Morgan Motor Company
In the beautiful Worcestershire countryside, nestled in the shadow of the Malvern hills, lies a car company who's history stretches all the way back to 1909.
A quintessentially British affair, H.F.S. Morgan started building three wheeled cars to his own personal transport design and the now iconic Morgan 3 wheeler was born.
1936 saw the introduction of the 4-4, a four cylinder four wheeled car featuring the worlds longest used vehicle architecture, a steel Morgan chassis which was still in use up until last year!
And this was just the first of many times I was pleasantly surprised.
A visit full of surprise and delight
If you follow us regularly, you'll know I was recently lucky enough to visit this beautiful little company and was totally inspired by the feeling of familiarity, as if I'd come home. I'm referring to the fact that I've been in the motor industry for 40 years now, which started with working at P J Evans as apprentice to one of the Jaguar technicians. I still have connections with that brand, and remember fondly my days working in and around Browns Lane, which hadn't seemingly changed in all those years.
And here we were at a similarly aged factory, but this time the entrance was totally contemporary. The roof above the demonstrators, gently followed the rise and fall of those hills behind. Reception had the feel of a luxury spa, the Ash wood used in the production of the body frame, clearly having a calming influence in the design of the building and its surroundings.
There seem to be a few Morgan myths
"Err... don't they have a wooden chassis?"
This was quickly dispelled by our guide who showed us freshly arrived stillages of CX chassis (CX=110 years), eagerly awaiting build slots.
The chassis for these latest Morgan sports cars are bonded aluminium for the Plus Four and Plus Six models, and tubular steel for the 3 wheeler. We did see a bare 3 wheeler chassis right at the beginning of the production process, however, sadly it seems that as with many things these days, emissions legislation is sucking the fun out of everything and as a result the 2 litre Vee-Twin engine currently used, has reached the end of it's development, meaning the chassis we saw is quite possibly the last one of the 33 'P101 Limited Editions'.
They're keeping schtum as to what the follow-up will be? Our guess is maybe something like their EV3 electric car from a few years back.
But it's not all bad news though, also gone are the days of 8 year waitlists. Whilst popularity is a boon to any manufacturer, satisfying the needs of the modern customer is also a must. Order today and expect your freshly assembled sports car, sometime early next year.
As soon as you enter, you realise this is a modern work place, with carefully considered processes, each one leading logically to the next, bare bones become a rolling chassis once uprights and fuel tanks and harnesses are fitted.
The build sheet, (there are no QR codes or Kaizen reporting boards here), contains all the details required to build what is a totally unique vehicle with a bespoke configuration.
Individuals take care of the whole chassis build before the car is passed on to the next shop to be blessed with further skills and adorned in a hand crafted body.
Another customer has their car on the way.
In the wood shop, each beautiful Ash frame is constructed, it's role is to support the hand crafted aluminium body panels. Ash is chosen for it's light weight, flexibility and almost knot-free structure.
In the sheet metal shop, teams of the most gifted panel beaters enrobe the frame in a coat of ultra light aluminium and gradually, before your very eyes, the car you know and love begins to appear.
These pictures show the rear wheel arches being formed, initially from wood. We also see the front wings, which are super-formed using pressurised gas and lastly you can see the bodies, beginning to take form.
The devil is indeed in the detail
It is important that we don't leave you with the impression that this is some musty old factory. In fact, there's a rather special blend of craftsmanship meeting technology.
This assembly line has three main components, one uses aluminium, the other uses wood and the third uses leather.
Each area has cutting edge technologies and creates a vehicle that has many of the features you'll find on the most sophisticated of competitors. Engines are sourced from BMW, as are transmissions, the aluminium super-forming process used to create the forward wing sections is the same as used in aerospace, and the interior starts out with a trip from the Scottish lowlands, where 'Bridge of Weir' condition the very finest leathers used in a Morgan sports car interior.
And that's where we enter the last section of our visit to this exciting facility. Every sports car needs a bespoke interior. From box-weave lambs wool carpets, to heated comfort plus seats with adjustable side bolsters. There's the new roof assembly, quieter and drier than before, and behind every element, there's a team of experts, caring as they assemble and craft each and every Morgan.
Our parting shot of surprise and delight was the overarching sense of friendliness, of smiles as we took photos, of people taking just a few more moments to check the stitching is aligned... the curve of the leather is wrinkle free. The craftsmen and women here at Morgan feel like a family, like bees in a hive, creating life, which is all rather quaint, just like Malvern.
Our suggestion... if your ever in the market for something completely different, exclusive, unique and very British? Get off the M5 and head a few miles south of Worcester, just aim for those hills.