After a 60-year break in production, the Morgan three-wheeler is back on the road. Jeff Heselwood takes a look at the new model with retro aesthetics
Harry Morgan has a long history and one with a strong family connection. He established his car company Morgan in 1909 and it remains the oldest carmaker in the world that is owned and run by a family member.
Today, the company based in Malvern, Britain, is run by Charles Morgan, grandson of Harry, a true enthusiast who has driven one of his creations at the legendary Le Mans 24-Hours endurance race.
The success of the Morgan marque is founded on its iconic three-wheeler. The simple but effective design by Harry set the theme for generations of Morgans to come. He came up with the idea of fitting a straightforward two-cylinder motorcycle engine into a simple, lightweight frame.
Wooden frames made of ash were the backbone to this machine, a technique still used today by craftsmen at the Morgan facility.
It could reasonably be said that Harry Morgan introduced motoring to the masses: an affordable, easy-to-maintain runabout that suited everybody and at one time could be bought at Harrods in London, another British stalwart.
The original model featured a two-speed transmission, but no reverse gear. Engines were usually V-twins made by J.A. Prestwich although other makes could easily be accommodated.
Motor racing is clearly in the Morgan clan's blood. Over three years, before the outbreak of the first world war in 1914, Morgan took 10 British and world records for various classes of cyclecar, and won 24 gold medals in major reliability trials. This includes Harry's victory of the Cyclecar Cup for the 1100 cc one-hour record at an astonishing 96km/h at the Brooklands track in southern England.
The latest three-wheeler from Morgan looks remarkably like the original Super Aero of 1927, and although it is again powered by a motorcycle engine, this time it is an American-built 1990 cc V-twin, based on a Harley-Davidson design. Built by Smith & Smith (S&S) in America, the company began by tuning big Harley-Davidsons, but now makes its own engines. An S&S motor will have the same pushrod V-twin layout as a Harley-Davidson but will not necessarily use Harley-Davidson internals.
The motor in the Morgan is pure S&S, built to exacting specifications. Maximum power is an impressive 80-brake horsepower, but what matters more is the torque output from the lazy V-twin that peaks at 140 Newton metres (Nm) at the extremely low engine speed of 3250rpm. Mated to a modified Mazda MX-5 five-speed gearbox, the latest three-wheeler is good for 185km/h and a benchmark 0-100km/h time of around 4.7 seconds.
It uses a steel tubular chassis, and again an ash frame, over which an aluminium body is crafted. Driver and passenger get separate, non-adjustable and surprisingly effective wind deflectors. Although spartan the beautifully retro three-wheeler offers the latest creature comforts in the form of leather seats, a leather steering wheel, aluminium 'aircraft' toggle switches, a so-called bomb release push-button start and a range of colour-coordinated trim panels with a choice of eight body colours.
Prices in Britain start at GBP25,000 (HK$304,000). Hong Kong's Harley-Davidson dealer is reportedly in talks to bring in the new Morgan three-wheeler.