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Road Test: Morgan 3 Wheeler
We have driven quite easily one of the oddest vehicles on sale, the Morgan 3 Wheeler. Neither a motorcycle nor a proper car, this vehicle offers a mixture of fun, open-top driving, three wheels and the true experience of motoring. The Morgan 3 Wheeler is all we had hoped for and more.
The British company has history with these kind of odd-numbered wheels. Its original 3 Wheeler plays a crucial role in its history, and the new version is the Morgan’s first three wheeler since the 1950s. It’s a successor to the trike Morgan made between 1909 and 1953, which lapped Brooklands at 160km/h and won the French Grand Prix in 1913.
The modern recreation is everything but your every day car. The genuine production car built in Worcestershire, England is a wonderful piece of indulgence that makes brilliant sense when you apply the logic of petrolheadism. For Morgan it is a rebirth of an old principle, inspired by one of its earliest product lines and a new chapter in its existence as being the largest British-owned carmaker in Britain at this moment.
The basic setup is a super lightweight construction with a 56-degree V-twin motorcycle engine up front. Originally the power was intended to come from Harley Davidson, but the U.S. business unit of the motorcycle maker decided otherwise. So Morgan changed their supplier to S&S, a Wisconsin-based Harley-Davidson tuner extraordinaire. The engine is closely based on the X-Wedge V-twins they produce for Harley-Davidson. The two-valve, fuel-injected unit punches out 115hp and 135Nm of torque with peak revs at 5,200rpm. The sub-500kg kerb weight allows the 3 Wheeler to reach 100km/h in around 4.5 seconds.
The engine is linked to a swift operating Mazda MX-5 five-speed gearbox. The performance is converted to the road via a Harley-style belt and a single wheel at the rear. The steering tires at the front are 19 inch wire wheels shod with Avon tires and sheathed with cycle fenders. At the rear, you will find a grippy tire tucked away underneath the rear cover with two aluminum gas tanks mounted next to the wheel. The bodywork uses an exposed tubular steel chassis with aluminum panels over Morgan’s traditional part-wooden frame.
Our experience started at a local dealership with the Morgan parked in front us by the owner. After a short explanation it was time to start the engine and to experience the full motoring heritage of the British car maker. Getting into the Morgan was an unique experience. After removing the steering wheel, you slide down into the leather-trimmed seat with your feet touching the tiny pedals in front of you. You are sitting close to the ground with your elbow out the door because there is simply no room inside. The leather padded cockpit complete with aircraft instrumentation adds to the sense of flying on the road.
Turn the key, flip up the “bombs-away” starter-button cover, press the center button and the V-twin engine starts after giving it some throttle to help it along. The 3 Wheeler shakes, the mirrors stopped offering you any type of rear view visibility, and the soundtrack is a true mayhem of a dark rumble tune filling your ears. You grab the classic three or four double-spoke steering wheel and you ease the clutch accompanied by a gentle push on the throttle.
The powertrain feels torquey when kept in the mid-rev range and the throttle response is quite linear to say the least. Bear in mind to select the correct gear and the 3 Wheeler will transport along twisty roads with ease. Keeping low revs in the wrong ratio can result in immediate vibrations, notifying you of the wrong gear selected. The steering and brakes are power assistance-free, and there are no helping aids either. The brake pedal needs a good shove to bring the speed down, but after a while you get the hang of it.
In front of you and your passenger, you have two small aero screens providing some kind of cover against road debris and flying insects, which can become enemies of your face and eyes when you do not wear a good pair of traditional goggles and a cap. There is no heater, no cooling, no radio, only the elements surrounding you. You are one with the environment while being mesmerized by the bouncing front wheels. Taking exits means pointing in your intended direction with your arm or use the column-mounted lever and turn signals.
The option list features eight different sport colors, polished cowl, polished head lamps, polished roll over hoops, polished engine, polished exhaust, black heat shields, and two different cockpit covers. You can even get a photo reportage of the complete production of your car. Specialized graphic packs provided an unique touch to the exterior trim of the car. You can opt for a checkered winners bonner, combat bullet wounds, UK/US national flag, shark nose and a RAF or US military inspired livery.
In the end, we were blown away by the massively appealing machine and its capability to be hugely entertaining. The V-Twin engine dominates the driving experience in every single way. The wonderful noise it makes surrounds you and lets you forget the lack of space you have inside the cabin and the storage compartment.
The old-fashioned driving fun is combined by a direct steering, a surprising amount of lateral grip and a sheer speed off the line. This 3 Wheeler put us back a hundred years in time, and we loved the delightfully old-school experience. Morgan’s rebirth has proved to be a winner, because the 3 Wheeler’s first year of production – 500 cars in total – was completely sold out, and now we know why!