Morgan is phasing out the Plus 8 – but watch that space
– MORGAN PLUS EIGHT 50TH ANNIVERSARY –
It seems a funny way to celebrate but as soon as this run of half-century Plus Eights have been built, Morgan is going to kill perhaps the most famous car in its history. Just 50 will be made, painted green if you choose the standard soft top or blue if you opt for the racier Speedster, both priced at £129,000 though this does include a Christopher Ward wristwatch. And that will be that.
Maybe. Morgan does have something else up its sleeve which it will announce later this year as a replacement for the Plus Eight and Aero models, but it will emphatically not be based on the original 1968 design.
But then again, nor is the current Plus Eight. The original Plus Eight, with ash frame and sliding pillar front suspension, breathed its last 14 years ago when the supply of Rover V8s dried up, only for the name to be applied to a visually similar but mechanically entirely different car in 2012. With a bonded aluminium structure and 4.8-litre BMW V8 engine, it was and remains an Aero 8 in all but appearance.
Just don’t imagine for a second that anything approaching a modern-feeling car lurks beneath those familiar lines. Indeed, and this will be news as good to some as it is bad to others, the Plus Eight still has a very vintage feel. Modern tub or not, the Morgan still appears to have all the structural rigidity of a jelly in an earthquake. Its ride is no longer so bad you spend your time scouring the road for pot-holes to avoid, but there is no nuance in this chassis, nor its lifeless steering or overly assisted brakes. The car is commendably light at just 1100kg, which is the only reason it feels reasonably quick, because the design of the BMW engine is even older than the car to which it is fitted, which is why despite its impressive capacity, it only delivers 367bhp.
So by any objective assessment this is not a good car, and I’ve not even started on the Land Rover Defender door handles, ludicrous BMW column stalks and the fact there is no room to stow anything at all on board. But who ever bought a Morgan for its talents? People buy Morgans for their charm and the Plus Eight is neither the first nor last car to derive much of that charm not from what it does well, but what it does badly. Which is plenty.
But there is something else going on here too, something you’ll only find if you accept there’s not much point driving it fast, and sit back, relax and do things its way. If you just amble along, the wind in your hair, V8 woofling contentedly to itself, there is one very particular form of real driving enjoyment to be had here. It’s a car for long, lazy drives on quiet roads in the summer sunshine, a place to chill out, forget your troubles and enjoy the very simple pleasures it provides.
It is not remotely a car for me because I’m far too intolerant of its flaws and far too aware of what else the same money can buy (a brand new Aston Vantage to name but one), but I am aware also that this is entirely the wrong way to look at it. The Plus Eight is unique and you’ll either get it or you won’t. I don’t, but I’m not quite so blinkered as to be unable to see why others do.