Best of British
I very nearly called this post ‘Back to Basics’, but that didn’t fit with the setting… The main photo on this page is the very beautiful Morgan Plus 4 I was lucky enough to be driving, outside of Simpsons Fish and Chips in Cheltenham. Simpsons recently netted the top prize as the UK’s best takeaway fish and chips bar none (an honour well deserved in fairness), so it seemed only right the best family-owned British sports car should visit Britain’s best fish and chips – two true gems of the Cotswolds!
So, to the car… the reason for the alternative title is that this car really does take you back to basics. We’re talking a key to open the driver’s door – and the passenger’s… no central locking here, in fact no power steering, air conditioning, electric hood, air bags (!) or effective wing mirrors. In fact in terms of mod cons, you’re talking about a CD player (tucked away out of sight to preserve the look of the classic sports car) a push-button starter and heated seats.
So there are few driver aids and precious little in terms of practicality. So far it’s hard to justify the cost of this little car, coming in (with a few extra’s) at around £45k. Yes, you have a hand made chassis, ash frame and aluminium body panels, which all look great, but it’s still a hands-on car to drive without the modern touches we are so used to. A friend whom I gave a lift too described the seating position as comfy… but like being in a red leather coffin. And to be fair, she had a point – the supine position with legs outstretched does seem reminiscent of the final resting place, but as soon as you press that starter button, all that – the position, the difficulty in getting in (gracefully or otherwise) and the hard work needed to man-handle the car – is forgotten.
Baring in mind you’re in control of a simple 2-litre engine from Ford bolted to the 6 speed gearbox from a Mazda MX5, on paper it should be nippy, but nothing to write home about. But what you have to add in to that is the pedigree that you also get when you buy a hand-crafted sports car from a company that still maintains the principles of it’s founder, who made his first car in 1909. And that pedigree means they know – really know – how to make a car go from A to B as fast as you can handle.
And, boy, can this car move.
The noise and crackle from the exhaust as you press the starter and the engine rumbles to life, gives you the first indication of what to expect. Then you select first gear, release the fly-off handbrake, and press the accelerator (trigger) and you’re off.
I’ve driven fast cars (see the Tesla and Aston Martin DB9GT reviews for reference), but this feels different. It’s a visceral thing – you have to drive this car physically. The Tesla and Aston were easy to drive – exhilarating, but easy – whereas with the Morgan, you have to work at it. But it rewards you for that work.
The shear power from the 2-litre engine and a mass-produced gearbox is immense. Partly due to the weight, partly due to the expertise of Morgan’s engineers, but this thing moves.
I had this car for 5 days, and never have I had so many people want a lift, a quick spin round the block, any excuse really, and with 2 exceptions, it was a massive hit. Everyone (except my wife and my sister) loved it. It was a real experience, and one I can’t wait to repeat. Yes, it was relatively hard work, and I wouldn’t want to go on a trip of more than 2 hours. Yes it was physically demanding and unforgiving if you forgot the lack of power steering when manoeuvring. Yes, the hood is a manual operation. Yes, the visibility with the hood up is poor.
But the positives… Oh. My. God. The positives. It felt truly exciting to drive. The power, the speed, the noise; all contributed to an experience that I honestly don’t believe can be beaten by any commercially produced car today. There may be track cars that give you the same feeling, but you can’t then drive them home, or in fact take your five-year old son to the cinema – which I did! You can’t take anyone else at the same time, but still…
It’s impractical, basic, and in all fairness low-tech. But almost all who had the pleasure of seeing it, riding in it, and hearing it loved it. It’s favourite two fans? My son and myself. And you don’t get much better endorsement than a five-year old boy. In reality, it is an expensive toy. But at the same time, it is quite simply an incredible piece of British engineering.