Our first report on the Morgan 3 Wheeler, the newest addition to our long-term fleet.
It’s lunchtime when snapper Stan Papior and I arrive at Morgan’s factory in Malvern.
You can tell it’s lunchtime because half the workforce is sitting outside, in the sunshine, eating their sandwiches. The fact that they sit outside and eat their sandwiches, and that I knew they would be doing so beforehand, is one of the many reasons why I love coming here.
There’s no gate or security man to drive past at Morgan; as soon as you turn in to the place, you’re in the middle of it, ambling down the hill like it was 1913 and you were here to trade in a horse for a shiny new Runabout Deluxe. Try visiting McLaren and ditching your car on a ‘no parking’ sign; Ron Dennis would have you frogmarched off the premises at once.
Even at Ariel or Caterham, you’ll be politely asked what you’re doing on the premises. But at Morgan, the sign is handpainted with a spray can; no one gives a toss. Later, I’m told that they didn’t even used to bother organising the tours that now churn merrily past; people just wandered in and one of the sandwich eaters would explain what was happening.
I love that, and all the stories like it. I’d like to take the tour myself, but Stan and I are here on spectacularly brilliant business: to collect our long-term 3 Wheeler. I’m staggered to learn that most buyers don’t come to pick up their cars, instead picking them up from their local dealer.
What people do instead is show up during the build process to see their pride and joy coming together. As you might remember, we’ve done that already; Steve Cropley got his hands dirty some months ago – and most likely had his sandwich outside, too.
Now it’s ready and, cor blimey, didn’t we spec it well? I’ve never been quite as enamoured with the 3 Wheeler look as some in the office, but even I’m prepared to admit that in Land Rover Graphite Blue and with tan leather upholstery, it looks terrific. For a company overly fascinated by RAF roundels and mock bullet holes, the reproduction and placement of the original Autocar logo has been so sensitively handled that for a moment I consider whether we should have one tattooed on Stan’s arm, navy cook style.
Morgan’s James Gilbert talks me through the car. The 3 Wheeler has changed perceptibly from the early model we road tested in 2012. The fit and finish is now superb, helped by a real sense of nattiness and charm in everything you can touch and toggle.
Our optional extras have been judiciously selected, highlights being a lock box in the footwell (essential for valuables), a smaller-than-standard Alcantara-clad steering wheel and two dinky switches for the heated seats (also essential, given the lack of a heater). What we haven’t gone for is a taller wraparound windscreen, opting instead for the modest eyeball protection of the original wind deflectors.
Gilbert offers us the loan of a lid for the 125-mile return trip, a suggestion I bat away with the cocksureness of a fighter ace being offered a cushion for the seat of his Spitfire. Not five minutes from the non-existent gate, I realise I’ve made the wrong call. But by then I’m too wrapped up in the business of recalibrating my legs and arms to work a car as tiny and as nakedly mechanical as this.
Clearly, there’s no adjusting the seat; instead, the pedal box moves. Or it will do if you’ve got a spanner set and 20 minutes to spare. Impatient to have a go, I opt to leave the pedals where they are (apparently midway between Frodo Baggins and Treebeard) and then promptly regret that too when I remember that there’s nowhere to rest your left foot in the tiny footwell apart from on the clutch pedal.
But none of this seems to matter, so uncanny and charismatic is the driving experience from behind the gorgeous S&S pushrod V-twin. With only 27 miles on the clock, the engine is as tight as a drum, and I’ve been warned not to exceed 3800rpm for the first few hours at least. I adhere to this rigidly, reminded endlessly that the rate of progress has almost nothing to do with relative enjoyment.
Instead, this materialises in the bob of the skinny front tyres, the consistency of the ride quality and the ship’s tiller eloquence of the steering wheel. It’s elemental, evocative stuff, as easy to gulp down as IPA and almost as refreshing, with the weather in Corfu mode and the Malvern Hills melting into the chocolate box lid of the Cotswolds.
By Swindon, though, I can’t feel my face, both eardrums are broken and either arm could be passably served up as medium rare. The airflow at 70mph is massive and the noise phenomenal; both register at Ariel Atom levels, which is a notch below opening the window on a space capsule during launch.
When Stan offers to swap at Membury services, I can barely hide my glee at landing in our Skoda Superb’s refrigerated, cathedralsized cabin. So the 3 Wheeler is possibly not for long journeys – but neither was my long-term Caterham Seven, and I loved that like it were a product of my loins. The Morgan has exactly the same staggering early promise, except it looks better and I fit in it even worse. The next three months ought to be a hoot.
MORGAN 3 WHEELER
Price new £31,800 Price as tested £34,567 Options Land Rover Graphite Blue paint £780, body-coloured cowl £342, black mohair tonneau £310, heated seats £260, black exhaust heat shields £250, vintage stripe £210, footwell storage box £198, leather storage pockets £180, Thatchamapproved TOAD immobiliser £165, black enamel Union Flag badges £72 Economy 26.7mpg Faults None Expenses None