I left the house at 6.45 on a dark wet and unpleasant Saturday morning. I had made a commitment to travel to the outskirts of Wales. The journey quickly deteriorated with heavy rain on the M4. However as I dropped into the Malvern Valley the sun shone out; the hills in front of me shining brightly in the clear damp crisp air, light feathery cloud layers threading across their visible tops.
As I drove into Malvern looking for my final destination, I suddenly realised that I was wearing a massive smile. I was looking forward to the day ahead of me and I arrived at the Morgan factory, to a very friendly reception.
I checked in and booked up for the events I wished to partake in. Over coffee I met some of the other 35 people who had been invited, each one excitedly discussing their reasons for being there.
At 10 o’clock sharp, Mike an employee of Morgan Cars started the tour of the factory. Originally production was started up in 1909 by Henry Frederick Stanley Morgan, behind the local garage, moving to the present site in 1929. The Factory is a mixture of single story buildings which producing some 1,200 cars per year for the home market and export across Europe and countries as far away as China.
Unlike other car manufactures Morgan quickly distribute cars from the factory to their dealerships, a finished car never being kept overnight at the factory, to free up production space and ensure no damage can befall it while waiting for delivery.
The cars are made to exacting standards, each a beautiful work of art, as well as a precise, bespoke piece of engineering. Each car is still built around a treated Ash frame made up of 90 -100 components. These are made on site and assembled by hand by skilled craftsman who have undergone a 4 year apprenticeship and have, in many, cases over 40 years of experience.
Once the Ash frame has been assembled, a process taking 8 hours of hand fitting and shaping, thus making each frame bespoke, it is moved to the building next door where the aluminium body panels will be hand fitted. Each panel is cut out by hand and then shaped using hand operated shaping and folding machines to fit each panel by eye. Once the panel is made it is then individually fitted to the frame, the shaping, multiple cut outs and venting of the body being added by hand.
Other panels like the traditional style running boards are shaped by heating them to 500 0C just below the melting point of the Aluminium, making the Aluminium very malleable, which is then blown into shape around moulds alleviating the need for welds which could compromise the strength and flexibility of the components.
The frames are taken to the paint shop where they are painted in the customers choice of colour. But don’t get carried away, I recommend staying with one of the 10 standard colours offered, the process takes on average 6 litres of paint to complete one car.
The cars are reassembled and passed to craftsman who will add the Italian or Scottish leather to your specifications. Check that all accessories have been ordered and fitted as it is difficult to add these later without considerable damage to this bespoke masterpiece! You are almost there! All that is left is the production of the tonneau cover, side screens and hood again to your specifications of colour.
The car moves on again to final testing, evaluation and finishing. This has been an on-going process throughout each of the production stages, but no stone is left unturned! The car has to be perfect in all aspects.
Throughout the production process a car log is kept, documenting and detailing each person who has worked on the car. This document is kept by the factory being archived so that in future any information about the car and its construction can be quickly accessed
After having spent a very pleasant couple of hours walking around the factory, talking to craftsman and asking questions, I returning to the Visitors Centre and Museum. I was now going to carry out my own road tests on three of the cars which I had watched being built: the special addition Brooklands Roadster, the very popular 3 Wheeler and the Aero Supersport.
I was in for a treat! Each car, quite different from each other; yet in keeping with the Morgan philosophy of ‘quality and technical brilliance’ didn’t disappoint. Each one a classic British sports car, surrounding you in acres of leather, a world of refinement but when released – aggressive noise and unbelievable enjoyment!
The Brooklands V6 3.7 litre roadster a limited edition of 50 cars represented the Morgan +4 model This car has a Ford Mustang engine producing 280BHP which will propel you quickly to the national speed limit …and beyond. The car I drove, number 7 left me in no doubt with a basic list price of £48,000(plus VAT), that this particular special edition version would be sold quickly to discerning gentlemen and ladies with an eye for quality and the wish to stand apart from the crowd.
The’ V’ twin cylinder, 2 Litre, 3 wheeler is a mainstay for company sales in America and is great fun. Quick and responsive, the massive air cooled engines cylinders propel the machine quickly and efficiently. The Mazda 5 speed gearbox makes the drive unbelievably smooth and easy. In 2012 Charles Morgan took this unusual car to America for the 3500 mile Gumball Rally. Shipped straight from the factory, after an initial run in of 200 miles in the local welsh mountains, it made the coast to coast drive with ease in 6 days in May, travelling across mountains and deserts alike.
The final machine I took out was the Aero Supersports, a machine powered by a V8 4.8 cc BMW engine providing 367 BHP. This car propelled you from 0 – 60 in 4.5 seconds, with a top speed of 170+ MPH. This really was a flying machine which sounded and looked great! Having driven it, I feel that each car should come with a warning notice that simply states that once you have driven it you will be very hard pushed to find another car that will provide you with that level of excitement and sheer terror rolled into one.
The day had moved on and the light was deteriorating, but do you know, on the way home I still carried that smile on my face and it stayed there all week.