Psst: Want to Buy a Morgan 3 Wheeler?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Color: Sport Sand
Interior in Dark Tan, standard leather
Dark Tan dash leather
Black exhaust heat shields
Black exhuast system
Black number 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 Shaikh Jalal Ahmad 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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