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Alan Braithwaite will take his Three Wheeler on a a 3,500-mile,
The Morgan Three Wheeler isn’t the first car you think of for a huge, cross-country drive, but that’s exactly what 73-year-old entrepreneur and philanthropist Alan Braithwaite and his wife Pat are planning on doing.
The pair will embark on the Trans-India Challenge, a 3,500-mile, 33-day journey around India that will put the Three Wheeler to the ultimate test on one of the world’s most demanding road networks.
Morgan is officially backing the challenge which aims to raise
£200,000 to support Indian aid NGO Goonj, and fund academic research into
Goonj’s ‘circular economy’ model. The sustainable approach recycles urban
waste to use as a form of ‘currency’ to reward rural communities for improving
their local environment – like roads, water supply, hygiene or schools.
Fashion designer and famed car fanatic Ralph Lauren has also thrown his weight behind the challenge too, by donating polo shirts from his company’s Earth Polo range – a range made from thread derived entirely from recycled plastic bottles and dyed using an innovative waterless process.
Meanwhile the Morgan Three Wheeler being used has had very
little in the way of modifications, keeping the 82 bhp S&S V-twin
motorcycle engine and base weight of 525 kg, but having raised suspension
to help the car cope with the rough terrain.
“The Morgan 3 Wheeler is the perfect car for the
Trans-India Challenge because of the attention it brings: it’s different and
it’s fun,” said Steve Morris, CEO of Morgan Motor Company. “You’re
always on an adventure in a Morgan and you drive with a smile on your face. Not
only does it demonstrate what a Morgan is capable of, but you also know it will
bring attention to Goonj. It’s going to be a fantastic adventure all
Braithwaite was thrilled to have Morgan’s official backing for the challenge, which will start in Mumbai on 1 February 2020 and take in cities including Pune, Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam, Puri, Kolkata, Patna, Lucknow, Agra, New Delhi, Jaipur, Udaipur and Ahmedabad, before returning to Mumbai at the beginning of March.
“We are delighted that Morgan has recognised the
significance of the Trans-India Challenge,” he said. “It will be a
massive test for the car, but will certainly put Morgan firmly on the Indian map.
With Morgan’s durability, and the materials used in the cars’ manufacture being
sustainable and re-useable, this is the perfect choice of vehicle. It is
also another milestone in recognising the ‘circular economy’ model championed
The start of the adventure will also be a mere six months after
Braithwaite underwent open heart surgery.
“I actually needed more extreme modifications than the car
for this trip, but I’m confident we’ll both reach the finish line in great
The ancient British roadster is a brand-new barn find.
[I removed a few photos from the article. Nothing new or nothing you haven’t seen before. Mark]\
The Morgan Plus 4’s
doors are cut so low you can hang your left arm out while sitting behind the
wheel and drum your fingers on the left front fender’s long tail. Through the
flat windshield the view is all swoops, sweeps, and louvers. This is a car designed
by people—long since dead—using nothing but their carpentry skills and an eye
for grace and drama. Everything about the 2020 Morgan Plus 4 is archaic and
uncompromised by concerns for practicality, comfort, noise, vibration, or
harshness. The navigation system is a door pocket in which to stow a map. A
thin, paper map. Bumpers are optional.
HIGHS: Gorgeous, beautifully built, rife with old-world charm.
doesn’t apply here. This is a car without a trunk. Trunks were a well-proven
technology when this basic design went into production in 1936 as the 4/4. It
was slightly stretched into the Plus 4 in 1950. It’s not impractical because
it’s old; it’s impractical because that was the choice the designers made way
back then. This is style first, everything else second. It’s not that fast, it
doesn’t handle well in any ordinary sense, and the non-assisted rack-and-pinion
steering is fine at speed but agony when parking. But look at it. So pretty.
Morgan has bounced in
and out of the American market over time and is looking to reenter it again
when the Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act of 2015 finally goes into
effect. That’s the law that directs the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
(NHTSA) to conjure up some regulations that would allow low-volume
manufacturers like Morgan to sell mere handfuls of cars without the burden of
But until that
happens, Morgans sold here arrive via a circuitous route. The Plus 4 that C/D drove
came to the United States without an engine. Its Ford 2.0-liter —basically the
standard direct-injected inline-four installed in the just-euthanized North
American-market Focus—came over in a separate crate.
LOWS: Primitive, uncompromising, with the compelling character of
The reunification of
engine and rolling stock was done at Dennis Glavis’s Morgan West in Santa
Monica, California. It’s the sort of small shop that persists because of its
owner’s love of Morgans rather than on strictly economic grounds. The place is
crammed with new, newish, old, and ancient three- and four-wheeled Morgans.
It’s the kind of place best visited while holding a pint of Guinness, indulging
a garrulous enthusiasm, and having an afternoon to kill. What are the
legalities involved in all this? Hey, you’re not reading the Harvard Law Review
Back in the December
1967 issue, we tested a Plus 4 when the car was only in its 18th year of
production. What was written then holds true now. “A tar divider strip
will launch the Morgan on a flight that would put a Hell Driver [Hell Driver
referred to any of the numerous stunt-driving exhibition teams that toured the
U.S. from the 1930s through the 1990s – Ed.] to shame. A genuine bump will
qualify you for flight pay,” the article explained. “Still, it’s not
the takeoff that gets you; it’s the landing. About 3 landings a week should be
tops. Anatomically. If you’re contemplating a Morgan, see your doctor
specialization has progressed over the last 52 years, but the Morgan? Not so
much. So, beyond a back surgeon, keep a renal specialist on call. Because not
only will a Morgan driver’s spine regularly compress, but their kidneys will
also get shaken to the point where the car could qualify as a diuretic.
In a car that weighs
2150 pounds by our estimate, the stated 154 horsepower available is adequate.
It’s actually 50 horses more—almost a 50-percent bump—from the 104 ponies
claimed for the Triumph TR-4 iron-lump four in that 1967 example C/D tested.
That one had considerably more power than the original Plus 4. When the Plus 4
was introduced at the 1950 Earls Court Motor show it was propelled by a 68-hp
2.1-liter Standard Vanguard four. The current engine, by the way, feeds a
Mazda-made five-speed manual transmission from an early-generation MX-5 Miata.
Exhaling through a
beautiful exhaust header, the Ford four barks awake with a raspy growl. There’s
some sort of radio thing aboard, even a USB port, but the real sound system is
the powertrain itself. No surprise, the Mazda five-speed snicks into gear
easily and switches between ratios with little effort and absolute precision.
The entertainment comes when the power is transmitted back to the solid rear
axle, which is lashed to a pair of leaf springs.
The 1967 Plus 4
galloped to 60 mph in 9.2 seconds and ripped out the quarter-mile in 16.9
seconds at 81 mph. For the day, that’s hauling—at least for a British roadster.
Morgan claims the current Plus 4 goes from zero to 62 mph in 7.5 seconds and
tops out at 118 mph. If Car and Driver had tested this Morgan,
which we haven’t yet, we could probably crack 60 mph in 6.4 seconds. So, it’s
not that quick by today’s standards, but it’s not shabby either.
Unburdened by the
relatively massive heft of a Focus, the Ford four delivers crisp throttle
response and a friendly, wide torque band. Once the pilot has acclimated
himself to the Plus 4’s, let’s say, demanding driving position, the
responsiveness of the machine is exhilarating. The relatively tall 205/60R-16
Avon tires aren’t aggressive in the sense of what Porsche installs on 911s, but
the mass here is modest enough that they aren’t challenged much. There’s plenty
of stick, even without low-profile sidewalls.
And really, what
would the Plus 4 do with additional tire adhesion even if it had it? The rear
axle’s natural state is to be always on the verge of hopping, and Morgan’s
sliding pillar front suspension is a hammer in search of a nail. The suspension
is a road-divot amplification mechanism. Lower profile tires would only
exaggerate the ride motions even further.
the Plus 4 are tight. It’s a stretch to call them accommodations, and the word
“inside” doesn’t really apply to a vehicle that leaves its driver and
passenger so thoroughly exposed to the elements. The seats are good enough, but
the steering wheel doesn’t adjust for height, rake, or anything else. Over time
in the Plus 4, you learn to hold your left leg in a position where your calf
doesn’t rub up against anything and to skew your right leg so that it’s not
bouncing into the center tunnel but also doesn’t cramp up. The footbox is very
tight, and the bottom-hinged brake and clutch pedals take some acclimation
time. In fact, the footbox is so narrow and the pedals so close together that
it’s actually possible to stomp on all three simultaneously if you’re wearing
thick cross-trainers. Instead, consider Capezio ballet slippers.
Yes, there’s a
convertible top and a pair of side curtains. We didn’t bother to put them up.
Best to save the part of one’s brain where those intricate processes would be
stored for future use memorizing, well, almost anything else. And besides,
Southern California in the early November sunshine is a dang swank place in
which to be driving a brand-new antique roadster with the top stowed.
As easy as it is to
point out the Morgan Plus 4’s challenges and deficits, its charms are just as
obvious. This is a car built to deliver a wholly analog and elemental experience.
As a driver, you always know exactly what the car is doing, even if it is
hopping over a lane after encountering a freeway expansion joint. Even under
braking the tail lifts up disconcertingly.
All vehicles behave
just like the Plus 4 to some extent or another. The difference is that the Plus
4 doesn’t even pretend to mitigate this behavior. Many of the things we know as
manners in other cars are exposed as insulation from the road in a car as
direct as the Plus 4.
Morgan will only ever
export about 300 cars—three wheelers, 4/4s, Plus 4s, V-6–powered roadsters, and
the new BMW turbo-six–powered Plus Six, which gets a new chassis to handle the
power, even though it looks like a Plus 4. Every Morgan is built to the eccentricities
of the person who has ordered it, and that makes each its own special thing.
If there’s one way in
which the Morgan has truly improved over the years, it’s in the quality of its
construction. The aluminum skin covers the ash body framing with tailored
precision. (The chassis is galvanized steel.) And the paint is impeccable. It used
to be that Morgans were great 50-foot lookers. Now they’d hold up under a
To get this experience and quality takes money. The Plus 4 starts at $69,995, and the demonstrator handed to us for two days cost considerably more. It’s not cheap, but truly unique experiences never are.
Two brand-new six-cylinder British sports cars done differently. But which is more fun?
[Now that the press have been able to get their hands on the car, they are doing their best to report. And, I want to be sure you see what the world is saying about this new ‘Morgan.’ I still have no idea if or when we might get these cars in the US, so . . . for now, we have to be satisfied with pictures and words. Enjoy Mark]
Is there a valid twin test for a Morgan? There’s an argument to say that no, of course there isn’t, because if you want a Morgan then only a Morgan will do. But the Plus Six is no ordinary Malvern-built sports car; it’s using the first new platform for almost 20 years, it’s the first post-V8 Morgan, and it’s the first Morgan that won’t have a manual gearbox. Therefore it’s pretty big news. We’ve already established that the Six is borderline revelatory for Morgan, and there’s no better way to truly quantify an achievement than measuring it against a rival.
The F-Type makes more sense here than you might think. Beyond being separated by just three cubic centimetres in their forced induction, 3.0-litre six-cylinder engines, both Jaguar and Morgan use the same ZF automatic gearbox with different settings for shift speed, throttle response and so on. As tested, this F-Type is £79,650; the Plus Six now available to customers (the First Edition seen here is sold out) costs £77,995.
More than that, there’s an ideological examination to conduct here. Because the F-Type, despite piecemeal updates, is a fairly old car now. You could buy a 380hp, automatic V6 Roadster like this one back in 2013, which seems ages ago. So long ago, in fact, that its rivals have disappeared: the 911 is now a £100k car, a Boxster no longer has a six-cylinder engine, the AMG SLK has gone, the Lotus Exige has only gotten more hardcore since the introduction of the Roadster – and so on. To some extent it’s become the modern classic option in its own lifetime; not perfect, though hugely charming and very easy to like, thanks mostly to its styling and quite old-school engine. With the Morgan’s appearing even more emotive, and its architecture actually more modern, could it be a better take on the traditional British roadster appeal?
On the journey to Malvern, the F-Type – unsurprisingly – is entirely pleasant company. Roof up it plays the subdued, mature GT for as long as is required; with the roof down and the right buttons pressed, it’s immediately a louder, more visceral drop-top experience. That it drives how it always sort of has is no bad thing, either: Jag has a rare knack for tuning dampers, steering and control weights, with all present and correct in this middle of the range F-Type. It’s just a really nice sports car, an intriguing riposte to those who see the German equivalent as a bit sterile – even if the suspicion is that nice might not cut it for £80k.
Of course, on arrival at Morgan, it’s the Jag which is made to seem sterile, generic and overwrought. The F-Type is unquestionably a handsome sports car, in a way which could probably be called timeless, but there’s nothing like a Morgan for seizing your attention. The Plus Six almost seems like a restomod for its maker – dropping modern and familiar running gear in a body that looks near-identical – though it’s so much more than that. The clever bit is in appearing traditional for those who want it, with a more modern stance readily apparent to those in the know.
The mix of current day and timeless continues on the road, too. This is now a car that taller buyers can fit in, that requires little more effort to mooch around in than a Z4 and which can deal with imperfections in the road without wilting under the effort. The claim for a 100 per cent improvement in torsional rigidity from the CX platform sounds eminently believable, even at slow speed. The Plus Six still feels very much like a Morgan, however, with that evocative view out over the bonnet, a dashboard like no other and the sense of rather more wind in the hair than usual thanks to a perched driving position.
So what of that new engine? A big V8, be that from Rover or BMW, has become a mainstay of the Morgan appeal for decades; they’re now gone for good, replaced by the B58 straight-six turbo that’s also found in the Toyota Supra. Here it benefits from Morgan’s own tune and an eight-speed gearbox, as well as performance claims of 4.2 seconds to 62mph and 166mph. Despite effortless ease of use, bountiful torque and better mpg than a 2.0-litre Plus 4, it wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to see some die-hard fans not take to the six-cylinder. The rumble has gone, the immediacy of its throttle response is softened off and that endearing muscle car feel of an engine barely contained by a chassis has vanished. A pox on cohesive, thoroughly engineered sports cars, eh…
While the V8 is missed, the straight-six actually does an admirable job in pulling at heartstrings. The noise is more authentic than in a Supra, for starters – speakers can’t be manipulated if there are no speakers – with turbo whoosh overlaid by some straight-six howl. And by heck is it fast.
The F-Type never feels genuinely potent until it’s been made the recipient of its own V8 (where it thunders through that yardstick to become rabidly quick), meaning that the Morgan leaves the P380 V6 for dust here. Blame the weight advantage, the Morgan lugging around in the region of 400kg less with more torque; there’s just so little inertia, a trait of the light car/big engine blueprint that no level of technology can replicate (save perhaps electrification – and even that feels like a different kettle of fish). The Z4 and Supra are both brisk using this engine – the Morgan is properly fast, and just occasionally scarily so…
Perhaps the bigger surprise, though, is a Morgan made to seem capable of handling this sort of performance. No, it’s not a Boxster Spyder rival, scything through chicanes with a dab of oppo on exit. It still requires some thought and some planning, it still does wibble and wobble over poor surfaces and the front end is not the most immediate – but this is a world away from before. There’s traction and there’s grip, and finally there’s faith that what your feet and hands do will have a direct, predictable correlation to the car’s behaviour – not always guaranteed before. The Plus Six is a small, nimble car, and there’s little to beat zipping through country lanes in a Morgan that actually feels like it’s relishing the prospect. The electric steering has a more natural feel than a Supra’s, the brakes are strong and progressive (once through the dead travel) and there’s now sufficient body control and damping composure to enjoy a road rather than endure it. The gearbox is way sharper than the old BMW slusher, too, which would encourage use of the paddles, though they’re both too small and not nice to use, which is shame.
This quantum leap for Morgan ought to leave the F-Type feeling a little stagnant dynamically, but the fact is that the Jaguar did a damn good job out of the box. It isn’t the last word in any parameter, though arguably it doesn’t need to be; instead offering a balanced, rewarding, satisfying sports drive. Here, for instance, is a car with a Dynamic mode you might actually want to use and which does make the car feel more dynamic – tauter, more responsive, keener – rather than simply harder and worse. The subtlety in set up, including steering resistance that doesn’t assume unnecessary weight and damping that always retains some fluency, must be far more difficult to engineer in than simply cranking everything up to the max in hope of a ‘sportier’ feel. While the F-Type perception might be of a shouty and skiddy sports car – which it’s also more than capable of being – the Jaguar integrity and flow remain.
Which makes that weight penalty all the more frustrating. Because following Morgan with Jaguar, there’s no amount of class and capability that can undo the feeling of aloofness and detachment in the latter. And even when the summer turns sleety in Wales, the Morgan has traction and purchase, commodities that have previously been in short supply. Granted, the limits are ultimately lower (its rear Avons being the same width as the Jag’s front Pirellis) and trickier to approach given quite a short wheelbase. The Plus Six will spin its wheels in fourth gear, which is nothing if not a fitting repost to those who suggest a six-cylinder Morgan isn’t proper.
It is also, in the right situation – which includes moments in the real-world that don’t feature an empty Welsh B-road – tremendously entertaining. When it’s not the right situation and there’s a brand-new F-Type also trundling down a sodden motorway in rather more comfort, it’s less so. Because while bigger people do now fit, they’re still sat too high and with their feet cramped. While the roof makes some sense with practise, it’s still not suited to the actual requirements of a downpour. The engine is now quieter and more efficient at a cruise, though the driver is still bombarded with wind noise. Apparently the Plus Six is more suitable for cruising than any other previous Morgan; goodness knows what effort they must take.
Point is the Plus Six certainly retains some Morgan idiosyncrasies. Frustrations, for those feeling less kind. And the Jaguar, for all its apparent meekness in a direct comparison, requires far less compromise to deliver a genuine sports car experience. One that, despite advancing years – perhaps because of them, given the dearth of rivals – still has the charm to lure you in and the prowess to prove it’s more than superficial.
So what does all that mean for any kind of useful conclusion? The Morgan, after all, doesn’t even have a radio, leave alone sat-nav, CarPlay and a 10-inch touchscreen. The Jaguar, for all its pomp and ceremony, feels as mass produced as an XE diesel; both in its ease-of-use and its quite ordinary feel in comparison to Malvern’s best effort. They’re very different cars.
The Plus 6, though, is a watershed moment for Morgan and a mammoth achievement; it requires less compromise than any previous model while still delivering wholeheartedly on the pub-lunch-in-the-countryside charm that’s expected (or demanded) of a sports car from the Malvern hills. As a modern take on a much-loved formula that’s decades old, injecting usability without removing significant emotional appeal, it must be marked a resounding triumph.
It’s not as complete a sports car as the F-Type, which still retains a considerable talent for worming a way into your affections – though arguably it never had to be. This experience is worth the compromise; if an £80k sports car is being saved for high days and holidays, which is hopefully a fair assumption to make, then it should be a special one. For all the flaws and foibles, and despite the Jag’s enduring allure, it’s the Morgan that ticks the box most convincingly. For those who’ve lusted after one for years, there’s never been a more compelling reason to take your place on the waiting list.
Engine: 2,995cc, V6 supercharged Transmission: 8-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive Power (hp): 380@6,500rpm Torque (lb ft): 339@3,500rpm 0-62mph: 4.9secs Top speed: 171mph Weight: from 1,614kg MPG: 28.8 CO2: 223g/km
Price: £71,725 (as standard; price as tested £79,650 comprised of Madagascar Orange Ultra Metallic Paint for £3,500, Black Exterior Pack for £625, Ebony Suedecloth sunvisors with vanity mirrors, Ebony Suedecloth headlining for £580, 20-inch ‘Style 5042’ carbon fibre, Satin Grey and diamond turned wheels for £520, Climate Pack (two-zone climate control, heated windscreen, heated front seats and heated steering wheel) for £1,070, Front parking aid for £255, Rear view camera for £275 and Seat Memory Pack (auto-dimming, power fold, heated door mirrors with memory, electrically adjustable steering column with memory 12-way electric seats with driver and passenger memory) for £1,100
The Morgan Motor Company has delivered the first Plus Six production cars to its UK Dealership network at an official handover ceremony during the annual Morgan ‘Thrill On The Hill’ event at Prescott Speed Hill Climb in Gloucestershire.
The official handover, which took place on the hill itself during the lunchtime break, represented the first deliveries of the all-new Plus Six, which was announced at the Geneva Motor Show in March this year.
In total, 11 UK-based Morgan Dealerships were in attendance to take delivery of their new Plus Six models at Thrill On The Hill, from as far north as Perth in Scotland to as far south as Exeter in Devon.
The arrival of the new demonstrators offers an opportunity for customers to try the latest Morgan, and the company would like to invite anybody interested in experiencing the new Plus Six to contact their nearest Dealership. More than 150 Plus Six orders have now been placed, with customer deliveries expected to begin during the fourth quarter of 2019.
The Plus Six is an all-new car that celebrates Morgan’s distinctive design. It features a BMW three-litre inline six-cylinder turbocharged engine and is the first model to be built on the company’s new CX-Generation aluminium platform. Fewer than 1% of its parts are shared with other Morgan models.
Steve Morris, Morgan Motor Company CEO said: “We are delighted to witness the first Plus Six models being handed over to our UK Dealership network here at Thrill On The Hill 2019. The sight of all 11 Plus Six First Editions is one to behold, and this handover marks the culmination of years of hard work from our small team based in Malvern Link. I would like to thank all the staff at our factory, and our Morgan Dealerships in the UK and around the world, for their continued efforts in bringing Plus Six to market. We look forward to a bright future for this fantastic new Morgan.”
► It’s an all-new Morgan! ► Uses 335bhp
BMW straight-six ► Prices start
This doesn’t happen too often: a brand-new
Morgan sports car. And despite appearances, this really is a brand-new car
beneath the familiarly-styled coachwork, on a fresh platform that will underpin
further future Morgan models.
Yep, a straight-six does the donkey work
here, and it’s got a real kick: BMW’s B58 engine also found in the Z4 M40i and
Toyota Supra, among other berths.
The Plus Four is a four-cylinder, the Plus Eight was a V8,
so this must be a six?
In this car its 335bhp feels more potent
than ever. The Plus Six weighs 1075kg dry, and it can snort and snarl its way
from 0-62mph in 4.2sec, quicker than the same-power BMW Z4 and even a smidge
faster than the Toyota Supra, but it feels even quicker than that. Largely
because you’re closer to the engine doing its work, hearing its turbo swooshing
and smelling its exertion through the bonnet vents just ahead of you. Of the
various cars the B58 engine powers, it feels at its most characterful in this
Sounds like it’s quite hairy to drive…
When you want it to be, but overall, it’s
actually surprisingly refined and well-rounded – by low volume sports car
standards, you understand.
The engine is coupled to the eight-speed ZF
torque converter auto gearbox it’s also paired with in the Z4 and Supra. In its
default mode it shifts smoothly and unobtrusively, changing up relatively
early. Nudge the lever to the left for Sport mode and downshifts become more
extravagant and upshifts later and swifter; more so still if you press the
Sport Plus button on the centre console, which alters the throttle and
gearshift maps but doesn’t muck about with the power steering or traction
control. In fact, it doesn’t have the latter at all, which is absolutely fine
by us. It does have ABS, however.
Wot, no manual?
It does feel odd to see that familiar BMW
gear selector in the middle of the Plus Six’s hand-built cockpit, and it’s hard
to shake the feeling that a H-pattern ’box would fit the car’s character more
But the B58 engine and ZF auto transmission
are very much an item, and separating the two isn’t straightforward. Morgan
says that if a suitable manual gearbox were to become available, it would
certainly consider offering a manual version in the future. Still, the pedals
feel a tad offset, which might be exacerbated with the addition of a clutch
Regardless, the ZF ’box is easy-going in
town and you can override it with manual shift paddles mounted to the steering
column surround. Shame they’re plastic and rather ordinary-feeling, but
manufacturing bespoke shifters would have inflated the Plus Six’s price
Anyway, you were saying…
The Plus Six is the most undemanding Morgan
to drive yet – which isn’t the same thing as saying it’s uninvolving.
It has electric power-assisted steering –
Morgan’s own – which is remarkably stable on bumpy roads. There’s real
stability either side of the straight-ahead, and the steering doesn’t paw at
cambers or feel nervous at speed, which does wonders for fatigue on long
journeys. It’s perhaps not the most feelsome setup in the world, and in some
ways you might wish it actually did writhe around in your hands a bit more on B-roads,
but for high-speed stability and carrying momentum on uneven roads, it’s
With all that torque on tap (369lb ft
between 1600 and 4500rpm), the Plus Six tends to leave a light smear of its
bespoke Avon tyres on the road in its wake under acceleration. We drove the
Plus Six on a hot sunny day but you get the impression you’d have to be on your
guard in the wet. It uses an open differential rather than a locking diff,
chosen to help make things less intimidating on slippery roads, and for the
most part it works extremely well; it’s only in occasional driving situations
you find yourself with an LSD craving.
Overall, the Plus Six’s handling is very
polished. In terms of outright body control it’s not perfect by any stretch, as
is entirely reasonable for a car developed by a small independent company on a
budget a fraction of the size of a large manufacturer. It’s a car that it takes
longer to trust than some, with less immediate feedback through its controls
than one might expect of a sports car. Once you learn to trust it, it’s really
quite benign with a balance that appealingly tends far more towards oversteer
than understeer. For an ultimate drive on a great road there are other sports
cars you might choose over it (not least Supra, Alpine, Elise) – but that’s not
necessarily what the Plus Six is about. It gets far closer to them from a
dynamic point of view than one might expect, with a character all of its own.
And in straight-line acceleration it’s more exciting than most cars this side
of an Ariel Atom.
Suspension is by double wishbones all
round. In terms of ride as opposed to handling, it doesn’t quite breathe with
the road as, for example, a Lotus does, with a slightly abrupt edge to its
suspension movements – although it’s one that feels more comfortable with
miles, and it isn’t unreasonably firm; it is a sports car, after all.
There must be some downsides to the Plus Six experience?
I struggled with the driving position, so
important in a sports car. The hand-made seats (trimmed in leather with an
almost limitless choice of grain and colours) look fantastic but I couldn’t
help but feel like they’re mounted little too high. I felt perched on, rather
than ensconced in, the car.
There is a decent range of adjustment, more
so than in previous Morgans, with the seat sliding fore and aft and the
backrest tiltable, enabling taller drivers to get comfortable in the Plus Six
than in previous models. The Plus Six offers 200mm more legroom than a Plus 8,
Nonetheless, I’m 5ft 10in but the top of my
head was buffeted by the airflow, to the point that my hat was blown off my
head at one point, and there’s lateral support only if you shuffle down in the
seat to better support yourself against the side bolsters. The lumbar support
can also be inflated or deflated with a squeezable rubber pouch, which helps,
but my driving position still felt like a compromise.
The steering wheel adjusts for both reach
and rake, further increasing the Plus Six’s appeal to drivers of all sizes.
It’s a shame the wheel itself, an off-the-shelf unit from GKN, doesn’t look a
little more bespoke. There’s some beautiful craftsmanship at play in the cabin,
but naturally the first things your eyes are drawn to are the gear selector and
the wheel. They are reasonable compromises to allow for given the tight budget
this entire car was developed within. The Plus Six was funded by Morgan itself
(and some government funding) and they’ve done a lot with a little.
Tell me more about this new platform
It’s called the CX Generation platform, CX signifying 110 years of Morgan. Throughout that time, remarkably, the company has been family owned and run; that finally changed at the beginning of 2019 with a majority stake purchased by European investment group Investindustrial – although the Plus Six was completed before the acquisition.
The Plus Six is the first car to be spun
from the CX platform, which will also underpin a future flagship model to fill
the gap in the range left by the Aero series. Intriguingly, the platform has
provision for electric motor architecture, so a hybrid model could be possible.
Apart from the car’s structure, designed to
be roomier and with greater adjustment for different drivers, the CX’s
electronics platform also unlocks a variety of opportunities for Morgan: the
Plus Six features central locking and puddle lights beneath the doors, for
example, and while the car doesn’t currently feature traction control, it may
do in future updates.
Is there still a wood frame as part of its construction?
Yes, while the CX platform is based around
a bonded aluminium monocoque – a type of structure Morgan has been working with
for around 20 years now, and using BMW engines for the same stretch of time –
it still features a supplementary ash frame to which its body panels are
mounted. Aside from tradition, it brings extra rigidity and has benefits in
How much is the Morgan Plus Six?
It’s not cheap, at £77,995, but that’s a
more palatable price than the now out-to-pasture Plus Eight model which had
strayed into six-figure territory.
The car tested here is one of the first 50
‘First Edition’ models off the line, costing £89,995. Each comes with a hardtop
as standard to supplement the moderately fiddly but effective fabric hood and a
host of special design details. Each First Edition will be finished in either
Emerald metallic green paintwork with tan leather or blue-grey Moonstone with
blue leather (pictured).
Morgan Plus Six: verdict
The Morgan Plus Six is a deeply appealing
car. While it’s more sanitised than classic Morgan models, its increased
civility hasn’t eroded its character or sense of occasion. To be sat within it,
sidescreens and roof removed on a sunny country lane, vented bonnet ahead and
arms in the breeze, is an experience unlike almost any other in the modern
The burly straight-six is both smooth and
tractable at low speeds, feels electrifyingly fast when extended, and the Plus
Six’s handling bodes well for further-developed applications of the CX platform
in the future. The extra accommodation and relatively low 170g/km CO2 output
has the potential to open possibilities in previously inaccessible European
The driving position is an issue for me,
and the interior furniture may be for others, but overall this is the most
well-rounded model Morgan has yet produced, and an encouraging product for the
next chapters in its chronicles.
This would be the most perfect car for America, but . . .
MALVERN, U.K. — Think
of the very pinnacle of modern small-series automobile production; a chassis
made of aluminum riveted, bonded and welded together just like the latest from Aston
Martin or Lotus. Then think of English ash-wood framing on top of it,
draped in expertly hand-beaten aluminum panels just like the earliest days of
the motor car – the 2020 Morgan Plus Six in all its anachronistic
glory. It’s like walking onto the Space Shuttle command deck to find an
astrolabe in the corner.
But then Morgans are
weird, of that there’s no doubt, although there’s no arguing with the figures.
This latest Morgan Plus Six will accelerate from 0-62 mph in 4.2
seconds and go on to a top speed of 166 mph, assuming your license can stand
it. At this point you might be laughing madly, especially if you
know Morgans. It’s all flies-in-the-teeth acceleration, medieval chassis
technology, and never mind the handling because you’re in the air half the time
Beech, Morgan’s chief engineer (formerly of Lotus) and his small team have
worked miracles. This CX chassis (Roman numerals for 110) debuts under this
Plus Six model, along with a new double wishbone MacPherson strut-derived front
and four-link independent rear suspension with 19-inch wheels, plus an all-new
engine and transmission.
between BMW and Morgan continues, though this time, they’re doing
what Peter Morgan, the second generation Morgan to run the company, once
described as ‘mission impossible’: cramming a straight-six engine under that
traditionally long and heavily louvered bonnet. Peter chose instead to create
the legendary 1969 V8-powered Plus Eight, but now a BMWB58
turbocharged inline-six, displacing 3.0 liters and making 335 horsepower and
369 pound-feet of torque, snugs under the Plus Six’s center-hinged hood. It’s
coupled to a ZF eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission driving the
This is one of the
finest ‘sixes’ in production, and in the Plus Six it combines performance with
excellent on-paper fuel economy. It’ll achieve 31.8 mpg in the generous
European test cycle, but we could only manage 23 mpg average during our drive.
Regardless, it’s fully Euro emissions compliant, partly because the car’s
featherweight 2,370-pound curb weight means the engine isn’t heavily taxed
moving the Plus Six about. The outgoing and dipsomaniac 4.4-liter V8 Aero
and Plus 8 models attracted punitive taxation in many places.
Cramming in the engine has taken a lot of work, though. Ancillaries have been relocated and the cooling system has been redesigned, with new hood nostrils and extra louvers in the hood to get the superheated air out. Even so, the front hood release on the turbo side of the car gets too hot to touch even after a gentle run – owners will need to carry gloves.
Climb into the cockpit (not the most dignified of maneuvers) and the biggest change becomes clear – it’s still intimate enough to be a sports car, but there’s a lot more space. By the tape, the Plus Six adds 0.8 inches to the wheelbase, which somehow freed up nearly 8 inches of leg room, 3 inches of width across the cockpit, and a deeper and more useful rear parcel shelf.
Pretty much anyone
will fit into this new Morgan and it’s comfortable, too, with a
tilting and telescoping adjustable steering column, air conditioning, even
power door locks. Taller drivers might want for a slightly lower seat height
(there’s room to get an inch or two lower) and maybe a bit more width in the
seat backs, but it’s genuinely possible to spend a day behind the wheel without
feeling like a piece of unfolded origami on climbing out, which you certainly
did in the previous models.
The dashboard retains
the traditional Morgan layout with a central speedo and rev counter,
but with modern instruments and a small digital display screen in front of the
driver flanked by stark and unattractive gauges for fuel contents and coolant
temperature. There’s no navigation, but there is a Bluetooth system so you can
use your phone instead.
The leather upholstery
is quite lovely, especially the quilted finishes. The gear knob is provided by
BMW, but Morgan does the handbrake and a very plasticky steering column
surround. The hood is beautifully made, but like Morgans of old, it’s
a finger eater to erect and you’ll struggle in the downpour to tug the
windscreen capping down. In addition, the aluminum frame rattles over bumps
and, with the hood furled, the aluminum cockpit trim reflects distractingly in
Stab the push-button
start and the big BMW mill growls into life, refined despite the upgraded
exhaust fitted to our test car. It’s only in the upper end of the rev counter
that it produces any real sturm und drang.
You need to recall
that this car is at least half a ton lighter than any other BMW fitted with the
same engine and Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat, it’s fast.
The twin-scroll turbocharger picks up early and fast and the bluff nose
surges, unzipping the horizon towards you. Push the gearlever to one side to
access the Sport program, which sharpens up the gear changes and throttle
response and then there’s an additional Sport+ button to give yet more
alacrity. Mid-range response is effervescent but the top end is simply
If you launch it from
stand still, those rear 255/35/19 Avon tires will leave perfect black lines for
just as long as you want them to. Few owners are going to drive it like that,
but when you’re overtaking, it’s a nice edge.
And unlike the
previous hot Morgan models, this one isn’t frightening. The Plus Six
is quick, but it’s also extraordinarily composed and refined, and that
long-travel throttle and gentle-giant low-end response makes it an easy car to
As in other BMW
applications, that ZF ‘box can be a bit obstructive, reluctant to kick down at
times, although there are steering-wheel paddles with which to flip down a
ratio and the Morgan’s lightweight and extra work on the transmission
software make it feel a bit sharper.
Despite having a
laughably infinitesimal amount of wheel travel, Beech and his team have found a
compliance and chassis balance that rides and handles over some pretty poor
road surfaces. No longer do sharp undulations leave the exhaust scraping the
road and the nose goes where it is pointed. It is set up gently and the mien is
slightly more gran turismo than all-out road racer,
but that’s where the market is and that light weight means you can still play
with it. The steering isn’t particularly communicative (and it could do with a
slightly faster ratio), but those Avons are faithful and true; if you decide to
push the tail out under throttle, you can get it back without too much drama.
For those used
to Morgans this is a sensational debut, for those new to the marque,
it’s the first Morgan that needs little excuse to include it in
sentences containing Jaguar’s F-Pace, BMW’s Z4 and Porsche’s
Boxster. What’s more there’s more to come with Aero models and sports
derivatives, which will answer some of the minor niggles mentioned here.
It’s on sale now
priced at £89,995 for the First Edition models, £77,995 for the standard cars.
Each car takes about four weeks to build and Morgan is hoping to
build up to nine a week; there’s a waiting list of 150 already.
And now the bad news,
Plus Six won’t pass US production-car safety tests and while there are nascent
new laws which might allow it to be sold, we’re still waiting for them to be
This would be the most
perfect car for America, but if you want one, you’ll have to contact your
The Plus 4 110 Works Edition is packed with old-school charm and celebrates a big milestone for Morgan, but what else does it offer?
What’s new about the Morgan Plus 4 110 Works Edition?
The term “What’s new?” is quite a strange one to associate with a Morgan because these cars are built in such traditional ways. But the Plus 4 110 Works Edition does have a range of fitments which differentiate it from the rest of the range. And yes, it still uses ash in its makeup, just like other Morgans.
You get a Sports ECU map for better performance, as well as a motorsport-inspired exhaust with black ceramic tips. In addition, there are motorsport-style wheels finished in satin grey. The car also has ‘110 Anniversary’ logos stitched into the headrests of the sport seats which are – handily for the UK – now heated.
How does it look?
There’s nothing on the road today which comes close to the Plus 4’s styling. It’s why it turns heads wherever it goes and looks just as happy parked up outside the supermarket as it would at the front of the Savoy Hotel. The huge sweeping wheel arches and elongated bonnet look just as good from the inside as they do from the outside – your view out over the front is one you’d struggle to tire of.
The 110 Works treatment only helps the overall effect. Our car came in a grey metallic colour, with contrast satin finish paint used on the bonnet and stone guards. The mesh-covered headlamps finish off the design, as does the new bonnet side vent – a new touch on this celebratory Morgan which you won’t find on other Plus 4 cars.
What’s the spec like?
Keen button-pressers are going to be disappointed in the Plus 4, but a wealth of in-car technology isn’t what the Morgan is about. You get a trip computer – and that’s about it. As we mentioned there’s a 12-volt socket, and heated seats too – the latter of which are surprisingly hot, but ideal for winter-time driving.
However, when it comes to customisation, Morgan has you covered. You can have the Plus 4 finished in pretty much any colour you could think of, with all manner of interior trim finishes available to accompany it.
What’s the Plus 4 Works Edition like inside?
The cabin of the Plus 4 is snug, but not unpleasantly so. Storage isn’t as much of an issue as you’d expect, with the small area behind the seats more than large enough for two soft weekend bags. Door pockets are ideal for smaller items such as keys and wallets, while the glove compartment can take the rest.
The level of finish is exceptional, though. Hand-stitched leather covers the dashboard, while chrome instrument binnacles walk a fine line between retro and modern. There’s no radio, but Morgan has thought to include a 12-volt charger so you can charge your devices via an appropriate adaptor.
Roof-up and the cockpit feels smaller again, but it’s not too bad. The wind does tend to rattle the mohair hood though – in our opinion, you’re always better sticking with the roof down, and to hell with the weather.
What’s under the bonnet?
The Plus 4 utilises a Ford-sourced 2.0-litre petrol engine with 155hp and 201Nm of torque. That may not sound like all that much but, given that the Plus 4 weighs under a ton without fluids, it’s more than enough to get it up to speed quickly enough. In fact, Morgan says it’ll crack 0-60mph in 7.3 seconds, and push on to a top speed of 118mph – figures which feel more than accurate from the cockpit.
Drive is sent to the rear wheels via a Mazda five-speed gearbox. Despite the relatively brisk performance, Morgan claims that the Plus 4 will return an impressive 40mpg while emitting 164g/km of CO2. Couple this with a 55-litre fuel tank, and you’ve got a car with a very decent touring range, giving you even more time to enjoy the car between trips to the pump.
What’s the Morgan Plus 4 Works Edition like to drive?
Get behind the wheel of a Morgan Plus 4 and you’re immediately aware that things aren’t quite as they’d be in a modern roadster. The steering wheel sits right up into your chest while the legs-out driving position feels distinctly different. Turn the key, and you’re met with an old-school exhaust note, with the 2.0-litre engine springing into life with a decent glug of revs to make its presence known.
At slower speeds, the Morgan takes some effort to pilot. The steering is heavy around town, while the ride is easily unsettled. Throw more speed into the mix, however, and the Plus 4 settles down considerably – it’s surprisingly refined on the motorway and will happily barrel along at the legal limit.
Faster corners require plenty of concentration, but there’s loads of grip to be found. The engine loves to rev too, with reasonably long gearing meaning you can exploit the 2.0-litre’s willingness to fire towards the redline whenever you get the chance.
As far as birthday presents go, the Morgan Plus 4 110 Works Edition is right up there. The additional extras you get – both visual and mechanical – strengthen it as an overall prospect.
Though the driving experience may be distinctly old-school, it’s an immensely enjoyable one and a welcome splash of water to the face of the tech-heavy encounters you’ll have with the vast majority of cars currently on sale today.
It’s a smile-inducing car, the Morgan Plus 4 – both for the driver and for the people you pass – and it’s tricky to put a price on that, don’t you think?
Model as tested: Morgan Plus 4 110 Works Edition Price (on-road): £64,995 Engine: 2.0-litre petrol Gearbox: Five-speed manual Power: 155 hp Torque: 201 Nm Top speed: 118 mph 0-60mph: 7.3 seconds Fuel economy (combined): 40 mpg CO2 emissions: 164 g/km
Morgan’s Wooden body frames are still hand built, and this craftsman has been creating them since 1975
I DON’T HAVE to be in here at 7am but that’s when I arrive. I like to have a cup of coffee and a chat with the other lads before I start work. I’ve got my own corner of the wood shop, and I only work on the standard Morgan – the ‘Traditional’ , we call it. Over the years, I’ve done most of the jobs and they just leave me to get on with it.
At the moment I’m finishing off the last doorframe of a car, making sure it fits in the aperture. I’ve already built the doorframe in a little jig we have, which holds it all tightly as it’s glued together. Once its in place I’ll trim it so it fits absolutely perfectly. Using modem glue means the time to make the door has fallen from a whole day, when I started here, to five hours. That’s modem efficiency! Still, some things never change. The solid oak press we use to shape the wheelarch is at least 80 years old.
I started at Morgan on 22 September 1975. I’d already done ten years in various building trades, so I had lots of carpentry skills. I liked it because it was close to my house, so I could walk here in 13 minutes across the fields.
Before I came here, I didn’t even realise Morgan had a woodworking shop. Or its own sawmill, which it still has. It must be the only car manufacturer in the world to do so. Our ash comes from Lincolnshire; nowadays it arrives on pallets cut to the lengths we need, so we no longer have waste left over from long planks.
When I joined there were still four young ladies working on old capstan lathes, and one of them became my partner. A lot of relationships have started here over the years. Morgan has been my life, really.
I actually retired three years ago aged 65, on my birthday. They put a cardboard cut-out of me up on the wall when I left because I was such a fixture. But I soon came back and now I work three mornings a week. The ghost of Vince is still up there.
The placing and lifting work does become a bit harder as you get older. I groan every time I stand up, but I don’t mind because I just like doing it. I’ve built or part-built about 6000 frames in my time, and these days I’m often working with an apprentice by my side.
I love showing the kids how it done, passing on my skills, although you’ve got to work swiftly to get the jobs done and do the training. The bodies are going out at a fair rate. These days the apprentices come straight in. They’re usually keen but, if I’m honest, a bit naive. You’re going to make cars, true, but most importantly you’ve got to start by becoming skilled at cutting and planing a piece of wood.
Actually, the type of some tools, is the thing that changed most during my time.
I used to have terrible tennis elbow through using old-fashioned planes and screwdrivers. Now, they’re all battery-powered, by Makita.
Patience and accuracy are crucial. Being proud of your tools, and sharpening them, is also important because it’s all hardwood we work with. I have a young lad working by me at the moment who’s just sent off for a rosewood-handled chisel to add to his tools. That’s the right spirit. You have to love your tools.
It’s much easier physically, and my hands are still quite soft. After all this time I rarely get a splinter. You just know by instinct not to brush a rough edge. It’s an old joke here that you pretend to be in agony by getting a splinter from someone else’s work!
I’ve always liked being in a steady job that you don’t worry about when you go home. I work part-time throughout the whole year but I’ll take a weeks holiday when the Cheltenham Festival is on, because I love horse racing.
Morgan hasn’t changed that much over the years, thank goodness. With the old gaffer [Peter Morgan] you could drop into his office to get your passport application signed or whatever, or to ask him something. The management now is much younger, and there s a bit more pressure on everybody. I’ve known the boss today, Steve Morris, since he was a 17-year-old in the tin shop next door – what we used to call the coachbuilding department!
My partner died 12 years ago but I have a large family life, including her two daughters, and I have three sisters and a brother all here in Malvern. I see my brother every week; he’s the head porter at Malvern College. I’m quite practical at home but I don’t have an ornate ash kitchen or anything like that.
These days I drive to work. I’ve got a VW Scirocco GT and it’s a great car, really quick. I didn’t learn to drive until I was 43, and I’d never driven a Morgan until last summer. My boss let me use a Traditional to take my great-nephew to his summer prom. Everybody looked at it wherever I parked, but they’d never guess there was a bit of the driver inside the car itself . . .
WHEN ALLAN DUFFY SEARCHED FOR A CAR THAT WAS OLDER
THAN HE WAS, A 1933 MORGAN SUPER SPORTS THREE-WHEELER SEEMED TO MAKE THE MOST
Once, all car companies
were like the 110-year-old Morgan Motor Company, a small family-owned affair
pumping out a few hundred cars each year. Yet while contemporary early 20th
Century garage-land start-ups like Ford and Morris grew to become huge
multinational corporations, Morgan remained pretty much the same for more than
it even still uses wood to frame the bodywork on the cars that it builds today,
the chassis stiffness handled by the steel backbone that has also defined the
brand since 1909. So Morgan isn’t just a survivor of a once mighty British
motor-manufacturing empire, it’s also a preserver of tried-and-tested
construction methods, finest craftsmanship, and a relaxed attitude to
In good years, the
number of Morgans produced by the company’s 170 employees approaches 1000
units, but the customers ordering those cars could sometimes wait up to six
years before taking delivery. As with a certain brand of cheese, it appears
that good things take time. It was this company culture that inspired Allan
Duffy’s purchase of this beautiful beetle-back 1933 Morgan Super Sports.
“Back in 1998, when I
turned 50, I was looking to buy a car that was older than I was, but while
searching books of all the cars made before 1948, I decided that most of them
were rubbish. “Then I came across Morgan – I hadn’t heard of them before.” The
distinctive Super Sports tri-car is arguably the Morgan that instantly springs
to mind whenever anyone thinks of the Malvern Link-based company, especially
the prettier ‘beetle-back’ version, with its gracefully-tapered tail and
frivolous cooling gills.
The other body style for the SS trike is the ‘barrel-back’, which looks like some backyard mechanic has rudely grafted a beer keg to the rear of the car.
The latter offers the same token luggage stowage, but it comes at considerable cost to the crowd-pleasing visual appeal of a Morgan trike. “I mostly get lots of waves from other drivers when I’m at the wheel,” says Duffy. “The occasional one gives me a look like I’m from another planet.”
THE EXPOSED ROCKERS OF THE V-TWIN’S PUSHROD-ACTIVATED
VALVETRAIN ARE DOING A FRENETIC DANCE TO THE WHINE OF THE GEARTRAIN DOWN NEAR
MY RIGHT KNEE, AND THE EXPLOSIVE EXHAUST PIPES EXITING BEHIND ME.
The Super Sports was a
big leap forward for Morgan when it first appeared in 1930. That was 21 years
after the debut of the first tri-car, powered by a Peugeot V-twin engine in
1909, and Morgan would commission power-plant supply from a number of other
motorcycle engine manufacturers in those two decades, including Anzani,
Blackburne, and J.A.P. Duffy says that often it was a question of getting an
engine at the right price that led to so many different motors being employed
“It was the key to
their survival as a low volume manufacturer for they didn’t have to invest
large sums in developing their own mechanical components.” The J.A.P. is
considered by some classic car enthusiasts to be the best of the engines,
possibly because of the successes of the John Alfred Prestwich-designed engine
in racing throughout the 1920s, and its connection to the then premier
motorcycle brand, Brough Superior. These longitudinally-mounted V-twin engines
all drove the rear wheel through a crude two-speed transmission consisting of
two primary sprockets, two drive chains, and two final sprockets. “You simply
swapped drive chains to change the gearing.”
With the debut of the
Super Sports, Morgan finally moved to something better, with a prop shaft
running from the V-twin engine to Morgan’s own gearbox, which boasted three
forward gears and, thankfully, a reverse gear. Chain was still used to deliver
the torque to the rear wheel, but at nearly an inch wide, it was certainly
sized to last. The Matchless V-twin could be purchased in either water-cooled
or air-cooled form, with Duffy’s car featuring the bulging water jackets and
smooth cylinders of the former.
It has tighter
tolerances than the finned version, and the exposed engine is quieter. However
Duffy has to constantly monitor the ‘moto-meter’ that is mounted to the top of
the chromed twin-radiator surround like a luxury brand mascot. The arrow on the
meter can quickly move from ‘cool’ to ‘warm’ to ‘hot’ to ‘boiling’ when driving
in city traffic like a barometer warning of the approach of a tropical cyclone.
“There’s no water pump or fan; it’s a thermo-siphon cooling system similar to a
Ford Model T’s.” Despite this early cooling technology, Duffy has found the
Super Sports to be ultra-reliable.
“I can leave it sitting
in the garage for ages, then it’ll fire up readily once I put petrol in the
tank again, and retard the spark”. Another feature of the Matchless is that it
can easily be converted to electric start, something the previous owner of the
Super Sports did soon after the car’s arrival in New Zealand from Canada. Duffy
says that the Matchless is the equal to the revered J.A.P., having previously
owned a 1934 J.A.P.- powered Super Sports.
“There’s very little
between them, but I’ve been able to drive this one in some pretty atrocious
conditions. “It’s been to some pretty wild n’ wet places (including the
notorious Rubber Ducky rally in Taranaki).” Not that you’d know that to look at
its immaculate condition. Evidently a restorer in Canada spent 10 years getting
this Super Sports to look brand new again. Duffy bought it in 2010 from another
Morgan fan, having owned the J.A.P. model for a year.
The Super Sports had
been imported to New Zealand in 2004. Duffy invites me to come for a ride in
one of the most unique cars in the world. The Matchless fires up readily with
an authoritative V-twin rumble as he adjusts the hand throttle and spark timing
levers fitted to the steering wheel. I clamber into the passenger seat
awkwardly, feeling like a sardine on the packing line of a fish factory. Back
in the 1930s, some road testers considered egress and access to and from the
Super Sports cockpit to be excellent.
Whatever they were putting
in the tea back then, I want some! The V-twin has identical bore and stroke
measurements, but delivers grunt like a proper long-stroke British big-bore
bike engine, with vibrant torque flooding the driveline as soon as Duffy lets
out the clutch. Two well-timed shifts of the crash gearbox later, we’re going
45km/h, a speed where the Morgan no longer requires the two lower gears.
There’s plenty of
mechanical drama happening ahead of me. The exposed rockers of the V-twin’s
pushrod-activated valvetrain are doing a frenetic dance to the whine of the
geartrain down near my right knee, and the explosive exhaust pipes exiting
behind me. In my line of sight are the left-wheel motions of the Morgan’s
famous ‘sliding pillar’ front suspension.
It was one of Henry
Frederick Stanley Morgan’s most brilliant ideas, the independently-suspended
front end the key to the accurate and agile steering of Morgan tri-cars through
bumpy bends. Feeling calm and relaxed, and living a boyhood dream of a ride in
a Morgan tricycle, I glance over at my driver. He has a huge grin on his face
as he goes about his work, some of which looks like it requires plenty of
practice – such as double-clutching a downshift with the foot clutch pedal and
the hand throttle lever while still attempting to turn the car into a corner.
At one point in the
drive we have to do a U-turn, and the limited steering lock turns it into a
three-pointer despite a wheelbase that is shorter than some professional
basketball players. Fortunately the reversing part of the manoeuvre is halted
with some efficiency by the Morris Minor-sourced front brakes. “Some people are
obsessed with originality, but driving in city traffic requires good brakes,
especially in a car that’s as low as this one is.”
It’s not the only
limitation to driving a Morgan trike in busy Auckland traffic. The rudimentary
engine cooling means it’s better “to keep going than to stop” according to
Duffy. He also has to park the tri-car on a flat surface or facing uphill to
prevent oil vacating the gearbox.
Duffy is about to list
the Super Sports for sale in the global newsletter for Morgan owners; The
Bulletin. He says it’s simply because he owns two other four-wheeled Morgans,
and the 1981 4-4 is better at driving around town than the tri-car, while the Rover
V8-powered Plus 8 is a consummate open road cruiser.
The Super Sports will
cruise at 80-90kmh quite happily, but it can be tiring for both the man and the
machine. Duffy prefers to tow it to events such as the Art Deco festival in
Napier.“I often have to wait for the crowd gathered around it to clear before I
can drive it.”
The company also moved
away from the three-wheelers once World War II started, and it was a huge
surprise to Duffy when it unveiled the new 3 Wheeler model at the 2011 Geneva
Motor Show after a 60-year hiatus from building tri-cars. Powered by a 85kW
S&S V-twin, and driving the rear wheel via a five-speed Mazda manual
gearbox, the 3 Wheeler can sprint from rest to 100km/h in 4.5 seconds. However,
it still features H.F.S. Morgan’s patented sliding pillar front suspension,