. They promoted, sold, distributed, serviced and repaired the cars as well as spreading camaraderie and enthusiasm for these idiosyncratic vehicles. The same is as true today as it was a century ago, and the Morgan Motor Company continues to enjoy the support of UK and overseas dealers to bring the pleasures of Morgan motoring to enthusiasts around the world.



22 Feb

Morgan Will Bring the Plus 8 50th Anniversary Edition to Geneva (www.thedrive.com)

This special edition of the iconic sports car will be the last Morgan to have a naturally-aspirated V-8.

[This line tells us what we were wondering.  We all had our opinions but no real facts.  ‘Just what would Morgan do for a high end motor given the end of the BMW V-8s?  Would they simply find another carbureted V-8 or go the way of the Turbo or Super Charging.’  This implies the later route.  Mark] 

Morgan Motor Company released a handful of teaser photos Tuesday for the new Plus 8 50th Anniversary Edition, which will be revealed at the Geneva Motor Show March 6.

The Worcestershire, England-based car company is celebrating the iconic Plus 8’s 50th birthday, which first debuted in 1968 at the Earls Court Motor Show in London. This sports car rocked a bulletproof Rover V-8 engine and featured only minor stylistic changes throughout its original 36-year production, ending in 2004.

Morgan revived the Plus 8 in 2012, which retained the classic Morgan shape and was then powered by a 4.8-liter V-8 courtesy of BMW. The new Plus 8 will utilize this same engine, but it will be the last time Morgan uses the naturally-aspirated V-8 in any of its models.

The company plans to build 50 of these Anniversary Editions, and each will feature a special plaque that denotes its number on the assembly line. Every example will be finished in a blue lacquered paint with contrasting yellow on the grille, hood, and trunk area, which takes inspiration from the first production Plus 8 ever built.

“This 50th Anniversary Edition is a fitting illustration of the Plus 8’s beauty and finesse, coupled with raw exhilaration and capability,” said Steve Morris, managing director of Morgan. “Performance has underpinned every one of the Plus 8s that have driven out of our factory gates for 50 years and we’re excited to reveal the car in full in Geneva.”

We’re excited to see the car in all its glory in Switzerland in a few weeks. Morgan is one of those car companies that stays true to its British roadster roots, which is obvious in the Plus 8’s classic bodywork.


20 Feb

Morgan Spreading the Word on UK Innovation (www.smeweb.com)

[There must be a number of reasons (that we just don’t fully comprehend) the US market is not being targeted by Morgan.  Too hard, too litigious, too regulated, etc.  I guess we have to buy our next Morgans in China?  Mark]

Morgan Motor Company is travelling to Hong Kong with HSBC to support the GREAT Festival of Innovation, taking place at the end of March. Here, company MD Steven Morris, pictured [below], tells SME about the trip

Why have you decided to get involved?

We have received fantastic support from HSBC over many years of business partnership, and we are delighted to be visiting Hong Kong with them to support the GREAT Festival of Innovation. We decided to be involved with the trip as it presents significant opportunities for Morgan, as a long established, forward thinking and growing business looking to expand in global markets such as Hong Kong and with further representation in China.

What do you hope to achieve?

We hope to achieve a number of important needs for our business. We will be looking to seek new business opportunities within the region, be it in approvals, homologation, distribution or regional brand partnerships. To take further advantage of networking opportunities with established contacts in the region as well as further our understanding of the current and future landscape in Hong Kong and China.

International Trade Secretary Dr. Liam Fox will be there. What do you think he will bring to the table?

We hope that Dr. Liam Fox will be able to assist the automotive industry with approvals and homologation in the region, this is something of vital importance to Morgan and other British automotive manufacturers. In an ever-changing landscape, any support and knowledge from a senior government figure would be most welcomed.

How important is it for government to support attempts to find new markets overseas?

Operating, and selling and distributing, into emerging markets overseas is critically important to the success and future of a large percentage of British companies, across multi-faceted business sectors and at all different sizes. Within our focus, luxury British sports cars are part of Britain’s national identity, we are revered and respected around the world for appealing, unique vehicles. Whilst Morgan’s home market is strong, one of the main factors of our continued growth is the ability to sell our products into overseas markets. The support of the government is vital to enable this continued success.

The idea is to bring entrepreneurs and the most advanced technology from across the UK and Asia to explore how we will work, live, play and learn in the future. Why do you think this important?

Morgan is a long-established company, in business for over 108 years. Throughout that time we have championed craftsmanship, and in more recent years have been exploring the latest technology to compliment that craftsmanship. Whilst we recognise that Morgan is a traditional product in one sense, we also recognise the need to create a range of products that are suitably equipped to drive the company through our future strategy, across varied global markets. Whether this is in future powertrains, design or usability, we hope that the trip to Hong Kong with HSBC will assist us with our future product strategy, as well as a future sales and marketing strategy for the Hong Kong and mainland China region.


06 Feb

Exports drive record sales and profits at Morgan, as classic British sports car maker says it will unveil new models (www.thisismoney.co.uk)

[The hype for Geneva  is starting. Interesting to see if anything is announced beyond the Aero GT,  the Anniversary Plus 8 and of course, something about the EV3.  Cheers, Mark] 

 British sports car maker Morgan has revealed record sales and profits helped by a boom in foreign demand.

The 109-year-old family-owned firm said exports were up 10 per cent in 2017, thanks in part to an expansion of its global dealer network.

Recently-launched models, including the Aero GT and 50th Anniversary V8, had also quickly sold out and a partnership to develop electric vehicle technology with engineering consultancy Frazer-Nash was struck.

Sales rose 19 per cent to £36million, with profits rising to £2million. 

Steve Morris, Morgan’s managing director, said: ‘To see such strong results for the business shows our strategy is sound and is a real credit to our dedicated, passionate and ever-growing workforce.

‘Far from resting on our laurels, we are looking forward to a strong 2018, the next stage of which will see some brand new cars being unveiled at Geneva in a few weeks’ time.’

The 109-year-old family-owned firm said exports of Morgans were up 10 per cent in 2017.

Morgan’s Aero 8 combines a modern take on its traditional style with high performance

Dominic Riley, chairman, said: ‘We are stronger than ever with record revenue growth, increased employment, a clear vision for the future and strong demand for our products.’

Morgan’s success is such that it said recently launched models, the Aero GT and 50th Anniversary V8, sold out upon unveiling.

Meanwhile, all vehicles produced at its Malvern factory are pre-sold, with none made for pre-registration unlike most car makers.

The firm added that last year saw it buy back the land on which the factory is built, which along with the purchase of its Visitor Centre proved a significant investment to ‘provide stable foundations for Morgan’s future growth plans and reverses a land buy-back deal that has been effective since 2006’.

All Morgans produced at the Malvern factory are pre-sold, with none made for pre-registration