Morgan 4/4 review

1y ago

3.4K

The small key pinched between your fingers feels more suited to the padlock in your gym bag, its petite simplicity at complete odds with the pocket-filling fobs you are used to.

Crouch awkwardly at the pavement, reaching far lower than normal to the lock, before clumsily slotting in the key and rotating the light barrel half a turn.

Rotate the lever-like door handle, swing open the lightweight aluminium door - complete with detachable fabric panel and sliding plastic window - and clamber in.

Sitting low with legs out straight in front, you notice how small and close the windscreen is, shallow and with three tiny wipers. The steering wheel is also right up in your chest, so close you can touch it with your elbow without leaning forward; chrome and leather but with no buttons, no stereo controls, and no airbag either.

Belt-up, then realise you can’t reach the left-hand mirror to adjust it. Of course there are no buttons to do this with something as profound as electricity; not even a stalk. Clamber back out, adjust, get back in. Repeat about four times before you decide the tiny view of the rear wheel arch offered by the circular mirror will probably do.

Fire up the engine with a twist of a second key, revelling in the old-fashioned burbling of the side-exit exhaust which sprouts out from beneath the right-hand door, just a few inches from your hip.

Select first gear with the Mazda MX-5-sourced ‘box, release the fly-off handbrake, vertical and inexplicably located so far along the transmission tunnel that it is almost out of reach, and away you go. Emerge from the parking space and you already feel like an actor in a piece of immersive theatre, providing every passer-by with their own brief performance from a bygone age.

The Morgan 4/4 is not a fast car. It may sound like a vintage racer, rumbling and occasionally popping as you burble along, then rasping beautifully when you accelerate; it even has racing number roundels on the doors. But with a little over 100 horsepower and a 0-60mph time of eight seconds, it is more suited to leisurely touring than anything more heroic.

In production for a staggering 82 years, the Morgan 4/4 dates back to 1936, yet this car is brand new. It wears an ’18’ numberplate and on collection from Morgan’s Malvern factory it had fewer than 1,000 miles on the clock.

Yet, in many ways, in feels as old as it looks. There is no power steering, no ABS, no airbags, no traction control, and ‘optional extras’ fitted to this car include that most luxurious of items - door pockets. There’s no real boot either, apart from some space behind the seats to house a couple of backpacks, or for when you fancy taking the fabric upper halves of the doors off.

Without power assistance, the steering is heavy when stationary but lightens up as soon as you start rolling. It then gains weight again as speed increases, but never provides much in the way of feedback. There are plenty of vibrations, but no real sense of what the front tyres are doing. But this is fine, really. There’s some real joy to be had in hustling the 4/4 along a country lane, but dynamic feedback is not its strongpoint.

Nor is ride comfort. The suspension is firm and doesn’t have a great deal of travel, so speed bumps are taken at walking pace and you will soon catch yourself bracing and involuntarily grimacing every time a pothole comes into view between the spotlights ahead of that long, vented bonnet.

Each significant bump will also cause the interior mirror to flop downward, presenting you with a view of your passenger’s lap and a reminder of the car’s handmade nature.

What impresses, however, is the lovely five-speed gear change, precise and satisfying to use with a short throw of the cold aluminium knob.

Morgan warns new drivers of the pedal arrangement, with the accelerator set a few inches further down the footwell than the brake and clutch. At first it feels like the loud pedal isn’t there at all, but a more exploratory prod of your right foot eventually finds it, committing the position to muscle memory after a few miles. This oddity means heal-and-toe downshifts are almost impossible, which is a shame given how satisfying a quick prod of the accelerator sounds when changing gear, but you can forgive the car for that.

Although perfectly acceptable, the brakes require significantly more force than drivers of any modern car would be used to, asking for what feels like emergency-stop levels of pressure to bring the 4/4 to a halt. More for the muscle memory bank to file away for later.

The clutch feels normal, if a little heavy, but the pedal’s position puts it right up against the transmission tunnel, leaving nowhere for your left foot. It’s either resting on the pedal, leg bent, or laid sideways as if sitting on the floor.

Given all this, it would be easy to say the Morgan 4/4 is deeply flawed. Any objective assessment would say this car is unsuitable, unsafe and completely impractical; ill-equipped for the modern world.

But to give this assessment and truly mean it would be to miss the point. The Morgan is a glorious throwback and an utterly brilliant way of getting about. The exhaust note, the effort required to drive it, the buckets of character; this is an experience like no other, and one which makes you beam from ear to ear for the duration of every drive.

People admire the Morgan, smiling and pointing, complementing as you drive by and asking if their child can have a quick photo sitting in the driver’s seat. “That’ll make Grandad jealous,” their mother says afterwards.

Driving the Morgan 4/4 engages you in a visceral, tangible and unforgettable experience on every journey. It involves you in a way regular cars no longer do and reminds you of the joy of driving, the simple pleasure of engaging with a piece of machinery and making it do as you ask.

Take the time to think about every input - put real effort into perfecting each gear change, and plan every time you fancy taking a corner with a little extra commitment - and the car rewards you for playing along with its eccentricity.

Drive the 4/4 lazily and without care - which you can, if you must - and you will only be tapping at the surface of how the car can make you feel, and the enjoyment it has to offer.

After three or fours days in the Morgan’s company you will have fallen for it. The heavy controls, hard ride and lack of modern refinement and safety no longer matter; all is forgiven because, whatever the journey and its purpose, this car will make you happy.

Price as reviewed: £46,620

Specification:

Engine: Ford sigma 1,595cc, four cylinder

Gearbox: Maza 5-speed

Power: 110bhp @ 6000rpm

0-62mph (100km/h): 8.0 seconds

Top speed: 115mph

Weight: 795kg

Power to weight ratio: 138bhp per tonne

Economy: 44.1mpg (combined)

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  • Hi congratulations - your post has been selected by DriveTribe reviews Ambassador for promotion on the DriveTribe homepage.

    1 year ago
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