Morgan Plus 4: Morgan Magic

20 Apr 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Morgan Plus 4: Morgan Magic

 

Morgan Plus 4

: Morgan Magic

The Morgan Plus 4 offers all the charms of a 1940s roadster with the reliability and performance of a modern car

The Morgan Motor Company is a rare entity in today’s hi-tech, ever-changing car industry – a car maker that clings tightly to its past.

Despite some recent concessions to modern technology, a new Morgan roadster today bears more than a passing resemblance to the first four-wheeler Moggie, the 4/4 model, that was introduced 75 years ago.

Pull back the front carpet in the Plus 4, for example, and you’ll reveal the same ash wood frame mounted on a steel chassis that has provided the backbone for Morgan cars for decades.

Underneath that long, louvred bonnet is the patented, sliding pillar suspension that has given Morgans their distinctive, front end feel for the last 100 years.

In a world of often predictable, over-engineered sports cars, the two-seater Plus 4, with its running boards, chrome wire wheels and classy leather-lined interior, simply oozes olde worlde charm.

It provides all the seat-of-the-pants thrills that make classic roadsters so appealing, together with enough modern features to appease today’s discerning buyers.

Raise those thin aluminium side bonnet hoods, for example, and instead of a spluttering carburettor-fed donk, sits Ford’s latest Duratec 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine, matched to a short-throw Mazda five-speed manual transmission.

Amongst the upright, painted dash, with its traditional white-on-black instruments, you’ll find rock solid switchgear, heated windscreen, even an optional Bluetooth-ready sound system.

Side intrusion bars in the doors are one of the concessions to modern safety rules, but the doors are still cut low enough to allow the classic elbows-out driving position.

Purists will be pleased to know that the Plus 4 is yet to receive such modern niceties as airbags, wind-up windows or power steering; air-conditioning was reluctantly added as an option a few years ago.

Instead of the wall-to-wall plastics of modern cars there’s more hand-crafted shiny, metal bits and gleaming chrome than an Italian espresso machine. And like a Milan catwalk model, it’s picture perfect from every angle.

Our Plus 4 came with a mohair soft-top and side curtains, but top down on a sunny day is the only way to experience a Morgan.

The fun starts from the moment you try and squeeze into the invitingly cosy cockpit, particularly if you’re over 6-foot tall. Left leg first, followed by bum and right leg, all the while trying to prevent a pulled muscle.

The one saving grace is the deep footwell, although there’s no room for a left footrest. At least the accordian-style accelerator pedal looks the part, and it’s close enough to the brake pedal for some authentic heel-toe shifting.

The Plus 4 is just over four metres long, but seems longer behind the wheel, as you sit just in front of the rear axle, low down in sculpted sports buckets, and peer over the curvaceous hood through the lowcut windscreen.

The straight leg/bent elbow/reclining seatback position required for my lanky frame isn’t ideal, but any discomfort is soon forgotten once we hit the road.

The Plus 4 may appear old-fashioned, but it’s no slouch on the road. Combine 877kg weight with 106kW and 187Nm of torque, and its straightline performance is comparable to many modern sports cars. The 0-100km/h sprint takes a not-too-shabby 7.5 seconds and top speed is 189km/h.

But driving the Plus 4 is less about outright speed and more about driver involvement, and feeling close to the elements. Freeway driving with the side curtains in place is blowy but tolerable; removing the side barriers is like putting your head out the window of a plane.

Adding to the thrills is your position close to the ground – you can literally reach out and touch the tarmac, and cars tower over you as they whiz by in a whirl of tyre noise and flicking debris.

Hit some twisty roads and the direct, non-assisted, worm and roller steering loads up considerably, especially in tighter corners, where you need to wrestle the wheel to keep the car on line. Low-speed three-point turns require plenty of muscle too but it all lightens considerably on faster flowing sections.

Although the archaic sliding pillar/leaf sprung suspension transmits every ripple and bump in the road, and causes the Morgan to bounce and skip around on rough surfaces, it never feels uncomfortable, thanks to well-padded seats and tyres with decent sidewalls running 22psi maximum pressure.

You need to get on the disc/drum brakes early – and hard – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it encourages you to adopt the correct ‘in slow, fast out’ technique often discarded in modern, grippy cars with their forgiving safety nannies.

While offering sufficient grunt, our only complaint of the low-smog, 2.0-litre engine is the lack of an appropriately rorty note. For more aural excitement, you’ll need to spend more on a V6 or V8-engined Morgan, or fit an optional factory sports exhaust. Either that or settle for an older Moggie with a raspy twin cam Fiat engine.

But the sanitised powerplant is the only real letdown of a nostalgic experience guaranteed to put smile on your face even when rolling out the driveway.

In the short time we had behind the wheel of the Plus 4 it felt as solid and rattle-free as an MX-5, while modern mechanicals should make it as reliable. The treated timber frame and galvanised chassis means wood rot and rust should also be things of the past.

There’s still no boot however, and only enough room behind the seats for a couple of small bags, so you’ll need to travel light on that weekend escape.

Priced from $89,910, the Plus 4 is as unaffordable as it is impractical, particularly when you tick a few of the tasty options like leather trim and wire wheels.

But for those who want to rekindle their youth, or simply enjoy some of the back-to-basics motoring pleasures of a bygone era, in something that won’t leave you stranded in a puddle of leaking oil, it fits the bill.

QUICK QUIZ

What’s the fastest growing automotive brand in Australia? And which has the longest continuous-selling model?

Cluey car buffs will know the answer to both these questions is Morgan, the quaint British manufacturer that also celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2010.

Morgan Cars Australia sold 20 cars in 2011, a four-fold increase on the previous year. While barely a ripple in a new car market that clocked up over one million sales, it does highlight the growing number of cashed-up baby boomers wanting to relive the past in a classic roadster that’s changed little since the 1940s.

The Morgan Motor Company began in 1910 building three-wheeled cyclecars, but it wasn’t until 1936 it introduced its first ‘real’ car, the 4-4 (four-cylinder engine, four wheels).

Since then, not a lot has changed. The grandson of founder H.F.S Morgan, now runs the family-owned business, while dedicated craftsmen continue to hand-build a few hundred cars a year at the Malvern Hills factory, each car taking around four weeks with many of the parts painstakingly created in-house.

These days, Morgan offers a line of more modern cars alongside its traditional roadster range, which now kicks of at $68,000 for the 1.6-litre 4/4. Then there’s the soon-to-be released modern version of the iconic Morgan three-wheeler – the vehicle that started it all.

Price: $106,931 (as tested)

Body: two-door roadster

Drive: front eng, rear drive

Engine: Ford 2.0-litre four-cylinder

Power/torque: 106kW/187Nm

Brakes: disc/drum

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