The Morgan Motor Company’s modus operandi is like a cardigan that, if you keep it for long enough, will eventually become fashionable again.
Things happen in Malvern that are beyond the realm of the rest of the car industry; only on Morgan’s website could the top news story read, “Ash dieback disease will not affect production.” And only Morgan could release a three-wheeler like this. Not just because it’s the only one with the heritage, but also because it’s the only car maker bonkers enough to sign it off.
But what a stroke of genius. Four-wheeler legislation is so tight that you can’t have sticky-out switches in the cabin. You can’t have head traps in the bodywork; you can’t have remotely sharp edges. Look at a Radical SR3 SL and you’ll see, with its narrow wing and slats in the side and rounded splitter, the lengths to which niche car makers must stretch to gain even limited type approval.
The Morgan 3 Wheeler, though? Well, that’s a trike, not a car, so more of the ‘bike’ regulations apply. Want a two-cylinder, air-cooled motor hanging over the front axle and toggle switches inside the cabin? Fill your boots.
And what a machine that results. We gave the 3 Wheeler five road test stars with very good reason: we test cars on their fitness for purpose. This car’s entire purpose is to make you smile and, if it doesn’t, chances are you haven’t driven it yet. There were a few doubters in the office that it was worth the score. So we sent them down the road in it and they came back, converted.
The 3 Wheeler brings its limits to you; it doesn’t, like so many sports cars, expect you to step up to some extraordinarily heady heights that would, a few decades ago, have been the dynamic preserve of F1 and top-line sports car drivers. It’s utterly relevant to the world we now live in.
So we invited it to our Britain’s Best Driver’s Car contest, where its suspension broke, quickly and without warning, on the circuit, of its own accord. Our driver was shaken, but there was no contact. If it had happened on the road, he might not have been so lucky.
At that point, suddenly, you realise that Morgan does exist in the same industry as everyone else. To its credit, within days Morgan had uprated the front wishbones on new-build models and promised a free set of the stronger wishbones for existing customers – although it didn’t recall the 3 Wheeler or foot the cost of the swap. For what it’s worth, I still think it should do both.
But don’t let that affect what the 3 Wheeler represents: the industry doing what it does best, suiting our wants, not our needs. As so many mainstream car makers are learning to their cost, people don’t want boring cars. What Morgan does today is arguably more relevant than ever.