Fresh from his first experience of Morgan machinery in January, our deputy editor takes a second shot at quintessential British motoring with the Roadster 3.7.
|Cyclone V6, 3700cc
|280bhp @ 6000rpm
|280lb ft @ 4900rpm
A few months ago I spent time with one of the oddest and most enjoyable road cars I’m ever likely to drive, Morgan’s aptly named 3 Wheeler. One of the reasons I enjoyed the experience so much was the sense of character and humour it conveyed, without adding a need to ‘find the limit’. And so it was that, a few weeks later, as I busied myself twirling a contemplative pencil at the C&P Oval Office, I realised I was not ready to end my Morgan experience just yet.
But the 3 Wheeler was already in the bag: done, dusted, t-shirt in the post. It was time for something new. And by that of course I mean something retro. Something characterful but not in quite the same ‘what the hell’ manner as the 3 Wheeler. Something a little more refined. Several phone calls later and at a decidedly un-retro 5am, I find myself standing in the crankandpiston.com office car park scanning the ‘almost-but-not-quite’ British Racing Green machine that marks stage two of my Morgan adventure, the Classic Range-headlining Roadster 3.7.
Though production of the Roadster is only 11 years old (the two-seater replaced Morgan’s well-established Plus 8 in 2004 following the latter’s 36-year production run), you’d be forgiven for thinking the Roadster had fallen straight out of a classic car auction. Unlike its contemporaries, Morgan insists on working with wooden frames on top of which sits a steel chassis (don’t go looking too closely for weight saving aluminium). The design is all curves, with not a garish ‘sharpened’ bodyline to be found and wing mirror stalks and windscreen wipers – all three of them – that look so delicate, you’d think a light breeze would rip them from their moorings. Likewise the running boards are aesthetically pleasing but the idea of actually standing on one sends a shiver down my spine. Which is ironic since, given the effort required to get in, is enormously tempting.
Simply opening the door and flopping your legs in one after the other won’t get the job done. Not without hacking at least one of them off at the knee anyway. With the roof stowed, I’m advised by Morgan’s regional press team and my C&P support network (newboy Yazan) to hold the headrest of the passenger seat with my right hand, slide my right leg down one side of the steering wheel, balance my weight on my right arm and slide my left leg down the other side of the steering wheel. If successfully done, I should simply flop down into the seat. If unsuccessfully done, at least one of my trouser legs will be beyond repair.
It’s a process that does draw parallels with the 3 Wheeler, in that most of my dignity has been eroded by the time I’ve landed in the driver’s seat with a crash, and I’ve managed to bend my legs in directions the human anatomy rarely intends. But there are some innate differences. I’m not furiously trying to slot the steering wheel onto the column for instance, hastily tightening my driving goggles, or re-assuring myself that ‘oh these engineers know what they’re doing, it’s not going to fall over.’ I have a fourth wheel (five if you count the spare mounted on the back), an actual windscreen, 280bhp available from a 3.7-litre Ford V6 that is capable of 225kph and for which fuel stops will not be required every 30 minutes. Even the comparatively generous ride height means my afternoon won’t be spent breathing in the carbon monoxide of passing big rigs. It’s all slightly less barmy than my 3 Wheeler experience, and as such a little more…genteel, in a P.G. Wodehouse kind of way. And I’m well up for it.
Of course finding a quintessentially English location to match our modern day cum 1930s roadster for a leisurely Sunday morning drive is a bit tricky: rustic country houses and afternoon tea with the vicar isn’t exactly in abundance in the Middle East. We figure though – after a quick and ultimately fruitless consultation of the map – that our best bet is away from Dubai’s ultra-modern metropolis and closer to the more rustic Fujairah, some 300km away. Fortunately the roads are still quiet as we pull out of the C&P office car park, giving me the chance to gauge the gentility of the Roadster’s interior.
Unlike the 3 Wheeler, the space in the cabin – though still on the snug side – is much wider and longer, meaning locking the seatbelt is possible without at least three people needing to help. Even the seats are adjustable, by a couple of inches, granted, but adjustable nonetheless. There’s leather seating and upholstery, turn of the century style gauges for speed and revs, and a proper fuel gauge. And whilst Audi and Mercedes have little to worry about in terms of build quality, it’s all so wonderfully British and charismatic that I can’t help but be enamoured by it all. The only thing missing is Bertie Wooster sitting in the passenger seat inviting me to the Drones Club for a snifter.
The only thing putting a dampener on this romanticised image however are the three plastic buttons fitted to the centre console, used to navigate around the driver infotainment system for those vital figures on distance travelled, L/100km readings, kilometres of ra…good Lord, is that a stopwatch? That’s still not the biggest bugbear I have though, since tucked under the dashboard is a radio. Access is limited – especially since we’ve forgotten to put batteries in the remote – and the unit is hidden well enough that it doesn’t impinge too much on the ‘iconic’ look of the Morgan. But like the modern-day plastic buttons, it’s a ghastly addition to the cabin’s classic elegance, and, frankly, an unnecessary add on: the wind noise at cruising speed is such that Drake and Chris Brown prove indistinguishable. But then what else is new
Out of the city limits, I’m keen to put the Morgan’s V6 to good use: it was after all used in the Ginetta G60 at one stage. And I’m immediately surprised by the results. Hooked up to a five-speed manual gearbox (again, Ford), pull from first and second gear are very smooth as the Roadster starts to pick up pace, so it’s with some astonishment that third gear brings with it a tangible kick of momentum. And this isn’t even under particularly heavy acceleration. When I feel brave enough to accelerate hard, the sensation of speed is truly remarkable. By Ferrari or Porsche standards you couldn’t call it ‘aggressive’, but it’s a sensation that makes me blink quickly, especially given that the suspension is just hard enough to make the ride quite taut over less-than-smooth tarmac. It’s not uncomfortable, but you will feel those bumps in the road as you pass over them. So far, so Wodehousian.
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