Morgan Celebrates The 110th Anniversary: Learn About 6 Most Important Cars It Has Produced
Company That Specialized In Oddball Designby Safet Satara, on
Morgan Motor Company celebrates the 110th anniversary next year. That’s more than a century, folks. I think this company definitely deserves massive attention as it is basically a love story written in pain, blood, and cars so amazing that every car enthusiast simply must fall in love with it.
It all started in 1909 when Henry Frederick Stanley Morgan installed a Peugeot engine in a tricycle he designed. Even then, in a time when small manufacturers produced a number of oddballs, his car was among the strangest with that small engine actually fitted at the front. It’s not surprising that Frederick maintained that eccentric style throughout the years. It all translated into the modern times, and now Morgan maintains that eccentric character despite only being a small family business.
Yet, with humble beginnings, but illustrious history, Morgan never really broke among the big ones. It stayed a niche producer, and after more than a century, it is among the best in its segment.
I will lead you through its history and present some of the most important cars Morgan ever endeavored to produce. Of course, we will start with the first one - the 1909 Morgan Runabout. The one with a Peugeot engine inside. Don’t worry, and I will also spark your imagination with the latest special edition cars the company has produced too.
1909 Morgan Runabout
Three wheels, a front mounted engine, one seat, and tiller steering on top of the independent suspension.
This is the shortest description of the magnificent 1909 Morgan Runabout - basically, a prototype created by HFS and shown to the public the same year. Although it was followed by the overwhelming enthusiasm of anyone who has seen it, this machine, known as a “Cyclecar”, lacked the composure of a regular car and it basically failed commercially.
However, HFS (short for Henry Frederick Stanley) managed to create an improved version - with two seats, a JPA engine, a steering wheel, and a hood - basically a much more luxurious and refined cyclecar compared with the original Runabout. That was a huge success. Actually, it was such a cool proposition that Mr. Burbridge, Harrods’ managing director of the time, decided to put the car in his own shop. Imagine, Harrods, a luxury department store, became the first Morgan dealer. That’s a start only a few could ever imagine. Harrods never sold any other car except for the Morgan.
The Runabout, offered with a four-horsepower or an eight-horsepower engine, could actually match the performance of the cars of the time thanks to its low weight and power to weight ratio of 90 horsepower per ton.
I mean, that was something to be proud of at the time. Nevertheless, the demand was so overwhelming that Morgan could barely keep up with production. Motorsport entry was only a logical one. After only a few years, Morgan managed to win 24 Gold Medals in “various reliability trials and won a number of races” in the segment of Cyclecars.
Three-wheelers simply weren’t as popular as Morgan would have liked them to be. Although the company built its small empire selling them and winning many races with V-twin powered tricycles, the business of cars was the one to be focused on. Four wheels, a four-cylinder engine, a steering wheel in the right place, and two seats inside.
This is the Morgan 4/4 - the first four-wheel car ever produced by the company.
It appeared in 1936 and became an instant hit. So much so that Morgan went on and developed the four-seater for 1937 and a gorgeous drophead coupe a bit later on. All of them were based around the same structure and featured a small 1.1-liter engine with 34 horsepower. Later on, they gained a bit more powerful 39 horsepower engine with 1.3 liters of capacity.
The car was produced from 1936 to 1939 and from 1946 to 1950. The pause? You know - the War! All in all, 912 units of the 4/4 were produced, with an additional 239 units of the four-seater and 164 units of the Drophead Coupe.
With the introduction of the 4/4, Morgan definitely and fundamentally changed its character. However, the cars remained rather flamboyant and simply different compared to anything else on the road. That is why the model 4/4 stayed in production for years, and Morgan released many subsequent successors. The car, in its latest iteration, appeared in 2009 and it is still in production.
However, the initial success of the 4/4 lead Morgan to think about the production of a conventional car.
That is when the Morgan Plus 4 Plus appeared - in 1963.
Morgan Plus 4 Plus
This is an attempt of Morgan to craft a vehicle that would help the company go mainstream. While still quite flamboyant, unique, and rather cool, the Plus 4 Plus had a “normal” roof, somewhat conventional looks and lines, and a coupe body style. Bear in mind; this was a sports car. The fiberglass body achieved an especially low weight of 1,800 pounds. Propelled by a 2,2-liter Triumph engine with 110 horsepower, the Plus 4 Plus was fast. Properly so with a top speed of 115 mph in 1964 when it was introduced. Considering its diminutive size of only 149 inches in length, the Morgan Plus 4 Plus felt especially fun. Heck, we are craving for small, light cars with powerful engines even today. This was it - only in 1964.
Unfortunately, buyers weren't enticed. Only 26 units were produced.
Luckily, this wasn’t a big hit to the company as the Morgan Motor Company planned to produce 50 units overall. Now, a car like this one was a luxurious commodity. With only 26 produced it is almost as exclusive as the CLK GTR. Only, it is cheaper. A lot cheaper. One, in mint condition, was sold at an RM Sotheby’s auction for just over 126,000 British pounds ($162,000).
1968 Morgan Plus 8
It may be that the Morgan Plus 8 is the most important car the Morgan Motor Company has ever produced. On the brink of a financial collapse, Morgan searched for ways to create a popular car that could save the company from doom. The project was led by Maurice Owen and the car produced was the Plus 8. Introduced in 1968 and built on a modified Plus 4 chassis, the Plus 8 received a cool 3.5-liter, V-8 engine and a limited slip differential. The car proved to be a major success, and it basically saved the company.
It was in production, in more than a few iterations, for 36 years. All the way to 2004.
The car was reimagined with new tech in 2012. That one also received a BMW-sourced V-8.
Over the years, the original Morgan Plus 8 was updated numerous times. It received a 3.9-liter, V-8 engine later on, while the 4.6-liter option landed in 1996.
Interestingly enough, ceasing the production of the Rover sourced V-8 in 2004 marked the discontinuation of the Morgan Plus 8 production.
2001 Morgan Aero 8
The Morgan Aero 8 was the first all-new Morgan design since the introduction of the Plus 4 Plus. The car was completely different compared with any previous Morgan. An aluminum chassis and an aluminum body gave an all-new outlook to Morgan cars. Previous Morgan cars featured a curiously designed wooden tub supported by steel supports and steel chassis. Obviously, the Morgan Aero 8 was a modern car, now precisely tuned for the modern world and propelled by a BMW 4.4-liter, V-8.
The Morgan Aero 8 was a radical departure from anything on the market.
Crosseyed front end most certainly deterred some of the buyers, but everyone heard about it. It was that popular. Especially after people found out that Richard Hammond of TopGear bought one version - the Morgan AeroMax. Rowan Atkinson has one too.
The new car, produced from 2001 to 2010, was the fastest Morgan ever produced with a top speed of 170 mph and 0-62 mph acceleration in 4.1 seconds.
Reintroducing the three-wheeler was a rather impressive feat for Morgan. It was announced in 2011 with the first cars appearing in 2012. As it was the case in the early years, the Morgan 3-Wheeler manages with a front positioned motorcycle engine (produced by S&S), but a car-derived transmission. With only 1,212 pounds of weight, the 2.0-liter, V-twin can accelerate the small car to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds.
In an effort to modernize the range and join the modern car producers with the electric car, Morgan announced the production of the electric three-wheeler. With a 101-horsepower motor and a 20-kWh battery, the electric three-wheeler, apparently, provides 150 miles of range, but it is far less exciting compared with the ICE-powered model. A sprint from 0-60 mph takes 9 seconds, with a top speed of 90+ mph.
Read our full review on the 2012 Morgan Three-Wheeler.
Celebrating the 110th anniversary today
Morgan celebrates the 110th anniversary with the introduction of special edition models named “110 Anniversary”.
The 3 Wheeler, the Plus 4 and the Roadster received special treatment including new badging, new exterior hues, and even a new trim inside.
Interior details such as the leather and wood trim on the steering wheel, performance seats and 100 Anniversary logos embroidered on the headrests make the 110th-anniversary models unique and rather alluring. You can even recognize them with the new leather bonnet strap, or by a nice burble coming from a sports exhausts system.
Read our full review on the 2015 Morgan Aero 8.
Read our full review on the 2014 Morgan Plus 4.