With regret, I take it back to the factory, and hurriedly swap it for a Plus 8, as the day is fast coming to an end. This is the model that represents the best of both worlds – a lightweight bonded aluminium chassis and a 4.8-litre BMW engine, but with the traditional coachbuilt body and classic looks. It weighs just 1100kg dry and puts out 315bhp. And as a result, it really shifts, hitting 100kph in just 4.5 seconds and maxing out at 249kph. It looks just fabulous – a wider, more butch version of the classic shape rather than some retro-inspired modern interpretation.
To drive, its drivetrain lends it a large amount of BMW character. The ultra-smooth pull of the V8, and the beautifully refined six-speed manual gearbox (an auto is also available) give it an assured surge under acceleration, but without the raw-edged drama you might expect in a hand built car. Indeed, it feels thorough composed an assured when pushed. You sit almost over the rear axle, and the double-doored bonnet stretches out towards the horizon in front of you. It’s almost like you’re riding a missile, dressed in tweed.
Here’s where my sensible head kicks in though. The Plus 8 costs, in UK spec with tax, $131,000. You could get a pretty decent ‘modern’ sportscar for that money, with all the mod-cons that come from buying a relatively mass-produced machine. You wouldn’t get the hand-built character that a Morgan has in spades, but neither would you have the niggles. Later on, I couldn’t get the roof down as the switch to unlatch the canvas got stuck. Even if it had worked, removing it requires the unfastening of lots of things, and then the manual application of a cover. The wind noise with the roof up is plentiful. The stereo system looks like it comes from the 90s. You need at least three keys with you at all time. If you want to take the door windows off, you have nowhere to store them. And so on.
The Plus 8 for me would be a car to add to a sizeable collection, for occasional drives. Modern motoring is at a stage where if you want a Plus 8 as a daily driver, you’ll have to get used to a lot more… well, faffing about. For some, that will be part of the appeal. For others, it’ll rule it out.
Still, there’s no denying the buckets of charm and character that a Morgan – any Morgan – brings with it, and I completely understand why it has such a devoted fanbase and has succeeded in a business sense where so many others have failed. Personally, I find the Plus 8 a little too much hard work for the price, but the 3 Wheeler is right up my street. It’s so eccentric as a concept that the practicality aspect really doesn’t come into the equation, and the quirks of the hand-crafted nature are a plus rather than a hindrance. At half the price of the Plus 8 it makes much more sense as a weekend toy. I strongly suspect that I won’t be alone in this view when Morgan arrives in the Middle East at the end of this year, and fully expect to see a growing fleet of 3 Wheelers tooling around Arabian streets. Trust me when I say that everyone driving them will have huge smiles on their faces.