It was an idea floated by one of the senior management at work. He’d been at some shindig in London where Charles Morgan was speaking (who was, at that point, and this is a few years ago, still the figurehead at Morgan). The two got talking, factory visits were mentioned and before we knew it, VIP-type passes had been arranged for myself and a few colleagues. Did we want them? Did we ever. So several months later, we rocked up at the factory entrance on Pickersleigh Road in Malvern, not quite sure what to expect.
It was a pleasant surprise to first, be given a guided tour of the factory (and I mean the ENTIRE factory, including the design studio, 3 Wheeler production line, V8 production, body shop and paint booth, witnessing racks of aluminium wings dangling from walls like metallic sides of ham etc) and then promised a drive in the afternoon. Cynical as always, one was expecting nothing more than a quick nip around the block in something. Turned out to be rather more involved. But we’ll get to that.
Prior to the tour though, there was a talk by Steve Morris, now MD of course, and at that point clearly a man heading in the right direction. And that direction, apparently, was Scandinavia. He and several other members of the senior management team were about to embark on a charity drive through northern Europe in 3 Wheelers, armed with nothing more than thick coats and scarves, and a large dose of enthusiasm. This went down quite well with the gathered enthusiasts and the general feeling of joviality didn’t wane in the slightest once the factory tour kicked off, whereupon we returned to the muster point and started musing over lunch…
We were able to witness all stages of the manufacturing process, pretty much nothing was off limits.
This is a Plus 4 chassis, if memory serves...
Big fan of this BMW V8 engine, and this is a superb home for it.
3 Wheeler assembly area
How delicate looking do these look?
No probs, said somebody from Morgan, we’ve booked a table at a local-ish place we know quite well. Let’s all drive there. So naturally we went for our own cars in the car park. No no, the Morgan people countered, we’re going to DRIVE there…
Doors were flung open and we wandered out into the light, whereupon we were presented with 3 Wheelers, Plus 8s, Aero 8s and Plus 4s. And a load of massive smiles. Who takes what? Well, who wants what? I’d quite fancy a go in a 3 Wheeler, actually. And so it was that myself and a mate found ourselves scurrying through the Malverns in a marvellous modern interpretation of one of motoring’s most enduring anachronisms.
So ok, you couldn’t see anything out of the wing mirrors whilst parked at the lights, such was the vibrations from the exposed twin upfront. Plus there's not an awful lot of space in here for two chaps. And with several of us flicking around the place in 3 Wheelers, we must have looked like a swarm of bees in other road users’ wing mirrors, but no matter. It was hysterical fun and it was only after ten minutes or so of following the cars in front that it dawned on us that nobody had the slightest clue where the hell we were going…
A few U-turns followed, as did impromptu gatherings of people who thought they knew their way but ultimately didn’t. Then finally somebody recalled something being mentioned; A name of a local village. Out with the ‘phones and onto Google (how did we cope years ago?). Got the place. Back into the cars, bombing, buzzing, rumbling down the lanes and eventually, we all rendezvoused at this lovely little eatery a few miles out of town.
3 Wheeler awaiting its next outing
Lovely example of exposed engineering
And a small but beautifully crafted interior, to boot
Plus 4, here decked out in Marfan Trust livery, proved a massive hit on the day, but...
...Plus 8 easily won our hearts.
Who needs more?
Mercifully, the rain stayed away. Hoods were only erected during lunch.
And the Aero 8 offered up simply monumental performance.
Those side-exit exhausts really add character.
Food scoffed in mere minutes, it was clear that the Morgan staffers were happy to sit around and natter, so keys were retrieved and what followed was several hours of blatting around The Malverns. The 3 Wheelers continued to be a hoot, single-wheel spinning away from T-junctions like right little hooligans, the Plus Fours were exquisite devices and would grace any car collection, but the real starts of the show were the Plus 8 and Aero 8.
Never anything less than bombastic in their power, and utterly intoxicating in noise, they morphed from one bend to the next in a totally bewitching manner. Hand-built but shot through with integrity and clear quality, it was easy to see how one of these carries a ticket price north of £70k. Side-exit exhausts tearing the air, minimal weight offering up no resistance at all to the 367hp and 370lb/ft from the 4.8 litre BMW V8, but nevertheless with fairly sure-footed handling which didn’t feel like it was going to launch you into the scenery, the Plus 8 especially was a combination of ferocious noise and pace but with decent road manners. Simply sublime.
Various clips of the day, just for a taste. Not the best footage you will ever see but this was somewhat ad-hoc in nature.
Driving home in my E38 740i later that evening, the car suddenly felt big, cumbersome, extremely slow and oh so heavy. They say things that really matter stick in your mind. To this end I hold dear, three drives in my life. The first, trying the brakes from 60mph for the first time in a 2001 996 Carrera, and stopping split-seconds later. The second, leaving Dick Lovett on the maiden drive in my long-since departed 550 Maranello. And the third, that drive across the Malverns in the Plus 8.
Morgan offer up factory tours to anybody prepared to pay the nominal £20 per adult or a tenner per child fee. They’ll even rent you a Morgan for the weekend if your pockets are a tad deeper. A friendlier bunch of engineers and enthusiasts you couldn’t wish to meet, so if you have the time and the means, get it done.
Coming up over the next couple of months or so, is a full review and test drive of the current Aero 8, complete with an in-depth film of the factory and the car itself. So look out for that.