words and photos by Luke Yates
The Morgan 4/4 is the world’s longest running production vehicle and a truly iconic car. But best of all, it’s British, and like most British-built cars, it manages to provide fun and performance, whilst being surprisingly sensible in all the right ways too.
The looks of the Morgan are simply jaw-dropping: a beautiful mass of sleekness, with gigantic round frog-eye headlights, a grin of a grille, bold sweeping wings gliding over the wheels, and a set of lights on the rear protruding on what could easily be Stinger missile tubes. The model we road tested was coated in a blaze of Liquid Gold metallic paint, which under the day’s beautiful clear blue sky, looked nothing short of magnificent.
True style, it has been said, is timeless, and that’s certainly the case with the Morgan 4/4. With its design reputed to have been based on the 1930’s Vanden Plas Squire – another truly beautiful car – the Morgan would feel at home at any point in the last 100 years, right up until the present day. It seems equally conceivable to imagine this timeless design on the road during wartime Britain in the 1940s, or zipping about driven by the hero in a Luc Besson film set in the future. And while it is easy to slip into thinking that the 4/4 is an ‘old’ car no longer in production, they are in fact still being manufactured today.
Slide yourself into the snug cockpit of the Morgan and suddenly you feel all sorts of things that modern motors have made tragically obsolete. As you harness yourself to the ruggedly luxurious anthracite leather seats with perforated inserts (ours had a glorious yellow trim to match the paintwork) you feel as if you are bonded to the car – man and machine brought together for some extraordinary feat of driving. You are preparing not to drive, but either to race or fly! The huge bonnet sprawling off ahead of you towards the horizon seems to entice you, to coax you, to encourage you to get moving as soon as possible.
Taking a moment to admire that oh-so-beautiful interior, you are treated to a positive feast of brilliant British engineering. Stylishly arranged, Smiths instrument panels provide clear and concise feedback, whilst all the switches and knobs are suitably ergonomic and shiny, exuding delightful quality. There is even a decent radio/CD player, though to be honest, I preferred listening to the magnificent roar of the 4/4 itself, without any background noise.
As you fire up the engine and press down on the satisfyingly chunky accelerator, the response is akin to the recoil from a powerful rifle. The Morgan may have a 1600cc Ford Sigma engine under that gigantic hood – a modest engine by modern standards – but this is a car that breaks modern rules. It is amazingly light, so much so that the engine delivers 110bhp in a car that weighs quite a lot less than a metric tonne.
The result of this engine, combined with a smooth efficient Mazda five-speed gearbox is astonishing, delivering 0-62mph in just 8 seconds and a top speed of 115mph, but the mid-range power of the 4/4 is what delivers the real fun. And bearing in mind that your bottom is flying along just inches from the ground, it feels even faster than it is. This perceived feeling of speed and the resulting excitement it creates, is what real driving is all about! Oh and I’m sure this will be of little interest to a sports car enthusiast, but amazingly the 4/4 delivers 40mpg, making it one of the most economical sports cars on earth.
When driving the Morgan, there were perhaps early feelings of naked vulnerability higher up in your body (I wrestled with unwelcome thoughts of ‘what if we rolled it into a ditch?’ for the first mile or so), emphasised further by the wind thrashing through your hair, but these are quickly exposed to be just mere echoes of a boring life spent driving modern cars, and are soon replaced by overwhelming, ecstatic senses of freedom and pure joy.
21st-century drivers spoilt by power-assisted steering, fancy suspension and electric assist braking will find the hefty brakes, hard ride and rugged steering of the Morgan a bit of an animal at first, but after you’ll wonder how you’ll ever go back to that boring ‘safe’ car you take to the office every day. In fact, you won’t want to go to the office at all – you’ll just want to spend all your time driving a Morgan!
Steering those pleasurably beefy tyre-shod stainless steel wire wheels around the winding Marsh roads may have given the arms a good workout, but the pleasure of experiencing such magical handling, feedback and precision in cornering, delivered infinitely more reward than being in a gym with sweaty men in Lycra – and it felt far manlier! In fact, if I were to be caught grinning the same way the Morgan made me grin whilst pumping iron in the local Bannatynes, I imagine I would be evicted by security.
The Morgan 4/4 experience on that sunny day on the beautiful Marsh roads was something I will treasure for a very long time to come. It re-awoke a truth within; it spoke of what is important in life, the things we all hope for and dream of. It enabled time to enjoy life, time to be mindful, time to just live in the moment and derive pleasure from whatever we are doing. No longer did I feel like a prisoner, as the 4/4 made me feel that I was not just a number, but a (Morgan) free man. Sorry, I had to…PRICE AS TESTED: £36,290 on the road TOP SPEED: 115MPH 0-62 MPH: 8 seconds
ECONOMY: Combined 40MPG
PERFORMANCE: 110BHP Price for the 4/4 sport (the basic ‘starter model’ with 4 wheels and a flat back panel) from £33,950 on the road. Brands Hatch Morgans Borough Green Garage
TN15 8HA 01732 882017 www.morgan-cars.com