A flying start
When the first tidbits of news reached us of a return of the legendary Morgan 3 Wheeler in February of 2011, we were not quite sure how serious to take these. That changed rapidly and barely six months later we took off from the Morgan factory in one of the pre-production prototypes. To understand this rapid rate development, we have to go back to 2008 when American Pete Larsen launched the ‘Liberty Ace’; a car clearly inspired by the great Morgan Aero three-wheelers or trikes of the 1930s. He had designed and built the Harley Davidson powered machine himself, using funding from several clients as well as his thriving side-car business.
One of the people very interested in Larsen’s project was Charles Morgan, who travelled to Seattle to get a closer look. He was so impressed with what he saw that he decided to buy Larsen out and bring the project back to the Malvern Link factory where the first of the original three-wheeler Morgans had also been produced. A lot of work was still needed to get the design up to production car standards but at least Larsen had provided Morgan with a flying start, allowing for a relatively short development period.
By pressing the ‘bomb release’ style starter button fitted in the centre of the Morgan 3 Wheeler dash, the big V-twin mounted between the front wheels rumbles into life. One of the biggest changes compared to the original design is that this engine is not a Harley Davidson but a narrow-angle S&S ‘X-Wedge’ twin. Equipped with fuel injection, dry-sump lubrication and displacing just under two litres (121 cu in), it produces around 120 bhp (90 KW) and more importantly 100 ft lbs (136 Nm) of torque. Bolted directly to the motorcycle lump is a five-speed gearbox straight out of a Mazda MX-5. The sizeable, single rear wheel is driven by a belt.
The mechanicals are bolted to a simple tubular steel frame that in most respects follows Larsen’s interpretations of the original Morgan design. Suspension is by double wishbones and coil springs at the front, while the rear wheel is fitted between a motorcycle swing arm, which is equipped with twin spring and damper units. The straightforward package is clothed with an aluminium body complete with the bullet shape nose inspired by the 1930s Morgans. Like many of the show cars, ‘our’ 3 Wheeler was decorated with funky ‘shark’ graphics that would not look out of place on a World War II fighter plane. In addition to the starter button, the dashboard is fitted with only the bare necessities; a speedometer, rev-counter and a row of four toggle switches.
At 6ft 2in (1.88 m), getting in the Morgan was a tight squeeze even with the help of a removable steering wheel but there was just enough room. Thanks to the abundance of torque and power in the 1100 lbs (500 kg) machine, pulling away is easy and spinning the rear tyre in first or second takes very little encouraging. What was slightly off-putting at first was the squeak of the belt but we understand that that was still being worked on. Once on the road, the little Morgan very much feels like a normal road car and it is only while navigating potholes that the central location of the rear wheel becomes apparent.
The Morgan factory is located at the foot of the Malvern Hills, home of some of the country’s finest roads. H.F.S. Morgan built the original three wheeler for these roads and the new one proved to be right at home as well. The fine handling machine inspired far more confidence, cornering far more stable at speed than we believed possible with just three wheels. Getting back on the throttle does require some care as the rear steps out quick easily but that is quickly correctly by the very responsive steering. Driver protection is limited to two small ‘flyscreens’ so driving with at least a pair of goggles is a necessity. Other than that, the 3 Wheeler is remarkably comfortable but above all; it is a lot of fun.
Charles Morgan’s gamble more than paid off; not only is the new 3 Wheeler a hoot to drive, it is also a great commercial success. Production had not started in earnest when we visited the factory in September but at that time well over 500 orders had already been received. To cope with all these orders, Morgan has already doubled the intended output from five to ten cars per week but at that rate any potential customer will be faced with at least a one-year waiting list. Fortunately the quirky little machine is well worth the wait as it provides about as much fun as you can have on three or, for that matter, four wheels.
More of the fabulous Morgan 3 Wheeler can be found in this 30-shot gallery
, which shows the car in action and stationary in and around the lovely Malvern Hills.