For all that the new Plus Six does to take Morgan belatedly into the 21st century, with its all-independent suspension, lightweight aluminium chassis and punchy turbocharged straight six, it doesn’t exactly advance the Malvern brand’s design language beyond, say, 1964.
That’s part of Morgan’s charm, of course, and its steadfast commitment to traditionalism is an integral component in its quiet but sustained success. So when the cross-eyed Aero 8 was unwrapped at the 2000 Geneva motor show, all bets were off.
Here was a genuine, up-to-date sports car, with a BMW V8 giving it a competitive 4.8sec 0-62mph time and promises of engaging dynamics, courtesy of new inboard shock absorbers, double-wishbone suspension and AP Racing performance brakes.
The modernisation didn’t stop there, either: niceties including air conditioning, cruise control and a heated windscreen placed the Aero 8 in another realm entirely to the brand’s existing models. Morgan being Morgan, of course, it was all still assembled around an ash wood frame, and the asymmetrical metal dashboard would look equally at home in the cockpit of a 1960s airliner. If it ain’t broke…
Just over 200 examples of this first-generation car were produced between 2000 and 2004, and they still pop up in the classifieds periodically. Its Series 2 successor, subtly restyled to comply with US safety standards and allow for a roomier cabin, packed a hefty power upgrade but was built for only a year in limited numbers, so most have been retired to private collections.
The closest the Aero 8 came to receiving what you might call a facelift was in 2005, when the Series 3 was launched with Mini headlights in place of the previous New Beetle items, giving it a more conventionally styled visage without compromising on its retro appeal.
Mechanicals were left largely untouched until the roadster entered its final form in 2007 with 362bhp from a 4.8-litre V8 that BMW kindly continued producing on a limited basis for Morgan after retiring it from its own line-up. An automatic gearbox was also made available for the first time, featuring an optional Sport mode and offering improved straight-line performance over the six-speed manual unit.