With the quirky British company making a name for itself in the Middle East (and following our chat with Charles Morgan last year), crankandpiston.com takes the Morgan 3 Wheeler for a spin in what our deputy editor calls the most fun he’s ever had in a road legal car.We cannot display this gallery
I hesitate slightly to write this, but my drive in the Morgan 3 Wheeler might just be the most fun I’ve ever had in a road legal car. I hesitate because this is a hell of a claim. But then everything – and I really do mean EVERYTHING – about the Morgan 3 Wheeler is an adventure.
Take the starting procedure. I alight (steering wheel in-hand) by holding one of the buttresses behind the driver’s seat with my right hand and sliding my right foot into the footwell, teetering for a few moments as I attempt to fit my left leg alongside in a space half its size. Several minutes are lost amidst barely contained laughter from the crankandpiston.com crew and quite a lot of swearing from yours truly as I struggle to fasten my seatbelt. The resultant scuffed knuckles then attempt to click the removable steering wheel into place before turning the key in the ignition, disabling the immobiliser and pressing the ‘bomb release’ starter button. Only then do I realise I’ve forgotten to take my driving goggles out of the storage pockets under the rear cowl, and have to get back out again.
A faff perhaps, but it’s already given me a story to tell and some dignity to re-acquire. It’s fun, it’s an experience, and it’s exactly the attitude Morgan had when the 3 Wheeler returned to the range in 2011, 55 years after production first ended. Designed by company founder Harry Morgan back in 1909, the original 3 Wheeler (known as the ‘Runabout’) was part of the Cyclecar generation that put the quirky British manufacturer on the map. And for the 21st century, the ‘body-on-frame’ design principle remains the same. The 3 Wheeler is powered by an air-cooled V-Twin (like its forebear) that chucks out a sedate 87bhp. Mated to this is a five-speed manual gearbox taken from a Mazda MX-5 and which, fortunately unlike its 1909 equivalent, also comes with a reverse gear. A combination of an ash wood frame, a leather padded cockpit, a lightweight tubular steel spaceframe chassis, and aluminium body panels mean the dry weight of our test model is a barely comprehensible 575kg, on top of which is the 3 Wheeler’s traditionally aviation-inspired bodywork, albeit with updated suspension and a tubular front leg crossbar for greater torsional rigidity. Ignoring the overwhelming sense of British heritage is impossible as I turn the key and fire the V-Twin into life.
Leaving the C&P oval office though proves more difficult than expected. To disengage the almost impossibly delicate handbrake for example requires pulling the lever back and popping the top down, which takes a few goes to get right. Then there’s the rather pathetic turning circle: four inches into my Morgan adventure, I’m already performing a three-point turn to avoid clouting a kerb. Ironically the only obstacle that doesn’t cause any problems is the car park security barrier, under which the 3.5ft tall Morgan simply rolls. A few moments later, I’m pulling into highway traffic.
And it’s absolutely terrifying. It’s early morning in Dubai, and the road is already thick with commuter traffic. Humble hatchbacks tower over me, and I suddenly find myself at eye level with SUV exhaust pipes, waiting to be wiped out by an over-ambitious lane change at any second.
Turns out I needn’t have worried, since our ‘Maxxis Tyres’-clad retro-mobile is causing quite a stir: we’ve barely gone 1km and already dozens of motorists have slowed to wave, give a thumbs up (I assume), and grab an iPhone shot. And I’m loving it. Protected from the 120kph winds hitting me in the face by a pair of driving goggles, a cap and a body warmer, the sense of occasion really starts to take hold, aided it has to be said by the cabin I find myself in.
Alongside the bomb release starter button, there are only two gauges – the speedometer and the tachometer – neither of which I can see particularly well. And it’s not just because of the super-stiff suspension making the cabin rattle. In an effort to improve driver comfort, Morgan has raised the height of the steering arm in the 3 Wheeler, partially obscuring both gauges as a result. I’ll admit my 6’ 2” frame probably doesn’t help in this regard: despite the extra room, my legs still rub against the steering wheel. It’s a similar situation with the pedals: all three (manual, remember) are fully adjustable, but without a socket set to hand, they’re positioned too far forward for my liking, meaning I have to flex my left ankle to avoid riding either the clutch or the brake pedal. I’ve also ditched the rubber floor mat, and now the heels of my shoes are sliding about on the bare aluminium. And quite honestly, I don’t care. The genesis for this weekend plaything appeared 105 years ago, foregoing uncouth ‘power’ in favour of a lightweight build and character. There are no bells, no whistles, and it’s a raw as you could expect in here. So what? I think it’s brilliant: I’m already wondering where I can find a billowing white scarf, leather driving gloves, a Burberry cloth cap and a meticulously waxed pencil-thin moustache to complete the look.
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For our Morgan factory tour, CLICK HERE