Nothing lasts forever. Not even, apparently, the Morgan Plus 4 — a low-slung, quintessentially British roadster that started production in 1950 and still looks looks like it comes from a land of postwar rationing. Beneath the 2020 Plus 4 lies the same ladder frame that underpinned the first Plus 4, which arrived on the scene when Betty White was just 29.
You won’t find many 2020 Plus 4 models. Just 20 commemorative examples are planned as Morgan gears up to enter the modern age.
We’re a long way from the days when the United Kingdom not only hosted a slew of independent automakers, it owned some of them. For decades, brands fell away as most of the remaining automakers found new parents living on the wrong side of the English Channel. Jaguar, Land Rover, Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Mini, Lotus, and now Morgan.
Known for its famed 3-Wheeler and persistence in retaining wood construction elements and running boards, the 110-year-old automaker just handed a majority stake to an Italian investment firm. The sound you hear might be Union Jacks being lowered in Malvern Link.
To some, the only thing that beats electric vehicles for soullessness is those pesky autonomous vehicle people who can’t drive adore so much. Morgan, the quirky British automaker best known for giving wood construction and wire-spoke wheels an automotive toehold in the 21st century, doesn’t do soulless.
Surely the company’s EV3, now confirmed for production next year, warrants a look. This isn’t your average Leaf, Bolt, or Model S.
The makers of the spate of reverse three wheelers now on, or about to be on, sale including the Morgan 3 Wheeler, the proposed Elio Motors vehicle, and Polaris’ Slingshot, now just arriving at dealers, have used the fact that their vehicles are legally considered motorcycles, not cars to ease their passage through regulatory waters. As some critics of the Elio project have pointed out, those that live by their legal classification as not-cars, may also find legal realities that get in the way of selling their “motorcycles”. For example, will drivers be required to wear helmets in those jurisdictions that require them on motorcycle riders? With some already considering the Elio to be a form of birth control for single guys, having to wear a helmet inside it would make it even dorkier. Elio claims those problems are moot. Perhaps so, but just as Polaris is launching the Slingshot, a reverse trike starting at $20K, powered by a 2.4 liter GM Ecotec 4 cylinder engine, they have discovered that the State of Texas will not let the vehicle be registered there.
Question: If the Hindustan Ambassador Is No More, What Car Takes Over As Current Continuous-Production King?
As 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?
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.
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.
“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.
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