There are faster, flashier, more luxurious, more expensive and more famous motorcars but to the cognoscenti, nothing beats a Morgan.
This small, sporty marque is the automobile equivalent of a Savile Row suit. It is completely bespoke, made by hand to the specifications of each customer, and is entirely British made.
Who said the British car industry was dead? Since 1909, the Morgan has been lovingly crafted in the old spa town of Malvern, still owned by family of the founder, H.F.S Morgan, and the only independent car maker in Britain. A skilled workforce of just over 200 produces some 1,300 cars over the year.
Its special blend of sporty style with traditional make has seen the Morgan become a cult car around the world, with a waiting list of eager buyers. Currently, the waiting period is around six to seven months, the actual production taking five weeks. Many more famous marques must envy such success.
There are dealers scattered around the globe and in the UK – but curiously, for a few years there was not one in London. Last year, London-based dealer Anthony Barrell happened to be looking for a quality name to take into his South Kensington premises and, as a life long Morgan fan, thought of Morgan.
“I thought, they must have a London dealer but just on the off-chance, I rang them and was told no, they did not have a London dealer. It transpired they hadn’t had one for about four years. And so as a result of that call, we became Morgan’s exclusive dealer in the capital.”
Such happy chance has resulted in a highly successful first year of trading, he reports, with buyers coming from overseas as well as the London area. The showroom is tucked away in a mews that years ago would have housed a different kind of horse power, and on display are splendid examples of Morgan’s special style.
“When customers come here, we sit them down and go through the specifications available to them,” Barrell explained.
And this is quite an operation. For those who find selecting a cloth, deciding the colour, indicating the style and details required for a new suit a challenging operation, the options open to the Morgan buyer are indeed extensive. The colour choice is literally infinite, the desired shade achieved via a Spectometer. There’s an extensive range of leathers available for the upholstery, and then the trims – piping, embroidery, contrast stitch, seat inserts… Interior facings may be wood or painted. Heated seat mats? Subwoofer for the speaker? Wheels – eh, yes please. Then of course there is the car itself.
The somewhat spartan image of a Morgan sports car that some might harbour may be dismissed. It is a very smooth drive, comfortable, and even with the top down can be very warm and cosy by virtue of the high powered heating. Though true to the personal craftsmanship laid down by the founder, the very latest technological developments are incorporated where appropriate.
The classic entry model is the 4/4 with 1.6 litre engine, the world’s longest running series production car. Though it has undergone many changes over the years since it was launched some 78 years ago, it retains its classic appeal and is instantly recognisable. Drive around London in one of these and suddenly even taxi drivers are accommodating, others politely give way and pedestrians stop to admire.
Other models range from the Plus 4 through to the Roadster 4 seater at 3.7. And then there is the Aero range. This was a major development for the company, the first Aero 8 launched in 2000, created to keep the company on the race track and in so doing providing a world class sports car.
Given the pedigree and bespoke nature of all these cars, the prices make them, if not exactly a bargain, then certainly reasonable. The basic 4/4 starts at £35,000, then at the top end, there is the Aero Supersports at £126.900.
“No two models are exactly the same,” said Burrall, “because they are made by hand. And with all the options available, it means each customer gets a unique car. And one with a heart! That’s part of its appeal.”