Sometimes life throws you a curve ball – my drive in the Morgan was one. This was no ordinary road-test; no private jet awaited at the Harrods terminal at Stansted, the London Morgan dealership simply arranged for a Roadster to be delivered to my home.
The plan then was to drive 400 miles to Andy Murray’s delightful new boutique hotel, Cromlix House near Dunblane, whizz over to Gleneagles for a spot of clay pigeon shooting, then back to the Cromlix for an evening of fine dining courtesy of the Roux brothers, followed by a tasting of The Balvenie malt whisky. Who needs a jet?
Morgans have always looked the same. Park seven of them side by side, as we did at Cromlix House, and you’d be hard pushed to tell the £33,000 4/4 from the Aerosport that costs over £100,000. Only the three-wheeler stands apart. One man who can tell the difference, though, is Nigel Smith, owner of The London Morgan dealership based in Kensington’s Astwood Mews. He can also offer you a hand-built car to your personal specification, which is a pretty incredible thing, when you think about it.
I drove to Scotland in the Morgan Roadster, which is powered by a 3.7-litre Ford V6 engine. It took most of the journey to get the measure of it, my senses initially battered by the firm suspension, the noise and the wind. Perhaps 400 miles with the roof down was asking a lot.
At speed, though, things got better. I flew up the A1 to Scotch corner, skimmed the Yorkshire Dales on the A66, then headed north on to the A74, warming to the experience as the Morgan’s foibles slid away.
The view down the car’s long bonnet is Spitfire-esque, English to the core. When you have the courage to exploit it, its performance lives up to this billing. The 280bhp V6 roars and the Roadster cracks on with Porsche 911 levels of acceleration. You can chirp the rear tyres changing into third gear.
And with the roof down (it’s an obligation to drive a Morgan with the roof down as much as possible) it feels even faster. Yet there’s a dichotomy about the experience. You commit to buying into a model that was designed in the middle of the last century. OK, the most expensive models have modern BMW engines and other oily bits, but my £46,000 roadster was truly a motor of its time. That explains the hard ride, lack of ABS brakes and sliding plastic side windows. Aficionados applaud this, claiming the rough edges are all part of the Morgan experience, the mystique. To be fair, improvements have come along – the instruments in the Roadster are very smart even if the speedometer is way over in front of the passenger.
The hood, apparently, is now much easier to use, though electric opening and closing is still a distant dream.
But the clincher is that, with familiarity, you can get to really love this new “old” car. The Morgan is charming and fun. What’s more, everyone else – bystanders and other motorists – seem overwhelmed. Over two days I had a dozen conversations about it with strangers. And who can blame them? The Morgan’s certainly a curiosity.
If you fancy experiencing one yourself, London Morgan has units available to rent. Call 020 7244 7323.
Peter Burgess works for motoringresearch.com.