What is it?
Forget your McLarens or Bugattis, the Morgan 3 Wheeler is here and it’s by some margin the most exciting car of this or, pretty much, any other decade. It’s a successor to the trike Morgan made between 1909 and 1953, which lapped Brooklands at 100mph and won the French Grand Prix in 1913.
The modern recreation, like the earlier car, is a front V-twin engined, rear-driver. This time it gets a bespoke 1.8-litre motor, built by S&S in the States (S&S started tuning Harley engines, but this is its own unit which is lighter and, well, we’re told better).
It drives through a Mazda MX-5 five-speed gearbox, then through a Harley-style belt to a single rear wheel (no differential, obviously). That rear gets a nice grippy Toyo Proxes tyre while, at the front, there are skinny Avon motorbike tyres.
Given the air-cooled engine hangs out the front too, you might think that would make it rather understeery, but 115bhp through the back wheel promises to provide some balance. It costs £30,000 and Morgan has already taken 480 orders.
What’s it like?
Bonkers, obviously. There’s a removable steering wheel, then you slide down into the seat – a bit wider than a Caterham’s, but still very snug – and push your feet down into the tight footwell. Think Caterham for width down there; narrow shoes are an advantage.
The pedal layout leaves the brake pedal (for the unassisted drum at the rear, small discs at the front) a touch low for heel and toeing, but the pedal weights are all consistent. There’s no assistance for the steering either, but that doesn’t matter – empty of fuel but otherwise complete, the 3 Wheeler weighs around 490kg.
The big engine takes a while to fire. The temptation is to give it some throttle to help it along, but it’s best to just leave the starter turning over until it settles to a lumpy – very lumpy, but endearingly, wonderfully lumpy – burble. Ease out the clutch and there’s a bundle of torque to pull away smoothly and cleanly; throttle response is lovely, very clean, linear. And because the cylinders are nearly a litre each in size, not hyperactive. Just nice.
So you’re off. As speed builds the wheel takes on some lightness at first, then gets more resistance back again as centrifugal forces aim to keep those diddy front wheels going straight. Nonetheless it’s plenty responsive – lean out the side to adjust the mirror and the merest unintentional movement of the wheel changes the Morgan’s line. Man, it’s evocative, watching those wheels bounce up and down.
They do bounce, too. This is a light car and the rear wheel is right behind your back, so when the 3 Wheeler takes a bump – and on the roads surrounding Goodwood House, motor circuit, and racecourse, where we mingled with Festival of Speed traffic for our drive – there are bumps aplenty. They make the driving experience – how shall we call it? – honest. Whatever there is on the road, you feel. You can feel the engineering in the 3 Wheeler, it’s presented to you, placed right in front of you, transmitting road to driver. The grip levels at the front, any slip at the back, it’s all there for you.
The 3 Wheeler still feels a little rough at the edges, and the brakes take some pushing, but I’d expect that. This is probably a car that you get into the more you drive it. I’d like more time and on clearer roads than our drive allowed to really exploit the handling.
What’s certain is that the grip levels are higher than I’d expected, but the initial limit is felt by the front first. At low speeds it’s very easy to bring the rear into play – from rest, if you’re enthusiastic, it’s hard not to. But that’s cool – a slightly sideways take-off seems de rigueur in this kind of car. Tally ho and what-what and all.
There’s no weather gear but there are some little wind deflectors and they’re pretty effective. Buffeting is so limited that a lid is optional – it didn’t even shake my glasses nearly off like it does in most open topped, screen-less cars. Although, if you’re around other traffic, I guess some protective headgear is advisable.
Should I buy one?
Well, there’s a reason that, as I write on day one of Goodwood’s Festival of Speed, 480 people have bought one without driving the darned thing, and still more will have done so by the end of the weekend. If you’re temped, the evidence from this drive is that there’s no compelling reason not to.
Even if a tastier drive later does throw up some handling anomalies, this is still a massively appealing machine – the noise the V-twin makes through its mid-range (it only revs to 6000rpm) would be worth it alone. Throw in the view, the strong acceleration (0-60 is estimated at 4.5sec), the close interaction and, well, just the whole damned loveliness of owning a machine like this, and it’s hard to argue against it. If everyone drove something like this, the motoring world would be a happier place.
What is it?