THE MORGAN 3 WHEELER RETURNS
No-one bats an eyelid as I turn right out of Pickersleigh Road, pause for the traffic lights, and change up as I pass the Post Office. Why should they? The good people of Malvern Link have been used to the sight of Morgans cruising down Worcester Road ever since HFS Morgan started hand-building cars here over 100 years ago. A Morgan 3-Wheeler might turn heads on every other High Street, but here, even a brand new one complete with chequered nose and bullet hole detailing, is treated as just another every-day occurrence.
Think of today’s 3-Wheeler as a modern take on a British classic, however, this one is being made, once again, by the original manufacturer. Morgan is the world’s oldest and only family owned car manufacturer; HFS’s grandson Charles holds the reins these days. Production of the original 3 wheeled cars stopped in 1953, but now nearly 60 years later Morgan’s chief designer and local-boy Matt Humphries has decided it’s time for another one.
By coupling a 1910cc American made S&S V twin to the same 5 speed gearbox as you’ll find in Mazda’s MX5, Morgan’s modern-day trike promises all of the traditional thrills of HFS’s original cars but with the added convenience of 21st century reliability. Don’t however expect any modern-day driver aids. Your £30,000 may secure you a hand-built car complete with some beautiful detailing such as turned aluminium levers, hand-stitched quilted leather, altimeter-style dials and even a Eurofighter bomb release switch to “fire” the engine, but don’t expect a radio, power-steering, servo-assisted brakes, heater, or any kind of weather gear.
There are no doors either. You simply step over the side panel and slide down in to the snug fitting cockpit. The pedal-box is narrow and from behind the wheel everything feels more bi-plane than car. Hold the key, press the button and the engine churns before bursting in to life and settling into a wonderfully flatulent idle. The whole thing feels alive. A few revs add a lot of vibration, making the mirrors twitch like those of a vintage motorcycle.
Into First; there’s only one place to head in a car like this: Shelsley Walsh. Gentleman racers have been competing against the clock and each other at Shelsley Walsh since 1905. Older than Indianapolis, Brooklands and Le’Mans, this 1000 yard strip of narrow, uphill tarmac is the oldest motor sport venue in continuous use in the world. “As old as motorsport itself and yet as modern as today” is how the Midland Auto Club put it, and as I pull in to the paddock, drawing appreciative glances from the MAC members who keep this place spic-and-span, it’s hard to disagree with their claims. The valley’s natural amphitheatre is the perfect place for petrol-heads like me. A day here drinking tea and eating fruit-cake, together with the heady scents of hot exhausts and racing oil, feels as quintessentially English as Wimbledon or the Cricket from Lords.
Both Shelsley’s and the Morgan’s old-world charm make it the perfect place to take some photos, and it’s also the perfect place to enjoy the 3-Wheeler’s performance. After a couple of slow runs up the hill to get the feel of the place, it’s hard to resist spinning the single rear wheel off the start-line, like the hill-climbers do, and seeing whether or not I can match Morgan’s 0-60 in 4.5 seconds claims.
Accompanied by the engine’s Gatling gun sound track, and enough torque to snap my neck back, the track’s high banking and the 3-Wheeler’s wind-in-your-face character, plus its stiff ride, mean things certainly feel rapid enough. At the Bottom S I lift off, Shelsley’s corners look decidedly tighter at speed, and despite its skinny front tires and lack of a fourth corner, it’s clear the Morgan’s talents extend way beyond mine. I reach to top, catch my breath on the return loop, and cruise back down the hill savouring both the moment and the scenery.
It’s time to return to the factory, and as I pass the Post Office and pause once again for the lights- my progress, as before, goes un-noticed. I turn into Pickersleigh Lane. Little do the people of Worcestershire know, I’ve just set my own personal best at Shelsley Walsh in a car that was built just at the end of the road. My smile tells its own story.
Engine: 1910cc V-twin petrol
Power: 115 bhp @5000 rpm
Torque: 100 lbft @ 500 – 4500rpm
Transmission: 5 speed automatic manual
Performance: 0-62mph 4.5 sec
Max Speed: 115mph
MPG: 45 (estimated).
Price: from £30,000
For more information on Morgan, visit www.morgan-motor.co.uk
Special thanks to Shelsley Walsh for allowing me on the hill: www.shelsley-walsh.co.uk