Morgan will launch an all-new 3 Wheeler next year – a thoroughly modern machine using the same advanced aluminium chassis technology as the new Plus Four and Plus Six roadsters, but which the firm claims will offer the same raw driving experience as the outgoing 10-year-old model.
The new 3 Wheeler’s most visible – and initially most controversial – change entails ditching the old S&S-sourced air-cooled 2.0-litre V-twin engine in favour of a normally aspirated, longitudinally mounted version of Ford’s considerably more refined 1.5-litre three-cylinder unit, as used by the Fiesta ST hot hatchback.
The change is likely to result in a dramatic boost in performance, since the V-twin produced barely 80bhp (because of punitive exhaust emissions restrictions) whereas the Ford unit should be good for 120-130bhp (it runs to 197bhp with a turbocharger in the hot Fiesta), although Morgan isn’t yet confirming its precise output.
The power-to-weight ratio should be impressive: Autocar understands Morgan engineers are using the outgoing model’s sub-500kg kerb weight as a target for the new one.
Like the old car, the new 3 Wheeler will be rear driven, with the nose-mounted engine sending power through a five-speed Mazda MX-5 gearbox to a bevel box behind the cockpit, and then to the single rear wheel via a toothed belt.
Morgan managing director Steve Morris said: “We see the new 3 Wheeler as an opportunity to offer existing loyal customers a vehicle that they can enjoy every bit as today’s, but it will [also] allow us to target a wider group of potential owners.
“We see this as a truly global product. Our big focus will be on building US sales, although we expect demand in the UK, France, Germany and Italy to be strong as well.”
Morris explained that the model’s key advantage in the US is that its non-car status allows it to sidestep a tangle of compliance issues that surrounds many imported low-volume sports cars.
While anxious to avoid over-confidence, Morris believes that 3 Wheeler sales could match those of all four-wheeled Morgans combined once the new edition is established in major markets.
Historically, the 3 Wheeler was Morgan’s best-seller, and even the 2011 model matched four-wheeler sales for a time.