image 1
Write What You Drive

A showcase of independent motoring journalism and automotive travails

You've Changed Your Tune: "Getting" Morgan

Can love at first sight exist? If it can where some things are concerned, others must nearly always be an acquired taste. Ale, coffee and blue cheese aren't things you're likely to fall in love with at the first encounter, but all three are things a good number of people with more mature tastes will profess a deep appreciation of - to the point that they'll pay well over the odds for any one of them.

Sometimes, the thing you must persevere with in order to appreciate can be all the more satisfying in the long run. The first time I heard a Pixies album, it all felt a bit lo-fi and disjointed, punctuated with lyrics about things I didn't understand. Something compelled me to stick with it; perhaps hitting just the right point between adolescence and adulthood, and now their filthy guitars and borderline maniacal screams make the hairs on my arms stand up on the mundanity of my morning commute.

Until recently though, even the maturity that had blessed me with an appreciation of needlessly expensive coffee and beer, smelly cheese and Massachusetts-based alternative rock music wasn't enough for me to get Morgans. The lazy summary of the Morgan Motor Company has always been that they build wooden cars, some with 3 wheels, and haven't really updated the design for the last 80 years.

Watching this 2003 episode of Top Gear, a 16 year old me sniggered along with Clarkson at the wooden chassis and how slow the Plus 8 was compared to the poster boy Noble M12. Why on earth would you want to buy something so backward-looking and slow, when you could have a space-age composite rocket ship like the Noble?

I did the factory tour in 2014; it was all very storybook - men in aprons hewing chassis from ash and hand forming aluminium panels. There are stories abound, as you are taken through the various production sheds, about how no two panels are the same and how long it takes for one of the craftsmen to learn their trade.

It's a fantastic visitor attraction (and actually a decent revenue stream for the company), a bustling anachronism of half-finished cars, seemingly arbitrarily wheeled between build sheds. Like all the most endearing vehicles, they seem to arrive finished at the end of the line in spite of, rather than because of, the organisation and efficiency of the preceding process.

Charming though it may be, none of this particularly fills you with confidence in the quality or technological competence of the end product. I was more enamoured with the company as a result of the tour, but my perception hadn't changed a great deal - and I still wouldn't have considered buying one in a million years.

Morgan obviously doesn't have the resources to develop and build their own powertrains (I mean, it went so well when TVR tried it...) so have tended to use Ford and BMW customer engines. That probably does help perception a little (insert joke about wooden crankshafts here), and who doesn't love the juxtaposition of a Ford Fiesta engine winding up in something altogether less corporate?

Amongst in-fighting and buyouts at boardroom level, the use of BMW engines has continued into the new Morgan Plus Six; using the widely celebrated turbocharged straight-6 from, amongst others, the M140i. The idea of a Plus Six Morgan has led to consternation and boardroom oustings in the past, but this time it looks to have made it through to production.

Revealed at the Geneva Motorshow this year - I think it looks fucking ace. The styling is a brutish mix of the traditional Morgan shape, and modern purpose - the dark green of the show car setting this off nicely with almost military overtones. An all-new straight-6, RWD platform; likely not as extensively (and expensively) engineered as the Supra and Z4 with which it shares a powertrain, the Morgan will more likely deliver the sort of undiluted drive journos are always pining after. It certainly won't have a BMW dash to whinge about a-la Supra either.

Given the choice, I'd take the new Plus Six over either the Supra or bloated Z4 - despite the £30k premium and likely (definitely) shonkier build quality and lack of tech. It's the more compact, better looking and vastly more interesting of the three, and I'd forgive it its inevitable foibles for that. It's taken me to the age of 32, but I definitely, finally, get it...