By on October 9, 2012

Is it possible to be a car enthusiast and not have at least a little bit of affection for Morgan? Call them anachronistic or replicas of themselves, but I don’t think you can like cars and not at least smile a little bit when you see a Morgan. If the Morgan in question has less than four wheels, that smile likely becomes a wide grin. Maybe it’s the influence of steampunks or hipsters, two subcultures that profess a love for old tech as they search for authenticity (or status markers), or maybe it’s because everyone who drives one says that it’s more enjoyable than most things that don’t require nudity, but Morgan has put their three-wheeler back into production. As you would expect with hand built cars, Morgans are always in short supply. They have waiting lists and the 3 Wheeler is only now arriving at Morgan dealers, but if you act quickly you might be able to have one in your driveway before your neighbor gets his Toyobaru Hachi Roku, and from the looks of it, unlike the FR-S/BRZ there are no concerns about ADM.

As if the 3 Wheeler did not draw enough attention when driven, you can order it with a variety of fighter plane inspired graphics, though, thankfully, this one doesn’t have the offered fake bullet holes.

Technically speaking, they haven’t put the vintage Morgan three wheeler back into production. The new Morgan 3 Wheeler (that’s apparently the official nomenclature) is not exactly based on the vintage products that left Morgan’s Malvern works. Actually it’s based on a modern tube frame design by Ace Cycle Car of Seattle, which had been making three wheeler replicas under license from Morgan. Ace was so successful that Morgan bought them out and moved production to the UK, where the three wheeler is currently assembled, using Morgan’s traditional hand-formed bodywork that hangs metal panels on an ash wood frame. Contrary to automotive urban legend, Morgans have always been made with a chassis made of steel, it’s their bodies that have wood framing, like cars did before the Budd body company developed the all-steel car body almost a hundred years ago (I believe that Dodge Brothers introduced the first all-steel bodies and it was Hudson’s Essex brand that later introduced the first fully enclosed all steel bodies).

Instead of the JA Prestwich or Matchless engines fitted to vintage 3 Wheelers, the new 3 Wheeler has an 1800cc S&S V-twin more commonly found in custom Harley Davidsons and as with many modern Harleys it has a belt drive to the single back wheel. In between is a 5-speed transmission sourced from Mazda’s Miata MX-5. Quaife Engineering supplies a custom rack & pinion unit for the steering and the bevel drive that connects the inline driveshaft with the belt drive. Based on the local Morgan dealer’s first demo unit, fit and finish appears to be very good, even if those of the hand beaten body panels that are intended to be removable seem a bit fiddly. Though there’s a nicely upholstered console sitting over that transmission, you’d better be on very good terms with any passengers. The cockpit is cozy, very cozy. Degree of difficulty for ingress and egress might exceed that of even the Lotus Elise, and if you’re used to driving Vipers and Cobras you might know how to avoid burns from the exposed exhaust system.

Under the skin, the new Morgan 3 Wheeler is actually quite modern, well, except for those kingpins.

Not available: cupholders, radio, or air conditioning. Why should they offer A/C when you can’t get a heater? The navigation system is a map, well, if you can find someplace to stash it, since there isn’t a glove box or, apparently, any other interior storage. The S&S motor is air-cooled, so that chrome radiator shell is a prop and under the front cowling there is some minimal storage. You might look into installing a continental kit, since there’s no spare tire either, though twin sidemounts might make more sense – just make sure that those twins are fraternal and not identical. The automotive style rear tire is mounted on an alloy rim and the much larger diameter motorcycle style front tires have period correct wire spoke motorcycle wheels. Maximum driving fun perhaps, a practical daily driver perhaps not.

Marx Big Wheel - Marx photo

No, not that kind of three wheeler.

Intrigued by the notion of a three wheeled vehicle whose widely praised *handling seems to be at odds with trikes’ inherent instability when cornering, I’ve been trying to wangle a TTAC test drive for Jack Baruth. JB knows a lot more about understeer and oversteer than I ever will know and undoubtedly has cornered hard enough to lift an inside front wheel in a four-wheeled vehicle, let alone one with only three.

JB wishes he could drive like JC. No, not that JC. Ford Archive photo.

As a result of those test drive inquiries, somehow I got put on the mailing list for Morgan West, the company’s dealer in Southern California (caveat: their website autostarts with the Ventures’ surf classic instrumental Walk, Don’t Run – it’s a great tune but it seems at odds with Morgan’s veddy proper British image even if the dealership isn’t far from the beach in Santa Monica). Today I received the following email from Dennis Glavis at Morgan West. Since there’s a waiting list for new Morgans my guess is that someone canceled their order and a M3W has become available. I believe the email was intended for an inquiring customer, but I don’t think they’ll mind me telling you that if you act quickly you can have your veddy own three wheeled Mog. Perhaps surprisingly for a car in short supply, or perhaps an indication of Morgan’s old fashioned way of doing business, the car appears to be priced at MSRP:

This 3 Wheeler is now completed at the Morgan Factory and is immediately avaIable for purchase. Upon payment to MorganWest it will be shipped here for delivery. Please let me know if you would like it and I cna give you wiring instructions or accept a check and forward payment immediately to the MMC.

Dennis

US model
LHD
Color: Sport Sand
Interior in Dark Tan, standard leather
Dark Tan dash leather
Black exhaust heat shields
Black exhuast system
Black number logo
Shark logo
Tonneau cover in Fawn (light tan) mohair

List price, fob Malvern, UK
$46,825.63 at current exchange rate

Gosh, Morgan is old school even about pricing. When was the last time you saw a car price that referenced FOB?

If you want a M3W but you don’t want one with Supermarine Spitfire / P51 Mustang style shark’s teeth nose art and are willing to wait for the craftsmen and artisans at the Malvern works to hand build one for you, a full 3 Wheeler sales brochure (PDF) can be downloaded here and the Morgan website has a 3 Wheeler configurator here. They may still build cars in Malvern the old-fashioned way, but I notice that Morgan, in the au courant style of many other carmakers today, now offers a Bespoke option, though as minimalist as the 3 Wheeler is, “bespoke” in this case is limited to your choice of custom exterior paint colors as well as 18 interior leather colors instead of just black and beige. While personalization programs have proliferated to the point where you can now order a “custom” Fiat 500, upon reflecting how Morgan has always built cars, my guess is that they’ve probably always been willing to provide customers with whatever livery and interior materials they’ve desired. With a waiting list and their construction methods, it wouldn’t be far from truth to say that every Morgan is bespoke.

The 2012 Morgan 3 Wheeler pictured here is not the one for sale at Morgan West. It belongs to the local Detroit Morgan dealer, Auto Europe and it was photographed at the 2012 Concours of America at St. John’s. Before that concours, Auto Europa had graciously given me access to the car while it was being prepped (though, sadly, I didn’t get to drive it). At the concours next to the 2012 M3W was its grandfather, a 1934 Super Sport model. If you note, while the new model does use modern coilover shock/spring units, it retains the original 3 Wheeler’s archaic traditional kingpin steering, as all Morgans (except for the newest Aero models, I believe) do.

If you’d like to see these three wheelers in three dimensions, stereo versions compatible with most 3D formats are available at Cars In Depth.

*Perhaps can clue us in, but my guess is that those exceptionally wide control arms up front, with their proximal points close to the car’s midline, have something to do with the M3W’s ability to go around corners without flopping over. That front suspension and motorcycle style front tires allow for a lot of body roll and camber change before you start losing tire contact with the road.

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, it’s not a plot to get you to buy yet another new television set. Besides, all of the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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18 Comments on “Psst: Want to Buy a Morgan 3 Wheeler?...”


  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    They lost me with the engine choice (not that I was really a prospect). Certainly they could have used something else. Its wrong on many levels.

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      What else could they have used? A Triumph inline/parallel-twin? A BMW horizontal-twin? The only thing that is going to look correct is a big v-twin.

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        If its gotta be a V, then use one that isn’t doesn’t sound like an American icon which has purposefully left its distinct, anachronistic design flaw induced sound intact in one of the greatest marketing tricks ever.
        “it sounds out of tune”
        “No, it sounds like a Harley! That’s the sound of the open road, my friend.”

    • 0 avatar
      Nick

      Does anyone else even make a V-twin? I guess in keeping with the fighter plane theme, they could have gone with one these up front:

      http://www.rotecengines.com/

    • 0 avatar

      What’s wrong with it? Because it’s American and associated with Harleys? I mentioned the JAP and Matchless engines that were fitted to the original M3Ws, both were V-Twins. A Harley style V-Twin is about as close as you’re going to get to one of those engines. I suppose they could have gone with something water-cooled (I think the Matchless engines were water cooled, the ’34 Super Sport pictured here has vents in the cowl to exhaust heat from the radiator), like H-D’s V-Rod Evolution or a water-cooled Suzuki or other Japanese V-Twin, but maybe they wanted to avoid the complications and costs associated with liquid cooling, like having to engineer in a radiator.

      I see the S&S engine as being perfectly in harmony with those old Brit V-Twins that Morgan used back in the day.

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        It’s not that it’s American, it’s that it’s iconically American. If you made a remake of an old vette, you wouldn’t put in a Mercedes Diesel. I somehow doubt the Brit V twins had that unique sound you get from a Harley. If I am wrong, and they had that same unnecessary quirkiness, I will be surprised.

        I would prefer the engine be hidden myself.

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    The basic problem is that the weight needs to be more forward. A 3 wheeler is actually more stable than a 4 wheeler if the weight distribution is heavily biased towards the end with 2 wheels.

    • 0 avatar
      ranwhenparked

      Not always. The rear engine Bond 875 was well known for stability problems, even more so than its front/mid engine Reliant competitors.

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      The engine is in front of the front axle, how much more can the weight be moved forward?

      Four wheels are always more stable than three, although, to Morgan’s credit, if a vehicle is only going to have only three wheels, having two of them up front, instead of in the rear, is much better.

      The original Morgan trikes were designed to evade British car taxes by being classified as motorcycles (I believe it was the same for the Reliant Robin). These new Morgan trikes can be sold in the US, despite no airbags, crash testing, etc., because they are considered motorcycles.

      Three wheelers have always been justified by the laws of man, never by the laws of physics. That doesn’t mean they aren’t cool. Perhaps being designed to evade the law makes them cooler.

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    The new Morgan appears to have uprights connected to double wishbone suspension with ball joints. Not kingpins.

    The old Morgans, including the old blue Morgan trike in this article, use sliding pillar suspensions, which are kind of like traditional kingpin suspensions, except that the knuckle slides up and down on the pin, along with rotating on it, and the kingpin is attached to a fixed axle. In a traditional kingpin suspension the knuckle would not be able to slide up and down on the kingpin, only rotate on it, and the axle would be suspended.

    If you look closely at the old blue Morgan the parts that look like wishbones are actually fixed to the chassis, and do not move. They are basically extensions of the chassis that support the sliding pillar suspension.

    It would be good to see a less expensive version of this. The Can-Am Spyder starts at $16,699, has basically all the parts that this has, but with an inferior layout. I can’t see stretching the Can-Am out a bit, so the rider/driver can sit in it instead of on it, costing much money. I’m not saying the Morgan’s price is not justified, it is a Morgan built like a Morgan, but the basic concept should be available for Can-Am Spyder money.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    Sadly, Jim Fueling’s W3 project died along with him; if those engines were still available I would specifically commission one of these modern Morgans fitted with the 90-degree 3-jug motor – and the standard lozenge shape replaced with a custom veneered body contoured like the traditional trapezoidal coffin form.

  • avatar
    MarkP

    Maybe it’s funny, but when I saw the first photo, I thought, “I want the blue one in the background!” Only later did I read the text and learn that it was a ’34 model.

  • avatar
    redav

    Well, I *am* in the market for a fun car, and the Morgan that just became available sounds quite the looker…

    but it’s about $30k out of my price range, so I let someone else snatch it up.

  • avatar
    jcisne

    That’s the car Peter Sellers drove in his 60’s movie “The Party”.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    In domestic automobile sales, the seller (usually the dealer) delivers the vehicle to the buyer at the dealership. This is in accordance with UCC 2-309 (“the place for delivery of goods is the seller’s place of business”).

    The FOB term is one where the seller delivers to a common carrier and sends (by mail or through banking channels) the documents (e.g., bill of lading) to the buyer. When the Seller has delivered to the carrier, the risk of loss passes to the buyer. So the buyer has to insure the goods while in transit.

    The reason why you don’t see FOB (or similar terms, FAS CIF) in automobile purchases, is that they are not relevant.

  • avatar
    jdmcomp

    Actually, I think Morgan 3 wheelers were made in a variety of configs including 4 seats and water cooled engines. However, the JAP V twin is the traditional image. And of course all of you miss the point, I want one I want one I want one I want one. So who cares if it is “right” I want one.


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