By on April 1, 2013

“YOUR CAR!!!! I LOVE YOUR CAR!!!!” She was a Slavic-faced woman in her mid-twenties, not bad for New York and positively model-grade by Midwestern standards, and she was literally hopping up and down on the streetcorner.

“It’s not a car,” I said, wedged into the Morgan’s extremely tight drivers’ compartment, feeling self-conscious in a half-face helmet that I wasn’t strictly sure was necessary or even required by law. “It’s a trike.”

“I WANT A RIDE!” she yelled. A crowd was starting to gather. The stoplight seemed to be taking an unusually long time to change.

“There isn’t room.” Wedged next to me, the Morgan’s owner, professional bon vivant and recreational speeder Alex Roy, was making a “no room” motion with his hands in her direction as he explained the situation.

“Oh,” I smirked, “I think there’s room.” But then the green light flashed and with an incongruous but very forceful Harley-blat we departed the intersection, leaving Miss Hopping Estonia 2007 in our blue-smoking wake.

Most modern gearheads know who Alex Roy is; he’s even managed to get on the Letterman show in order to brag about making it across the country in thirty-one hours and change in one of his “POLIZEI” BMW M5s. Like fellow journalist and daredevil Matt Farah, Mr. Roy is notorious for all sorts of high-dollar hijinks in various Bullruns, Gumballs, and other velvet-rope driving events. Also like Matt Farah, the real-life Alex Roy is a thoughtful intellectual with a genuine, childlike passion for cars. It’s hard not to like them both once you have any in-person exposure to them.

A few years ago, I had a couple of caustic words for the bald-by-choice Roy. In response, he sent me a copy of his book and invited me to stop by his place in New York to discuss it. I arrived ready for a good solid scrap but ended up laughing all evening at Alex’s ability to turn a phrase in the service of a story. At the heart of it, he’s one of “us”. He’s a car guy through and through. Whatever my opinion of the Gumball Rally might be, (hint: it rhymes with chucks rocks) my opinion of Alex Roy is high.

When he offered me an opportunity to spin his Morgan Trike around Lower Manhattan in the dead of night, therefore, I accepted before he could finish the sentence. I arrived at his Greenwich Village loft last Tuesday evening and found Alex screening films with his cross-country co-driver, the impeccably handsome David Maher. With Mr. Maher’s departure to do whatever millionaire playboys do in New York, Alex and I headed to the parking garage beneath his building. The trike was parked on a very steep blind exit, so my first task was to fire it up and drive away without rolling backwards and hitting my own rental car.

I hadn’t been exactly sure what to expect when I squeezed myself into the leather-lined open cockpit, but the reality of operating the 3 Wheeler is very pleasant. Three pedals, no hand clutch or anything deliberately odd like that. It starts up like a car, although there’s a master switch to flip on before hitting the starter button. My size 10.5D New Balance 993s fit the pedalbox with no difficulty, although there’s no dead pedal to speak of. This would not be a great vehicle in which to cross the country, even if one suspected it could be done in thirty-one hours. Which it could not, for reasons I’ll discuss shortly. Although final drive is by means of an unconventional and fairly delicate toothed belt, I had no trouble balancing it on the clutch and then rolling it up and out of the garage.

The last trike I drove was the the rather imperfect CanAm Spyder, which was basically a snowmobile with wheels. This, on the other hand, feels like a somewhat attenuated version of a Caterham Seven. Control efforts are very low, from the wrist-action shifter to the quick-to-engage brakes. I found it easy to place my left palm flat on the ground without altering my seating position. I don’t recommend doing this on the move, even for a moment, even just to see if you can do it. The Morgan offers a doorhandle’s-eye view of New York City traffic.

The power from the S&S-built Harley twin is more than adequate, even short-shifting to save the already-battered drive belt. It’s possible to dive for gaps between taxis, but this is no Crown Victoria and it has to be understood that in any metal-mashing encounter with anything more substantial than a Vespa the Morgan will likely come off the loser. Best to use the power to get out of trouble, rather than into it.

With 1,996 miles of hard downtown use showing on the odometer at the start of our journey, Mr. Roy’s trike has already suffered a variety of mechanical issues including the departure of both exhaust hangers, a failure of the accelerator pedal bushing, and a gradual collapse of the headlight brackets. After a few minutes in Chelsea it’s easy to see why. You, the urban Morgan driver, must continually steer between manhole covers and potholes. Striking any of them will result in a crash and rattle from the front kingpins violent enough to reposition one’s spectacles. Thankfully, the front end steers with perfect clarity and precision. It’s the back wheel that causes a spot of difficulty, really. At fifty miles per hour, any sudden manhole-cover-avoidance maneuver results in a rather startling oscillation from the rear wheel as it meanders up and down the road crown looking for a place to settle. I can easily imagine it breaking free entirely under less than considerable provocation. The way it interacts with the various steel plates and whatnot making up a large part of city streets has to be experienced to be understood but if you’ve driven an old motorcycle in New York and you’ve felt a narrow bike tire scoot on steel sideways you’ll have an idea.

The Morgan is far from autobahn-ready, and Roy describes the few racetrack laps he’s taken in it as “slower than the safety car,” but in this downtown environment it’s absolutely perfect. Not because it’s safe, spacious, easy to see, or terribly competent to drive, but because it pulls female attention like Mark Purefoy’s bathing scene in the second season of HBO’s Rome. At every one of Manhattan’s crowded crosswalks, the trike creates an absolutely hilarious phenomenon that goes something like this: children stare open-mouthed, men pretend to ignore it, and women of all types start twitching from the knees up. I experienced this phenomenon when I used to drive a Seven clone around central Ohio, but let’s face it: Columbus is a hick town and every time somebody in the city buys a Mustang GT the local paper runs a front page story entitled NEW SPORTING VELOCIPEDE PURCHASED FROM LOCAL PURVEYOR OF NON-TRACTOR MOTORIZED VEHICLES.

New York, on the other hand, is the capital of the world and the women here have seen it all. I’ve personally observed an F430 snarl its way down 7th Avenue without anybody looking in its direction whatsoever. And when the ladies of the city do deign to notice your Reventon or what have you, it’s usually with some comment regarding lack of endowment. The common-and-garden-variety 911 Turbo S is more of a hindrance to getting your groove on the Village than a BUSH/CHENEY FARM AND RANCH TEAM T-shirt would be.

Not so the Morgan. After a solid twenty minutes of seeing beautiful women run into the street for a mere chance to more closely examine the vehicle and its pilots, I asked Alex if this was par for the course. “Oh, yes,” he laughed, “I can get in trouble with this thing if I drive it around. Better to stay at home.” At perhaps sixty grand all in — the price of a Boxster 2.7 PDK with vinyl seatbacks, 13″ steel wheels, and a molded-plastic blank plate labeled “POVERTY” where the radio’s supposed to be — the Trike is an absurd value, assuming you have no concerns about the future of your marriage or the present state of your prostate gland.

Before I knew it, we’d arrived at Roy’s chosen restaurant, where we just parked the thing out front as if it were legal or advisable to do so. While I dined on some top-notch roasted chicken and chucked back the Ketel One, he laughingly observed women climbing into the Morgan for photographs again and again. “I don’t mind,” he allowed, “as long as they aren’t hurting anything.” When we walked out, a young couple was attempting to photograph themselves in front of the Morgan.

“I’m the owner,” I announced, and simply put my arm around the lady’s waist, dragging her away. “Take a picture,” I commanded, which the boyfriend dutifully did. Then, amazingly enough, he turned to Alex to ask him about the car. “Perhaps you’d like to take a spin with me,” I whispered in my impromptu companion’s ear. She nodded eagerly; it didn’t appear that she spoke English. I caught Roy’s eye; he was clearly prepared to wingman for me. This was a man who had bluffed his way out of a hundred dicey situations. It occurred to me that the key to his rather impressive loft was probably also on the trike’s keychain. I could absolutely rely on Roy to keep this fellow occupied for hours while I alternately serenaded and violated his significant other. How could I not do it? In a moment, I attained what the Buddhists call satori. I understood why Fate had decreed that I would never be handsome, successful, or lucky: I’m simply not prepared to handle any of those things with grace. I released the lady’s waist with a final and thoroughly inappropriate caress and slumped back into the Morgan, helmet askew, prepared for the next destination.

Perhaps thirty people crowded around us as Alex hopped in and I selected first gear. I’ve seen other trikes decorated with the Flying Tigers gaping-maw graphic; I’d be tempted to select that for mine. It makes sense. In the city, the Morgan makes fighter pilots out of ordinary men and adventure out of a trip to dinner. It’s best left to people whose sense of self is just as larger than life. It was a relief to exchange it for my Caravan and once again become an observer of, rather than a participant in, the city’s nightlife. Still, I can’t say that I haven’t looked at the Morgan website since then. Celebrity’s a hell of a drug, isn’t it?

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44 Comments on “Review: Morgan 3 Wheeler...”


  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    I always thought I would like to have one of these. Actually had a project involving the front of a 70 something VW and the rear from a 600 kaw. Haven’t a clue how it would have worked. A work accident broke my leg and interrupted the process. More than happy to experience it vicariously now and have a friend who inherited my brainstorm.

    Hope he finishes it but think I will still experience it vicariously.

  • avatar
    Austin Greene

    Birdie num-num.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    If only it had 2 rear wheels.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    April Fools? Fiction? A bit of both? I can’t tell.

  • avatar
    niky

    Damn. After that post about three-wheelers all the way back, I’d thought you’d forgotten your promise to review one. Thank you. Thank you.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    “In a moment, I attained what the Buddhists call satori. I understood why Fate had decreed that I would never be handsome, successful, or lucky: I’m simply not prepared to handle any of those things with grace.”

    – Made me almost spit Starbucks all over the keyboard, which would have sucked. GREAT line, and I think I attained satori myself while reading it.

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      Agreed! A most wonderful read all the way around. I completely felt as if I was right there observing the whole event, which is what great writing does, right? Takes me out of my midwestern sleepy Monday and places me on the non-sleeping streets of New York for a few moments.

  • avatar
    Ubermensch

    When my wife saw Hammond piloting one of these on Top Gear, she was totally ready to buy one, even with a tiger shark graphic on the nose. No doubt this car is a (pardon the expression)”panty dropper.”

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    So this is what women are actually attracted to, as far as vehicle goes? Who knew. And to think that men have been buying Corvettes, Porsches, Ferraris, etc. with the intention of attracting women. I think they were attracting fellow men instead. ;)

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      Women like nice cars. But their definition of nice doesn’t always intersect with a man’s definition of nice. Want to pull girls? A MINI will actually do it better than a Mustang.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      So-called “chick cars” are very good at, surprisingly enough, attracting chicks. While it’s definitely never gotten me a date, girls tend to love my base model Miata. Guys sometimes make fun, but that abates when either they’ve gotten a ride in it and see what a blast it is despite its inability to outdrag a minivan, or I start talking about having upgraded the suspension myself and regularly taking it for lapping nights, whereupon the average armchair car enthusiast will remember that he’s never changed his own oil and has never even tried to heel-toe.

      Any old, slow European roadster – ideally British – is almost guaranteed to be girlie bait, too. MGBs, Spitfires, Alfa Spiders and the like are guaranteed to work, despite being useless as performance cars or indicators of wealth.

      But then there are the gold-diggers who are gonna gold-dig, at which point your Porsche and Ferrari will be far more useful tools.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Actually my Spitfire mostly attracts small boys and old men. Women think it is “cute” but worry that their hair will get mussed… Though the women who DO like it tend to be highly entertaining!

        I want a Morgan soooo badly, shame the price of entry is a bit steep for those of us sans-substantial trustfunds.

      • 0 avatar
        ExPatBrit

        I picked up a 37YO British roadster about a month ago and after checking it out, took it for shake-down run this weekend as the weather was unseasonably great in the Pac-NW.

        That car drew so much attention.

        Bonus points for a cute dog sitting in the co-pilot seat.

      • 0 avatar
        Darkhorse

        Juniper – I’ll agree with the slow old European sports car as a candle flame. I once worked for a wealthy tech president in Dallas who had a perfectly restored MG-TF circa 1955. He let me take on some errands one afternoon and the number of very hot young ladies (plenty of those in Big D then)who clamored all over it was amazing. Alas, I had to bring it back.

    • 0 avatar
      AMC_CJ

      My old Jeep use to do the trick. 83 Cj7 Renegade, metallic copper in color, in decent shape, but not jacked up with ungodly tires or anything over-compensating like that. Girls loved it, said I looked great in it, and none of them also seemed to realize just how old it actually is.

      Roll down the city streets, top off, doors, off, windshield folded down. Never had a problem getting a young girls attention; knowing what to do after that….. sorry, but many of them were just stupid to waste my time with (and they don’t appreciate having their lack of intelligence pointed out on a first date, who would of thought?)

      Found the right one, and yeah, she loves the Jeep too. Need to get it on the road again.

      • 0 avatar
        niky

        All the womenfolk in my family seem strangely attracted to Jeeps. Been meaning to pick up a Rubicon for a week, just to see if my manliness quotient increases, even slightly.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    Were one of those darned things available at a reasonable price, I’d have one now!

    Love it, love it, love it!

    And yes, I know it’s crude, and (being British) prone to myriad electrical and other problems.

    But,

    Love it, love it, love it!

  • avatar
    dr_dru

    I think I saw him on Lafayette St one morning during a snow storm this year! Looking very proper with a cap and goggles. Yes, women were staring!

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    She was a Slavic-faced woman in her mid-twenties, not bad for New York and positively model-grade by Midwestern standards, and she was literally hopping up and down on the streetcorner…

    You just took me back to college and a residence life adviser of Romanian descent…

    Oh yeah right, the Morgan. One of the few cars that makes a Caterham 7 look practical.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    And now it’s time to hand the Morgan over to TTAC’s tame racing driver. Some say…

    That in a previous life, he was a rakish British fighter pilot, laying waste to the Luftwaffe and the silk stockings of the left-behind lasses of London. And that he once ditched his perfectly good Spitfire and parachuted into Hungary as he has a weakness for nice Slavic girls. All we know is, he’s called the Jack.

  • avatar
    Synchromesh

    Very cool article. I was at NYC in December of ’12 for 3 days and can attest to many things mentioned here. Tons of expensive cars were everywhere, many were brand new.

    Small correction: Estonia’s native population is not Slavic, they have more in common with Finns including language.

    • 0 avatar
      Darkhorse

      Estonia must have really been worked over by the Vikings. It’s full of some of the most beautiful blond women I’ve ever seen. I’d move there but the language is very difficult to learn I’m told.

  • avatar
    Joss

    No desire for the gadget or the attention. Two men crammed in a can denied female passenger. Sounds too English.

    - An Englishman.

  • avatar
    mattfarah

    As usual, great story Jack.

    I drove Alex’s Morgan around NYC (well, from one bar to another, actually) in a rainstorm a few months back. The greatest thing about the Morgan is that you’re seemingly immune from any type of traffic violation. At the risk of becoming a British Motoring Journalist, I hung the tail out on that little car around every. single. corner. and no one seemed to care! No one honked, I didn’t get pulled over, pedestrians crossing the street would just stop and let me slide on by. When it came time to park, it didn’t matter where we put it, because we were assuredly not getting a ticket. EVERYONE wanted to get pictures of it, especially the girls, and it was clear that, if you wanted to meet women in NYC, there was no other car, at any price point, that would actually achieve that goal. Hell, I own James Bond’s freakin Aston Martin and I don’t get so much as a second glance.

    Driving a Morgan says you’re wealthy, interesting, have a sense of humor, and if you drive it in the rain, you don’t actually care about money, as the interior gets soaked the second your fat ass isn’t covering the leather. A Ferrari says none of those things, except (maybe) that you’re wealthy. But it’s the other three that women are actually attracted to.

    • 0 avatar

      Matt,

      I have no game when it comes to the ladies but it seems to me that while having a sense of humor and being interesting indeed attracts women, what you see as “not actually caring about money” she sees as “he’s loaded and he’ll spend it on me”.

      Of course, once you’ve married her and your stuff becomes a marital asset, she won’t find the way you spend money nearly as funny or as interesting as she used to.

      • 0 avatar
        mattfarah

        allow me to rephrase it:

        replace “don’t actually care about money,” with “aren’t so neurotic as to own many luxury goods and use none of them.” The women I know who care about cars are super turned off by men who own awesome cars and don’t drive them because they are too worried about the resale value.

  • avatar
    roadscholar

    “Miss hopping Estonia 2007.” You, Sir, are an automotive blog literary genius. Will women be drawn by a Mini CooperS Convertible? I’ve often had thoughts of one.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      They won’t know or care about the “S” badge. Traded my Escape for a Mini convertible for a weekend with friends of mine. Grocery store is next to campus, white wine is sold cold. Think it through. Damned hard to fit a fly rod or golf clubs in.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Props for the subtle shout out to the Caravan in the last paragraph. I’ve been loving Jack’s unlikely man-crush on the ubiquitous people hauler/muscle van.

  • avatar

    Driving by Auto Europa, the Detroit area Lotus and Morgan dealer in Birmingham, I noticed they had a trio of 3 Wheelers sitting in the showroom so I stopped in. They said the two of them were sold and the third was spoken for. I believe the salesman told me that so far they’ve sold a half dozen.

    One of these days I’m going to build a Morgan inspired 3 wheel drive trike by mashing up a Subaru with a Honda Gold Wing.

    BTW, this review is why car manufacturers who are confident that they make a good product should want Mr. Baruth to review their products. I’m guessing that in Malvern Link, Charles Morgan is enjoying this review.

  • avatar

    When these are $60k _and_ built badly, I know I’m in the wrong business.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Whoa…someone else watched Rome!

    Fragility aside, a big city does seem the ideal place for the little Morgan.

    In such a city, the bigger the vehicle, they smaller you are in it, and the less mobile and thus less in control – you feel.

    The Morgan, with its smallness, makes its driver feel large and in charge. It’s twee size gives you more options, and yet as ridiculous as it looks, a Smart or iQ or even Spark is more ridiculous still, and less fun.

  • avatar
    RobertR

    An Alex Roy story with a Matt Farah shout-out all tied into one? Props to you, Mr. Baruth.

    These guys are part of the new vanguard of automotive journalism. While I sometimes bemoan The Smoking Tire’s and Drive Network’s periodic lack of professionalism and general childishness (as someone a couple years younger than Farah, I feel comfortable making that statement), those issues are also integral to their creativity and brilliance.

    To Sam Smith, if you haven’t hired Farah to do some Road and Track work yet, get on it! Your budget and his ideas.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Nothing wrong with Estonian Women ! my H.S. G.F. & mother of my first Son was one ~ cute & cuddly with all the right curves where they belonged .

    I’ve liked Morgan Three Wheelers since the esarly 1960′s when there were still plenty of 1930′s vintage ones doing College Duty , Professors & Students alike .

    Oddly , the LBC in my avatar is also a serious chick magnet / panty dropper too ~ I think it looks like a Clown Car even though I love it but I get ladies pushing up on me for rides and ” a bit of the other ” all the time .

    I courted my Sweet in it driving her to Canada and back from So. Cal….

    Great writing ! .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    el scotto

    This could be the ultimate middle age crisis vehicle. Not that expensive, as far as flashy cars go, utterly impractical, and screams fun 24/7.

  • avatar
    RRocket

    Since you and Mr. Roy are now BFF, does this mean he’s no longer a jerk and you condone his “jerking around on the freeway and endangering other drivers at triple-digit speeds.”

    Just wondering….

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    No doubt the Morgan looks cool, but it is way overpriced. And not nearly as special as a Morgan car. Glass reinforced plastic over a steel tube frame is not as unique as aluminum body panels over an ash frame on top of an aluminum chassis (i.e. the Aereo 8).

    Polaris is about to release a reverse trike that could come in at 1/3 the price of the Morgan, and will put the performance of the Morgan to shame.

    http://thekneeslider.com/polaris-patent-reveals-a-side-by-side-three-wheeler/

    • 0 avatar

      The body of the Morgan Three Wheeler is made in the traditional aluminium (hey, it’s British) panel over ash frame method. That body is mounted on a space frame made of steel tubing, but the body is made the same way other Morgans are made.

      i126.photobucket.com/albums/p82/aero8man/22757737.jpg

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        That picture is of an Aero 8 frame, not a trike frame. The Morgan trike is based on the Ace Cycle-Car out of Seattle – the guy sold his design to Morgan so he is now licensed by Morgan ( http://cycle-car.com/ ). I think the black and cream car pictured in Jack’s article actually is an Ace Cycle-Car, not a Morgan. Since the design came from Ace it does not use all of the traditional Morgan construction techniques. There definitely are aluminum body panels, but also I think a lot of glass reinforced plastic. That is not in itself an issue, but using more affordable materials means that the trike should be more affordable. This is where I think that Polaris will find a huge market.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    There’s just something charming about these heavily-flawed but charming British cars, isn’t there? The Morgan Aero Supersports is in the top-three of my “Must Own” list…


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