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Morgan Buying Guide

Morgan Buying Guide Published: 3rd Jan 2017 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Morgan Buying Guide
Morgan Buying Guide
Morgan Buying Guide
Morgan Buying Guide
Morgan Buying Guide
Morgan Buying Guide
Morgan Buying Guide
Morgan Buying Guide
Morgan Buying Guide
Morgan Buying Guide
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The classic that you can still buy brand new may be an acquired taste but once you’ve had one you’ll be hooked. Here’s our pick of the best ones

You know the old saying “Old bottle, new wine” well, when comes to Morgans it’s case of New wine in a very old bottle. This splendidly quaint British car manufacturer proudly holds the claim of making the oldest car in the world that you can still buy brand new!

That’s not to say that Morgans haven’t changed with the times where it matters over the past 80 years – because they have – but rather that the shape, style and character has remained fundamentally the same through the decades. And that’s why you want one, isn’t it?

Hold your (brake) horses! This special buying guide will hopefully steer you in the right direction but all Morgans – be they the very first sidevalve 4/4, to the very latest multi-valve BMW-powered Aero – are vintage by design and nature meaning that simply fancying one, to actually tolerating and loving one are two different things.

Yes there’s hand-built craftsmanship, the exclusivity and the wellbeing that come with the key fob – but there’s also that vintage cramped cockpit and driving position, lack of luggage space, primitive sliding windows that the Mini ditched almost half a century ago and a rodeo-like ride. The point we are trying to make is that if you’re used to a MG T Series or Triumph TR2 then fine. But if it’s a MGB or TR6 then you be in for a bit of a culture shock… That’s why Morgans are primarily a plaything that’s great for special occasions and use yours as such then you’ll love one and probably remain a convert for life.

Plus 4 or 4/4

To the layman, all Morgans are one of the same and no more so when it comes to the company’s four-cylinder ranges, the 4/4 and the Plus 4. However, they are not.

Four-Four is the World’s longest running production car and the name simply stands for Four-cylinder, four-wheeled, signifying Morgan’s movement away from bike-powered three-wheeler models of 80 years ago.

The slightly larger Plus 4 was based upon this basic design (as was the Plus 8) and both ranges were available in two and fourseater configurations.

What’s the difference? Chiefly the engines fitted to both ranges although a few power units have overlapped over the years. Experts such as Allon White add that their characteristics are different with the Plus 4 being more the tourer and the far more popular 4/4 the mainstream choice – if you can say that about a Morgan!

So what’s the best buy? There’s no definite answer says Allon’s Phil Benfield and says it’s better to concentrate on “the whole package” on offer rather than a specific car. Having said that, Plus 4 rarity – partly due to Morgan discontinuing that model on a couple of occasions – means that they generally hold higher values.

Fours to the fore

You don’t need a Plus 8 to own a Morgan marvel! That’s the general view of the marque specialists who actually regard the four-cylinder models as the better choice for many enthusiasts unless they want the raw thrill of V8 power.

On the other hand, the smaller engines are lighter by nature and so make a Moggie less laden and so that little bit easier to handle and steer, which is important for an increasing number of buyers who like the idea of a Morgan but want certain modern conveniences. In fact, the characteristic of a frisky ‘four’ is more in tune with what these cars were all about say pundits.

By the same token, the Jag-powered V6 Roadster which replaced the Plus 8 is the better all round car although it took a while for enthusiasts to cotton on to this fact “but they’re then converted”, says Benfield.

The later BMW-powered Aero Morgans appeal to a different type of Morgan buyer says Herts-based Melvyn Rutter, one of the best established Morgan dealers celebrating 40 years of dealing in the marque – initially purely for spares – yet anyone after a mighty Moggie with something large under the lid should consider one because they are highly impressive, albeit in a different way, and are good value for money

Talking of which, how best can you spend your money. We quizzed several leading lights with a hypothetical £20,000 to spend (about the going rate for a better-than-usual Triumph TR6) and they all suggested a mid 1990s Ford-powered 4/4 or, if you rustle a bit more to £25K and above, an equivalent Plus 4. However, exact prices are hard to pin down as every car is different.

The days of long waiting lists resulting in queue jumping and inflated prices are over; now a new car can be delivered in around six months – certainly no later than a year, depending upon spec – plus dealers often have models (perhaps cancelled orders) ready to go.

Current screen prices which typically are: £33K for a ‘base’ 4/4, £37,000 for a Plus 4, 50 grand for a V6 Roadster with the Plus 8 £20K dearer. Aeros are ticketed as high as £125,000 but at the other end of the scale Three-wheelers start from £31,140 – hardly unreasonable rates for hand-built classics?

You may think your dream classic come Morgan shaped and styled but they are an acquired taste and a normal round the block road test is rarely good enough to make a proper decision, which is why many dealers operate car hire programmes; Melvyn Rutter, for example, has a range, including a Three-wheeler, at £230 a day and considering the pain and financial stress it may save, is a bit of a bargain – although we’re sure you’ll like any Morgan by the way!

Modded moggies

There’s no shortage of modifications and enhancements available for most Morgans and by-and-large, they make this vintage design usefully more modern where it matters yet without spoiling the essential old-time character. And that’s important believes Allon White and why upgrades need to be thought through with care. Power steering is becoming very popular as you’d expect as only late models came so equipped; typically, the conversion costs over £2000 (plus fitting) or you can go the EZ or Litesteer electric route. Suspension kits to improve the ride and better brakes are also coming to the fore but anything hairy and lairy will certainly devalue the car plus make it harder to resell. There are exceptions though, such as the highly acclaimed Librands (http://www.librands.co.uk) range of chassis upgrade, the ultimate being a £4200 Suplex ‘five link’ rear suspension although more modest mods start from uprated rear dampers at £200. And it’s as well to remember that the factory offers its own upgrade packages which may actually enhance the car’s value and desirability.

Words worth…

Before shelling out on a car spend a mere £5 on Melvyn Rutter’s latest informative special edition parts catalogue which give you a good steer to how much it costs to repair and maintain a Morgan and a lot more besides. And look out for the official Morgan magazine MOG that you can subscribe to or also pick up at major newsagents such as WH Smith.

Four square

When mentioning Morgans, it’s easy to dismiss the four-cylinder ranges in favour of the Plus 8 but that’s to your disadvantage because while they lack the muscle and mite of that Rover engine, the Plus 4 and 4/4 ranges often compensate with their affordability, lower running costs, sportier feel and a much wider choice.

Driving

Is that V8 so great? Not necessarily according to Morgan specialists who say that the four-cylinder models invariably feel that bit more alert and agile due to a smaller, lighter engine up front and, as a result, a ‘Four’ is appreciably less work to drive. True, they don’t possess the sheer grunt that only a V8 can provide but most aren’t short of pace either, especially the vibrant Fiat twin cam and Rover ‘M’ 16-valve variants found in the Plus 4.

Handling is decidedly vintage and the steering can be heavy with an undue amount of ‘kick’ that’s expected of such an old design but newer ones can come with power steering and servo-assisted brakes. Another point that’s well to remember is that ‘Fours’ are family friendly with fourseater options being widely available across both ranges.

Best models

The original 4/4 was launched in 1936, but it’s the classic shape that we’ll deal with here, which was first seen in 1955 but unless you yearn for a truly vintage model, it’s best to start with Series III with its Ford Anglia 105E power, displaced by the Series IV in 1961, fitted with Ford Classic 1340cc power (an inherently unreliable engine) but the best came Cortina GT powered or, Triumph TR power in the early Plus 4 but any model pre-1968 car will take some finding say experts.

The Fiat 1584cc twin-cam engine became available, alongside Ford’s Kent unit in 1981 and many say this unit suited the car a treat although just 96 were made before the model’s demise two years later, displaced by Escort XR3 power. Another favourite was the 16V M and T-Series engines taken from the Rover range.

Ford Zetec zeal took over for the 1990s and they are excellent performers and the newer car has power brakes and steering so they feel more modern yet retain that essential Morgan character. As a rule the Plus 4s are rarer and they are better suited for sporty touring say the experts.

Prices

These are the cheapest Morgans to buy although the older the car, the more it will be worth. You’re looking at around £15,000 for a decent car that doesn’t require too much work to tidy up. Like-for-like a Plus 4 (1985-2000) with either Fiat twin cam or Escort XR3 power will be dearer with the original TR-powered Plus 4s worth ten grand extra due to their rarity – not far short of Plus 8 values, in fact, with top ones easily exceeding £30,000. With a budget of £20K specialists recommend spending it on a good mid 90s 4/4 than a poorer Plus 4.

Buying advice

With a design that’s as old as the ark you’d think rebuilding one would be easy but due to the hand-built feature of the car, new panels need to be fettled to suit. New body tubs are available, which come as an ash frame that’s panelled and includes doors at around £3500 with bare chassis frames under the grand – the biggest is labour charges. Door hinge drop is serious as it’s structural at £1500 per side and the ash frame deteriorates on untreated pre-86 cars.

Ford GT and TR engines most trusty and simple to repair; watch for head woes on T-Series while Fiat unit is fine and spares aren’t a major problem.

On all, watch for usual suspension deterioration – especially rear spring sag. Most common rot spots are the crossmembers, especially the one at the back. If these need replacing it’s a major, pricey job because the rear of the car has to be completely dismantled.

A Salisbury diff was fitted to Series II to V cars. Parts are hard to find, but specialists can rebuild your existing unit for you – at a price. Turn the steering wheel and see how quickly the road wheels respond. The chances are there’ll be some play in the system. All 4/4s were fitted with a cam-and-peg steering box, with a Burmanmade system being used until 1985. These earlier boxes weren’t especially well made, with plenty of slack a standard feature.

Later cars have a Gemmer steering box, which can be fitted as a direct replacement for the earlier type. This is lighter in use and also has better self-centring and lasts longer as well.

The sliding pillar suspension works well but the kingpins last no more than 20-25,000 miles, while the rear leaf springs sag and replacements cost £70 each.

Keeping up with the Joneses

Remember that famous portly troubleshooting guru who once said that Morgan lived in the past and were destined to fail as a result… Perhaps John Harvey-Jones couldn’t grasp that’s what makes this sportster such a timeless classic! Morgan was the first specialist maker to make good use of Rover’s V8 back in ’68 and it became the most famous of all Morgans – only killed off in 2004 due to toughening emission regulations more than anything else.

What didn’t change over the decades is the hand-built nature of the car along with its charm – and of course that unique V8 driving experience.

Driving

All Morgans are exhilarating to drive, whatever the powerhouse fitted, because they offer a special antiquated driving experience that makes an MGB or TR almost civilised by comparison! But the Plus 8 is something else.

Not surprisingly, with so much Rover V8 muscle and a primitive chassis taxed to the limit, that V8 can take a lot of taming, particularly on wet roads, and the ride is little short of rodeo-like. But that said, if you like a classic that’s vintage in looks and feel (especially the ride and refinement) but modern made then you’re mature enough for this Morgan. And boy, whatever engine is fitted and whatever tune – they all feel mighty quick!

Best models

As with any classic boasting a long production run, the originals are the purist and later models the most rounded. Having said that, not everybody will take to the first generation of Plus 8s and Morgan specialists admit this. Most will struggle with the heavy-handed pre-war Moss gearbox, meaning 1972 models sporting a Rover alternative are more sociable, ditto a wider body and cockpit around this time are welcome improvements.

From 1976 the SD1 engine, complete with a five-speed gearbox became standard. A year later the bodyshell was widened further to 62 inches. Fuel injection came along for 1984 liberating a stonking 190bhp and a modern diesel-like 220lbft of torque. Things got even wilder in 1990 though, with the arrival of a 3946cc lump – giving up to 235lbft of torque.

Post ’76 cars are usefully roomier, best are 1992 cars which saw telescopic rear damping fitted and 1997 models with lengthened doors. There’s some special editions to look out for; a Le Mans ’62 commemorative edition in 2002, to celebrate 40 years since the company’s success at La Sarthe; 40 were made. This was then followed up with an Anniversary edition in 2003, celebrating 35 years of Plus 8 production; 200 were built.

Prices

Plus 8s don’t come cheap and the early cars are most sought after by hard core enthusiasts who probably own several Morgans or are snapped up by foreign buyers. A decent Plus 8 fetches £20,000 all day and pre ’72 models can go for double this if still original – we saw a rebuilt 1971 model on sale at £79K and a 1969 FIA racer nearly ten grand more!

Of the later cars, it’s the fuel injected versions that appear to carry a premium. You see projects that look temptingly cheap, at around ten grand, but bear in mind that Moggies are costly classics to restore; Melvyn Rutter says a typical rebuild takes 800-1000 man hours – plus parts.

Buying advice

Check for recent herbicide resto work because while the design is as old as time itself, they aren’t cars that lend themselves to DIY work and while parts are plentiful, fitting much of the bodywork is skilled work.

Morgans are ash framed meaning post 1986 are the safest bet because the wood was treated; before then expect inevitable deterioration. Chassis rust in a big way but bare frames, cost under £1000, the major outlay comes for the labour-intensive rebuild – remember Wheeler Dealers? Most common rot spots are the crossmembers, especially the one at the back. If these need replacing it’s a major and very pricey job because the rear of the car has to be dismantled. Play in the door hinge post is a worry as it is structural and £1500 to fix.

Rover V8 is reliable long-lived but hates infrequent oil changes that can gum up the hydraulic tappets and also lead to camshaft wear. Head gaskets and exhaust manifolds can fail too although spare parts and tuning gear is freely available.

Although the rear axles are strong, they tend to leak oil. Turn the steering wheel and see how quickly the wheels respond – chances are there’ll be a fair bit of play present. All were fitted with a cam-and-peg steering box, with a Burman-made system being used until 1985. These earlier boxes weren’t especially well made, with plenty of play a standard feature.

Later cars have a Gemmer steering box, which can be fitted as a direct replacement for the earlier type. This is lighter in use and also has better self-centring and lasts longer as well. Your best bet is to get a replacement improved column from Melvyn Rutter. The odd sliding pillar suspension works well enough but the kingpins last no more than 20-25,000 miles, while the rear leaf springs regularly sag and replacements cost £70 each. Rear springs sag and ride height may be way too low as a result.
Some owners fit uprated higher springs.

When a Jaguar met a Moggy

Morgan does not make changes for change’s sake so when the company had to replace a long established icon it had a tough job. The Roadster of 2004, with power coming from a Ford-sourced 3.0-litre V6 (taken from the Mondeo ST220), may have seen many Morganists throw their hands up in dismay – how could a V6 ever provide the thrills of a V8 – but even they had to admit the V6 arrival was faster as well as a more rounded Roadster than the Plus 8 ever was!

Driving

You’d think that after the Plus 8, anything would be something of an anti-climax, but the Roadster does a tremendous job of replacing the iconic Rover V8-powered classic. Sure, the Ford-sourced V6, tuned specifically for Jaguar’s S-Type, doesn’t have the V8’s massive wall of torque, but it’s still a hugely rapid car – care of, a weight reduction of 100kg and a useable 237bhp. If you want more there’s a Lightweight edition with 248bhp and an 850kg kerb weight – but you’ll be doing well to find one of these.

The handling is generally ok in the dry with the typical rough ride and crashiness that comes with the badge although Morganists reckon the smaller lighter block engine sits better in the chassis for better weight distribution and it’s certainly an easier car to pilot than a Plus 8 – an important factor for many.

It still feels vintage, of course, but that’s part of the charm – but perhaps not the standard brakes, which feature solid not vented discs up front with drums at the back. Drive with verve and they struggle to rein in the Mog, and there’s no anti-lock either but upgrades are available from the works or specialists to make them considerably better.

Best models

There’s two, the regular Roadster and a lightweight version which has more power and less weight but these are rare and to be honest the average Morgan enthusiast (if there is such a thing!) will find the ‘cooking’ model more than lively with a 0-60 sprint in under five seconds!

Your choice may be down to colour preference and optional extras fitted, the later of includes alloy wheels, which are said to improve the traditional Morgan ride.

Hertfordshire-based Morgan specialist Melvyn Rutter knows more than most about the Roadster, as it was his company which acquired the first ever example back in 2004. Rutter told us at the time: “The Roadster is the best car that Morgan has ever produced.

“Better than the Plus 8 for long-distance drives, the Roadster also appeals to women because it’s a lot easier to drive. We’ve got a slightly-built female customer who owns a Roadster, but I don’t think she’d be as comfortable driving a Plus 8 because she’d find the steering too heavy – but the V6 car is fine,” he said at the time.

Prices

On the open market forecourt prices start at around £35,000 for the Jag-engined versions and say 40 grand for the later Ford Mustang 3.7 replacement, but values are more dependent upon condition, spec and mileage and a top 3.0-litre can sell for the price as the 3.7 – we found an example priced well over the 40K mark. Versions featuring accepted Morgan upgrades, perhaps to the only average suspension and brakes, can command a bit more because they’ve been made more desirable.

Buying advice

The Roadster’s relative youth means that high-mileage cars don’t really exist even on early cars as few Morgan owners cover more than 2000-3000 miles each year.

As a result, you’re unlikely to find one that’s covered more than 30,000 on the clock. With few high-milers from, wear is unlikely and neither is corrosion.

Roadsters were built using Morgan’s newer construction techniques, which means Superform aluminium wings, a stainless steel bulkhead and valances plus a galvanised chassis. As a result, your only major concern should be whether or not there’s any damage, from driving or parking indiscretions present.

The Ford/Jaguar V6 is pretty sturdy and more durable than the Jag V8, for instance so apart from electronic glitches, all should be okay. It’s still a Morgan underneath though which means a quirky if effective suspension set up with its sliding pillar front suspension. Check for wear as well as sagging rear springs plus see whether the car has been uprated for track day work as such hard use takes its toll on the dampers and brakes.

Three Spirit

If you thought three-wheelers were just Reliants and Del Boy, then think again! Not so long ago Morgan relaunched its classic tri-car but with a modern twist. But if it wasn’t for US outfit Liberty Motors, Morgan may never have revived the Three- Wheeler. Liberty created its own version of Morgan’s classic three-wheeler, called the Ace Cycle Car, which was deemed good enough to provide the basis for a new model from Malvern. Today they are good value and great fun and are delightfully diverse but be wary of the first models.

Driving

While the concept Ace Cycle Car featured a Harley Davidson V-twin, Morgan opted for an overhead-valve ‘X-Wedge’ twin-pot unit from American company S&S Cycle Inc instead. generating an unstressed 82bhp 2-litre delivering 103lbft of torque, fed via the lovely Mazda MX-5 gearbox. Which in a car as light as this, is a recipe for guaranteed exhilaration.

Keep the revs above 2000rpm and the car just flies; the sprint from a standing start to 60mph is pegged at under six seconds. The Three-Wheeler is geared for vigorous acceleration rather than a generous top speed but by the time you’ve hit 80mph all hell has broken loose. Better instead to just savour the acceleration at every opportunity; even around town it’s hard not to make the most of it.

The most important way in which the Three-Wheeler has moved on from the original is in the ease of driving; the current machine is as simple to drive as any of its contemporaries. The limiting factor is invariably the road surface; not how much grip there is, but how many bumps it contains, as the suspension is firm. This, combined with the low kerb weight, ensures that if you hit a bump at speed the car is deflected; Morgan switched from sliding pillar suspension to wishbones with coil-over-dampers at each wheel for this model, for improved reliability and safety, but things can still get unruly if you push to the limit.

What’s surprising is how little buffeting is present when tanking on, plus how stable the car is at legal speeds – to the point where it’s not immediately obvious at sane speeds that there’s a wheel missing (See best Models)!

Best models

If you can, buy the updated 2014 version because Morgan rid the design of its numerous foibles. Apart form cooling problems and sadly lacking build quality, the most concerns major on the early car’s chassis stiffness which led to high speed jitters. Apart from a revised chassis the steering was improved to reduce bump steer which even Morgan admitted was a problem at over 100mph. The engine was made smoother too while the warranty was revised to 30 months and 30,000 miles. The 2104 enhancements can be retrofitted to earlier models. “Upgrades to current spec has been available and can be fitted to earlier cars. Current cars are very reliable; we have a 2014 example that is our hire/demo car – has covered more than 8500 miles with no major issues,” says Melvyn Rutter.

Prices

Around £25,000 seems the going rate for a regular spec car although you find examples fitted with the approved full sports exhaust system and Kraken air filter kit. Gulf, Superdry and Brooklands special edition models usually command a premium over the standard offering although only differences are trim and paint options. In time there may be an appreciable difference in values though.

Buying advice

With any Morgan it’s best to try before you buy but more so with the Three-Wheeler as it’s probably unlike anything you’ve sampled before. If buying a pre-2014 model inspect the build with care, looking for post accident damage (it’s a different car to drive than the norm and some owners have been caught out) and on the move see that the engine doesn’t run over-hot. The early cars are notably harsher, not just the engine but the drive train as well, and as a result, it’s best to compare the two models to decide if the later model is worth the extra. That said, you may strike lucky and find some of the later improvements already incorporated.

Three Cheers

Morgan’s relaunch of its classic tri-car really took the company back to its roots albeit with a modern twist. So is it fair to compare one to the original model?

We can’t think of many scenarios like this one but as it’s a Morgan what else would you expect? You can buy either a brand new car or one of its 80-year-old ancestors which – at least on paper – offers much the same driving and ownership experience! Indeed, the situation must be unique, except that Morgan has recently done it again by releasing a Anniversary special edition of its 4/4 to mark another 80-yea-old landmark.

Revealed the Three-Wheeler at the 2012 Geneva motor show, the new three-wheeler wasn’t just a silly concept show exhibit but a genuine blast from the past and nearly 500 buyers couldn’t hand over their deposits quick enough, and since then orders have continued to accumulate.

Considering that Morgan’s lifeblood in its early days was a succession of models without a full complement of wheels, revisiting the formula was an obvious idea – but not until it actually happened. Morgan’s bravery has been vindicated despite some early issues with the original cars, which Morgan quickly dealt with. But if it wasn’t for US outfit Liberty Motors, Morgan may never have revived the Three-Wheeler. Liberty created its own version of Morgan’s classic three-wheeler, called the Ace Cycle Car, which was deemed good enough to provide the basis for a new model from Malvern. Morgan took over the project and after a redesign and some re-engineering the car was ready for a Spring 2011 début.

The Malvern-based specialist opted for a special overhead-valve ‘X-Wedge’ twin-pot unit sourced from American company S&S Cycle, as its creator was happy to re-engineer to a specific brief; a 1976cc unit was created, capable of generating a lively 82bhp along with 103lb ft of torque. Sounds good, but how does it compare with the original three-wheeler? In this special twin tri-car test we find out.

Which model to buy?

It would be easy to think of there being just two choices; pre-war or post-war. But it’s not that straightforward, because firstly the ‘pre-war’ model was actually built until the early 50s, while availability of the earlier three-wheelers is very hit and miss. Just because you set your heart on a particular model, it doesn’t mean you’ll find one. Which brings us to the third point; it’s not as though there was just one model where the ‘classic’ three-wheeler is concerned – there was a whole succession of them from the model’s introduction in 1909 until the demise of the formula in 1952, a full 16 years after the arrival of Morgan’s first four-wheeler.

Things kicked off with the Runabout in 1912, with production continuing throughout the First World War. But the chances of you finding a three-wheeler built before the mid-1920s are slim – indeed, unless you’re prepared to search hard and to wait for something suitable to become available, you’re most likely to find something from the early 1930s or later.

Whether you want a V-twin or four-pot three-wheeler is a matter of personal preference, but there’s something about the former that just oozes charm from every pore, while the four-cylinder cars look less endearing with their more conventional front-end styling.

Behind the wheel?

It’ll come as no surprise to learn that these two cars are totally different to drive in most ways, but not all in others. You wear either of them like you’d wear a favourite jacket; the cabins are so narrow that you can’t help but hang your arm over the side, and there’s not enough adjustment of anything to get a properly comfortable driving position. One of the key areas in which the threewheeler has developed is in cabin width; the new car is wider than before, but it’s still tight. Jump in (the steering wheel is removable to make entry and exit easier) and you have to sit on the transmission tunnel to latch the safety belt before you settle down into the seat. Once in place it’s comfy, but with a fixed chair, set low, the high cowl makes it hard to place the nearside wheel if you’re not very tall. There are adjustable pedals though.

On the move

Turn the ignition key, press the starter button and the engine settles to a lumpy idle. With each of the two cylinders displacing almost a litre, there’s ample torque for a smooth getaway, but once you’re moving it’s best to have a couple of thousand revs on the dial if the engine isn’t to feel as though it’s going to shake itself apart; it’s the meagre cylinder count that does it. Keep the revs above 2000rpm and the car just flies; the sprint from a standing start to 60mph is pegged at under six seconds.

The Three-Wheeler is geared for vigorous acceleration rather than a generous top speed; it tops out at a claimed 115mph. That’s more than enough, because up to 60mph things remain reasonably calm, but by the time you’ve hit 80mph all hell has broken loose. The most important way in which the Three-Wheeler has moved on from the original is in the ease of driving; the current machine is as simple to drive as any of its contemporaries. The Mazda MX-5-sourced five-speed gearbox is a delight and all of the controls are conventional, unlike in its pre-war counterpart.

Once you’re on the move the new upstart just pulls; with just half a tonne to propel, that two-pot engine doesn’t have to work very hard.

The limiting factor is invariably the road surface; not how much grip there is, but how many bumps it contains, as the suspension is typically Morgan firm. This, combined with the low kerb weight, ensures that if you hit a bump at speed the car is deflected; Morgan has switched from sliding pillar suspension to wishbones with coil-over-dampers at each wheel, for improved reliability and safety, but things can still get unruly – thankfully for 2014 the chassis was refined to iron some unwanted bugs and the engine became more refined.

If today’s Three-Wheeler driving experience feels old-fashioned, it’s nothing compared with its ancestor. With its hand throttle, joined by levers for advance/retard and mixture on the steering wheel, the 1933 Supersport requires some strong mental adjustment, not least of all because it’s easy to press the throttle after an upchange, only to be reminded that the right-hand pedal is actually the brake!

With no synchromesh on any of the gears, double-declutching is the order of the day and the steering is terribly heavy. With just half a turn between locks, as soon as you deviate from the straight-ahead you need both hands to get round even remotely tight bends.

What’s also quickly apparent as soon as you get to a sharp corner is how much narrower the 1933 Mog is; it’s immediately obvious that there’s just the one wheel behind you, as you can feel the weight shifting. But despite the seemingly crude suspension of this old timer, the Supersport actually rides appreciably more comfortably than the racier, pacier New Millennium monster which will come as a bit of a shock for many, we’d wager. However, such is the width of the front track and chunky rear tyre (there’s 205/55 rubber at the back) that you’ve got to be going some to unsettle the latest Three-Wheeler.

The daily option?

If you could use either of these cars on a daily basis you’re either seriously hardy or you don’t do many miles. In theory the 1930’s three-wheeler is a little more usable than the 21st century model in that it features weather protection – after a fashion. While there’s just a tonneau available for the new car, the original came with a folding roof, although it’s quite possibly the most ungainly hood ever fitted to a production car. Better to reserve them both for when the sun is shining.

Owning and running

Nobody is going to buy either to rack up thousands of miles each year. The newer car is engineered to be used much more, so in terms of usability – and possibly even reliability – the latest machine is likely to prove a safer bet although for many they are simply weekend toys.

However, if you’re coming into threewheeler ownership from a collector’s perspective or you’re after something to show, there can be only one choice, and that’s the original model.

The issue that puts many new car buyers off is that of depreciation, but Morgan has a pretty good record in this department. If you’d prefer a classic threewheeler, it’ll be a question of buying whatever you can find. Says expert Henry Williams: “Few cars come onto the market as owners like to hold onto them. The archetypal three-wheeler is a V-twin model, but the four-wheelers are worth a look too.

“These later cars tend to have lower asking prices attached, so they’re more affordable but they’re also likely to prove to be a sound investment just like the two-cylinder models”.

Restoration projects rarely come onto the market; if you can find one, you might get away with paying under £10,000 for it. However, tatty runners are available for just £12,000-£14,000 while good cars are more like £20,000-£25,000. Top threewheelers can easily change hands for £30,000-£40,000 and something really special can command an asking price of as much as £50,000 – although it won’t find a buyer too easily at that level.

Around £25,000 seems the going rate for a regular spec used ‘new’ car although if you find examples fitted with the approved full sports exhaust system and Kraken air filter kit then you may have to pay a premium. Ditto, the Gulf, Superdry and Brooklands special edition models usually command that bit extra over the standard offering even though only differences are purely trim and paint options.

The tri-car is reliable but if you fancy three-wheeling, try to purchase for a car with some of the welcome 2014 upgrades – read our special Morgan guide on what else to look for, elsewhere in this issue!

We reckon

It’ll come as no surprise that with around eight decades surrounding these cars, they each provide a very different proposition – in every respect. It’s hard to predict what residuals of the new car are going to be like; for a while yet they’re likely to be very strong, and even in the long term that’s unlikely to change. So from a financial point of view, your money is likely to be safe with this pair of three spirits

 



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