Passion for heritage is a chief component of any successful modern automaker. Few have gone to the lengths to honor their history quite like British automaker Morgan Motor Co.
In 1910 the brand's founder, Henry Fredrick Stanley Morgan, placed the success of his company on a three-wheeled automobile. The iconic vehicle gained popularity with the public and the racing community for decades until postwar steel shortages in 1950 halted production.
After a six-decade hiatus, Morgan announced a return to its roots by unveiling a new three-wheeler in 2010 that's primed for the modern motoring age. Finding one of these special open-wheeled oddities stateside isn't an easy task.
Units bound for the U.S. leave Morgan's Malvern, England, factory and head to one of ten authorized U.S. dealers. One such destination is Northshore Sportscars in Lake Bluff. At first glance, the nostalgia-inducing vehicle looks part vintage motorcycle and part World War II fighter plane with some go-cart influences thrown in.
Power comes from a 2.0-liter V-Twin motorcycle engine sourced from Wisconsin-based S&S Cycle. Output is rated at 90 horsepower, propelling the 1,200-pound machine to an estimated zero-to-60 time of six seconds and a maximum speed of 115 mph.
Five forward gears are selected with a Mazda MX-5 five-speed manual transmission, which turns the single rear wheel through a belt drive setup. Morgan utilized actual wood pieces in the construction of the original three-wheeler's frame and this new version follows that construction pattern. Underneath the sleek aluminum body are lightweight framing components made of Old English ash lumber.
With no roof or doors, entering the low-slung vehicle is easy in theory, but in practice requires gymnast-like flexibility to avoid the exposed side-mounted exhaust pipes. Inside the cabin, or more appropriately called cockpit, you'll find pleated leather upholstery with aircraft-style gauges and milled aluminum toggle switches.
Ignition is achieved by turning the key and lifting a bomb-release styled, flip-cover switch. Creature comforts are limited other than additional padding along the sides. Interior storage consists of the passenger foot well. Additional storage can be found under the rear hatch cover, which lifts off and is sufficient for an overnight bag or two.
Practical, no, but this revamped three-wheeler is about one thing and one thing only: making driving fun.
Norb Bries, owner of Northshore Sportscars, has spent considerable time behind the wheels of these unique vehicles and can attest to its greatest attribute.
"It delivers an unmatched, full wind-in-your-face motoring experience. The motorcycle engine has this great sound, which can be clearly heard when going down the road," he said. "Even with two occupants, the car is very sporty and very stable at both low and high speeds."
While a standard car is available, every three-wheeler can be customized to suit a buyer's specific tastes. Ten standard colors are available along with several special metallic options. For those wishing to complete the vintage aircraft look, several graphic packages are available, complete with faux bullet holes, fighter plane shark fuselage graphics and pinup girl nose art.
Optional equipment ranges from polished roll hoops, cowl and headlight buckets to black exhaust pipes and shields to a Mohair tonneau cover for rainy day drives.
Automakers are periodically reviving storied nameplates but rarely do you see a commitment to stay this true to the original product.
With it's vintage vibe, reliable powertrain components and grin-producing capabilities, this three-wheeler is the perfect ride for any winding road enthusiast who wants to celebrate the past while looking to the future.