The Truth About Cars » morgan The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 29 Jul 2014 21:42:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » morgan Question: If the Hindustan Ambassador Is No More, What Car Takes Over As Current Continuous-Production King? Wed, 28 May 2014 14:30:44 +0000 QOTD - VAZ-1111 Oka DimensionsAs we all know by now, Hindustan Motors has shut down the production line for the venerable Hindustan Ambassador, a car whose production run stretches all the way back to 1954 and the Morris Oxford II… or, depending on how strict your interpretation of the definition of “same car” happens to be— the 1948 Morris Oxford MO. Whether it’s a Type 1 Beetle-beating 66 years or just a merely staggering 60 years, the passing of the Amby means that the acrimonious debate must begin: which current car has been in continuous production, in more or less the same form, for the most years?
Survivors-Lada_Niva-1280pxWhat we’re talking about here isn’t the longest continuous use of a model name (though the Chevy Suburban and Mercedes-Benz SL fanatics make that issue interesting), it’s the longest continuous manufacture of what amounts to the same car. Now, the reason that this discussion can and must turn into a crockery-throwing, ad hominemming brawl is that the definitions are inherently squirmy things that nobody can pin down to anybody’s satisfaction. What distinguishes a car from a truck? What distinguishes a true production car from a low-numbers novelty? How much can a platform change before it’s a different machine? Does an interruption of the assembly line due to war count? What about pirated copies built in a dirt-floored Guangzhou shack? When I wrote the Automotive Survivors series (in which I honored cars built for at least 20 years) for Jalopnik in 2009, I received more hate mail than with any piece of writing I’ve done before or since. “You idiot!” they read, “Don’t you know that the (Volvo 240, Ford Model T, Land Rover, Hundred Flowers BXX-991D) qualifies?”
Survivors-Caterham_Seven-1280pxI’m going to avoid the death threats from the Hundred Flowers BXX-991D Jihad this time, by leaving the question up to you, dear readers. You will go in the comments and posit the cars you think have been built in unchanged-enough-for-the-purposes-of-this-debate form for the longest consecutive streak of years, and then your fellow readers will tell you that you suck, and then you will epoxy down your CAPS LOCK key and the fun will begin.
Survivors-ShanghaiSC760-1280pxI’m going to be like Wotan here, staying above the fray (actually, the real Wotan would start blasting fools left and right, but you get the idea), but I will point you in the direction of some cars I think have a case for the Longest Production crown. The Morgan 4/4 has been built in much the same form and without a break since 1955 (since 1936 if you ignore a couple of breaks). The Lotus Seven goes straight back to 1957, if you count all the many copies in recent decades. If you want to be stricter about definitions and look at cars built in large numbers, the demise of such cars as the Fiat 128 (built until very recently in Egypt), Hillman Hunter/Iran Khodro Paykan (built in Sudan until who-knows-when), and the South African Mk1 Golf (2009) makes for some tough judgment calls. The Lada Niva has been around since 1977, but many will say that it’s actually a truck. The 1986-vintage Kia Pride/Ford FestivaMazda 121 is still being built in Iran as the Saipa 132. The VAZ-1111 goes back to 1988. They’re still building Daihatsu Charades in China, and you could argue that we’re talking about a 1977 car in that case. Vague rumors point to current Chrysler K-car production somewhere in the former Soviet Union. So much to talk about here!

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Charles Morgan Was Apparently Fired For Telling The Truth: Morgan 3 Wheeler Indeed To Be Upgraded Wed, 27 Nov 2013 19:26:52 +0000 Morgan 3 Wheeler (2014) Front Side

When word started leaking that Charles Morgan had been fired by the family owned traditional British sports car maker, one of the reasons given was that Mr. Morgan had, in an unauthorized manner, told a group of Morgan owners that an improved version of the 3 Wheeler would be launched.


Few things are more traditional in the automobile business than “we can’t discuss future product plans” because no matter what’s in the pipeline, you don’t want to do anything to discourage potential customers from buying what is currently in the showrooms. Now it turns out that if Charles Morgan had indeed told a Morgan owners group that the 3 Wheeler was to be upgraded, he was telling them the truth. Over the weekend at the Motorcycle Live show in the UK, Morgan 3 Wheeler Ltd., the company subsidiary that markets the Mog reverse trike, introduced the first major revision of the 3 Wheeler since Morgan bought the rights to Ace Cycle Car’s spaceframe replica of the original 3 Wheeler and put it into production in 2011. Since then, the company says that it has delivered 1,000 3 Wheelers. That’s a large enough sample to get user feedback from and Morgan has responded with a number of significant changes to the vehicle.

The spaceframe has been upgraded for better torsional stiffness and improved handling, the center drive unit is said to be more durable, the bevel box that drives the back wheel has been isolated to improve NVH, and changes have been made to the steering geometry and relatively primitive front suspension to eliminate bump steer and improve high speed stability. On the outside, new colors and graphics are offered and and the body is now vented for driver and passenger comfort. Cooling of the air-cooled S&S V-twin that powers the 3 Wheeler also gets attention with an optional Urban Cooling Pack.

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Do I Really Want One of These? Kandi Viper 250cc Reverse Trike Sun, 30 Jun 2013 13:00:57 +0000

Click here to view the embedded video.

I’ve been fascinated by reverse trikes for a long time. As young teens, my older brother and I made a reverse trike go-kart (he designed the frame and the drivetrain, I did the brakes and steering) because we didn’t have the money for a proper live axle setup in the back. The first hard turn taught us something about the inherent instability of three wheel vehicles. The inside front wheel lifted about 18″ off of the pavement (maybe that’s why I like the photo of Jim Clark’s Lotus Cortina cornering on three wheels so much). It took a bit more than a “dab of oppo” to settle it back down. I don’t remember if either one of us ever completely rolled it, but it was exciting to drive. Now comes word that Morgan’s revived 3 Wheeler, a car that seems to be able to drift and donut effortlessly while still keeping both front wheels planted firmly on terra firma, has become their best selling vehicle, prompting word of expanding the 3 Wheeler line. With that success my attention has once again been drawn to reverse trikes. I’m not the only one. Based on design patent drawings, it looks like Polaris will be soon introducing the Slingshot, a side by side reverse trike powered by a GM Ecotec 2.4 L four cylinder. From the styling the Slingshot looks to be aimed more at Ariel Atom fans than the traditional stringback driving glove set, so I don’t think the Morgan will lose any sales to Polaris, but either way, I think the Polaris will increase the popularity of three wheelers in general.

Polaris Slingshot design patent

Polaris Slingshot design patent

Everyone who drives the Morgan reverse trike says that it’s the most fun you can possibly have with a machine until they perfect sexbots. That kind of fun comes at a price. For what the Mog 3W costs, $45K and up, you can buy a couple of new, nicely equipped small cars. With that Ecotec engine and other automotive sourced components, I’m sure that the Polaris Slingshot will not be cheap either. There are other reverse trikes, like Campagna’s T-Rex models, but Campagna’s least expensive vehicle, the T-Rex V13R, starts at $56,000.

250MD_redMSo what can you do if you want to explore the world of road going reverse trikes, but you don’t want to spend multiples of $10,000? You could build one yourself, just search Google, Bing or YouTube for reverse trike build. I particularly like this Gold Wing based leaner called TBX3, and this wild small block Chevy V8 powered FWD trike based on an Olds Toronado, a little nicer build than this old Subaru based trike. However, if you want something ready to drive off the rack (well, almost, see below) that is relatively cheap, you’ll just have to keep looking to the east, China, where that country’s huge scooter industry has noticed the same things that Morgan and Polaris have.

KD-250MD-3Zhejiang Kangdi Vehicles  (NASDAQ:KNDI) makes scooters, motorcycles, go-karts, golf carts, ATVs and neighborhood electric vehicles, 80% of which are exported to the U.S. and Europe. Maybe that’s why the parent company and American importer use the easier-to-pronounce-by-westerners Kandi. I believe that the first reverse trike that Kandi made was a 250cc knockoff of Bombardier’s Can-Am Spyder, though it doesn’t have the Can-Am’s stability control that keeps the Spyder from lifting a wheel without having to lean the trike. If you want a  trike that leans, Kandi offers them too. Now they’ve come up with something a bit more like the Morgan and Polaris trikes, something more like a car than a motorcycle or ATV, the Viper reverse trike. Powered by a single cylinder 250cc water-cooled 4 stroke engine that puts out 16.6 HP (some dealers advertise 20 HP), with an automatic CVT that has reverse, from the video posted on YouTube it looks like a real blast to drive. It’s also not terrible looking, kind of cute in a Bugeye Sprite or Lotus Seven way, at least up front. Maybe I just dig cycle style fenders that turn with the front wheels. With microcar level power you won’t get there quickly, but it looks like you’ll have fun getting there. Come to think of it, with a scooter engine in back it might be as much like a Messerschmitt as a Morgan. Depending on where you buy it, it will cost you somewhere between $5,700 and $7,000 delivered (with some assembly required usually), a fraction of the price of the Morgan or what I expect the Polaris Slingshot to cost, let alone what a restored Kabinenroller can run these days.

250MD_pic10Actually, for that price you get at least some some sophistication. The engine has electronic ignition. Some dealers say that it also has electronic fuel injection, but this video from SuperSportz says that it has a carburetor. The suspension for the front wheels uses a standard double wishbone setup, with coilover units for springing and damping. The rear end uses a swing arm, as expected, but surprisingly they didn’t just use a scooter drive train, which typically has the engine and transmission as part of the swingarm assembly, increasing unsprung weight. Instead the engine and transmission are mounted to the main frame and there’s a chain drive back to the rear wheel. Rather than a monoshock in back there are twin coilover units. All three wheels have hydraulic disc brakes with ABS, with twin discs on the back wheel, like many sportbikes’ front wheel brakes. An auxiliary hand activated parking brake is also included.

viper-8_smallDriver and passenger sit side by side in racing style seats with safety harnesses and there’s a rudimentary roll cage. Bodywork is made from plastic, ABS and fiberglass. The frame and suspension components are made of steel tubing.  Thirteen inch cast aluminum wheels are standard, mounted with 145X70 radial tires. The Viper is operated with a steering wheel and other automotive style controls. There is a small instrument panel in the middle of the dashboard and the shift lever for the CVT sites between the seats. It’s fairly spartan. Some dealers offer an optional windshield. From the looks of the yellow Viper pictured here, you can replace the stock muffler with sporty dual upswept exhausts. There is no radio or heater. SuperSportz says that future models will have a more enclosed interior, but for the time being you’re sitting right in front of the engine, so it’s noisy, and the radiator sits right behind the passenger seat so maybe a heater isn’t needed.

viper-1_smallCruising speed is said to be about 60 MPH (some dealers say 80, others say don’t believe them) so it should be suitable for urban use and maybe even hopping on the freeway for very short distances. Fuel economy is up to about 70 MPG (some dealers say 90). Both figures are of course dependent on load and road conditions. Maximum load is about 400# so you and your passenger might have to watch your weight. At least one dealer sells it under a different model name, Cyclone (see a pattern here? Caveat emptor and all that).

viper-45-5As you can see from the video at the top of this post, it can even drift a little. However, watching the Kandi Viper scamper around that parking lot gives me a little pause. At about 20 seconds into the video, the driver takes a hard left turn, and you can hear the back wheel’s tire skittering as it loses and gains traction. What you can see, though, is what concerns me. At peak cornering forces the rear wheel appears to have noticeable positive camber. While there is some body roll, the camber on the wheel seems to exceed the roll angle of the body. That means that there’s some flexing going on, possibly in the rear swingarm subframe or in its mountings, maybe in the main frame as well. If you pay attention to other times the Viper is cornering hard, you can see the rear end twisting.

viper-view-tail2Now camber changes happen all the time on regular cars if you pay attention, but combined with the video there’s also the question of Kandi’s quality control. If you spend some time looking at videos and comments posted by Kandi buyers a recurring theme appears – rather poor quality control, though many buyers seem perfectly satisfied. Though they are sold said to be 90-95% complete, many buyers report that the assembly that had already been done wasn’t done properly, with some bolts left untorqued and even components switched left to right.

With a 60″ wheelbase and a front track of 57.3″, it’s the size of a [very] small car. The carton it comes in ready to finish is 145x80x31.1 inches so either have access to a fork lift or a loading dock or expect to possibly pay for residential lift gate delivery. If you pay to have a dealer fully assemble it, you’ll have to pick it up at a shipping depot. You can get a rough idea of what assembly involves from this video of another Kandi trike. If you’re reading this site and you have a set of wrenches and sockets, you can most likely put it together. Some retailers advertise how they go over their scooters before shipping to make sure all the bolts are fastened etc. Some buyers report engines being DOA or failing soon after purchase. The fact that another frequently advertised feature is an optional warranty probably also says something about Kandi’s QC at the factory. Some dealers do a better job of prep and after sales service than others, from online comments.

250MD_pic9However, I don’t see anyone else offering a car-like two passenger reverse trike for anything near $6,000, and to be honest, I’d be more concerned about QC in terms of safety than reliability. It looks like the frame is made up of steel tubing that’s only about 1 inch in diameter. While both front wheels look like they’ll stay on the ground, I’m worried that if you stress the rear end enough, you won’t just get some positive camber. Images of the entire rear end twisting itself free come to mind. As mentioned, the roll cage looks rudimentary and there doesn’t appear to be much in the way of side barrier protection. In most states you’d register it as a motorcycle. My guess is that in a collision you’d probably be about as well off as on an actual motorcycle. To really check quality, though, I’d have to see a Kandi Viper close up and hopefully drive one but the closest Kandi dealer is hundreds of miles away in the Upper Peninsula.

viper-left3Still, it looks like it’d be a ball to drive and cheap to operate, possibly even a cheaper commuter than either a battery EV or a smart car. Obviously, judging a vehicle’s safety based on one short YouTube video and comments on the internet is not a serious appraisal. If someone at Kandi USA, SuperSportz or another of their dealers reads this and would like to demonstrate the performance and safety of the Kandi Viper I have an open mind and I’d be happy to do a full review of the trike if you can arrange the loan of a test vehicle.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

250MD_redM KD-250MD-1 viper-1_small Polaris Slingshot design patent viper-8_small viper-5_small KD-250MD-5 viper-45-5 KD-250MD-3 viper-view1 viper-view-tail2 viper-left3 viper-right4 viper-45-6 250MD_pic10 250MD_pic9 250MD_pic7 ]]> 21
Review: Morgan 3 Wheeler Mon, 01 Apr 2013 13:00:51 +0000

“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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Morgan Threatened By Tree Fungus Wed, 31 Oct 2012 20:20:45 +0000

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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Swizz Beats Buys A Morgan, British Car Fans Weep Wed, 25 Jul 2012 14:31:42 +0000

British car fans upset over Swizz Beats‘ involvement with Lotus Cars will be beside themselves when they learn that the rapper/producer is now the owner of the last bastion of Brit-snob motoring – a Morgan Aero Coupe.

Celebrity Cars Blog is showing photos of Beats with his new Morgan Aero Coupe – leaving British car enthusiasts in a tizzy over what obscure brand they can hitch their wagon to next.

Beats, real name Kasseem Dean, is a pretty accomplished fellow – married to Alicia Keys, renowned hip-hop producer, and composer of one of the most recognizable hip-hop anthems at the age of 17. Swizzy has also referenced obscure cars in some of his hit songs (Spyker, anyone), so his car guy cred isn’t exactly in doubt.

What makes the whole thing so deliciously ironic is that once Lotus had been “commoditized”, the cap-and-driving-gloves crowd, too young to have ever lived the horror stories that came with the purchase of a brand new British car, began to migrate to Morgan as the last hope for cars that had “”soul” or whatever code-word is in vogue to justify the fatal flaws and systemic crapiness of boutique sports cars from The Empire.

No doubt Swizz Beats will be lecturing his fellow rappers on how much better the Morgan is than their 458 Italia, how much “character” it has, how rewarding of an ownership experience is involved when taking it to the dealer multiple times per week and how his wood grain is in the frame, rather than on the dash.

Just remember: nothing is safe anymore.

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Generation Why: ICONs And Morgans Fri, 08 Jun 2012 18:44:46 +0000

Previous editions of Generation Why have explored one of the last glimmers of automotive affection that the “carless generation” still holds on to- the love of classic cars.

Modern cars are better than they’ve ever been in every qualitative aspect, but they have embraced a stifling homogeneity as a result. Consolidation will only exacerbate that – who would have thought that one day, Mazda would be doing the legwork for the next Alfa Romeo Spider. Personally, I think the marriage of Italian aesthetics with Japanese guts is the perfect union, but it’s also indicative of the epoch we live in; there is little room for sentimentality, romance and narrative if you are a mainstream manufacturer, because it’s very easy for the lights to be turned off and your dinner to be snatched away.

On the fringes, free from pedestrian crash test regulations, expectations of 432 airbags and Facebook integration, creativity and originality still exists. Somewhere in my piles of EVO back issues, there is a quote from an unnamed Honda executive stating “In the end, there will be three car companies. One of them will be Morgan.”

Morgan, as well all know, uses wood as a key construction element for their cars, and recently launched a new 3-Wheeler that uses a motorcycle-style V-Twin engine. Car and Driver’s Justin Berkowitz recently interviewed company head Charles Morgan (yes, it’s a family business), and Morgan’s eloquent dissection of the modern sports car, his realistic outlook on the industry (“…everybody has to have collaboration if they’re going to build a viable car…” and most importantly, his recognition of the desire for as he calls it “quality and individualism”. Morgan’s small size and overflowing order books often translate into wait lists, which helps the brand’s exclusitivity factor. While they do about 750 cars per year, the 3-Wheeler has apparently generated in excess of 1200 orders alone. According to those more familiar with the business than I am, that will take Morgan years to complete.

On our side of the world, ICON announced plans to expand beyond their lineup of Land Cruisers and Broncos with an Aston Martin DB4 Zagato-esque car called the “Reformer“. The Reformer will no doubt be an expensive, exclusive proposition – just like the Morgan cars are (though the 3-wheeler will apparently retail for around $45,000 in the U.S.). But the beauty of aiming for the top of the market is that even in tough times, the really rich people interested in wacky, bespoke 4-wheeled toys tend to hang on to their fortunes and can still afford to buy these kinds of products. No surprise that Lotus is a victim of being stuck in the middle – rotgut and cognac always sell in tough times, to both polar extremes of the market. Everything else suffers.

Are we ever going to see these sorts of boutique companies spring up and offer classic-looking vehicles, modern powertrains and more importantly, a breath of fresh air from the current crop of numbers-obsessed isolation chambers that masquerade as sports cars? Probably not. But the love affair with classic cars, their designs, powertrains and their elemental purity will continue to burn bright as cars march further and further down that path. The motorcycle market in North America has been suffering from a big gap in the marketplace between 250cc and 600cc bikes that are affordable and desirable for new riders. Enter Cleveland CycleWerks, a Cleveland-based motorcycle company that is bringing to market some low-end, affordable bikes that look like they came straight of a Hunter S. Thompson-era desert race. The catch? They’re made in China. That seems to be the only way these things get down nowadays.

Drawing parallels between an upstart motorcycle company and the auto industry as a whole isn’t completely fair. But there’s no denying that there’s something about those older vehicles, whether they’re FJ40s or 427 Cobras, that keeps us longing for them to the point where we insist on restoring them and building replicas of them with new and improved underpinnings. Right now, your choices for an affordable, ICON-esque vehicle seem to be emulating this gentleman’s project of mating a Healey Sprite body to Miata running gear. I still hold out hope that some brave entrepreneur or trust fund recipient will take up something like Cleveland Cyclewerks for automobiles. Or an OEM doing “factory refreshes” of iconic models. If not, I’ll be in the garage…

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Morgan 3 Wheeler Being Offered To Eccentric American Anglophiles Mon, 30 Apr 2012 14:38:43 +0000

51 years ago, my beloved Grandfather emigrated from England. Despite being a man of modest means, he immediately went out and bought himself the biggest, V8 powered American sedan he could buy (the exact make remains obscure – it tends to change every time my grandmother tells the story), swearing off British cars and his cursed MG Magnette for life. He would be just as bewildered as I am that there is any demand for the Morgan 3 Wheeler in the United States that would result in U.S. sales.

Based on an American design dubbed the Liberty Ace, the Morgan weighs 1,155 lbs, with motivation coming from an 80 horsepower 2.0L V-Twin engine mated to a Mazda Miata 5-speed gearbox. In the UK, the car costs about $40,o00, but pricing hasn’t been announced Stateside. Liberty, along with two other outlets (likely in California and on the East Coast) will be the sole dealers for the car. Morgan will be promoting the car in the Gumball 3000 rally.

Expect to see Jay Leno and a few others take delivery of what is essentially a glorified Can-Am Spyder. I’ll take an AeroMax, thank you very much.

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Will Morgan Build The First-Ever Multi-Gear EV? Wed, 17 Aug 2011 17:36:06 +0000
Rattle off a list of the buzzworthy EV makers that seem likely to achieve the “holy grail of EV development,” a multi-gear electric car, and chances are that firms like Tesla, Fisker, Th!nk or even a major OEM like Nissan will make the cut. You probably wouldn’t consider the ultra-conservative British sportscar maker Morgan to be in the running, as they still build body substructures out of wood… surely the brand that’s most stuck in the early 20th Century seems an unlikely candidate for EV technical leadership. Think again…

GreenCarCongress reports that Morgan is working on something called the +E, an electrified version of its Aero 8 sportscar, with prototype production scheduled for early 2012. And believe it or not, the plan is to send 221+ lb-ft of zero-rpm torque through a “conventional manual transmission.” That’s right all you Silicon Valley hotshots and US DOE grant-receivers: the most advanced EV may just be developed by a firm that was long said to be “stuck in the 1930s.”

Part-funded by a $166k R&D grant from the Niche Vehicle Network CR&D Program, the +E will be made by replacing an Aero 8′s BMW V8 and replacing it with a variation of Zytek’s innovative electric drivetrain. The Zytek drivetrain, which is known for its extremely compact packaging, is also being used for GOrdon Murray’s T.27 electric city car (click here for more on the drivetrain). Featuring lithium-ion batteries, the rear-drive +E will take advantage of Zytek’s extensive research into hybrid and KERs technology (the firm supplied technology for the first Grand Prix-winning KERS system).

But the most important development is the use of a manual transmission in an EV application. From the sound of it, Morgan will use the 6-speed Getrag transmission that’s normally mated to the BMW V8… but because it’s not clear how much power the +E will produce, it’s possible that another solution will be used. But the man-tran will definitely make an appearance, as Zytek’s Neil Cheeseman explains

Keeping the motor in its sweet spot will help it use energy more efficiently, which will increase the vehicle’s range. It also allows us to provide lower gearing for rapid acceleration from pull-away and higher gearing for top speed. It should also make the car more engaging for keen drivers.

EVs will make better progress with hard-core gearheads when shiftable multi-speed transmissions are made part of the package, but as Tesla has proved, engineering a reliable multi-gear EV ain’t easy. If Morgan is the first firm to bring one to market, it could radically alter the retro sportscar maker’s position in the industry.

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Morgan Goes Back To Its 3-Wheeled Roots Sun, 27 Feb 2011 14:03:14 +0000

When I was a budding young copywriter in 1973, older, more settled advertising types smoked a pipe, had two basset hounds at home and came to the office in a British racing green, topless Morgan.  In wintertime, their lips were blue. Our generation was too drunk to even drive a car – even in the more lenient 70s. Now, Morgan, one of the last remaining true British carmakers, is going back to its roots: Three-wheelers.

Morgan’s first car was a three-wheeler, built in 1909. Morgan’s last three-wheeler was built in 1952. It remained popular because with three wheels, it was classified as a motor cycle, which had certain advantages. It avoided the steep post-war tax on cars and could be driven with a motorbike drivers license.

Now, the three-wheeler is coming back, reports Morgan’s hometown paper Worcester News. This coming Tuesday,  the new Morgan 3 Wheeler will be unveiled at the Geneva Auto Salon.

The paper assures us that “The 3 Wheeler is an updated version of the original, which was built in Malvern between 1909 and 1951. The new car retains the classic lines of the iconic original, but allies them to some of the most-up-to-date automotive technology, including a 1,917cc motorcycle engine by American manufacturer S and S, similar to those in the latest Harley-Davidsons, and the five-speed gearbox from the Mazda MX5. “

According to Charles Morgan, the car – if we can call it that – “weighs under 500kg, it can go 0-60 in 4.5 seconds and do 50mpg and because of the size of the fuel tanks, it’s got a range of 400 miles.” (Remember, he’s British, do your own adjustments.)

Production of the 3 Wheeler will start in May. 300 people have already put down deposits for the car, expected to cost about £30,000 ($ 48,000).  All Morgans are assembled by hand. The waiting list for a car is approximately one to two years. Take a number.

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: Yeah, It’s A 2011 Edition Thu, 04 Nov 2010 21:15:29 +0000

You know it’s an all-new 2011 model because of the fancy computer-generated press shots, but otherwise would you have any idea that this is the 2011 model-year Morgan three-wheeler? Yes, the wackiest of British cottage sportscar shops has dusted off its old three-wheeler designs and is bringing the model back after a 58-year hiatus. InsideLine says the new version will offer 100 HP from a Harley “Screaming Eagle” engine and will weigh a mere 1,100-lbs, giving it an estimated 4.5 second 0-60 time. Of course, it will have to be homologated as a motorcycle thanks to the missing wheel, and there’s no word on price or American availability. Still, it seems to have retained the most important quality of its predecessor, namely that it is, as Sir Stirling Moss once put it,

a great babe magnet

Picture 14 Car of tomorrow? Picture 12 ]]> 25
2009 December and Full Year Sales Snapshot: Small Cars Thu, 21 Jan 2010 18:02:02 +0000

As we reported earlier, TTAC is a subscriber to Morgan and Co.’s industry sales statistics. This means that current and detailed stats going back to 1993 are available to us, and we’re going to figure out the best way to share them with you. Like most things in life, there are pros and cons. The detail and amount of information is staggering, but it’s very affordable to us. It will save us time we don’t have to pore over numbers from manufacturers and compile them. But we also have to accept the segment categories as Morgan compiles them, and as you’ll see, there are times that doesn’t always jibe with how we intuitively categorize cars. Frankly, that’s getting harder to do all the time anyway: is the Flex a mini van or a crossover? Morgan sends us Excel spreadsheets and some basic charts. They’re not exactly exciting to look at, which is why we often succumb to spicing up these sales snapshots with a bit of eye candy. We’re going to be playing with different ways to present this stuff, so please let us know what works better, or not. I know you will anyway.

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