The Mog Is Back

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The Mog Is Back

Postby RYP » Tue Sep 06, 2011 12:56 pm ... ce.html?hp


2 Wheels or 4? Let’s Just Split the Difference

Jonathan Player for The New York Times
THROWBACK Charles Morgan in his company's new 3-Wheeler, which is powered by a 2-cylinder motorcycle engine that produces 120 horsepower. More Photos »
Published: September 2, 2011

Malvern Link, England“NOT everything good has to be an iPod or iPad,” said Charles Morgan, the dashing chairman of the Morgan Motor Company. “Brand new ideas are wonderful when they happen, but sometimes there’s good in older ones, too.”

Slide Show
Three-Wheeled Wonder

Sorting Through the Mystique of the Morgan (September 4, 2011)
With that, he slipped into one of his company’s diminutive new 3-Wheelers — an attractive re-imagining of the successful 3-wheel cars that put the family business on the road a century ago — and sped off.

To be sure, Morgan has for some time earned its keep in finding the good in older ideas. Still occupying the same site on Pickersleigh Road in this Worcestershire village where Mr. Morgan’s grandfather, H. F. S. Morgan, and great-grandfather, the Rev. H. G. Morgan, built a factory in 1918, the company has long been known for its resistance to modern methods of mass production.

Morgan builds sports cars the old-fashioned way, with hand-formed aluminum panels, wooden body frames assembled on site and, on 4-wheel models, sliding pillar front suspensions whose conception (and brutal ride quality) can be traced to the dawn of the last century, if not earlier.

Unheard-of in car factories today, visitors seem free to wander the laid-back premises of “the Morgan’s,” where rows of brick and mortar sheds with blue wooden barn doors have welcomed as many as a half-dozen generations of families who have come to work here.

There is much new afoot under Charles Morgan, a former documentary filmmaker and only the company’s third chairman — he took the reins shortly before the death of his father, Peter, in 2003. Yet today’s most recognizable model, the 4/4, has a lineage and name dating to 1936.

Of note here, one of the “4s” in the 4/4 model designation referred to that car’s four wheels, the other signifying its number of cylinders. That was big news at the time for a company that had grown up building tiny 3-wheel roadsters with exposed engines, typically 2-cylinder designs shared with contemporary motorcycles, situated proudly at the extreme front of their chassis.

The two front wheels handled steering duties and the single one at the rear transmitted power to the ground. The formula had its advantages: these Morgans were licensed as motorcycles under British law, incurring lower taxes than automobiles.

In the 21st century, that motorcycle designation still advances the cause of automotive eclecticism, subjecting the new Morgan 3-Wheeler to the less stringent emissions and safety standards of 2-wheel vehicles.

Licensing the driver of a 3-wheel vehicle is not as straightforward, varying greatly from state to state. In California, for instance, all that’s needed to pilot a 3-Wheeler is a car license. Most everywhere else a motorcycle license is required, and to further complicate matters, some states require that the driving test be taken on a 2-wheeler in order to get a license to drive a 3-wheel vehicle.

Morgan says the 3-Wheeler, designed by Matthew Humphries and one of the star attractions of the Geneva auto show in February, will be available for sale in America by Christmas. At current exchange rates, the price is about $43,000.

Morgan dealers in the United States are now taking deposits, typically about $5,000, on these built-to-order playthings, increasing the chances that the company will meet its target of selling 200 3-Wheelers annually for some years to come. The first 3-Wheelers are just being delivered to customers in Europe, and more than a year’s worth of orders have already been taken.

Unlike 3-wheelers built with a single wheel in front — a design that exhibits a worrisome inclination to roll over when pushed hard in corners — Morgan’s “two up front” formula made the original version a stable machine and a tenacious competitor in racing. No surprise, then, that road-holding and performance are two qualities the re-imagined 3-Wheeler — Morgan’s first since 1946 — brings forward in spades.

While the front end’s pair of skinny 19-inch wire wheels, shod with Avon bias-ply tires, visually recall 3-wheelers of the past, a single low-profile car-type radial tire mounted on a modern alloy rim sits hidden beneath a removable rear panel.

A 2-cylinder motorcycle engine — with a whopping 1,990cc displacement — churns out 120 horsepower. Fed through a slick-shifting 5-speed transmission (it also has reverse) borrowed from the Mazda Miata, power is transmitted to a rubber belt that drives the rear wheel. With a weight of about 1,100 pounds and a cuteness that is at least the equal of any iPod or similar device, it is hard not to be intrigued by the 3-Wheeler’s possibilities.

Adding new dimension to the meaning of “snug,” the boat-tail cockpit is a tasteful exercise in spartan retro design, handsomely trimmed in leather (available in custom colors, as is the rest of the car) with an aeronautical feel to its dials and controls. Though the three-spoke steering wheel can be quickly removed to aid entry by larger and less pliable citizens, I did not need to remove it.

Still, there was no mistaking the 3-Wheeler for an ordinary car.

Press the starter button (it’s protected by a safety catch) and the fuel-injected V-twin roars to life. The aviation ambiance is intensified by a barely muffled drone from the side-mounted exhaust pipes, sounding a bit like the World War II Spitfire fighters in old films warming up for their combat missions.

The car rocks, its cycle fenders shake and voices must be raised. Then it dawns on you: what the bellowing power plant really recalls is every Harley-Davidson that ever disturbed the peace as it passed by.

Strongly resembling Harley’s classic V-twin, the 3-Wheeler’s X-Wedge engine is a proprietary unit designed and built by S & S Cycle, a Viola, Wis., company with a long standing as a supplier to Harley tuners and the aftermarket. Certified for sale in all 50 states, the new Morgan may upset the neighbors but it ought not confound local mechanics.

Get comfortable — more of a psychological procedure than a practical one, as there’s nothing to adjust beyond a single rearview mirror — and let out the clutch. Stand on the gas. It sounds and feels as if you’ve just released a large hive of bees.

As the V-twin buzz becomes a scream and you rocket forward — 60 miles per hour comes in 4.5 seconds — you are transported to another era. Wind whistles around you as the scenery blurs; pebbles, insects and road debris are transformed into serious hazards. With only a tiny pair of windscreens for protection, goggles, earplugs and soft helmets are a reasonable precaution.

Even so equipped, noise is profound in a way that no Ferrari road car could ever be, and will undoubtedly prove wearing on longer drives, even for the hardiest motorists. Headphone jacks are provided so the driver and passenger can plug in and carry on a conversation or listen to an MP3 player. There is no radio.

On the other hand, the ride is surprisingly good, especially for a Morgan. Unlike the 4/4 and Plus 8 models of the past, the modern 3-Wheeler has an independent front suspension that soaks up bumps, potholes and pavement irregularities. The steering is nimble and, aided by the 3-Wheeler’s almost absurdly compact dimensions, the driver soon feels as if dodging any obstacle is possible.

While the Morgan still uses wooden supports behind some of its aluminum body panels, the main structure is a substantial tubular steel cage that provides a measure of protection for two — and there can only be two — occupants. Otherwise, besides a pair of three-point seat belts and a couple of rollover hoops, modern safety equipment is nonexistent. No air bags, antilock brakes or traction controls.

In terms of safety, it is exactly as advertised: somewhere between a car and a motorcycle. And it won’t tip over, not easily at least.

Wheels and tires that vary in size and construction from front to back turn out to work well together, with no discernible deficit in corners owing to the lack of a fourth wheel. Fat and sticky though the rear tire may be, it soon becomes apparent that spinning it is possible in any of the lower gears. Easy enough to compensate for, it nonetheless heightens the driving sensation.

It may be missing a wheel, but this throwback Morgan is one fast machine.

A top speed of 125 miles per hour, according to Morgan, may not be in the same league as most cars that accelerate as quickly. But frankly, for something with only the most rudimentary of windscreens and no top, it’s not as though you’d really want to go any faster.

As everyday transport, only lunatics need apply. But the Morgan 3-Wheeler looks great, it goes great and it is undeniably special. A good idea or not, this curious step back in time is an old one that’s as amusing to a driving enthusiast as anything Apple ever dreamed up.
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Re: The Mog Is Back

Postby Detroit_Pierogi » Mon Dec 26, 2011 9:24 pm

Too often confused with the Maxi Mog.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.
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