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A Tour of the Morgan Factory

The marvels of Morgans on the make Published: 15th May 2012 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

A Tour of the Morgan Factory
A Tour of the Morgan Factory Wood and metal working skills are the norm at the factory
A Tour of the Morgan Factory Workers make two bonnet halves by rolling the aluminium
A Tour of the Morgan Factory Models are built pretty much the same as they always were
A Tour of the Morgan Factory Three-wheeler chassis is quite advanced, in a traditional way
A Tour of the Morgan Factory New threewheeler production underway
A Tour of the Morgan Factory Wheels hubs are produced at the factory
A Tour of the Morgan Factory The Morgan Motor Co is proud of its heritage and has important models from the past on display
A Tour of the Morgan Factory Visitor Centre displays number of the earlier Morgan models
A Tour of the Morgan Factory Tubs for the new threewheeler ready for building
A Tour of the Morgan Factory A brand new ash frame is being made for a customer
A Tour of the Morgan Factory Old 1950s oak press still used to laminate and bend wood!
A Tour of the Morgan Factory Final detail touches at the wood shop
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Ever wondered what makes a Morgan so special – Why not go to the factory and see how they are made? We did, so can you!

The Morgan Motor Company is one of the last great bastions of the British specialist car manufacturers, the world’s oldest privately owned car company, now by the third generation of the Morgan family, and producing excellent quality handbuilt sports cars for discerning owners and enthusiasts. Harry Morgan opened up a garage in 1905 at Worcester Road, Malvern Link, initially tending to the needs of the Edwardian motorist, and four years later he built his first car, the 1909 singleseat prototype.

Today around 70 per cent of new cars are built for export, working methods are a mixture utilising traditional craftsmanship, a company forte, but also incorporating some extremely modern manufacturing techniques. For example in the woodworking shop there’s a well patinated oak press (circa 1950s) that’s still used everyday for bending and gluing together wood used to make wheel arches, with four/five sets a day.

There’s very little plastic used in a Morgan interior, it’s mostly wood and leather. Interestingly wood is still used to form the body frame of even the latest, most modern four-wheel models, though chassis design and manufacture is bang up to date, as is the running gear.

The bonded aluminium chassis are built and supplied by Radshape Sheet Metal Ltd, in Aston, Birmingham, while the body structure and wings are supplied by Superform Aluminium in Worcester. They are made from aluminium panels that are heated to 500 degrees, then forced onto the tool using air pressure which ensures that you achieve an ‘A’ class surface quality. The only exceptions being on some of the more traditional models, where live axles and semi-elliptic springs are still used, the axles being supplied by Holden and come from Australia, one of the very few components not sourced locally. However, ultimately every car is assembled by hand at the factory by a very highly skilled and dedicated workforce.

Tours of the Morgan factory and Visitor Centre are extremely popular, not just with marque owners and devotees, but for all motoring enthusiasts and in 2011 alone, over 20,000 people took advantage of this unique insight of making cars in Malvern for over 100 years. The Morgan Motor Company is naturally very proud of its heritage and there’s a small museum housing around half a dozen models, from examples of the early three-wheeler, to modern four-wheelers, some of which are owned by Martyn Webb who is the company historian and archivist, and is the author of the excellent book, Morgan, Malvern & Motoring, a wonderful reference on the subject of Harry Morgan and his first forays into motoring and car manufacture.

Film footage shows the company history through the ages, and in addition to this, there’s a huge photo exhibition encompassing various model history over the year. Within the Visitor Centre there’s also a retail shop selling a wide range of Morgan clothing, models, books, and memorabilia. There’s further examples of fourwheel models on display in the original part of the factory built in 1914, with two Aero 8s, one in competition trim, a GT model and one of three built specifically for circuit racing, and the other being the 2000 Geneva Motor Show car.

Manufacturing techniques used on the Aero 8 were very advanced at the time, featuring a bonded aluminium chassis, with Morgan being the first to use this method within the UK motor industry. The running gear was designed and developed by race engineer Chris Lawrence, resulting in supreme roadholding and handling, and widely acclaimed by the motoring press at the time. There’s also an example of a Plus 4 Plus, one of only 26 built between 1963-1967 and the only Morgan to ever be fitted with a GRP body, and the unique 1970 Plus 8 with DHC bodywork, powered by a Rover 3.9 litre fuel-injected engine and the only traditional Morgan to be fitted with an automatic transmission. This car was previously driven by Mrs Jane Morgan for a number of years.

At the time of our visit to the factory in December 2011 Morgan was producing two traditional four-wheel models, the 4/4 powered by a Ford 1.6litre Sigma engine and the Plus 4 powered by a Ford Duratec engine. The V6 Roadster production had recently ceased pending a change of engine using a 3.7 litre unit from the Ford Mustang. Alongside the three traditional models there are variations on those themes. There are Sport and bespoke versions, the latter have far more options and choices of body colour and interior trim. There was also the 75th Anniversary 4/4 powered by a 2.0 litre engine, and a limited production run of just 60 of the Plus 4 Super Sports, to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the model and the 50th Anniversary of Chris Lawrence’s famous Class win at Le Mans in 1962. The Aero 8 and Aero Max are currently out of production, but the Aero Super Sports remains. The new three-wheeler has been a runaway success. It was envisaged yearly sales of around 150, but since its launch in June 2011, already 700 have been sold!

A guided tour of the Morgan factory is truly a fascinating experience, traditional craftsmanship is evident wherever you look. Whether its bending sheets of aluminium to make two bonnet halves, woodworking skills, panel beating, and trimming of interiors. While there are a number of official factory dealers located around the UK the factory at Malvern still offers a wide range of services to owners. Where better to have your Morgan fettled than at the very place it was built!

Nowadays the factory can undertake all aspects of servicing and maintenance, plus accident damage and crash repairs, to include fitment of new wings, doors, and trim etc. The paintwork department can fix anything from a scratch, to refurbishment of individual panels, or a complete respray.

While the factory cannot offer a full restoration service one area of expertise where it excels is with replacement woodwork. It can even make a complete new ash frame body, for major restorations. At the time of our visit, craftsman Nigel Hall was hard at work making a new ash frame for a 1952 Plus 4 DHC. Indeed, there are numerous templates and jigs in the wood working shop, so it’s possible to replicate virtually anything, plus the company hold most of the original drawings for body frames dating back to the 1930s. Incidentally Nigel’s parents also worked in the factory for many years.

Morgan is a remarkable success story within British specialist car manufacturers. Nowadays the workforce numbers approximately 187 employees, of which around 17 are apprentices, who take four years to train.

Tours of the factory are available from Monday – Friday, (last tours 3pm and 1pm on Fridays) are of approximately two hours duration, cost £10 and are available for individuals as well as group visits but pre booking is essential. The Visitor Centre at Pickersleigh Road, Malvern, Worcs, WR14 2LL is open Mon – Thurs 08.30am and 08.30 – 15.30pm Friday and closed Sat & Sun. All enquiries to Angel Hymas Tel: 01684 584580. It’s well worth a visit!

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