The world of Ye Olde Worlde Cars has been quietly carrying on thanks to Morgan, a company that like to keep things pleasantly old school. Big motors, wood frames, looks from 1950s England, and a healthy dose of good ‘ol Blighty are Morgan’s jam—but taxes and regulations mean it has to change. And without many people noticing, it has.
A chat with Jon Wells, Morgan’s Head of Design, shows a company that is actually less 1953 and more 2053, albeit with a twist.
This year sees the 50th anniversary of the Morgan Plus 8, and maybe the end of the Morgan V8 itself. Both the Plus 8 and the Aero 8 are on the way out. Part of this is the BMW-sourced naturally aspirated V8 engine, something BMW doesn’t even use anymore.
Wells has mixed feelings about it: “It sounds brilliant, drives fantastically, but we have to look forward. Cars like this are challenged with homologation, taxation, and emissions issues. Also, BMW makes the V8 engine purely on its prototype line just for Morgan and that’s not sustainable. That journey has to come to an end.”
It’s a shame to see the V8 going away, but this may not be the end for the V8 Morgan in its entirety. Wells threw in this little gem: “This is the end of the naturally aspirated V8 for Morgan.”
Does that mean no more V8 at all? He, irritatingly, wouldn’t say. Even with batted eyelids and the sweetest smile thrown his way.
Morgan needs to modernize, and its needs to do so quickly, but that may not be the issue you imagine it to be because while no one was looking the company has started doing really well. Last year was Morgan’s best year to date, it did so well that it bought back its previously leased factory and lobbed cash at engineering, R&D, and training. “When I started at Morgan there were eight engineers and two designers, now there are more than 20 engineers and six designers,” Wells said.
Everyone in the factory is now being given personalised training to get the best out of them, and the firm’s even using modern tech to help production: “We have a 3D printer, but no car parts are 3D printed. Tooling, things to make construction easier are made in house with it rather than outsourcing.”
We’ve known about the EV3 electric Three Wheeler for years. It’s an exciting idea, combining the car that got Morgan going as a company in the first place with modern tech, but it’s more than that. “Morgan isn’t trying to pay the mortgage with EV3,” Wells said. “What it does is softly take us in to the world of electrification. It means we do things properly and it’ll teach us how to build EVs safely and quickly.”
What it won’t be is a quiet cruiser: “It’s really bloody loud. It sounds like a pod racer out of Star Wars... It whirs, pummels you in the face with wind and stones. It’s not like a commute in a Renault Zoe, it’s still man and machine interaction but in a completely different way to a combustion engine.”
Electrification is coming, we know that, but it doesn’t mean the old school way of doing things are on the way out. It means that there will still be some quirks in the mix, but only the ones that enrich an experience rather than the ones that blight a journey, like having your V8’s motor refuse to start for no reason.
“It’s about walking a line and keeping it a Morgan,” Wells said, “keeping the impracticalities that make it fun, and get rid of the [irritations]… Still keeping the coach building alive, while bringing Morgan in to the age of electrification. Like a tailored suit, its imperfections make it perfect.”
For now Morgan is keeping a lid on what’s coming next. To see out the V8 era there’s a new take on the Plus 8 and Aero 8 GT, a harder edged modern take on the Morgans of old. At least the last cars will be special... Wells put it thus: “You can’t be naïve enough to think you can stay the same in a changing world.”
And you know what? Quietly, subtly, Morgan seems to be changing while keeping things as familiar as possible. Imperfections and all.