Last year, the Morgan Motor Co., which started selling its iconic three-wheeled runabout in England in 1910, was sold to an Italian investment firm.
But the beat goes on and the Morgan is still as iconic as ever.
Arguably it’s most recognizable model is the three-wheeler. Available in the U.S., the 3 Wheeler is powered by a front-mounted, Harley-Davidson-derived, air-cooled, V-twin that displaces 1,990 cc, and develops some 80 horsepower.
Mated to a Mazda five-speed transmission, this is enough to take the 3 Wheeler from zero to 100 km/h in four to six seconds, which is right up there with various turbocharged Porsches, Ferraris, Corvettes, Mustang Mach 1 and others.
It may look peculiar, but this is a quick little puppy. It’s old-tech all the way and easily the fastest trike on the market. Top speed is about 185 km/h if you have the nerve.
All the usual British motoring clichés are in evidence: twin Brooklands fly screens, leather interior, wire wheels, toggle switches, exterior body badging and my favourite, a “bomb release” starter button.
This car is not for shy and retiring types, but if you have $40,000 or thereabouts, slip on your driving goggles and head south. There’s one waiting for you at one of several dealers in the U.S.
Morgan heir and former managing director Charles Morgan drove one of the new 3 Wheelers across the U.S. in the 2012 Gumball Rally, over 5,600 km from start to finish. He didn’t win (far from it), but aside from going the wrong way in New York City and losing some exhaust manifold bolts near Death Valley, the run was apparently trouble-free.
As Morgan noted in his diary, Harley-Davidson riders were particularly intrigued as he roared past, frequently cruising in the 130 km/h neighbourhood.
Apparently this car was not specially prepared for the rally, but taken off the line at the factory and shipped as is overseas.
The resurgence of the 3 Wheeler isn’t the only thing happening at Morgan. The company now has a presence in China, is investing heavily in electric car technology, and recently introduced the BMW-powered Plus Six, a 335-horsepower hellion that, for the first time, doesn’t have Morgan’s renowned sliding pillar front suspension and is destined to replace the legendary Plus 8.
With unmistakable styling that harkens back to the original Morgan 4/4, which was introduced in 1936, most Morgans still feature flowing fenders, a snubbed rear deck and a long louvered front hood. Some models also sport all-aluminum frame and bodywork, with an upscale leather, wood and mohair interior that rivals that of a Bentley. Made in limited numbers, these are not inexpensive automobiles and they’re in very short supply.
Perennial favourite the Plus 8 will be phased out this year. It’s propelled by a 367-horsepower BMW V8, and with a dry weight of just 1,100 kg, it’s as quick as ever. But now you can get it with an optional automatic transmission that features Sport or Auto modes. You can also order – gasp! – air conditioning. Good lord, what’s next? GPS?
And let’s not forget the traditional models: Roadster, 4/4, Four Seater and Plus Four, which, depending upon the model, come with a Ford engine of one type of another. Even the least powerful of these, the 4/4, still moves out at a decent clip and offers respectable fuel economy, thanks to lightweight construction. This model has some of the lowest CO2 emissions on the market. The 4/4 is also being offered in 75th anniversary livery, with a larger engine and special paint.
Alas, it’s not easy to get your hands on a new Morgan, say the Plus Six, on this side of the pond. There are dealers in New York, Virginia, Colorado, California and elsewhere in the U.S. But thanks to strict Transport Canada crash-test requirements, you can’t buy them in Canada.
As the owner of at least four Morgans that I can remember, I think it’s time for the federal government to reconsider the merits of this quirky and surprisingly relevant sportster.
In a world filled with anonymous SUVs and universally similar sedans and hatchbacks, seeing a Morgan going down the highway is like a breath of fresh air.
Ted Laturnus writes for Troy Media’s Driver Seat Associate website. An automotive journalist since 1976, he has been named Canadian Automotive Journalist of the Year twice and is past-president of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).