Friday, 25 February 2011

This Is Quite Possibly The Coolest Car In The World.

These days the car world is full of "retro throwbacks". Volkswagen came up with the (rubbish) New Beetle, BMW had a stab at making a Mini, Fiat recently reinvented the Cinquecento (500), and the Big 3 over in Detroit have all brought back cars from their glory days (GT40, '60s Mustang, Challenger, '60s Camaro, etc.). But none of them hold a candle to the latest retro product, this time from ancient British sports car company Morgan.

Way back when, Morgan made cars with wooden chassis and big long running boards and side-hinged engine covers. Today, however... er... they still do. But they also make the Aeromax, which has an aluminium chassis and a BMW straight-6. Clearly that, along with the upcoming Eva GT, is considered too modern, so they're bringing back one of their cars from The Iron Age (or 1911, whichever's more likely. You can never tell with Morgan...). You see, they started out by making Three-Wheelers, which did surprisingly well in motorsport and made for a fun little "runabout" for the company's founder. After WWII, they started making some kind of peculiar "4-wheeled" car that closer resembles what Richard Hammond is currently selling. The last tripod Moggie ceased production in 1952 and saw popularity partly because the lack of a 4th wheel meant you didn't need to pay tax on it, as it technically wasn't categorised as a car. The Isetta "bubble car" had 3 wheels in the UK for the same reason.

Now, for the first time in 59 years, you can have a properly old-school Morgan, powered by a V-Twin bike engine, just like the olden days, except this fuel-injected unit by S & S produces 115bhp and sends it to the rear, er, wheel, via a 5-Speed Mazda gearbox, with a proper manual shifter. As you can see, it's front-engined. Less obvious is that this is actually safe enough today for sales in Europe and the US, thanks to its reinforced tubular chassis and twin rollbars. Its dinkyness and aluminium tub also mean it weighs around 500kg, meaning that, with only 115bhp, it can go from 0-60 in 4.5 seconds and on to an estimated 115mph! That's Lotus Elise performance in a car that looks like it tops out at 40, or perhaps as fast as a child's legs can peddle.

The coolness continues further - the new 3-Wheeler is designed to look "as much like an aeroplane as possible", so it has a streamlined fuselage-style body (apart from the exposed engine, which probably doesn't contribute to a low drag coefficient either) and is available with a selection of Word War II-style decals to make it look like a road-faring fighter plane from either the RAF or the US Military, including - and I quote - "a fearsome shark nose". Can you get that for a new-age Gerry Mini? I think not old boy.

Come on, don't tell me you don't want one even a little? Only small, white-toothed TopGear presenters could fit in it, but it looks like such a blast! Can you imagine what 100mph would feel like in this, with a brown leather skull cap and goggles on? Apparently, the weight of the engine at the front is balanced by the weight of people sitting in it, which sounds like cornering ought to be more stable than it may appear. Morgan is pricing this little bundle of awesomeness at £25,000 before taxes, so the new 20% VAT brings that up to £30,000. Compared to well-specced Ford Mondeos of similar price, that may seem like a rip-off, as the interior comprises of leather upholstery, two seatbelts, a dash with just 4 switches and 2 dials and fresh air, but if you compare it to anything that provides as much fun and novelty as this, it's an absolute bargain.

Oh, I almost forgot. What makes it the coolest car in the world? The "fearsome shark nose", sports car performance in a tiny more-retro-than-you package and this quote from none other than Sir Stirling Moss: "My Morgan [three-wheeler] was a great babe magnet". Credentials: check.

More images and official Press Release here.

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