Heavy Metal Affliction - 2014 Morgan Three-Wheeler
Celebrating the long-awaited arrival of the Morgan Three-Wheeler in the Logitech G Car Pack, this week Heavy Metal Affliction takes a look at the historical Morgan Motor company and the building methods that help make the Three-Wheeler one of the most unique driving experiences to ever come to the world of Forza.
More than 100 years ago Henry Frederick Stanley Morgan bought his first car; he was 21 years old. Two years later he was selling and servicing motorcars in Malvern Link U.K.. By 1909 he had fashioned his own car, a three-wheeled cyclecar. Production of the first Morgan Three-Wheeler, the Runabout, soon followed. Something legendary and unique was born.
While the concept of a three-wheeled car or a car powered by a motorcycle engine was not a first, the Morgan quickly came to be known for its quality, durability, and sound design. As early as 1913, Morgan established itself as a leader in cyclecar building by winning the Cyclecar Grand Prix in France. In many genres of motorsport and global motor touring, the Morgan three wheeler made a name for itself.
Morgan vehicles, whether three-wheeled or four-wheeled, have always been coach built. We spoke with Jonathan Wells, Morgan Head of Design, to better understand this concept. “Coach building in essence suggests a hand-built body mated to a chassis. In this, the chassis provides all of the necessary structure and strength and houses the drivetrain componentry, whilst the body is built independently to offer occupant enclosure, aerodynamic function and the desired aesthetic,” Wells said.
If you know one thing about a Morgan, it may be that wood is utilized as a building component. One thing that should be clarified is the chassis is made of metal. However, the body frame is built entirely of Ash, a wood that is readily available in the U.K., is less prone to rot, and its long grain is conducive to flexibility.
Morgan has been using Ash wood in car production for more than a 100 years. Nostalgia aside, wood has many other qualities that contribute to the what makes a Morgan so special. “Every Morgan is designed to be as light as possible and this is an important attribute.” Wells said. Wood also has a natural ability to dampen vibrations. As well as being environmentally sustainable, wood has an aesthetic that cannot be matched by synthetic products. “Unlike many manufacturers’ interiors,” Wells said, “When ours appears to be wood, it really is!”
A team of approximately 150 artisans hand-craft every Morgan vehicle. In the course of a year they produce around 850 vehicles, including about 300 Three-Wheelers. Traditional methods passed on from generation to generation are employed. The wooden components are hand-cut and assembled. The aluminum sheet metal is hand-worked, pressed, rolled, and beaten into shape. Natural hides are cut and hand sewn to finish the interior.
The Three-Wheeler evolved through the 1930s, always powered by a V-Twin motorcycle engine mounted transversely ahead of the axis of the front wheels. Later a more conventional Ford side-valve four-cylinder engine was mounted behind the front wheels until the model was retired in the 1950s. The design that inspired the return of the Three-Wheeler is based on the look of the Morgan Super Sports of the late 1920s.
“After a hiatus of over 50 years, we felt like the automotive landscape was right to introduce a vehicle as fun and unique as the Three-Wheeler,” Wells said. In 2011, Morgan did a short series production run. It was so well-received it has led to more than 1,500 Three-Wheelers being sold around the world.
It didn’t hurt when Richard Hammond showed up in a new Three-Wheeler to compare and contrast it with James May’s Caterham R500 and Jeremy Clarkson’s KTM X-Bow. The episode featuring these lightweight track cars was a big opportunity for getting brand exposure Morgan.
While the KTM and Caterham had obvious performance advantages, Wells summed up what helped the Morgan steal the show: “The Three-Wheeler is never going to break the Nürburgring lap record, but what it will offer is more smiles per mile than virtually anything else on the road!” After having driven an S1 Class Morgan around Goliath in Forza Horizon 3 with a crew of Forza Faithful, I can attest to the radical driving experience and the long-lasting grin it left on my face.
“Initially, 3-Wheelers were cheaper, lighter, and easier to run than comparable 4-Wheeled vehicles,” Wells said. While cheaper may no longer apply since the new Morgan Three-Wheeler starts at over $100k, you can still draw many conclusions to the thrills of riding a motorcycle with some of the creature comforts of a car and the almost limitless personalization Morgan offers.
Technology and safety have evolved a lot since the original Three- Wheeler was being produced. “Essentially, the new 3 Wheeler evokes the spirit of the original car,” Wells said, “with all new componentry.” The S&S V-Twin makes over 80hp and with a dry weight on a little more 1,000 pounds, performance is exhilarating and upwards of 40mpg can be achieved on the highway.
As of 2014, Morgan has been making cars in the same factory on Pickersleigh Road in Malvern Link U.K. for 100 years. They use the same time-tested methods to build them, approximately 40 hours of work goes into building every model.
So, if you haven’t already, go pick up the Logitech G Car Pack and take the Three-Wheeler for a spin. Consider that pun as the single rear-wheel throws out a roost of gravel and dirt that motocross GOAT Jeremy McGrath would be proud of. Then share your photos with Morgan Motor Company. The only thing that excites them more than building these beauties is to hear how people are enjoying them.