Morgan – A British Success Story?

Morgan Runabout 1st made in 1909

From P. W. on the U.K. Desk

For those of you not familiar with “The Morgan” it is one of the oldest British car companies most famous for rebelling against the luxuries of modern motoring. In fact, the most common explanation for it’s popularity is nostalgia factor and the fact that it’s a “British” car company. In reality, not all current cars are over-engineered or excessively stylish so moving back to old ways isn’t exactly a real thing, and as of 2019 Morgan is owned by InvestIndustrial, who aren’t even British. Despite this, there is a six-month waiting list for these vehicles.

(This is not the time to go into the decline of the British motor industry, but it does seem a bit self-inflicted by the country and it might be drivers who suffer. Moving on…)

Morgan Supersport 1938

Morgan does have a long history though, all the way back to 1909, in some ways moving with the times but in most ways staying with the same, age-old methods. But for Morgan this formula seems to work.

The selling point was always to be small, lightweight and inexpensive. A great example is in the case of “The nuclear.” This small car attempted to fill the gap between motorcycles and cars, as cars at the time, were a bigger investment than they are now. While there has always been a market for a “semi-car” it usually came in the form of a kit car or a motorbike and sidecar. The Nuclear was a production model specific to this tiny niche market.

The Runabout cyclecar looks rather a novelty, but it’s worthwhile investigating. Despite being a three-wheeler, it has in its favor a V-twin engine and five speed transmission. The difficulty with the cyclecar is that it isn’t designed for long distance, especially with the ash wood frame rather than steel chassis.

1928 Roundabout Deluxe

The Runabout can’t be an easy car to market, it’s not exactly a company car or even a family car resembling as it does a tube on wheels. Morgan has sold it for several decades now, especially in the United States. Follow-ups include the 1911 Violette and 1914 La Vigne. The designs might be ancient but with an improved clutch and gears they are still being sold today. They are run by a twin engine.

The PlusFour hasn’t changed its “silhouette” (design) since the 1950s but it has added tech features. Even its name PlusFour conjures up another era. With a 65% increase in power and torque from the original model, and a top speed of 149 mph, it’s in keeping with the needs of today’s traffic.

Roadster at 76e international Motorshow Geneva 2006

Since you order these semi-custom vehicles before they’re made, you have a choice between manual and automatic (the automatic is eight speed and the manual is six speed). Another option is wire wheels or if you prefer alloy wheels in a number of finishes. Both have a digital info display.

Viewing a picture of these vehicles might make you think they’d take in a long time to start up but driving the 3-Wheeler for example is known as an immediate “get in and drive experience.” Exactly how it feels can only be realized by going throw the motions yourself, words can only say so much.

Maybe the Morgan makes a point about modern motoring being too sanitized, after all. There’s no reason why all automobiles have to be identikit versions of each other. Designers of vintage cars brought an aesthetic and feel to their work that most modern car companies don’t even try to replicate. There’s a reason why vintage cars are called vintage.

The Minimal Car Which Could Get Anywhere.

There are huge number of public spaces in European towns, especially in Italy, tight areas where it would be hard for sedans to navigate. Whether the roads are too rough, or the area is designated to pedestrians, it is not a place for normal cars. Added to this are car-free islands where there is no way to transport anything substantial to the place.

Is there a Motorized Vehicle Solution?

This is where you need some kind of minimalist car. What is a minimalist car? Well there are a few examples already in existence, and if the market demands it, perhaps they will design more.

In Slovenia, for instance, where the elderly and the infirm are moved about by Ljubjani or slow-moving taxis. But there are hundreds of such regions from the Spandau of Berlin to the Renaissance Quarter of Seville. There must be a market here for mini vehicles?

Such was the concept that Giorgetto Guigiaro hoped to innovate. One of the chief designers of Italdesign, he had created a number of specialist cars like the famous Delorean. Giorgetto was ahead of his time, thinking up concepts like ride-sharing long before others created it. Could he create a car that narrowed everything down to the basic essentials, for use in these urban enclaves where other cars cannot go?

A New Approach to A New Type of Car

In terms of car design, Italdesign does a little of everything, including creating prototypes for automobiles and design validation. At least according to their website. It’s not clear how validation differs from testing, maybe it’s about getting from a prototype to a product that can enter the market.

Guigiaro planned to get a minimalist car to market by 1992, but there’s little point in researching a new vehicle unless you plan for some kind of success. Previous attempts at minimalist cars, like the Sinclair C5, had a toy car look and feel. These cars embraced their identity as novelty cars and therefore had no mass marketability.

The car that Guigiaro came up with was the Biga, one of the first electric cars. This type of car looks more like a small van than a car and it has been built to save space.

Which parts did the vehicle need and what could be left out?

To look at the Biga from the outside you might find it hard to believe it is possible for this tiny a vehicle to transport four people. The way round this is to only to have the driver’s seat where it usually is. The other three seats are at 90° from the driver’s seat and access is only available through a back door. If each seat had its own door this would take up needless space.

You might have thought that the Biga was made of fiberglass, but it was actually made of a lightweight steel. The overall effect is a cube on wheels. Like a number of compact cars since, the Biga can be parked at right angles to the sidewalk (where the law permits), this allows you to easily fit three Biga’s in the length of two normal parking spots.

Not all cars can be Cadiallacs, there are hundreds of vehicles that aren’t there for the mass market. It’s hard to find accurate sales of the Biga. It would be difficult to judge those numbers in context if you found them. The reason is that the Biga is a cross between a novelty car and a mass market production vehicle—more in the category of a four-wheel drive off-road vehicle, only most off-road vehicles are still able to serve as a daily driver in a pinch. The Biga is the type of car which encourages creative thought and solves a problem, rather than one that makes a huge impression. So it makes a splash in its own way.

The Vital Components of the Mini.

By Paul Wimsett, UK Desk

The 1960s was all about miniskirts and the Mini itself. The Mini has a stronger link to the sixties than the Beatles or satire, as the Mini was launched in 1960 itself, the satire boom and the creation of Beatles occurred in 1963.

The Origins of the Mini:

Designed by Sir Alec Issigonis, who although born in Greece inherited British citizenship through his father and like many immigrants, saw himself as more English than the English. Many of the cars he designed, the Austin and the Morris Minor had a distinctive look about them, cars for a small family rather than cars where you could sit people in the back seat and in the trunk. BTW: Kids in the trunk is totally illegal now, but common at the time to make use of all the necessary space in a saloon car. (BTW: a “saloon car” is a sedan.)

The reasoning behind the car was purely practical, there was a fuel shortage after the Second World War and generally only the breadwinner needed to get around. So many households made do with a single, small car.

The Mini Cooper was one of the first designs to be used as part of this first generation. The first car had an 848cc engine, or 34bhp (brake horsepower), the equivalent to about 25Kw; so practically all the power of a modern boiler. Obviously this had to change. A modern Cooper has around 160bhp or the equivalent of 119 Kw, around five times as much.

As well as showing itself as an excellent racing car in the 1960s, it was driven by such diverse personalities as Paul McCartney, Steve McQueen and even rival car maker Enzo Ferrari. It all came down to convenience and the Mini was the ideal car for the time, working on the success of similar small cars.

The Future of the Mini:

The Mini has been an iconic car for a number of decades, but for how much longer can it continue? Ultimately, it all comes down whether it can ride the storm of Brexit in Britain and whether it can continue to offer something from its competition with less money to play with.

Let’s take a Mini Countryman it’s a modern type of car, still a Mini but using the Crossover status. Some are known as Countryman Coopers, some are not.

With a length of 2,670 mm and a width of 4,313 mm (which exclude the mirrors). The standard Cooper has a weight of 3,300 Ib.

A Mini Cooper has a 0-60 rate of 7.3 secs. (The average is about 10-12 seconds). A Porsche Skyrider can do 0-60 in about 2.1, but then not everyone wants to drive a sports car. The acceleration rate is dependent on the power of the engine, so we can assume that the Cooper has a better than average powered engine- not something you might associate with a small car?

In the End:

It should come as no shock that Sir Alec become known as a “Greek God” in British car innovation. It would difficult to write the story of the British car industry without him and Britons hope that Mini manufacture will continue into the future.