First things first. I’m surprisingly easily embarrassed, and – other than for magazine road testing purposes – I wouldn’t be seen dead in a Grinnall Scorpion, a Rocket, and Arial Atom etc. I even feel a bit conspicuous and exposed in a Caterham.
So I expected to enjoy the Morgan 3 Wheeler, but in a slightly red-faced manner. I mean, you can’t exactly miss it can you! There’s a 120bhp 2-liter V-twin hung off the front (yes, that’s one liter per cylinder!), exhausts designed to look like tusks stretching the (short) length of the car, spindly large diameter wheels up front and apparently no wheel at all at the rear, and one of the more exposed cockpits in the sports car world, protected only be two tiny aero screens. Oh blimey – and this is without the many wild and whacky graphics options currently available from Morgan.
But you have to love the concept of the thing, a straight copy of the original Morgan 3 Wheeler that ran from 1910 to 1953, just a bit bigger and a lot faster this time round. Ironically it came about when American company Liberty Motors launched its own modern take on the original Morgan, which it named the Ace Cycle Car. The Morgan guys tried it, were reasonably impressed, and worked up their own version in conjunction with Liberty, swapping the Harley engine for the bigger, stronger S&S unit.
There aren’t actually many shared parts between Liberty and Morgan now. The Morgan’s chassis is similar but different in detail, the body is made partly in Coventry, partly at the Malvern factory and the styling of the interior and the exterior fittings is down to Morgan’s Matthew Humphries.
You have to love the cheek of the thing. The starter button is under a bomb release safety catch. Give it a prod and the V-twin quickly shakes into life, the force of its massive pistons providing a full vibro massage as the exhaust thump-thump-thumps just below your elbow. It sounds like a single cylinder at idle because you hear only really hear the exhaust closest to you, while up ahead the front mudguards busily dance to their own tune.
Clutch down, first gear engaged, bit of gas and we’re off. The torque (140lb ft) is immense for such a lightweight machine so it’s the easiest thing in the world to pull away and manoeuvre. And then boot it and it surges forward, the thump-thump-thump giving way to a meatier blare of exhausts as the vibration eases and smooths into a healthy buzz.
Snick through the gears – there’s no real need to rev the engine hard, but it’s fun when you do – and the speed just keeps on building. It’s not that uncontrollable feeling that some fairly quick machinery gives, where the cars seems to be getting away from you; this is pure man and machine in noisy harmony, and it’s flippin’ hilarious!
Back down the gears, boom, boom, boom, whip round the next corner, up a gear again, foot down, brake hard, down a gear, up a gear… This thing is so much fun! It’s always odd seeing the front wheels steering from the cockpit, and weirder still when they’re just a few inches wide, but the Morgan turns in accurately, unphased by bumps, while the much wider, belt-driven rear tire just seems to grip and grip, well beyond what you’d expect.
With more confidence you find you can get the rear sliding neatly but somehow it feels easy and natural to allow it to do so – probably because it’s just inches behind you.
Faults? Well, viewed as a car, it’s one large rolling lesson in impracticality. No weather protection, no luggage space (though you can put a rack on the back), no radio, no coat hanger hooks, no, err… Well you get the picture. Viewed as a mode of transport that happens to be extremely maneuverable, economical and massively entertaining, it’s near-perfect, and I’d just pick up on the slight squidiginess of the brake pedal and vagueness of the indicator stalk (which times out rather than self-cancels) relative to the ultra-precision of the steering, clutch and gearshift as problems.
It doesn’t feel like a three-wheeled motorcycle, whatever people will claim in the next few weeks. It’s a totally different feeling of connection with the road. It’s a pure vintage car experience, without the stress and with only, say, 20% of the character removed. And to retain 80% of a vintage character means there’s more character left in the Morgan 3 Wheeler than perhaps any other vehicle currently available.
Morgan has already taken 500 deposits for 3 Wheelers and hasn’t even launched it in the United States yet. At 25,000 GBP plus VAT it’s not a cheap toy. But it’s a whole lot of laughs.