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.
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.