What is it?
Unveiled at the 1936 London Motor Show, the Morgan 4/4 can lay claim to being the longest running production car in the world, with 2016 marking the 80th anniversary of the British icon. Forget the Mercedes-Benz G-Class, Volkswagen Beetle and first generation Mini. The Morgan 4/4 is the ultimate king of longevity.
To celebrate the roadster’s eighth decade of existence, Morgan has produced a limited run of commemorative 4/4s. Inspired by the original first edition cars, the 80th Anniversary edition has a host of classic cues, including solid wheels with brass centre locks, quad bonnet straps, a brass grille and an old-school mohair roof with part tonneau cover.
Three classic colour schemes are also available: dark red, Saxe blue or the distinctive two-tone green of our test car. To our eyes at least, these small changes make this the best looking 4/4 yet. But does this classic roadster still have what it takes to stay relevant in a market that has recently deemed the legendary Land Rover Defender past its best? We take to the Worcestershire countryside to find out.
What's it like?
On the tight and twisty roads surrounding Morgan’s Malvern factory, the 4/4 is, initially, somewhat of a disappointment. For a back to basics sports car, the unassisted steering is surprisingly vague, the brakes feel wooden and the suspension is back-breakingly stiff - refined this is not.
But, as the road starts to open up, you begin to get a feel for the Morgan’s inherent balance. Through long sweeping corners you don’t so much steer the Morgan as guide it. This is not a car to hustle down the road with vigor, instead, the 4/4 is best when driven at a relaxed pace. Like riding a classic motorcycle, you need to forget about hitting that next apex, and instead focus on the unique experience of piloting something that’s gloriously imperfect.
Unsurprisingly, straight-line performance is rather underwhelming, with the 4/4 only capable of a 0-62 time of 8.0sec and a top speed of 115mph. But to complain about the Morgan’s outright pace would be to miss the point of the car entirely.
Weighing just 795kg, the Anniversary model is fitted with a 110bhp 1.6-litre Ford Sigma motor, which provides the perfect power to grip ratio, allowing you to dance the 4/4 through slower corners, despite the lack of a limited-slip differential. And the brilliant Mazda sourced manual gearbox with its short throw and slick action makes the process of rowing through the gears an absolute pleasure.
In fact, the Sigma motor is one of the key highlights of the 4/4. With a new sports side exit exhaust the little 1.6-unit sounds gloriously rorty, popping and cracking at low revs. It’s also impressively frugal, with Morgan claiming an average of an average of 44.1mpg.
Interior wise, the Morgan has more in common with a Georgian house than a modern-day sports car. Period Smiths dials complement the matte lacquered walnut dashboard and the box weave carpet is gloriously British. The 80th edition also gets extended leather door tops, leather door pulls and a numbered plaque to set it apart from the regular 4/4. It really does feel like a special place to be.
However, the cabin is not without its faults. The fit and finish are not up to scratch for a car that starts at £39,996. The 80th Anniversary stitching on our test car was poorly finished and the rear view mirror proved extremely fragile - ours managed to detach itself on a particularly bumpy stretch of road.
Ergonomically, the 80th edition is relatively unchanged over the standard car. The driving position is still uncomfortably upright, storage space is limited to a cubbyhole behind the seats and the traditional mohair roof (standard on the 80th edition) requires a PhD in construction to erect. But then again, who buys a Morgan to be practical?
Should I buy one?
At first glance the 80th Anniversary edition doesn’t look like a rational choice - it comes with very little kit, zero practicality and limited performance. However, it only takes a brief drive to recognise why the 4/4 has gained iconic status.
With the roof down, and the side doors removed, no other car on the market provides quite the same experience as the 4/4. You’re transported back to a time before the advent of frivolous things like traction control, aerodynamics and radial tyres. And combined with the economical and reliable Sigma engine, it offers the joys of classic motoring without the headaches that often come with it.
With only 80 limited editions being produced, and 65 cars already sold, you’ll have to be quick to get your hands on a little bit of Morgan history.
2016 Morgan 80th Anniversary 4/4 review
Location Worcestershire; On sale Now; Price £39,996; Engine 4 cyls, 1595cc, petrol; Power 110bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 92lb ft; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 795kg; Top speed 115mph; 0-62mph 8.0sec; Economy 44.1mpg; CO2/tax band 143/ 28%