By on October 31, 2012

Morgan’s wood-framed sports cars are facing an existential threat; a species of fungus that infects ash trees, which are the source of wood used on Morgan’s legendary sports cars.

Ash has been used for over a century, but the situation could necessitate a switch to other kinds of wood. Ash dieback, as the disease is known, has been ravaging ash trees in the UK, and usually kills 90 percent of trees that become infected.

Steve Morris, Morgan’s Operations Director, told the Daily Mail

‘Ash has very good properties for stability and the way it can be formed. We have been using ash for traditional building for 100 years. It is possible that we would have to look at other types of wood. This news is a worry for us and we are taking it very seriously. It would be a shame if the problem escalated.’ 

A statement on the Morgan website claims that the company has a two year supply of ash wood, and that it could also be sourced from France, Germany, the United States and Belgium.

Hat tip to Reddit Autos

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32 Comments on “Morgan Threatened By Tree Fungus...”


  • avatar
    Acubra

    As one LJK Setright observed, “wood is an excellent material for making trees, but otherwise should not be trusted”.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Around here the emerald ash borer beetle has dessimated the ash tree population and (I presume) the Morgan population.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    Derek, I see the obvious car slant here, yet this seems to me to trivialize what the loss of these great trees means to an entire country.

    • 0 avatar

      Jeff,

      With all due respect, this the Truth About Cars not the Truth About Trees. I know nothing about trees, ecology, England’s tree population etc.

      • 0 avatar
        raded

        Trees serve numerous purposes

        We sometimes must move/remove trees in order to build roads where we might drive our automobiles
        Trees can assist in braking when conventional methods fail
        Wood, the material trees are made from, is also used in Morgans, the interiors of luxury cars, and as the inspiration for some plastic bits in cheaper cars

        Unrelated edit: How/when did my avatar change from my cute Japanese hatchback to some random muscle car?

      • 0 avatar
        Splorg McGillicuddy

        I patiently away an April Fool’s Day redesign for The Truth About Trees dot com.

    • 0 avatar
      oldfatandrich

      Jeff, the UK should commence worrying more about the loss of its manufacturing base than about the loss of its ash trees.

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff Waingrow

        Dear old:

        I agree fully with you. It’s all a matter of proportion, and the current government in GB is proving that an austerity budget in a deep recession is doing no good for the workers there. As for trees, Derek is right that he’d best stay out of the aborist end of things; instead, he might’ve simply pointed out that the grave loss of ash trees in GB may require Morgan to turn to another wood, or something else again. Hardly a human tragedy or even an automobile one, I don’t think.

  • avatar
    Xeranar

    Morgan’s are treated so I doubt the beetles would attack and certainly not a fungus. On top of that there is a cottage industry for Morgan woodworkers. It would be a loss but other woods could fill the role like oak or maple perhaps. I’m not familiar enough to judge their rigidity/flexibility but hopefully the tree loss can be curtailed and Morgan can keep producing a unique sports car.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Maybe the folks at Morgan can start some seedlings and create their own forest. Or better yet get into the 20th century and find a comparable wood or dare I say steel or aluminum with the same properties.

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    Tell you what isn’t going die of disease. Steel or aluminium. I hate to poop on the traditionalists, but why the hell do Morgan still use wood for frames? Structurally compared to steel or even aluminium it is not very good. Why are wood frames so intrinsic to a Morgan? It’s not like it’s a highly visible part of the car.
    Bar the flat-cap and rivet-counting beard-brigade, if Morgan stopped using wood for frames, who really would notice or care?

    • 0 avatar
      raded

      Every Morgan owner and most of us car blog reader types would notice. Wood is Morgan’s identity at this point. It’d be like Porsche making a 911 that didn’t have the engine behind the rear axle. It’s their identity at this point.

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      Hi Sinistermisterman….

      Several random and no doubt unreliable thoughts:

      1) Some versions of modern Corvettes use balsa-wood for the floor (!);

      2) Ash is used in baseball bats because of its unique resilience and toughness;

      3) Did Morgan ever hear of Zinssar’s “Woodlife Classic” -a potent fungicide? Well, they do now…

      4) Decades ago, the US Army experimented with making 2.5-ton truck frames out of laminated ash sections: those trucks could go over staggered moguls without deformation, whereas metal-framed vehicles were torn apart with stress cracking. So the right wood can have some unique and favorable properties. (Truck idea discontinued because cost-of-manufacture was too high.)

      ————–

  • avatar
    BigMeats

    I came to this thread immediately after reading most of the comics on The Oatmeal. The sense of continuity was creepy.

  • avatar
    Thinkin...

    Let’s just be clear here: Every Morgan made has a steel chassis. Morgan uses wood for the frame atop the chassis to which the bodywork is mounted. Amazing cottage industry to be sure, but far too many self-professed “car guys” think that Morgan uses wood for the actual chassis, which it never has.

    • 0 avatar
      daveainchina

      Wouldn’t it be hard to hang suspension components off of a wood frame anyway?

      I can’t see that working since sometime around the Model T. Cars became just too heavy and we very rapidly moved away from leaf spring type suspensions up front.

      • 0 avatar
        outback_ute

        Marcos made timber (plywood) monocoques, with steel reinforcing/load spreading at suspension pickups and so forth in the late 1960′s (before changing to a steel spaceframe) using the same construction techniques as boat building.

        I have seen some early Brush vintage cars which had timber poles for the axles, they had chain driven wheels and coil spring suspension.

      • 0 avatar
        daveainchina

        I wasn’t thinking of laminates and that when I wrote that. Laminates most definitely would have the strength and durability.

        I don’t think that’s how morgan uses the wood though.

    • 0 avatar
      MarkP

      Right you are, thinking. I saw an episode of the British show Wheeler Dealers in which they replace the frame of an older Morgan with a brand new one. It was, of course, steel, just like the one it replaced. I have to admit that I labored for a long time under the misapprehension that their frames were wood because the car mags always made it sound that way.

    • 0 avatar
      Austinpowerless

      Steel, or aluminum, you mean. All the aero cars use an aluminum frame.

  • avatar
    Joss

    That doesn’t stop Scalextric making a plastic Morgan..
    Trees have their revenge when they fall on cars.. avoid fungus under the toenail – takes 3 months of pills that could destroy your liver to get rid of.

  • avatar
    Grumpy

    Morgan has a wonderful opportunity here to turn the GB auto industry on its ear, by substituting carbon fibre pieces for all the wood ones. Much stronger and lighter and requires lots of forming and hand work which will keep current staff employed once they get the hang of the newfangled stuff.

    Just what the world needs, a brand new, antique, vintage supercar.

  • avatar
    niky

    You can do wood-fiber composites, which would allow the use of otherwise unusable bits of wood, and provide extra strength. Mix in a little CF and you’ve got a little something for everyone.

  • avatar

    Detroit was once home to thousands of graceful elm trees. You could look down just about any residential street and see a vase shaped canopy. Then Dutch Elm Disease, spread by a species of beetle, wiped just about all of them out.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      And then people planted ash and maple trees to replace those elms. Now all the ash trees in SE Michigan are dead. God help us if something comes to kill all the maples. All we can do now is plant as many types of tree as possible. In Huntington Woods, the city is big on residents planting tree diversity.

  • avatar
    Mr Nosy

    Oh,if only someone would give a higher up at Morgan a current calender for Christmas.Until,then chaps,yank out the Janke wood hardness scale to find other sorts of tree bits & things & such.

  • avatar
    xtsoftxcy

    Jeff, the UK should commence worrying more about the loss of its manufacturing base than about the loss of its ash trees.http://www.journeygo.com

  • avatar
    JohnTheDriver

    This is hilarious, about a week ago I mentioned the wooden flooring on a Morgan and one of the esteemed TTAC writers opined how this was really an advanced technology of some kind and even mentioned the balsa wood used on the ‘vette in comparison. Truth about cars indeed. This word “truth” … I do not think it means what you think it means.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    The Ash-apocalypse affects more than cars. Baseball bats and Stratocasters come to mind.

  • avatar
    stevef1

    Being in a sub-catogory of one (qualified forester based in the UK with an interest in cars) at last my chance for an expert comment!
    The ash tree disease mentioned has killed 90% of ash trees in Denmark and has just been spotted in the UK – likely imported with affected saplings from the Continent. In a classic case of stable door closing these imports have now been banned, but the disease has been spotted in trees planted last year – these are now burnt, but almost certianly too late to stop the spread. For users of ash timber it’s likley to lead to much more timber on the market for the next few years as owners cut before they lose it. The landscape impact will be serious if the disease spreads as ash is one of the three most common native trees in the UK.
    There!


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