It’s not very often on a factory tour that your guide will say ‘And now we move on to the wood shop’, we could only be at the foot of the Malvern Hills, in the Morgan factory.
Rewinding a little, we had started our tour just outside where the head honchos sit. A part wooden clad room with offices on one side, it looks more like a train station from yesteryear than an office building. As soon as you walk in you notice the row of historic Morgans lined up on the right hand side.
The line-up comprises of the Morgan Aero 8 2000 Geneva show car, two GT3 Aero 8’s, one GTN Le Mans spec Aero 8, a Morgan +4+ (one of only 26 two door coupes ever built), and finally at the end is the Roadster race car bearing Charles Morgan’s name. It’s an impressive start to our tour!
Having lusted over the GT3 race cars for a little too long I moved on to the start of production.
This is the first stage for any Morgan. The aluminium chassis meets wood for the first time as the floor goes in, from there the axles, bulkhead, drivetrain, engine, gearbox and wheels are fitted.
In fact, after the rather nude looking Morgans leave this room, you could turn the key and drive it!
There is no separate production line for traditional wooden cars and the more modern all aluminium Aero vehicles, so you find a mish mash of chassis’ as you move through the workshops.
After this initial build the cars roll down into the adjoining building where they meet the wooden framed, aluminium clad bodies.
At one side of the room you see a stack of those classically styled front fenders. These used to be beaten by hand, but are now moulded out of aluminium by a local company to get that perfect finish every time – it’s part of the new quality drive Morgan have extended throughout their processes.
As the Mogs move down the room they start to look a little less naked, fenders and doors go on and at the very end the bonnets get fitted.
Each bonnet is hand bent, then threaded with wire along the edges to help keep its shape.
After the bonnets are fitted, the large doors at the end of the workshop are opened and the car gets wheeled into the paint room opposite, here it is disassembled from its chassis.
You can have your Morgan painted in nearly any colour under the sun, if you have a favourite shade not on the palette they will mix it for you.
Once the paint has dried the bodies are fitted to the car permanently. They then move to the trim workshop.
Here the interiors are fitted, wiring looms installed, lights added, windscreens set and the final touches put in place.
Leather is cut, stitched and installed by hand. Each nut, bolt and staple is inserted by hand. Every seat, loom and carpet is put in place by hand.
The skill and craftsmanship that goes into every single Morgan is simply amazing, you can quite easily get engrossed watching these cars take shape in front of your eyes.
From here the completed car goes on a 40 mile road test, any modifications or tweaks are made before it is then moved to the final building where the final inspection is made.
The Morgans are machine polished under fluorescent lights, any imperfection with fit or finish mean the car goes back up hill for it to be rectified. Only then does it get the final signature and is deemed ready for delivery.
After completing a cars full journey we went into the wood shop. Smelling like a school DT room the whole place is piled high with Ash wood.
Here is where the traditional wooden bodies are brought to life.
The rear arches are still pressed and held into shape by a vice that first moulded those classic lines nearly 70 years ago.
Modern day glues have cut the time needed for the wood to bond, but the technique is still the same.
As you walk past each body you can’t help but notice the skill in the joints, they are completely flush and fitted, no gaps, nothing protruding just a perfect fit!
From here we went next door to see how the aluminium clad body takes shape. Sheet aluminium is hand bent over each frame, men stand and hammer at the aluminium until it takes the desired profile.
Each piece is secured only by panel pins, this is all that is needed due to the tight fit these master craftsmen can achieve.
This is one of only a few places in the world where you will find wood screws, and G clamps helping to construct a car!
There is actually one modern machine in this section of the factory…it’s sort of on its own and nobody was using it…but this new-fangled tech cuts all the aluminium panels precisely, every time. It’s part of the quality drive and to reduce wastage, but it did look a little out of place.
But Morgan don’t just build 4 wheel cars, they have now built over a thousand 3 wheelers, and demand seems set to continue.
Probably one of the easiest cars for Morgan to build, the tubular steel chassis is bought in from a local company, whilst the engines are specially built in the USA by S&S and its gearbox is from a Mazda MX5.
The aluminium wrapped wooden body is still built in house, but all the main parts are largely just put together on site.
One fascinating thing about the whole factory tour was the little book that goes with each car, this is like a checklist and makes sure everything is completed along the way.
The very first page however was the most interesting for me, it has the final delivery destination on it.
70% of Morgans go abroad which is astonishing, and at every chance I was asking ‘Where is that one going?’ in return you hear: Finland, Japan, China, Sweden, Australia, Russia. We only found one or two that were homeward bound.
At the end of our tour we came across THE MOST stunning matte grey Aero Coupe. It was fully loaded with every option and heading for Dubai, naturally!
Morgan only turn out around 1200 cars a year, this output is split roughly 50/50 between 3 and 4 wheeled cars. Only 110 of these are aluminium chassis’, those being the Aero and Plus 8 cars. All that is achieved by only 170 employees.
It takes around 4 weeks to build a traditional wood based car, whilst the aluminium ones take about 8 weeks.
After spending a day at Morgan, and driving a 3 wheeler I have been won over.
The skill and craftsmanship has largely remained unchanged over decades, the quality of the final product looks superb, and I can’t help but long to own something that has been hand built, with the care and passion every Morgan gets.
If you want to visit the factory yourself Morgan run guided tours all year round, it’s well worth a visit!