21st December 2020

Three wheels on your wagon… is no bad thing

The Morgan brand, which has had something of a renaissance in the last few years, owes both its initial success and much of its recent profitability to its three-wheeled machines. It is fitting then, that Morgan has announced that it will send off its iconic three-wheeler with a raft of highly limited editions.

New emissions legislation sounded the death-knell for the S&S sourced V-Twin engine on Morgan’s iconic three-wheeler, and it brings to an end a model that launched the company as a ‘car’ brand in 1909. These limited editions, in what will be sound investments as petrol and diesels take a bow in 2030, represent something of a last hurrah for the petrol-powered three-wheeler. It’s time to go out with a bang for these wonderful models that have a long history, having been given a new lease of life just nine years ago.

Henry Morgan started out building cycle-cars of his own design from a premises in Malvern in 1908, but soon realised that although his single-seater-powered machines may have been cheap to buy, with no real bodywork and a single seat, they were not all that cheerful.

In an inspired move to go upmarket in 1911, he launched a new three-wheeled vehicle that featured two seats, bodywork and a windscreen. In what was a piece of marketing genius, it was proudly placed in the window of Harrods department store in London. It was the first time a car maker had done such a thing.

Sales accelerated and, at the same time, his three-wheelers began to experience success on the racetracks. A trophy won at Brooklands for the most miles covered in an hour on the famous banked track was a high coup. Morgan took the prize after the car managed an impressive feat of just under 60 miles and that feat was then followed by victories in the cycle-car Grand Prix in France, and at numerous reliability trials.

The formula of a lightweight frame, reasonably stable handling due to the wide front track and low weight distribution combined with a relatively powerful motorcycle engine, was a strong one. The added bonus of a half-rate of tax thanks to its status as a cycle-car, meant that demand far outstripped production and, by the end of the 1920s, the brand was well and truly established with global exports, an owners club, and a solid reputation as a sportscar.

The outbreak of World War Two brought production of the motorbike engine three-wheelers to an end with the company focusing on the production of more conventionally powered sportscars thereafter.

That was until 2011, when the formula was reignited for a new millennium. With an air-cooled S&S V-twin engine, the diminutive-yet-adored gearbox from a Mazda MX5 and a low kerbweight, this potent combination had lost none of its allure. Morgan has gone on to sell an amazing 2500 of these cars since 2012, winning numerous awards and huge brand kudos.

As the V-Twin powered Morgan three-wheeler finally bows out of production, an era of internal combustion draws to a close as it does so. Will you miss the sight and sound of these special cars, both old and new? Let us know in the comments below.