Seat Of Your Pants - Driving The Morgan 3 Wheeler
Seat Of Your Pants - Driving The Morgan 3 Wheeler
January 29, 2014
Chocks away (as they no doubt say in the Cadbury’s dispatch office) and take to the road in the Morgan 3 Wheeler. In a jaded motoring world where the emphasis is on lifestyle and connectivity it’s nice to get the opportunity to do a bit of proper driving for once. This is why, during a visit to the Morgan Motor Company a few days ago, I allowed myself to be coaxed into the 2014 Morgan 3 Wheeler.
During the factory tour, up by the main gate, one of these diminutive motors roared into the grounds. The driver was wearing the equivalent of a full leather flying helmet and a pair of goggles looking for all the world as if he had just returned from a bout of aerial combat with the Red Baron and the important thing is - he looked the part.
This is the sort of thinking that the 3 Wheeler engenders. It transcends the modern mores of motoring. It is hand-built by craftsmen; it is small, impractical and draughty and (here comes the cliché) the most fun you can have with your clothes on. It’s not even as if the 3 Wheeler is something new. When Karl Benz rolled out his first effort in 1885, it had three wheels. Since then of course there have been very many more across the years. Morgan themselves have had a fair few over the history of the Company and in 2011 resurrected the idea with a new car that appeared to be a close relative of their 1937 Super Sports.
For 2014 the 3 Wheeler has received some revisions. The chassis has been further developed to increase torsional stiffness and thus improve the handling. The steering has been modified to eliminate previously reported ‘bump steer’ - a tugging at the steering wheel when the front wheels travel up and down - all of which has improved the on-road stability. Forget the old stories of three-wheeled cars turning over. A driver would have to do something mind-bogglingly stupid to get into trouble with this car.
At the top of the page I had just climbed into a 3 Wheeler cockpit for the first time. This must have been quite a sight. I’ll give him his due; the member of staff who showed me around the car managed to remain commendably straight-faced. I seemed to have one leg too many. It is possible to remove the steering wheel to make getting in easier but obviously I, being a man, would have none of that.
Once installed though the seats are really very comfortable. The dashboard is simple and uncluttered and its centrepiece is a starter button with a flip-up cover. There’s something very special about that. The view out shows the wide track of the front wheels attached to wishbone suspension and coil-over shock absorbers. It all works very well making the ride comfortable and, on the move, the car is surprisingly quiet thanks to a new isolated bevel box and driveline damper, which apparently made a bit of a racket on the previous version.
I manoeuvred easily out of the car park and took off up the road, elbow hanging nonchalantly over the side of the car on the leather panel as if I did this sort of thing every day. Now, anyone who has motored in an open-topped car knows all about the highs and lows of convertible driving. There’s all that fresh air and sky and then there’s the cold and the wind trying to pull off all your hair like a cheap wig.
Fortunately I remembered to bring a winter hat with flaps that made me look like a grizzled Yukon gold prospector. The small individual windscreens do a decent job but, in winter at least, headwear and a stout coat and gloves are a must. Perhaps one day I could get to try it on a Summer’s day.
Yet none of Winter’s woes can get the big silly grin off your face. The engine - an S&S built 1,982cc V-twin petrol unit with a reliable Mazda five-speed manual gearbox and driving the rear-wheel by way of a toothed belt - has a purposeful growl but isn’t intrusive. Even the most hardened car-hater softens their attitude when the 3 Wheeler passes by. I spent a great deal of time returning the thumbs-up to many pedestrians as I drove through Malvern.
Out on the road it was time to concentrate. The car handles well and steers accurately with no hint of instability. 115bhp - plenty in a lightweight roadster - will whisk the car up to 62mph is just 6.5 seconds and on to well over 100mph if you feel up to it but speed is not what the Morgan 3 Wheeler is about. I didn’t exceed 60mph and it still felt fast. I was too busy enjoying the sensations of driving what is effectively a mixture of modern technology and a slice of automotive history. It is driving by the seat of your pants - using your own initiative and perceptions rather than relying on built-in mechanical or digital aids.
If you ever find yourself in a position to drive one of these cars then grab it with both hands, whatever the weather. If you are fortunate enough to have a spare £31,000 or so (there is a wide range of options for customising to taste) and you could do with a second (or third) car that will bring you infinite driving pleasure whenever the fancy takes you, then invest in a Morgan 3 Wheeler now. It seems a bit pointless to think about this car in terms of star ratings and the like so I’m simply going to give it a perfect ten.