rear tyre whose width probably exceeds that of both front tyres combined.
The chassis is a simple steel spaceframe designed by Morgan but manufactured in Hinckley, while the body is not some glassfibre lash-up but made from beautifully crafted and ultra-light aluminium by Premier Sheet Metal in Coventry. Pretty much all Morgan does is paint, trim and assemble them.
I have been a touch nervous of sporting three-wheelers ever since one all but inverted on me around 15 years ago. More than a touch actually — I’ve not driven one since. The cockpit is snug enough to make a Caterham feel spacious. The seat is fixed but the pedal box moves, and while I still felt short of legroom, Morgan assures me production cars will fit even my 6ft 4in frame. What will not be provided, at least in this generation, EEO
is anywhere to put your left foot other than resting it on top of the clutch. The footwell is too cramped in any case and had I not pulled on my race boots in a rare moment of clarity, I’d have been driving in my socks.
You turn the key and then to reach the starter button you flip up the same cover as Eurofighter pilots flip to reach their missile release switch. I guess a little theatre never did any harm.
The air-cooled V-twin settles down at a rumbustiously farting, thumping, rasping idle. It only revs to 5200rpm and seems to make the same noise only at differing volumes throughout. It is to a Ferrari V12 what Muddy Waters is to Mozart, and none the worse for that.
Tug the fly-off handbrake, find first and burp your way out of the factory. As Morgans have been trundling up and down Malvern’s High Street for longer than even Malvern’s oldest resident is likely to remember, it causes no great sensation. Appreciative glances, the odd pointing finger, but nothing like the showstopping reception I imagine its sound and sight will likely be accorded elsewhere.
The roads round here are no place to take any car in less than optimal configuration and tune. Turns over blind crests pepper the Malvern Hills, and there are myriad camber and surface changes, not to mention some fiendish corner combinations with evilly tightening radii. How could a car hobbled with what appears to be the significant disability of having only three wheels possibly cope? Strange thing is it doesn’t feel like it’s a limb down. The engine’s finest characteristic is the way it delivers explosive power at less than
2000rpm, yet despite what you might think would be the traction limitations of one-wheel drive and all that weight slung out front, you will not overwhelm the longitudinal grip of that rear tyre on a dry surface unless you dump the clutch from a standstill.
You soon learn that torque is everything and that even at as low as 5000rpm it’s time to find another gear. Here lies disappointment, for the gearbox is nothing like the quick and slick machine it is in an MX5. I hope this is representative of nothing more than the fact it’s in a hard-worked, used and abused prototype.
So what you do is use fourth on roads you’d normally tackle in third, let the torque take the strain and concentrate on your driving instead.
Whoever set this car up needs recognition for the achievement. Despite the deeply unsettling experience of my last three-wheeler outing, within 10 minutes I was driving this threewheeler with the same level of commitment as I would a Caterham or Lotus Elise. On the track it might be different, but on public roads where margins must be left, I never once felt constrained by the car’s unorthodox configuration.
At sane speeds it doesn’t overor understeer: it just steers. And if the width of the front tyres alone makes that seem implausible, I felt the same until I drove it. Ultimately it does understeer gently, yet it combines this with ride comfort that will amaze anyone used to Morgan’s traditional sliding pillars. It’s no limousine, but it won’t make your bones rattle.
But its greatest trick is its ability to make slow seem fast. If you drive modern, powerful sports cars on huge tyres along a fine stretch of road, usually your choice is either to drive in a way not too prejudicial to the liberty of your licence which often defeats the point, or take the risk, drive the car as its maker intended and incur the wrath of other road users. By making 70mph seem like about 110mph, the Morgan solves this puzzle rather neatly. You’ll enjoy the car, keep your licence, amuse rather than infuriate the locals and spend less time stuck in traffic because you take longer to get from the head of one queue to the tail of the next.
Charles Morgan will sell you a 3 Wheeler for £30,000 but you’ll need to be prepared to wait. He already has 500 deposit cheques, enough to fill every order from now until this time next year, and that’s before any customer has driven one and before the car goes on sale in the US which, as a motorised tricycle, it is entitled to do.
I think he’s going to get swamped and not just because the car looks wonderful, is a delight to drive and is beautifully built. I think it’s deftly timed, too. It appeals across the ages (Morgan has had orders from people who owned original three-wheelers), is easy to enjoy legally, and because it weighs less than 500kg and does over 40mpg, is easier than most recreational cars to justify in these ecologically aware times.
For now, then, all seems well at Morgan, which as it is now our largest indigenous, independently-owned car manufacturer is reassuring. Next spring Charles Morgan will pull the covers off yet another new car to propel his company forward. Which is all the excuse I will need for another trip to Malvern.