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The evocative Morgan Plus 8 Speedster appeals to both head and heart, and even its high price doesn't dull the shine
Nic Cackett
3 July 2014

What is it?

Fresh from its public debut at Goodwood, this is the new Morgan Speedster; a raked and modestly restyled version of the Plus 8 intended to celebrate 100 years of car-building at the firm’s factory in Malvern. 

The changes are skin-deep, yet utterly beguiling up close. Scything the windscreen, side windows, the roof and its mechanism from the Plus 8’s body has uncluttered it to brilliant effect; Morgan is selling the limited-edition concept as stripped-out, but really it’s just clean-lined - and supremely handsome. 

In place of the windscreen there’s now a twin-domed bubble of polycarbonate airfoil and, in the car we drive, a roll-over bar behind the headrests. Side exhausts and a leather bonnet strap complete the bygone-era look, although it’s arguably the black alloys posing as steel wheels (another option) which catch the eye when static. 

Underneath, it’s pure Plus 8; meaning that were you to undress the surrounding sensuousness, you’d find the same bonded and riveted aluminium chassis beneath an English ash frame that carries the body panels. The Speedster gets the same 4.8-litre BMW V8, too, although Morgan has taken the opportunity to begin its roll out of paddle shifters - hooked up here to the same conventional six-speed automatic gearbox offered before. 

What's it like?

When road testing the stock Plus 8 a couple of years ago, we practically told ourselves off in the verdict for a lack of objectivity in the kindly 3-star rating; well, in the Speedster’s case, the rose-tinted blinkers are firmly on long before the keys turn up. 

Yes, Morgan has swept away what little all-weather usability the car had - thereby further reducing the days you’d take it out of the garage even further - but in the sepia of early evening sunshine, its dashing appearance consummately knocks such small-minded practicalities for six.

In fact, by the time you’ve fallen into the leather seats, thumbed the V8 into barely silenced life and propped an arm on the Speedster’s louche and low-slung doors, the idea of the thing as an absurdly satisfying piece of automotive confectionary hardens in the mind like Bakelite. 

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Unlike the Plus 8, it doesn’t completely foil such romanticism out on the road either - which is strange considering the shared nature of practically everything. Perhaps it’s because there’s less gubbings to rattle around with the hodgepodge of so much glass and metal gone. Or because the car rides more consistently on 18-inch wheels than our long-termer did on 19s. 

Whatever the reason, the Speedster seems to cover ground far more adequately - even with ones legs in a concessionary tangle to fit the offset, left-hand-drive pedals. The auto ‘box and lusty V8 grunt help of course - offering a zingy step off and so much torque that the ZF transmission rarely decides to downshift; leaving you to happily rummage through the low-range bellow. 

Kept here, with much wind in your hair (the case for a helmet plausible; a hat, undeniable) the car’s large-nosed front and big-power rear settles into a jaunty, carefree stride wholly at one with the gentleman-racer image. Only by getting unduly carried away is there commensurately less to like. 

Driven beyond briskly, the Plus 8’s familiar foibles pop up; the difficult to modulate brakes, inconsistent steering and a lack of proper honing in the suspension all contribute to a marked shortfall in driver confidence at turn-in. The flimsy new paddles mean the Speedster adds its own blemish, the manual gear changes being baggy and half a second too slow to make much of an impact. 

Should I buy one?

Lord, yes. There are going to be just 60 Speedsters, meaning exclusivity can be added to the car’s list of attributes. Perhaps that doesn’t include the kind of flat-chat handling that a hardcore enthusiast would appreciate or the ultimate in English refinement, but the niche audience for either is already very well served by the rest of the low-volume British car industry. 

Morgan, as ever, promises something slightly different, and the Speedster represents a wonderfully evocative take on its already idiosyncratic version of a V8-powered open-top. The high price - £70k before you start ticking - isn’t really any kind of impediment given the famously voracious ongoing demand. 

Certainly, the factory on Pickersleigh Road has always relied on a certain kind of spellbound subjective affection to fill the order books; the Speedster - following on from the 3-Wheeler - is merely the latest evidence that the right kind of sorcery continues to occur in the Malvern hills. 

Morgan Plus 8 Speedster

Price £69,995 (starting) 0-62mph 4.5 secs Top speed 155mph Economy 26.0mpg Co2 256g/km Kerbweight 1100kg Engine V8, 4799cc, petrol Installation Front, longitudinal Power 390bhp at 6300rpm Torque 370lb ft at 3400rpm Gearbox Six-speed automatic

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Wanos 14 July 2014

you either get them or you don't....

Personally I don't.
gaco1 4 July 2014

They never learn...

Morgans will always end up in the periphery because their dynamics utterly suck, and how many times does the entire press have to remind them of this before they get the message and do something about this? Its not as if they are all thick, or are they??

I'd seriously consider a Morgan, if they sorted its reported dynamic shortcomings. As it stands, I consider Morgan to be a rip-off merchant, offering to sell a car that had its sell by date in the 40s. Seriously if I wanted a 1940s car, I'd get a real one, not this half baked pastiche.

JOHN T SHEA 4 July 2014

HERE'S TO BUGS IN YOUR TEETH!

Morgan are STILL using the old unblown BMW 4.8 litre V8 and 6 speed ZF auto!? How many of them did they buy? But I like the car, particularly the disc wheels. Just pack a toothbrush to get the bugs out of your teeth.

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