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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,
typical family-owned and operated business. The sort that mothers and
fathers pass on to their kids, or in which uncles, aunties and cousins all
pitch in together. You’re imagining a chip shop, right? Just me? Perhaps a pub,
a corner shop or a post office, then. Not a car factory, I’d bet.
Well, just imagine one – if you can. It won’t be easy. Making cars isn’t something you succeed at simply by getting up early, drinking lots of tea, getting your hands dirty and having a go. It’s complicated. It requires up-to-date specialist know-how, and expert design, engineering and manufacturing skill. Peeling spuds, pulling pints or stamping envelopes, it ain’t. And yet The Morgan Motor Company was family-owned and operated right until the year of its 110th anniversary; this year. Not a bad innings, that.
Change has finally come to Pickersleigh Road, however. Earlier this year, the Morgan family decided to sell a majority share of the business to the Investindustrial private equity group that previously owned Aston Martinuntil its recent market flotation.
Ask around at the firm’s visitors’ centre as to why that decision was taken, and the answers come very honestly. “It was the right offer, when all the others over the years just weren’t,” one staffer said. “We’d reached the point where the family was beginning to hold the company back rather than drive it on. Growing the business now needs investment and well-connected, industry-savvy leadership. Which, we’re hoping, is what we’ve now got.”
At the same time as announcing that change in ownership, back in March, Morgan also announced its first ground-up new car in 19 years: this one, the Plus Six. In development since 2016, this’d be better thought of as the old regime’s parting gift to the company rather than the first fruit of the new one. Ironically, though, it’s definitely ‘all-new’ enough to feel like the latter.
Based on a new aluminium box-section monocoque chassis twice as stiff as the old Aero-series chassis that served under the Plus Eight, but also no more heavy, it’s also the first factory Morgan with a turbocharged engine: BMW’s 335bhp ‘B58’ turbo straight six hooked up to the familiar ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox. Unlike any Morgan before it, the Plus Six has electromechanical power steering, and its new chassis has even been designed to accommodate electric drive motors in future.
What’s it like?
You’re getting into a little bit of the company’s future, then, when you click the chromed button door release, swing open the tiny, cut-down driver’s door, and step over one of those famously wide running boards to lower yourself carefully into the Plus Six’s all-new cockpit. The seats remain pretty narrow, just like the footwells – but the cabin has clearly grown for length, with this 6ft 3in tester is genuinely spoilt for leg room. There’s both reach and rake adjustment on the steering column, and a very sound layout of controls overall. I’m not sure that footwell leaves room for a third pedal except at a squeeze, though there has been talk of a manual version. Even so, chances are you could be comfy here for a few hours at a stretch, almost regardless of how you’re built.
The Plus Six’s
cabin finish is generally very good. Our test car had attractive ‘box weave’
carpets, embroidered headrests and soft, attentively stitched hides – though it
could have done with a more appealing-looking steering wheel. Instrumentation
is by traditional analogue clocks placed, in Morgan convention, in the middle
of the fascia – and the more distant positioning of the speedo than the rev
counter, together with the size of its numbering, makes you glad there’s also a
small digital trip computer screen with a digital speedo visible through the
orbit of the steering wheel rim. If not for that, you’d need to take a
passenger with you at all times, just to tap you on the knee as you hit the
national speed limit – which, for all I know, may very well be what Morgan
owners do anyway, just in case.
And it really wouldn’t take long to hit that limit, by the way. That BMW straight six sounds a bit tuneless at times, offering a lot more turbo induction noise than exhaust burble under load – although an ‘aftermarket’ exhaust which might, I suspect, be fitted to your car even before it leaves the factory, apparently adds greater audible fruitiness.
Assuming it adds enough of it, there’d be very little else to find wanting here about a powertrain with more torque than a top-of-the-range six-pot Jaguar F-Type operating in a car weighing half-a-tonne less. The Plus Six is instantly quick, picking up from dawdling speeds with real swiftness. It is not a car that needs to be driven at all hard to go fast, or to feel enlivening for its outright pace. That’s new ground for Morgan, in my experience. There’s no doubt that a good manual version would be more involving and, to this tester, would suit the car better. Still, the ZF auto’s manual mode is quick enough to feel like a very acceptable compromise, and it’s as slick as anywhere when shifting by itself (although I do wish Morgan had found some nicer-feeling shift paddles than the somewhat flimsy, plasticky ones familiar from the PSA-Peugeot-Citroen parts bin).
On to that new
chassis, then, which pretty plainly gives Morgan a great deal of fresh
opportunity for enhancing and fine-tuning the handling of this car – but which
you wouldn’t say it had fully explored just yet. It has certainly helped to
banish some of the worst dynamic traits that Morgan owners may be used to from
this car. The Plus Six tracks very straight over bumps taken at speed. It has a
reasonable amount of supple compliance in a ride that remains only medium-firm
feeling; one that doesn’t feel nearly as wooden or brittle as some Morgans
have, over the years, but that still struggles to keep perfect close control
over pitch and squat.
The new chassis has
put a little bit of extra length into the car’s wheelbase compared with that of
its predecessor model, and yet it retains steering that’s uncharacteristically
slow by sports car standards, with almost three full turns between not
especially tight-feeling extremes of lock. It’s also suddenly quite light of weighting.
For both reasons,
while the Plus Six handles gentler faster bends with appealing precision, it
doesn’t feel quite as agile, wieldy or keen as it might through tighter ones –
and for what remains a small, light sports car, you really do notice. It was a
contributing factor, for this tester at least, in eroding slightly the
immediacy of control you’d ideally like over the car’s steered axle – the other
being the sheer distance between that axle and where you sit in the car, which
is another way in which this appealingly small two-seater is made to feel
larger than it might.
Should I buy one?
certainly have to get used to the proportions of the Plus Six – likewise the
slightly athletic entry and exit routine, the placing of the minor switchgear,
and the intricate sequence of doing and undoing of steel pop fasteners and
opening and closing of latches necessary to get the roof up quickly in a
shower. So much of all of that feels akin to memorising the password for the
manned door of the owner’s club. It’d all be a labour of love to get to know,
I’m sure – and, for the lovers, the dynamic strides that Morgan has taken with
this car will surely seem great.
For me, it’s what this chassis might go on to do that’s really interesting – because while the Plus Six is a lot better than you expect it might be in some ways, and in others quite honestly just a lot less bad than you might have feared, it now seems tantalisingly close to becoming a much better driver’s car with the right kind of dynamic tuning. I’m not suggesting it’ll ever handle like a Porsche, Lotus or Alpine – and neither would anyone want it to. But it’s certainly diverting to wonder, for now, just how close it might get.
Morgan Plus Six specification
Engine 6 cyls in line, 2998cc, twin-turbocharged petrol Power 335bhp at 5000-6500rpm Torque 369lb ft at 1600-4500rpm Gearbox 8-spd automatic Kerb weight 1075kg (dry) Top speed 166mph 0-62mph 4.2sec
[Don’t believe everything you read. It is not a twin turbo (e.g. two turbos) , rather it is a single twin-scroll turbo. Mark]
When you think of a Morgan it’s
perfectly acceptable for the mind’s eye to draw up the image of gentle drives
in the countryside, gingham blankets and picnics in the sun. And for many older
Morgans, that is most definitely the case. However, we really shouldn’t let
ourselves think that. Morgan has been entwined with motorsport since its black
and white beginnings way back in the 1900s. The company was founded in 1909,
but just three years later in 1912, Morgan’s three-wheeled offering was on the
steep banking of Brooklands, where it was competing to win the award for
greatest distance covered in an hour by a cycle car. Admittedly, Morgan lost
out to a GWK, however, the following year it scooped the victory by covering 60
The point here is that Morgan cars and
competition go hand in hand. Over the decades the model range has grown, and so
too has the racing arm of Morgan. Morgans have been seen at Le Mans, they’ve
been seen at hill climbs and thanks to the incredibly popular Morgan Challenge
racing series, they have been seen battling it out in packs at almost every
circuit in the UK. Yes, Morgans like to race. A lot.
This has led to the growth of Morgan’s
side business, if you will, which goes by the name of Aero Racing. It’s here
that select Morgans are ‘breathed’ on in order to get them competition ready.
Suspension, wheels, brakes, race equipment such as seats, roll cages and fire
extinguishers, and of course, engines, are all fitted or built in house at
Pickersleigh Road alongside the road-going counterparts.
Of course, when you have a race shop on
site, you’re going to want to capitalise on that, which is exactly what Morgan
did a few years back with the car you’re looking at here. This is the Morgan
ARP4. That’s Aero Racing Plus 4. And this is more race car than road car, but
it’s a road car nonetheless. Think of it as Usain Bolt in a houndstooth jacket.
Smoking a pipe.
The Plus 4 has been in production since
1950 and many would argue that it has proven itself to be the backbone of the
company. The Plus 4 is the go-to car from the Morgan range. There’s the
smaller-engined 4/4, but that can leave more spirited drivers wanting. There’s
the V6 Roadster, but for some this it too far removed from the traditional Plus
4. Then of course there are the V8 Aero cars along with their successor, the
Plus 6. These are halo cars though, and their bonded aluminium chassis and
modern tech detract, for some, from what a Morgan should be. The Plus 4 is
pure, traditional Morgan though, hence its huge popularity. Even now, in 2019,
the Plus 4 still boasts that traditional steel ladder chassis with an
Ash-framed body sitting on top, all handmade of course.
The ARP4 takes the normal 2.0 Plus 4
and squarely drop-kicks it into the absurd, but in the best possible way. As
you look at the car it’s all very familiar. Those long, flowing wings. The
bonnet that spurs away from the driver for a seemingly impossible distance,
that tight but perfectly trimmed cabin. Yes, it’s just a Plus 4. Until that is,
you look closely. The custom-made Image 16×7-inch split-rim wheels grab your
attention first, and then your eyes are naturally drawn to the rubber wrapped
around them. Yokohama 225/55 AD08R in this case, which for those in the know,
is a serious tyre.
There are other visual hints towards
the ARP4’s true purpose. The black grille, the lack of bumpers, the exposed
aluminium in the cabin, it all suggests something other than gingham and
Open that handmade, heavily louvred
bonnet and you’re in for a treat. The 2.0 Ford engine that you’d normally find
in a Plus 4 is still there, but only in essence. The reality is a 2.0 Ford
engine that has been breathed on, heavily, by none other than Cosworth. And
Cosworth knows a thing or two about screwing the ponies out of a Ford engine.
225 ponies in this case, thanks to throttle bodies, level 2 race cams, a
re-worked cylinder head and a reworked crank on which you’ll find
Cosworth’s forged rods and pistons. Bolted onto the back of it is a five-speed
manual close ration ‘box, which in turn is bolted to a 3.9:1 differential.
Of course, power is nothing without
control, but the ARP4 has the covered in spades. First of all, there are those
sticky Yokohama tyres. Then there’s the five-link rear suspension, while Spax
adjustable shocks can be found at both the front and rear. Four-pot Aero Racing
developed brakes sit up front with vented discs, while solid discs take care of
things at the back. This is a fully resolved, no point missed, out and out race
car. It just happens to have a radio and leather seats.
And that’s the thing. As we slide into
the driver’s seat, we can’t help but be lulled into a false sense of security
by the familiar leather and rich box weave carpet. It’s just like sitting in a
‘normal’ Plus 4, but with white dials and a touch more metal on show. It is
not, however, the ARP4 is not a normal Plus 4 when you press the start button.
The car barks into life with an urgency
that takes you aback. The throttle bodies snarl and gulp for air, and then you
jab the throttle. The noise of the throttle bodies is captivating, intoxicating
in fact, and more than enough to remind you that this is no normal Plus 4.
As we engage first, we look out on the
empty runway of Bruntingthorpe ahead of us. No traffic, no speed cameras, no
laws to abide. It’s just us and a car that was built, that wants to
go fast. Engage first, come off the surprisingly light clutch, we’re off.
Without trying the rear wheels spin up and rooster tail water behind us.
Second, we find grip and reward the ARP4’s obedience with a bit more throttle.
Third, we’re coming up to 100mph and also the first corner, a long, sweeping
right-hander at the bottom of the runway. Camera car in front of us, we decided
to lean on the Morgan through the corners in a bid to get a heroic powerslide
shot. But we can’t. Despite being rear-wheel drive, powerful and about as heavy
as a Post-It note, it will not slide. This thing is planted firm. We try to
induce it with a clutch kick. A little slide out, then back in line. It will
not break traction without a fight. We are, frankly, impressed. The ARP4 is a
well set-up car.
We come out of that bottom corner and
start our advance of the runway itself. Camera car be damned, we want to see
what we can get out of the ARP4. Fourth, 120mph and we’re still pulling. The
wind noise is loud, but those throttle bodies are not willing to lose the
shouting contest. Fifth and final gear in that MX-5 gearbox and we climb to
135mph before we need to work back down through the gears for the tight
right-hander. As we do, the brakes bring the speed down quickly and without
drama, the car stays level through the fast corner and then we start the
process all over again as we head down the back straight. This thing is like a
drug. The noise, the speed, the sharpness and directness of it. It’s
astounding. And the grip, just… wow.
Limited to a production run of just 50,
the ARP4 was a rare car when it was new, but
it’s even rarer now. However, they do come up for sale from time to time. To
get yourself into one, expect to part with £60k at least. But trust us, if you
do, you’ll be very glad indeed. The only thing that will upset you is the fact
you don’t have your own runway to play on.
European Investment Group Investindustrial Acquire Morgan, 5 March 2019 – https://classiccarcuration.co.uk/
Investindustrial has today announced the acquisition of a majority stake in Morgan Motor Company Ltd (“Morgan”), the iconic 110-year old British sports cars manufacturer.
The terms of the transaction were not disclosed, and it is expected to complete in April 2019. The Morgan family will continue to act as stewards for the brand and retains a minority shareholding. Meanwhile, for the first time in its history, the management team and all employees will become shareholders in the business.
The investment is executed without financial debt, and Morgan will have a positive net cash position upon closing of the transaction. The investment in Morgan is made by a separate fund (with a different strategy) from Investindustrial V L.P. (whose investment subsidiaries hold a stake in Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings PLC).
Steve Morris, CEO, Morgan Motor Company, commented:
“The future is bright for Morgan. We are coming off the back of two record years. We have an all-new vehicle architecture and powertrain, and have just launched the most dynamically capable Morgan yet, the exciting new Plus Six at the Geneva International Motor Show. Now we have the best possible owner and partner to take the business to the next level and develop Morgan’s global potential.”
Founded in 1909
Founded in 1909, Morgan continues to this day to hand-build premium sports cars with a classic design in its historic factory in Malvern, UK, which is visited by more than 30,000 enthusiasts each year. With revenues of £33.8 million and net profit of £3.2 million in 2018, the company sells around 700 cars per year including a portfolio of iconic car designs and a unique 3 Wheeler manufactured using three core elements: ash, aluminium and leather.
The Morgan brand is synonymous of quintessential British craftsmanship, elegance, performance and design. Morgan has a loyal and active owners’ community with more than 5,000 members and 50 clubs globally.
As part of the transaction, and as a sign of its long-term faith in the company and the wider British automotive sector, Investindustrial will support Morgan to accelerate new product development, after the launch today of the new Plus Six at the Geneva motor show, the first to adopt the company’s new CX-Generation architecture, increase global distribution and broaden customers’ experience with unique events, enabling Morgan to fulfil its global potential as an iconic maker of hand-built British sports cars. In supporting the company, Investindustrial will leverage its vast experience and track record in the automotive industry, developed through a number of successful investments over the last 30 years, such as Aston Martin and Ducati.
Dominic Riley, Chairman, Morgan Motor Company, commented:
“The past two years have been the most successful in our company’s 110-year history. However, to really fulfill Morgan’s full potential and secure our long-term future, both the family and management team, felt it was essential to bring in a strategic partner. A partner that shares our vision for Morgan and has the expertise, financial resources and track record of success in the automotive world, to make it happen. That partner is Investindustrial.”
Morgan will continue to focus on its niche classic segment within the automotive sector, with bespoke manufacturing, hand-built products, and the use of ash remaining central to its strategy. Investindustrial will work closely with current management and the wider Morgan family to make sure that future development of the business will be respectful of and remain true to the company’s unique heritage.
MAJORITY STAKE ACQUIRED IN ICONIC SPORTS CAR MANUFACTURER (5 Mar 2019, www.insidermedia.com/)
A majority stake has been acquired in an iconic 110-year-old British sports car manufacturer.
Investindustrial has acquired the interest in Morgan Motor Company for an undisclosed fee. The deal is expected to complete in April.
The Morgan family will continue to act as stewards for the brand and retain a minority shareholding while the management team and all employees will have a share of the business.
The investment has been executed without financial debt, and Morgan will have a positive net cash position upon closing of the transaction.
The move has been made by a separate fund, with a different strategy, from Investindustrial VLP whose investment subsidiaries hold a stake in Aston Martin.
Founded in 1909, Morgan Motor Company hand-builds premium sports cars with a classic design in its historic factory in Malvern which is visited by more than 30,000 enthusiasts each year.
With revenues of £33.8m and net profit of £3.2m 2018, the company sells about 700 cars per year including a portfolio of iconic car designs and a unique three-wheeler manufactured using three core elements: ash, aluminium and leather.
As part of the transaction Investindustrial will support Morgan to accelerate new product development, after the launch of the new Plus Six at the Geneva motor show today – the first to adopt the company’s new CX-Generation architecture, increase global distribution and broaden customers’ experience with unique events.
Dominic Riley, chairman at Morgan Motor Company, said: “The past two years have been the most successful in our company’s 110-year history.
“However, to really fulfil Morgan’s full potential and secure our long-term future, both the family and management team, felt it was essential to bring in a strategic partner.
“A partner that shares our vision for Morgan and has the expertise, financial resources and track record of success in the automotive world, to make it happen. That partner is Investindustrial.”
Jill Price, Peter Morgan’s daughter and longest serving Morgan family director, added: “Having very carefully considered all options for the future success of Morgan, the family concluded that this new ownership structure and Investindustrial, have the pedigree and resources to secure the long-term future of Morgan.
“It was important for the family to retain a shareholding, and we are delighted that our loyal management team and workforce will now also have a share in the business going forward.”
Andrea C. Bonomi, Investindustrial’s chairman of the Industrial Advisory Board, said: “Morgan is one of the most famous names in the automotive world. Morgan’s handmade British sports cars are true icons of the industry.
“We have followed the company and seen its progress for some time and see significant potential for Morgan to develop internationally whilst retaining its hand-built heritage, which is at the heart of the Morgan Motor Company.
“We share with the Morgan family the belief that British engineering and brands are unique and have an important place in the world.”
Steve Morris, chief executive at Morgan Motor Company, said: “The future is bright for Morgan. We are coming off the back of two record years.
“We have an all-new vehicle architecture and powertrain, and have just launched the most dynamically capable Morgan yet, the exciting new Plus Six at the Geneva International Motor Show.
“Now we have the best possible owner and partner to take the business to the next level and develop Morgan’s global potential.”
[Here it is! The new Morgan we have been waiting for. As predicted it has BMW power, but a lot of other things are new. Although it looks like a typical classic, there are a number of significant changes. A new, modern, aluminum chassis, and a host features specifically addressing creature comforts, and area typically ignored by Morgan. I have just been studying the pictures and can see loads of new features. If you want more, google Morgan Car Geneva and read the various reports. When and if we will see the car in the US is still TBD. Cheers, Mark]
Introducing the all-new Morgan Plus Six (MMC Press Release)
In its landmark 110th year in business, the Morgan Motor Company is excited to introduce the next generation of Morgan sports car, debuted today at the Geneva International Motor Show. The all-new Morgan Plus Six is, without exception, the most dynamically capable Morgan ever produced. Further extending Morgan’s unique blend of craftsmanship and technology, the Plus Six celebrates Morgan’s timeless design, underpinning it with the newly introduced CX-Generation aluminium bonded platform and the latest BMW powertrain.
An expanding in-house Research and Development team, a growing list of
strategic technical partners and an extensive testing programme ensure the Plus
Six is the most thoroughly developed Morgan product to date.
The Plus Six represents several firsts for Morgan, most notably the
first time the company has utilised a turbocharged engine. The BMW 2019 B58
TwinPower Turbo inline 6-cylinder engine is a latest generation BMW powertrain
and Morgan has worked alongside BMW to fine-tune the performance capabilities
of the Plus Six.
A closer look at the iconic Morgan silhouette gives a number of clues to
just how radically different the Plus Six is to any other Morgan model before
it. Subtle vents provide a hint of the raw power and performance that underpin
the beautiful flowing lines of the exterior. Make no mistake, whilst familiarly
Morgan, almost every part of the Plus Six has been refined or redesigned, with
less than one percent of the 4,000 parts being shared across other Morgan
A completely redesigned cabin celebrates the natural materials used
within Morgan craftsmanship, as well as offering greater levels of
personalisation than ever before. The new cockpit is more driver focussed and
encompasses appropriately introduced technology, whilst also allowing customers
more leg room and increased stowage space.
The Plus Six is one of the cleanest vehicles within the Morgan range.
The introduction of the new powertrain has led to a CO2 figure of 170g/km and a
combined MPG figure of 38.2mpg. The achievement of a more fuel-efficient
vehicle allows the Plus Six to compete in key European markets, which have
previously proven prohibitive for high-performance Morgans due to tax reasons
in recent years.
The Plus Six goes on sale
today, and is priced from £77,995 inc. VAT in the UK.
The all-new CX-Generation bonded aluminium platform is a leap forward in
terms of the engineering that underpins Morgan’s most dynamically capable
model. Weighing less than 100 kilograms, the all-new platform benefits from a
100% increase in torsional rigidity.
The key engineering
attributes of the CX-Generation platform not only aid performance for the Plus
Six, but also offer several important driver benefits including 200mm increased
leg room and 31% increase in stowage space.
The ‘first edition’ Emerald
and ‘first edition’ Moonstone Morgan Plus Six models represent the diverse
array of specification options that are available on Morgan’s latest model.
Each of the 50 first Plus Six models will be built in ‘first edition’
specification and are available to order now.
The Plus Six features an all
new, more driver focussed and refined cockpit. A reimagined interior offers
greater levels of personalisation than any Morgan previously, whilst cleverly
incorporating technology throughout. A display screen is neatly positioned
within the driver’s field of vision, subtly embedded into the dashboard with an
unlimited level of wood and colour combinations. Sculpted doors incorporate all
new puddle lighting, central locking mechanisms and hidden speakers.
The Morgan Plus Six comes with Supra power (www.topgear.com)
Old looks, but an entirely new Morgan with turbo power from BMW
Meet the Plus Six, an almost entirely brand new Morgan. Which
looks – perhaps reassuringly – just like an old Morgan. Believe it or not, a
mere four components have been carried across from previous models, and they’re
the round metallic stoppers for the centrally hinged bonnet. Everything else
has been replaced or completely redesigned.
What those stoppers protect is the big news. Morgan had already
told us the Plus 8 was surrendering its V8, and its change in name is a
ginormous clue to what lies beneath, namely a 3.0-litre straight-six turbo
engine producing 335bhp and 369lb ft.
If that sounds like a familiar set-up, well it is; the engine
comes across almost wholesale from the BMW Z4 and, indeed, the Toyota Supra.
The car of the moment. The Plus Six gets its own calibration and exhaust tune,
mind, and with a mere 1,075kg to move around, achieves a stocky 166mph top
speed and 4.2secs. More modern aerodynamics would likely improve
That turbo six drives the rear wheels, but despite this being Morgan’s
first ever turbocharged car, via no safety systems whatsoever. There’s not a
jot of traction or stability control, ABS being the only sop to that entirely
modern attitude of ‘not wanting to crash’.
But this is where news story number two comes in: the Plus Six
is based upon an entirely new aluminium and ash architecture that should
futureproof Morgan’s next range of high-end sports cars. The so-called ‘CX’
platform may host an entirely familiar looking car to begin with, but expect
considerably more radical Morgans to follow. Hybrids, EVs, active safety
systems, even a degree of self-driving… this new age of Morgan will be able to
adapt to whatever its maker (or legislation) sees fit.
So while future Morgans can be malleable to changes in safety
rules, the Plus Six channels all of that turbo power through no filters
whatsoever. There’s only
an eight-speed ZF automatic for now, with fixed plastic paddles behind
the wheel and the same central gear selector as all the BMWs (and the Toyota)
the drivetrain is shared with. A manual may follow in due course.
There’s a choice of comfort, sport and sport plus drive modes,
though they operate only on gearbox and throttle reactions. There’s no adaptive
damping or suchlike, but again, it’s something future models may get. If you’re
worried, then the new platform is twice as strong as the one it replaces with
inevitable benefits to handling prowess.
It may look old, but we’re promised this thing
really is all new
The Plus Six has had three years of development work, much of it
alongside BMW, and is without doubt the most thoroughly honed Morgan ever, with
hot and cold testing overseas and lapping at Idiada in Spain.
“We worked very closely with BMW,” says Morgan’s design boss,
Jonathan Wells. “Their engineers were very excited by the fact the engine isn’t
concealed behind layers of sound deadening and interfering tech, and it’s very
much a visceral engineering activity.”
That new platform also
halves the production time compared to a Plus 8, down from eight to four weeks, and thus should double the wide-bodied
Morgan’s sales, from 150 to 300 a year. The company is famed for its almost
infinite bespoke options, though, and reckons the Plus Six will be more
customisable than ever thanks to the new seat and trim options freed up by a
bigger, more flexible interior.
It’s actually pretty familiar inside. The dials are as simple as
before and the interior doesn’t suddenly submit to an endlessly connected
world; driving a Morgan will remain an antidote to all of that, but there is a new LCD trip computer so
you can see how close to its claimed 38mpg you’re getting. The biggest change
is an additional 200mm of legroom that should open up Morgan ownership to a
hitherto unsatisfied tall audience.
“The first thing we packaged was the people, then we put the
components around them,” says Wells. “It’s a completely new approach to how we
develop cars with much more flexibility.”
Yep, it may look old, but we’re promised this thing really is
all new, and the clues are there as soon as you prod beneath the surface. The
doors stay open and don’t jam your leg. There’s remote central locking and
automatic headlights. There’s
puddle lighting, for heaven’s sake…
Order books are open now, with the Plus Six starting at £77,995.
Considerably more than the BMWs and Toyotas its engine is shared with, but much
less than the £120,000 those final Plus 8s sold for. The two cars you see here
are the now de rigueur Launch Editions, which cost £89,995,
come in a fixed spec and include the removable hard top that’ll be optional on
Overseas, the price difference will be yet more stark thanks to
the smaller engine’s cleaner CO2 emissions. In some European markets they’ll
drops the car’s registration tax from as much as 60,000 euros to around 10,000
“We recognise the classic Morgan has remained very popular for
us and we still see a lot of mileage in the running board design,” concludes
Wells. “We think it’ll appeal to current Morgan owners but also turn the heads
of people who haven’t considered them before.
“We’re taking a really long look down the road
at the moment – what does a 2030 Morgan look like? – which is great for us
designers. We have a very robust product plan looking forward.”