A couple of years back I headed down to Malvern to drive the Morgan 3 wheeler. It was a raw, unparalleled experience, I walked away wanting to own one. There was something just so pure about the driving feel of that car that I loved.
Wandering around the factory after I noticed just how many of these little beasts where headed to other parts of the world. But just how does that experience translate across the pond, on the east coast of the USA – California to be precise…Mike takes up the story.
On this particular winter’s day, the skies were blue with a high of 90* out in Santa Monica. Perfect California weather right? It was, especially for the particular vehicle we were going to drive, the Morgan 3-Wheeler.
Ever wonder what it’s like to drive a vehicle that is completely different from everything else on the road?
Today we brave the rough Los Angeles roads. We subtract a wheel, a full windshield, doors, and a roof, and live to tell just what an exhilarating experience it was.
Upon first glance, this Mog looks a bit small and compact. However, the craftsmanship behind the woodwork of the chassis, the modernized double-wishbone suspension up front, and the large rear tire at the back add a level of reassurance.
The design is unique, and harks back to the Morgan 3-wheelers of the past. Now, a bit wider, with a bit more torque, the car is more than just usable on modern roads.
Take another step back and it’s easy to think of the vehicle as a World War II fighter. It’s not just a driver seat. It’s a cockpit. Gloves on. Goggles on. Helmet on. Ignition begins with a key and a twist, but after depressing the clutch and pressing the flip up start button, the magic begins.
Few vehicles give a tactile feel to the
pilot, err driver, especially with something as basic as a start up procedure.
The air-cooled 1976cc motor is a V-Twin that provides a lot of torque at lower revs. Peak torque is made at 3,250 rpm, at 140 newton-meters. It revs freely and provides necessary punch when passing other vehicles on city streets.
More importantly, it settles down at a nice 65 mile per hour cruise speed around 2,000 rpm. The growl from the motor is absolutely infectious and had me wanting to wring more out of it. Once cruising speed was achieved, it was relatively easy to have normal conversation on city speeds.
The chassis was far stronger than expected. The craftsmanship is a clear example of how simple technology can provide a great solution. The chassis ebbs and flows with every corner, without adding additional flexing noise. It gives a compliant, supple ride both on bumpy Los Angeles streets as well as the freeway.
Sure, the vibration from the motor spreads throughout the 3 wheeler and into your spine. Yet, somehow that feels natural with the driving experience. It communicates to you what works best as a driving style. It teaches the driver what it takes to hit its stride at normal road speeds.
Its driver seat may be best suited for someone around 6′, but at 5’8″, I had no problems finding a comfortable seating position and getting familiar with the controls. Arm space is a bit limited with a fellow passenger, but Mais (photographer) remarked on how much leg room exists.
All the controls were placed ergonomically, there is no learning curve. The pedal placement, gear lever, and steering wheel were all intuitive, and it didn’t take long to feel comfortable with the drive. The steering wheel is thick and easy to grip and the parking brake is well-placed. Considering the driving position, it was instinctive to look at the central display of the tachometer and speedometer within the slim cockpit.
As a driver, this is one of the most underrated and most impressive aspects of the vehicle. The steering wheel feel. It communicates well through a manual steering rack, leaving every bit of tactile road feel through the narrow front tires.
The pedals seemed to be crafted out of single blocks of aluminium with the Morgan logo. Like a race car, they are hinged at the bottom and provide an abundant amount of brake feel, with an intoxicating vibration through the gas pedal. It’s easy to find where the sweet spot is under acceleration.
The shifter is straight from a Mazda MX-5 and provides smooth, quick, slick, shifts. Each of these variables lead to a straight-forward, easy-going driving experience. It allows the driver to place his or her senses elsewhere; the view outside, the salty air of the beach breeze, and the thundering sound of the motor ahead.
The whole experience can be summed up in one word. Visceral.
Not that we tested the limits of the vehicle on city streets, but the engine noise, the control through the touch points, and the blue skies painted an overall picture of the driving experience.
One cannot simply focus on just one aspect of driving. It is a drink that is to be taken wholly.
We drew plenty of attention on the roads. Drivers were smiling and giving their thumbs up. Other drivers let us switch lanes with absolute ease. We jumped with excitement before we hopped in. We left content and satisfied, smiling when the drive was over.
So, the big question, would i buy one?
Absolutely. Others may think that it’s a great fifth car. I don’t agree this is a great fifth car. I think it’s a great second car.
It’s easy to find enjoyment within the drive and be consumed by the natural environment at legal speeds. The flowing roads, blue skies, and act of driving all lead to an experience that is unique from all other cars on the road. It’s an exotic car that brings pure joy and bliss to the most dedicated of drivers.
1976cc V-Twin motor
Horsepower: 115 (estimated)
Torque: 140 Newton-meters
Gas mileage: 30mpg (wildly estimated)
Gearbox: 5-speed manual w/reverse
Dry weight: 1,157 lbs. (estimated)
Fuel tank: 11 gallons (estimated)
Mike Garcia – Feature Writer / US Correspondent