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[At this point, it is hard to say how this will effect the future importation of Morgan cars into the U.S. Morgan has been continually involved, as a potential Low-Volume Manufacturer, during this regulation’s evolution. They have commented on draft wording and supported the concepts inherent in the regulation. We shall have to see how this all works out, but, at this point in time, it can only be beneficial for us all. Mark]
After years of lobbying from SEMA, it’s now legal throughout the U.S. for manufacturers to build and sell brand-new replicas of cars over 25 years old.
Replica vehicles and kit cars have long been a way for enthusiasts to get a piece of some of the greatest examples of automotive unobtainium. Thanks to the efforts of the Specialty Equipment Market Association and their partners lobbying Congress, the replica market is about to get a lot bigger. Customers in the United States will now be able to legally purchase turn-key, factory-assembled replica vehicles, based on designs more than 25 years old, now that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has officially implemented the Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act.
According to this new policy, low-volume vehicle manufacturers will be able to construct up to 325 replica vehicles a year—anything from old-school hot rods to mid-century muscle cars and more modern classics. These vehicles will still be required to comply with some level of federal oversight, but not at the level of modern mass-produced vehicles. This should allow small manufacturers that don’t have the resources of a legacy automaker to build limited-production replicas that comply with the new law.
That said, these replica vehicles will still be required to meet current model-year emissions regulations, and as such, all replica manufacturers must register with NHTSA, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the California Air Resource Board in order to build and sell street-legal vehicles. The process of verification with these entities may take several months, according to SEMA. That means we still likely have a way to go before we start to see an influx of new pseudo-vintage machines powered by modern emissions-compliant engines. For those who don’t want to wait, we should note that this new policy has no impact on your ability to build a traditional kit car.
It doesn’t feel like automotive enthusiasts catch many breaks these days, especially as our zero-emissions future draws ever-nearer. This is a win we can all get behind, and one that could help get some seriously cool cars on the road in the near future. Let us know what vintage vehicles you’d like to see as turn-key replicas in the comment section below.
The MOGSouth web site (www.mogsouth.com) has reached a major milestone. It has had its 1 million ‘Visit’ since inception. (The MOGSouth web site has existed in its current form since 2016.)
As you know, the MOGSouth web site is the primary communication tool for the MOGSouth Morgan Club. So, members in MOGSouth need to access the web site routinely to get MOGSouth scheduling information, news, activities details, etc.
That being said, the MOGSouth leadership is constantly trying to improve the communication with the membership. The web site’s existence is a result of this effort. It was totally revamped in 2016, when the MOGSouth newsletter, the Southern Fours and Eights, was cancelled. (This newsletter was last published in 2015. It was cancelled due to the lack of a Newsletter Editor (volunteer.)) The Newsletter Archives (on the web site) provide copies of these older Newsletters.
Following the end of production for the Morgan 3 Wheeler, the Morgan Motor Company is delighted to confirm that an all-new three-wheeled model is undergoing testing ahead of its launch on the 24 February 22.
Morgan have published images of a heavily disguised engineering prototype, a montage of early design sketches and one of the images from the pre-launch film and photo shoots.
Most details, including the name, will remain undisclosed until the global unveil on 24 February. But Morgan has confirmed the use of a Ford three-cylinder engine for the upcoming model, continuing the long-standing use of Ford powerplants in the company’s line-up.
The illustrations shared by Morgan show that the design of the new model is bold and eccentric, taking inspiration from mid-century jet planes, motorcycles, historic Morgan models and modern industrial product design — images of which adorn the walls of Morgan’s design and engineering offices.
Complementing this personality will be an extensive list of specification items and accessories available from the outset, making it Morgan’s most configurable vehicle ever. The model can be tailored to assume multiple identities, and cater for every adventure.
Intrigued? You can be one of the first to own the all-new model. Our dealer network is taking deposits now for the first customer build slots. Complete the form below to contact a dealer and find out more.
Five decades separate a pair of British sports cars with a very similar vibe.. Time to see what else splits them.
I’m not sure I can spot the difference.
Very funny. But I’ll concede that getting these two Morgans together is a very visual demonstration of both the company’s design language and its evolutionary philosophy. A number plate swap might just prove enough to divert your attention from the 56-year age gap between these cars. Yep, one of them really is as old as the England mens’ last major football success.
Photography: Jonny Fleetwood
With thanks to Chris Towner for the loan of his delightful Morgan 4/4
Surely there are other visual cues…
Back in the Sixties, exterior door handles were on the Morgan options list. And the 4/4 you see here is in ‘purists’ spec’ – aka it doesn’t have any. It’s best to keep the roof down at all times if you want to get into the car without looking like you’re breaking into it. Other differences involve a different layout of spotlights up front and a disparity in their number of hand-stamped bonnet vents; both cars sport eight each side, but the older car doesn’t require a stip of them on top.
Is that because it has less power?
Correct. In wonderfully period red ‘n’ black is a Sixties Morgan 4/4, with a 1.6-litre 4cyl Ford engine sending a supremely modest 75bhp and 98lb ft to the rear wheels via a four-speed gearbox. One which sees the shift lever emerge from under the dashboard; while its H-pattern is familiar, actually getting adept with it takes a minute. In blue is a brand-new Plus Four, a 2.0-litre 4cyl BMW turbo providing the rear axle – and much better tyres, I might add – with 255bhp and 258lb ft via a six-speed manual sporting an unglamorous knob but a slick, easy shift.
I’m guessing their performance differs.
With more than three times the power, the Plus Four is unquestionably a quicker car. But these things are all relative. The 4/4 carries barely more than half its newer relation’s weight, at 660kg, and with skinnier tyres and a surprisingly torquey old engine, it moves more than swiftly enough. On grimy roads you might find yourself managing the Four’s turbocharged delivery a bit, whereas the 4/4 gives you everything with zero drama, revving keenly around its quaint dial but delivering so much below 4,000rpm that you can exercise mechanical sympathy without stymying your pace.
And how about handling?
As well as smelling like it was made in the Sixties, the 4/4 brakes and steers like it, too. Halting for a roundabout needs forward thinking and the wheel is overly large. But it twirls around without much resistance and given how measured the game little Ford engine is in its delivery, you can drive this thing with vigour and trust implicitly in the chassis below taking the strain. Despite the Plus Four’s heap of extra performance – a 5.2-second 0-62mph time is probably about half its ancestor’s – the same is true in the ’22 car. ABS helps it stop keenly, too.
So come on – how different do they actually feel?
There’s less of a gap between them than I’d anticipated. I recently ran a Plus Four for 12 months and happily declared it a “a modern Morgan”, and yet with a bit of context the experience it delivers is astonishingly faithful to a car five decades its senior. Beyond the 4/4’s wing mirrors actually being on the wings, its glovebox locking like a Victorian dresser drawer and its lack of head rest or three-point seatbelt, the interior ambience and view up the road is all but the same as the Plus Four’s.
They’re even similar inside?
The newer car’s tech – Bluetooth audio, air con, heated seats, power steering, ABS – largely operates in the ether and doesn’t have overt visual cues. And with the side screens removed – the most authentic way to drive a Morgan – these two deliver an identical level of refinement and sense of safety on a 60mph country road. Which suggests Morgan makes the most tactful progress of any carmaker, keeping its models’ core attributes wholly intact while integrating the tech we all secretly want with real subtlety. What ho!
[An interesting write up but rumor has it the CX Plus 6 will come to the US before the CX Plus 4. Mark]
2022 Morgan Plus Four First Drive: A Sports Car Like They Used to Be – Not retro, but old-school—proper Morgan stuff here.
It’s been almost 34 years since I first drove a Morgan. Not much has changed. And yet, everything has changed. At first glance, the 2022 Morgan Plus Four looks almost exactly like the French Racing Blue Morgan 4/4 I tested back in 1988: same long, center-hinged hood with louvers on the top and sides, same flat windshield with three tiny wipers, same sweeping fenders, same cutaway doors, same grille.
But more than 97 percent of its parts and components are different. This 21st-century Morgan drives very differently, too.
Morgan Motor Company was founded in 1909 by Henry Frederick Stanley Morgan and has been subsequently run by his son, Peter, and grandson, Charles. The family still has an interest in the company, but since early 2019 Morgan has been majority owned by Investindustrial, a private equity firm founded by Italian businessman Andrea Bonomi.
Morgan cars are still hand-built in the quaint red-brick factory on Pickersleigh Road in Malvern Link, England, established by the company more than 100 years ago. And for most of those 100 years, the cars built there have changed little: The previous-generation Plus Four was built on a ladder frame steel chassis whose basic design dated back to 1936 and whose sliding-pillar front suspension had been a feature of almost every Morgan built since 1910.
The 2022 Plus Four is built on the all-new CX bonded aluminum chassis developed in-house at Morgan that made its debut under the new Plus Six (see sidebar) unveiled at the 2019 Geneva Show. The CX chassis is 100 percent stiffer than the old steel one and has modern multilink independent suspension front and rear. There’s still wood in the 2022 Plus Four’s structure, though: The hand-formed aluminum body panels are fixed to an ash frame that sits over the chassis, just as they always have been in Morgans.
The Plus Four comes standard with a 15-inch alloy wheel, the design of which has a faintly ’60s/’70s vibe; it can be ordered with classic wire wheels in silver, black, or polished chrome. The wire wheels are proper center-lock items that fit over splined axles, which means cars ordered this way are literally specially built from the wheels up. The Plus Four’s four-wheel disc brakes are mounted further inboard than is normal modern practice to allow for the fitment of the wires, which have a very different offset from modern wheels.
The juxtaposition between tradition and technology is more clearly evident in the Plus Four’s cockpit.
Although it’s slightly roomier than the old car’s interior, and the 2022 model year cars get new seats that include adjustable lumbar support, the view through the flat windshield is little different from that from the driver’s seat of any four-cylinder Morgan roadster built since 1936. But the three-spoke steering wheel is a rather charmless, plasticky-looking thing, and the vaguely rhomboidal BMW shifter sticking out of the center console in automatic transmission cars looks as incongruous as the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Other updates for the 2022 model year cars include an all-new soft top. No more stretching cloth and wrestling with rows of dot fasteners: The front of the soft top is snugged down by two toggle latches that hook into slots at the top corners of the windshield, while two catches, activated by a door handle lever mounted beside the driver’s seat, cinch the rear of the hood into place. It’s still a bit like assembling a tent compared with raising a Mazda Miata MX-5 soft-top, but it’s a lot easier than it used to be.
Morgan has never made its own engines: “That’s not what we do,” Morgan design chief Jonathan Wells said. Morgans have been powered by everything from V-twin motorcycle engines to lusty Rover V-8s over the decades, but the Plus Four’s ancestors were predominantly Ford-powered. The 4/4 I tested in 1988 had the unremarkable 1.6-liter Ford CHV four-banger that saw duty in the front-drive Escort in the U.S. under the hood. It wheezed out just 95 hp at 6,000 rpm and 99 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm, driving through a five-speed manual.
Fortunately, the 4/4 weighed a mere 1,620 pounds, so it could at least get out of its own way.
The 2022 Plus Four has BMW’s tasty B48 2.0-liter turbocharged four—the same engine that powers the entry-level BMW Z4—under its long, louvered hood, driving through either a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic transmission. Order the manual, and you’ll get 255 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Order the auto, and you still get 255 hp, but the torque jumps to 295 lb-ft. That’s quite a step up from that old 4/4—two-and-a-half times the power and two-and-a-half to nearly three times torque. Especially when you consider the 2022 Plus Four weighs just 40 percent more.
I’d sampled the regular Plus Four in manual trim while waiting to drive the riotously steampunk Plus Four CXT “adventure roadster. ” But Morgan insiders insisted the Plus Four automatic was the better car. And after a couple of hundred miles on quiet back roads in southern England in the eight-speeder, I’d have to agree, not the least because without a clutch pedal taking up room in the narrow footwell, there’s somewhere to rest your left foot. The manual Plus Four is a visceral and slightly challenging drive; the automatic overlays that quirky character with a level of performance that will make you laugh out loud every time you punch the gas pedal.
Consider: Morgan claims the manual Plus Four will sprint from 0 to 60 mph in about 5.1 seconds on the way to a top speed of 149 mph. The automatic is no faster at the top end. But it’s four tenths of a second quicker to 60. It might look like it’s driven straight out of the 1930s, but the Morgan Plus Four automatic will give a base 300-hp, 280-lb-ft, PDK-equipped Porsche 718 Boxster a run for its money. At least until that square-rigged bodywork hits the aerodynamic brick wall.
Those raw numbers don’t tell the full story, though. On the road, with the powertrain switched to Sport + mode and using the fixed paddles behind the steering wheel to shift manually, the Plus Four feels almost supercar quick, especially from 45 mph to 100 mph.
It’s not just that at 9.0 pounds per horsepower the Morgan’s weight-to-power ratio is almost 13 percent better than that of the entry-level Boxster; the BMW engine’s meaty midrange thrust—all 295 lb-ft is on tap from 1,550 rpm through 4,400 rpm—punts the Plus Four hard out of corners and effortlessly gets it past slow-moving traffic on short straights. Torquey-quick and compact—it’s more than 20 inches shorter and 5.0 inches narrower than a 718 Boxster—this Morgan is exhilaratingly rapid on narrow, winding two-lane roads.
The 2022 Plus Four has power steering that’s light and accurate, if not overly communicative. It has antilock brakes, too, but because the car is so light, you rarely get near the intervention threshold. Standard tires are Avon ZV7s in a generously side walled old-school 205/60 R15 format.
With the powertrain in the Comfort mode the Plus Four will happily mooch around at low speeds, the eight-speed automatic defaulting to the highest gear possible as soon as possible—on a light throttle it’s in third gear by 15 mph and sixth by 30 mph—to improve fuel economy. As in any BMW, flicking the shift lever sideways engages Sport mode. Sport + is activated via a button on the center console.
The Plus Four likes to be braked early—the pedal on our test car was a little softer than we’d like—turned in early and have the power fed in early. There’s no traction or stability control, and that, combined with the stiff, relatively short travel suspension and the BMW engine’s insistent torque, means the Morgan can feel a little skittish if the road surface is greasy and lumpy and you’re too eager with your right foot.
Although it can feel very busy through its vertical axis even on straight, rough roads, the Morgan tracks true, unlike that old 4/4, which I remember bouncing and bucking like a runaway Conestoga wagon. And the yaw motions in corners feel relatively relaxed once your backside is calibrated to the fact it’s sitting barely a foot in front of the rear axle, and about six feet behind the front.
The biggest key to getting the most out of this car is figuring out what’s happening way up there at the front axle and learning to compensate accordingly to get the Plus Four to change direction when you want it to. It can be challenging to hustle hard, but only in the sense that you must understand its nuances and drive it accordingly. The Morgan Plus Four is a driver’s car, in the truest sense of the term.
It’s not a freeway cruiser. Although the Plus Four will roll along effortlessly at 80 mph, the engine turning barely 2,000 rpm in eighth gear, the wind roar past that flat windshield and over that unlined soft top is deafening, and a rush of air will blast through the rudimentary door seals, even with the roof raised. If it’s cold out, your shoulder and leg will soon be frozen.
The gas tank holds just over 12 gallons, enough, based on the 26 mpg the Plus Four averaged over 200 hard-driven miles, for more than 300 miles of driving range. That’s plenty. You’ll want to stop for a coffee before then.
On any other road, whether you’re just bowling along or pressing on, almost every mile in the Morgan Plus Four will make you smile. It’s quirky and charismatic yet oddly endearing and deeply engaging, the complete antithesis of many of today’s sanitized and smirkingly competent sports cars. The Morgan Plus is perfect for when you have nowhere to go and all day to get there. And if it’s cold outside, rug up, crank the heater, and drop the roof anyway.
That’s what driving a Morgan is all about.
What About The Morgan Plus Six?
Think of it as Morgan’s Cobra—that’s the Morgan Plus Six I also drove, in a nutshell.
The rear wheels kept spinning even as the eight-speed auto slipped into fourth gear. Acrid smoke swirled into the open cockpit, obscuring the view ahead. I lifted off and looked back. The quiet English lane had disappeared, a thick white-blue cloud hanging between the hedgerows. I’ve smoked the tires on everything from Corvettes to Bentleys. But the 2022 Morgan Plus Six might be the best burnout car I’ve ever driven.
When Carroll Shelby hit on the idea of replacing the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that powered the AC Ace roadster with the 289 Ford V-8 to create the original Cobra, other British sports car makers took notice. Sunbeam shoehorned a 260-cubic-inch Ford V-8 into the engine bay of its Alpine roadster to create the Tiger. In 1973, MGB offered its GT Coupé with V-8 power.
Even tiny Morgan decided to get in on the act in 1967, launching the Plus Eight, a reworked version of its long-running Plus Four with Rover’s Buick-based 3.5-liter V-8 under the hood. That Plus Eight, which in the 1960s was Britain’s fastest-accelerating car, stayed in production until Rover stopped building the V-8 in 2004. A new Plus Eight, powered by BMW’s 4.8-liter V-8, appeared in 2012.
The Plus Six is the CX-based successor to those cars. And, true to tradition, it’s hella quick. Quicker than any of them, in fact.
Under the hood is BMW’s 335-hp, 369-lb-ft B58 turbocharged inline-six. The only transmission available is an eight-speed automatic. The all-aluminum CX chassis is the same as that of the Plus Four, but the Plus Six’s track is 4.1 inches wider, courtesy of longer suspension arms front and rear, and it rolls on wider 18- or 19-inch alloy wheels shod with low-profile tires—Continental Sport Contact 6s, 225/35 ZR19 up front and 245/35 ZR19 on our test car.
In simple terms, the Plus Six has nearly 30 percent more power and 25 percent more torque than the Plus Four, but it only weighs 6.5 percent more. Morgan says it’ll get from 0 to 60 mph in about 4.0 seconds. Claimed top speed is 166 mph. And it feels every bit that fast.
It’s a much more immediate car than the Plus Four, in every way. The wider track and lower-profile tires, along with spring rates that are 100 percent stiffer at the front and 16 percent stiffer at the rear, sharpen the dynamic responses, though, curiously, the ride doesn’t feel noticeably worse than in the Plus Four. And with so little weight to move, the BMW six feels as if it’s always on.
That immediacy—and that fact that it also doesn’t have traction or stability control—makes the Plus Six a vintage-style roadster with a similar power-to-weight ratio as a Z51 C8 Corvette Stingray, a car that must be treated with respect. Get sloppy or careless with your right foot, and it will bite you.
Our favorite anachronism is indeed returning, as we suspected. Rejoice!
Last year, we shed three tears for the iconic Morgan 3 Wheeler, an homage to its prewar cyclecars produced until 1952 and revived in 2011. Its death was due to a regulatory issue with its S&S X-Wedge V-twin engine, and it went out with a bang: The P101 limited edition, which rocked a dazzle-type wrap that looks suspiciously like the cloaking the newest 3-Wheeler you see here.
What the new 3-Wheeler won’t be is electric, at least at this juncture. One of the few details the company confirmed is that it will utilize a naturally aspirated Ford I-3 engine. There are several such three-cylinder engines in the Ford of Europe stable, ranging from 1.0-1.5 liters. Since the outgoing S&S-powered trike made around 115 hp, it’s likely going to be one of the larger-displacement “Dragon” engines.
That explains what looks like an iron gate tacked onto the grille area, to obscure that critical bit of the car that’ll be much different from the outgoing one. The V-twin was the visual focus of the old 3 Wheeler’s nose, the literal mechanical heart of the car exposed for all to see. The new I-3 will likely be in roughly the same place but faired in a bit more. Whether any or all of it will protrude into the open air remains to be seen. The nose doesn’t appear to be much longer than the old 3-Wheeler, for what it’s worth.
Some differences do appear in the bodywork. The rear deck appears to be a little sharper and sleeker than the more bulbous older car. And the front bodywork also appears to be wider and more muscular than the upright and rounded hood form on the previous car. Stalk-mounted taillamps appear to be set much further apart from the rear bodywork, but whether that’s merely set up that way for testing or whether it represents what’ll reach production is anyone’s guess.
Another prominent change that’s immediately noticeable from the older 3-Wheeler (seen in the gallery below) is the front suspension arrangement, which places the dampers and springs in a more inboard position, and puts the steering rack up front. More extensive front wheel fairings cover more of the inner part of the front wheel. The rear suspension and wheel are, of course, entirely covered up.
We’re excited to see what Morgan has cooked up for the next generation of the delightfully old-school, oddball 3-Wheeler, which remains one of the purest bits of silly fun in the automotive world. And we hope that, using the new 3 Wheeler as a basis, Morgan considers finally bringing its EV3 concept to production.
The new Morgan Plus Four combines cutting edge hardware with traditional craftsmanship. Chris Pickering reports
No other car manufacturer is quite as adept at blending old and new as the Morgan Motor Company. The original Plus 4 was the mainstay of the company’s range for an incredible 70 years from 1950 to 2020. Its origins stretch back even further, with the steel ladder frame chassis and the coachbuilt aluminium body effectively an evolution of those on the 4/4 that was launched in 1936.
Packaging these powertrains would bring their own challenges. The six-cylinder engine in the Plus Six is the longest ever fitted to a Morgan, while both come with complex control and aftertreatment systems. This meant that there was a constant temptation to open up the packaging volume, but Wells dug his heals in.
It may have the familiar elegant shape of its predecessors but under the bonnet the Morgan Plus Four is an advanced, modern vehicle
Now there’s a new Plus Four (the subtle change to the name reflecting what Morgan describes as the biggest advancement in the model’s history). Outwardly, it looks much the same as always. There’s the same classic roadster styling and the famous handmade ash frame supporting the sleek aluminium panels. But underneath it’s a car designed to take Morgan into the future.
“We recognised that we needed to ensure we had a strong future ahead of us in terms of emissions compliance, crashworthiness and the new GSR safety regulations,” explains Morgan’s head of design, Jon Wells. “That meant that we’d need a new vehicle platform, but a key requirement for us was to maintain the flexibility of coachbuilding with a separate body.”
With this in mind, Morgan decided to switch to a bonded aluminium monocoque design for the chassis, while retaining the traditional coachbuilding techniques for the body. It’s a tried and tested approach that the company has been using on its range-topping models since 2000.
Here, the majority of the structure is formed by folding sections out of sheet aluminium. The bonding surfaces are pre-treated with adhesive and then assembled on a jig before being baked at 180 deg C to create a single structure.
“It’s a really good solution,” notes Morgan’s chief engineer, John Beech. “We’ve been using this method for 20-odd years and we’ve never had a failure. It results in a very rigid structure – we use a small number of rivets for location purposes, but it’s the adhesive that does all the work.”
Morgan’s engineers refined this concept for the CX platform that would underpin the new Plus Four and Plus Six, Beech explains: “We managed to reduce the material thickness significantly – from 3 or 4mm down to 1.2mm in some places – which means the new chassis only weighs 97kg. At the same time, the stiffness has been doubled in comparison to the old Aero chassis.”
One thing that was set in stone from the outset was that the new Plus Four had to occupy the same footprint as its predecessor, Wells recalls. This presented numerous challenges. For a start, the Plus Four’s compact dimensions and low-slung running boards only left a narrow centre section for the main structure. And while the old Plus 4 used a live axle at the back and a sliding pillar arrangement on the front, the new car would use double wishbones all round.
Inside Morgan’s Pickersleigh Road factory in Malvern
Part of the design brief was that the car had to be capable of running wire wheels. This posed its own challenges, as wire wheels use spokes triangulated around a central hub, which leads to a larger offset than you’d find on an alloy wheel.
“With a wire wheel, all the running gear has to be packaged well inboard of the centreline of the wheel. Getting the suspension geometry to perform – achieving a manageable scrub radius, for example, becomes a lot harder in that scenario,” says Wells.
Morgan developed its own low-offset wire wheels in response to this, but it also necessitated extensive development work on the wishbones, uprights and brake components.
Morgan was keen to futureproof the Plus Four against incoming emissions requirements – both to safeguard its position in existing markets and to open new opportunities where the previous car was unable to meet the legislation. A deal was struck with BMW, which had supplied the V8s used in the Aero 8 and the later versions of the Plus 8, to supply a new generation of direct injection turbocharged engines – an inline four for the Plus Four and an inline six for its bigger brother.
The majority of the powertrain electrical architecture is also shared with BMW, as are the transmission options. Much of the calibration work has been carried out at BMW’s test facility in Aschheim, near Munich.
“The support and the hardware that we’ve received from BMW have been absolutely paramount to the programme. It’s a relationship that goes back over 20 years and the engineers we work with there are very much part of the team,” comments Wells.
Packaging the BMW powertrain represented a key engineering challenge
“Power bulge is a phrase that’s now banned from the Morgan Design Studio as it came up about once a day during the development,” he jokes. “And once you’ve got everything in there – with the radiator and the cooling pack pushed up against the engine, the next challenge is keeping it cool. That required a lot of complex under-bonnet aerodynamics work. We’ve used external CFD for many years, but this was the first time we’d carried out a major study on internal aerodynamics.”
Step into the Morgan factory on Pickersleigh Road and you’re still greeted by the sound of panel beaters’ hammers and the smell of fresh timber wafting through the air. In fact, there’s more wood used in the body frame of the CX generation Plus Four than in its predecessor.
Modern technology is used wherever it can offer an efficiency benefit without detracting from the traditional craftsmanship that lies at the heart of Morgan’s production philosophy. Laser cutting, for instance, is now used to create the blanks that will later be hand-shaped into the Plus Four’s elegantly-louvred bonnet. Likewise, 3D printing is used to create jigs and fixtures that are used in the wood shop.
One of the reasons for sticking with a traditional ash and aluminium coachbuilding process is that it provides plenty of flexibility for Morgan’s small production runs (typically around 800 cars a year).
“We do everything for a reason – we really value the traditional skills that we have here, but as soon as we have a job justifying something then we don’t force it,” comments Wells. “For instance, Morgan is known for using wood, aluminium and leather, but when we did our electric 3 Wheeler concept we used a lot of carbon fibre. It’s about choosing the right materials and processes for the job, not being too precious about doing things a certain way.”
The wings are formed using the Superform process, which heats a sheet of aluminium to around 500 deg C and then blows it into a mould to create a complex 3D shape. But the remainder of the bodywork is sculpted by hand, just as it always has been.
The results are exquisite – particularly as other cars typically get bigger, heavier and more generic. Morgan has managed to retain the elegance of its original pre-war designs, despite bringing in a host of new technology.
There’s undoubtedly more to come. Although the company says it has no specific plans for electric or hybrid models on this platform, it has been designed to provide sufficient flexibility should that be required. The last few years have also seen a significant period of expansion, with a team of 35 engineers and designers now occupying a dedicated 30,000-square foot engineering centre. Whatever challenges the future may have in store, you can be sure that Morgan will be well-placed to tackle them in its own inimitable style.
Retro-styled roadster looks set for a second-gen revival, and all the signs point to a heavy overhaul
Morgan has begun testing a substantially overhauled second-generation version of its lightweight 3 Wheeler roadster, as it prepares to wind down production of the current car this year.
Autocar has obtained an exclusive image of a prototype being put through its paces, giving us a first look at how the Malvern manufacturer will update the diminutive 3 Wheeler, which remains similar in its concept and design to the Morgan Super Sports launched in 1933.
Most obviously, one of the current car’s defining features, its front-mounted V-twin engine, has been removed. Morgan previously confirmed that the outgoing car’s 1998cc motorcycle-derived 82bhp aircooled engine – supplied by American manufacturer S&S – would become non-compliant with emissions regulations in 2021, but has not yet detailed its replacement. Irrespective of output, Autocar understands the engine will continue to drive the rear wheel exclusively.
It is now two and a half years since Morgan shelved plans for a pure-electric version of the 3 Wheeler, citing problems with its powertrain supplier and vowing to bolster its EV development capabilities by bringing “additional specialist resource in-house”. It remains unclear whether this second-generation car could spawn a zero-emission variant.
With no engine elements on show, it appears the next-gen 3 Wheeler’s powerplant will be housed, more conventionally, in the bodyshell itself. That means it’s likely to be larger than the current two-cylinder unit and, as is the case with the other models in Morgan’s range, will likely be sourced from a third-party manufacturer.
BMW currently supplies engines for Morgan’s four-wheeled sports cars, but the smallest is a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder taken from the Z4 sports car, and would almost certainly be too large for the 3 Wheeler’s shell.
Beyond that, we can see clues as to a subtle redesign for the brand’s smallest model. With the engine relocated, it looks as if Morgan will introduce a more streamlined front end, although the front wheels will remain exposed while the rear wheel is enclosed within the tail of the car. However, the roll cage pictured here is for testing purposes and won’t make production.
More significant are the apparent revisions to the 3 Wheeler’s chassis. With the front track visibly widened, we get a good look at what seems to be a much more advanced suspension set-up, while the vented brake discs at the front have been substantially upsized, all of which points to a more overt handling focus and potentially a power increase for the 3 Wheeler.
The new 3 Wheeler is expected to be shown in full towards the end of this year, ahead of an international market launch in 2022.
Morgan has recently appointed a distributor for Ireland and the company, still on the go after some 111 years, has now unleashed the first in its ‘CX-Generation’
When Henry Frederick Stanley Morgan founded the Morgan Motor Company in the Malvern Hills back in 1910, I doubt very much he thought the company would be on the go 111 years later, still producing unique and bespoke sports cars.
The fact that the company is still fully functioning is a credit not only to Henry Morgan’s vision, but also to that of an Italian-owned investment company which took it over in 2019, promising to expand the operation which is still based in the small British town of Malvern Link.
Some 220 people are employed in the manufacture of Morgan cars and roughly 850 units are made annually in an operation that is actually a lot more modern than most people think, even though the marque’s characteristic trait — the use of wood in the manufacture of the chassis — is still part and parcel of the company’s raison d’etre.
Although the rose-tinted vision of a Morgan probably involves a Spitfire pilot with a twirly moustache, a silk scarf, and a blonde WAAF speeding along Second World War-era English country lanes, the modern incarnation of the car differs little in appearance but those driving them these days are certainly nothing like the originals.
Down the years, Morgan has made everything from three-wheelers to roadsters to coupes, and they were renowned for such as their sliding pillar suspension and their wooden chassis, made of ash and African Bubinga red hardwood. Over time, the cars grew a modest but well-heeled fan base who adored not only the retro look and manufacturing techniques, but also the lovingly sporty nature of these handmade specials.
Latterly, and especially so since the company’s takeover by Italian investment group InvestIndustrial in 2019, the business has re-emerged as a more focused and modern entity.
You can add a hand-stitched leather interior, if you so desire. Picture: Dan Linehan
This is underscored by the fact that its current model line-up now has the essential Morgan look, but is underpinned by modern construction techniques — albeit still incorporating an element of wood within.
The company describes the modern models — the Plus Six and the Plus Four — as being the first in its ‘CX-Generation’ which bear a bonded aluminium platform which is much stronger than the traditional chassis. They sport BMW engines and gearboxes instead of the Matchless, JAP, Coventry Climax, Standard, Triumph, Rover, and Ford engines the company used down the years.
Morgan says that despite the look and feel of the new Plus Four, it remains the same as when the model was first revealed almost seven decades ago; only 3% of the components are shared with the outgoing version.
And, having driven it, I can confirm that the new beast is a whole lot more ready for the modern world than anything that preceded it.
As brand development is now moving along nearly as quickly as one of the company’s products, it is appropriate that this new era for the company is reflecting a push for new markets and customers.
That is why Morgan has recently appointed a distributor for Ireland (all 32 counties) and why it has reached out to someone with lifelong connections to the industry here and a special connection with motorists who like something different from the norm.
The new distributor is a company called Edgewood Automotive and the man running it is Fermoy, Co Cork-based Wayne McCarthy, the son of the late but legendary industry figure John McCarthy, who ran an Opel franchise, among many other business interests, in the town for decades.
Wayne also ran the Motorpoint operation on the Lower Rd in Cork City for many years; it was a Saab dealership as well as the source for many unusual automotive imports to this country.
He is not only terribly proud of his history in the business, but also noticeably confident about the future of a brand such as Morgan, even given its undoubtedly niche status.
Even though the entry-level Plus Four model will cost north of €100,000 here, it is easy to see why his confidence in the product is not in any way rash. The whole issue here is that while you can order an-off-the-line model, you can also personalise it to the max.
The list of stuff you can add to the car — everything from a hand-stitched leather interior to the bespoke Avon tyres and the specially crafted wire wheels to the brass knock-offs which hold them in place — is extraordinary and will certainly appeal to people who like the word ‘unique’.
Element of trepidation
There is an element of trepidation involved in taking anything of this nature for a spin — especially around the unfamiliar backroads of north Cork — and the mild expectation is certainly present that you’re about to be subjected to a boneshaker which can trace its roots back to a time not long after the Wright Brothers were first taking flight.
Fire it up and you get a low burbling thrum encouraging you to find out what’s possible here. Picture: Dan Linehan
Nothing could be further from the truth. Lower yourself — you have to, believe me — into the driver seat and you find yourself cossetted by high-grade leather and appropriate amounts of dashboard and centre console wood, of which there are seven options. You look out on the long, hand-louvred bonnet and get a feeling of unadulterated motoring richness.
Fire it up and you get a low burbling thrum encouraging you to find out what’s possible here. And with 255 bhp on offer, what’s possible is nearly alarming. Boasting a dry weight of 1,009kg, the Plus Four is light, but with that four-pot BMW turbo under the hood, there’s no shortage of poke and an eight-speed auto ‘box, also from Munich, helps get that power on the road when and where you want it.
Top speed is a shade over 240km/h and the 0-100km/h dash is achieved in just 4.8 seconds, which is 0.4 of a second quicker than the option with the six-speed manual gearbox. These figures suggest a certain fleetness of foot and they are not wrong because the rate of progress here is pretty savage.
That being so and what with the car also being rear-wheel drive, you might jump to the conclusion that you’ll be applying the opposite lock on a fairly regular basis — depending, of course, how far you dial up the inner hooligan — but unless you’re very bold or very dumb, that does not have to be the case.
In fact, the car is nothing like as tail-happy as I anticipated and even on dampish roads, there was nothing of the sphincter-tightening nature I expected. I thought I might be heading for Castlelyons looking mainly out the passenger window, but there was none of that.
Neither was there much blood-rushing when the brakes were applied. Once upon a time, Morgans were noted for their reluctance to stop, but now there is a proper ABS system onboard here and any thoughts you may have had of a fishtailing, smoke-wreathed roadster can be dismissed.
This is indeed a beauteous beast and while some might find the retro look a little naff, those who appreciate the hand-built craft on offer, as well as the modern chassis and drivetrain, will look to the individuality and distinctiveness that Morgan sells and they will embrace that fully.
This is a car with great history and now, also, a great future. It melds the old and the new into a fascinating concoction of thrills and heritage with a large dash of exclusivity.
That’s a blend that’s definitely intoxicating.
Colley verdict – The cost: From €106,000, The engine: A muscular two-litre petrol turbo, The specification: You can have pretty much anything you desire, The overall verdict: A classic, Star Rating: *****