Imagine enjoying a traditional English cream tea, then washing it down with an XL can of energy drink. That’s the Morgan Plus Four CX-T. Like the zany creation of a steampunk scientist, it fuses a classic sports car with a dune-bashing desert racer. Morgans have always been a tad eccentric, but this is something else.
The mad professor in this instance is Morgan’s head of design, Jonathan Wells. Inspired by sepia photos of pre-war 4/4s and 3-Wheelers competing in off-road trials, he sketched a road-legal rally car based on the Plus Four roadster.
“I imagined what a modern-day adventure Morgan would look like,” he says. “And when the company’s investors spotted the drawing on the wall of our design studio, they decided we should build it.”
The task of bringing the mutant Morgan to life was entrusted to desert racing experts Rally Raid UK, notably the genial man-mountain known simply as Beady.
“We didn’t want it to look like a monster truck,” he explains, “but every panel except the nose cone is new. It’s all proper motorsport kit underneath. They winced when I told them the price of parts.”
Beady walks me around the pockmarked CX-T ‘Car 1’ prototype. Bronze Speedline alloys and gnarly Maxxis all-terrain tyres fill-out its flowing cycle wings. Atop them sit two leather saddle bags: one housing a huge military-grade air filter, the other a kinetic tow rope.
A flat undertray shields the car’s vital organs, while an external roll cage does the same job for driver and passenger. It also serves as a mounting point for the giant spotlamps.
Can you dig it?
The rear of the CX-T is where Beady got carried away. His “one-layer deep” philosophy, proven time and again in the gruelling Dakar Rally, means all spares and equipment must be instantly accessible for roadside repairs. Thus, the once-sleek tail of the Plus Four is now a carefully constructed Jenga of tool boxes, traction mats, spare wheels and a fuel can.
Pride of place, though, goes to a sturdy-looking spade. Did I mention the Morgan is only two-wheel drive?
In fact, the 259hp four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual gearbox carry over unchanged from the regular Plus Four, but a lockable BMW xDrive rear diff provides extra traction. In a car weighing little more than 1,200kg, it feels slingshot-quick off the line, kicking up clouds of dust as Beady watches on like a proud parent. Today, I have Silverstone Rally School as my personal playground and I don’t want to waste a second.
Angles of attack
I start with the fast stuff (wouldn’t you?), flinging the CX-T along gravel tracks more accustomed to modified Mk1 Escorts. Its ride is jittery at first, but settles down as the WRC-spec dampers get into their loose-limbed stride.
I’m using second and third gears, the huge air filter gasping as I accelerate, the rerouted exhaust popping with every downshift. The confidence-inspiring chassis can carry real speed through corners – or go wildly, hilariously sideways. I mostly opt for the latter.
Next up is a slower-paced route with steep drop-offs and muddy ruts. It’s the type of trail best suited to a Land Rover – one that would halt a standard Plus Four in its tracks – but the CX-T gamely plods along.
Watching its long bonnet and bug-eye headlamps weave through trees and clunk over rocks feels strangely incongruous, but that’s all part of the Morgan’s charm. “It’s a motoring experience unlike anything else,” says Wells. Quite.
So, what to spend your £204,000 on: this, or a Lamborghini Huracan RWD with a few options? The question is moot as all seven examples of the Plus Four CX-T are now sold.
Let’s hope it leads to more off-the-wall wackiness from Morgan in the coming years. Clotted cream, extra jam and another Red Bull, please.
Tim Pitt writes for Motoring Research
TOP SPEED: 140mph
FUEL ECONOMY: N/A
WEIGHT: 1,213kg (dry)