One of the advantages of sharing an interest in old cars with my dad is that it’s easy to buy birthday and Christmas presents for him. All I have to do is think of things that I’d like, or like to do, and get those.
This year, however, it was my mum who had the inspired idea of sending us both off to the Morgan factory for a guided tour. I was then able to add a couple of ‘extras’, of which more anon.
The tours have proved to be a huge success for the company. For a modest fee, you can go around in a small group for an informal two-hour (or so) wander around.
It has to be remembered that Morgan is unlike most other car companies, and the famous Pickersleigh Road factory is unlike most other manufacturing sites. For a start, the firm moved here in 1913, shortly after it was founded and when all around was farmland.
Although the surrounding area is now somewhat more populous, the original buildings remain and, indeed, are still very much in use. The tour takes you down through them in turn, plus the more recent units and extensions, following the path of the cars as they move through the production process.
It’s fascinating. In some respects, Morgans are built much as they always were. The ‘classic’ models – Plus 4, 4/4, etc – still feature an ash frame and the sliding pillar front suspension first conceived for the original three-wheelers. In the bodywork area, tin-snips are being used to hand-trim bonnet panels so that they fit perfectly.
In others, this is a thoroughly modern company. The Aeros, for example, use a bonded aluminium monocoque and a 4.8-litre BMW V8. Both types of Morgan are built side-by-side, with one person assigned to oversee the whole process and a ‘job sheet’ following the individual car around to let everyone know the spec to which it should be built – colour, trim level, optional extras and so on.
Each car takes just over two weeks to build. It used to take almost three times as long. Few areas are off-limits and it’s possible to chat to the guys as they work – as long as you can hear what’s going on above the noise in certain sections.
Once a car has been assembled to the ‘body in white’ stage, it is then taken apart again so that it can be painted. From there, it goes to the trim shop for final assembly and then into one of the few parts of the factory that feels truly modern – a well-lit inspection area so that paint defects can be spotted and rectified.
The tour finishes in a new area set aside for contruction of the new 3 Wheeler, an inspired addition to the range that doubled production in Malvern and continues to sell as quickly as Morgan can make it. From there, you head through a small but fascinating museum and arrive back where you started.
It’s highly recommended and well worth the trip on its own, but I had arranged for us to have a quick blast in the 3 Wheeler that the company keeps to lend to members of the press corps – and also for us to borrow the Three Wheeler Club’s own F4 (below).
This 1937 model belonged to enthusiast Gerald Carr and has never been restored. It was bequethed to the club, and members can now borrow it for short trips. Honorary Chairman Brian Clutterbuck met us at the factory once we’d returned from our invigorating blast in the brilliant new version and, with Dad at the wheel, we set off for Bristol via the Wye Valley.
You can see a video of both cars by clicking here. Suffice to say that the F4 was somewhat more primitive and sedate than the latest 3 Wheeler, but utterly charming on a beautiful summer’s afternoon. As motivation for getting on with our own three-wheeler project, it doesn’t get much better.