By MALCOLM GUNN
The Morgan 4/4 has been in production for (are you ready for this?) 70 years.
This is the longest continuous run of any production car in the world and is obviously cause for celebration.
What kind of celebration?
We will be producing a limited run of Anniversary models, with two cars built to celebrate each year of manufacture.
For most companies, that wouldnt amount to much. For Morgan, its a whopping142 cars that will even be styled to represent the decade (20 from each) they represent.
So much history, so little space and so much . . . time.
That is to say that with a 12-month waiting list for cars, Morgans are built in a time-honored manor: never, ever rushed. The Works, as the Malvern, England, plant is called, assembles just 500 Morgans a year (11 or so a week) and treats mass production as something not only to be avoided, but, it seems, loathed.
However, lurking behind the ancient brick walls of the Works, the pungent aroma and irony of progress is in the air. Additions have been made to accommodate the Aero 8, the first radially new Morgan since the introduction of a four-wheeled roadster in 1936. Its powered by BMWs 286-horsepower 4.4-liter DOHC V8 that turns this slick-looking 2,200-pound sports car into a rip-snorting rocket ship.
Even though its all new, the Aero 8 could never be a real Morgan without being fitted with the companys signature waterfall grille, a patented shape first used on all cars beginning in 1954. It also features a wooden frame, made from ash, just as every car since founder H.F.S. (Henry) Morgan began building them in 1910.
Morgan, then 29, with help from his father and other family members, exhibited his first three-wheeled cycle car at the London Motor Show. The engine was positioned forward of the front wheels, directly in front of the radiator, which kept the car stable. A single rear wheel provided the traction.
As improbable as it sounds today, these early Morgans were successfully campaigned in a variety of racing events, including hill climbs, cross-country trials and road courses. In fact Dorothy Morgan, sister of H.F.S., regularly competed and won driving her brothers cars.
In subsequent years, Morgans became ever more popular with the British public as well as in other European countries. Not only were they cheap to own and operate (they were actually classed as motorcycles), but their light weight and powerful twin-cylinder engines gave them a distinct advantage in competition.
The company continued to manufacture three-wheelers using a variety of motors right up until 1950, 14 years after producing its first vehicle that could actually be classed as a true car. The Morgan 4/4 was so named because of its four-cylinder Coventry Climax powerplant and because the car had four wheels, noteworthy when youre used to making three-wheeled vehicles. Although the cars rudimentary suspension gave it a spine-numbing ride, its low center of gravity and favorable power-to-weight ratio made it fun to drive.
The 4/4 made it possible for Morgan to compete in more established forms of motor racing. Fame would follow as the little car marched to a class win at the 1939 24 Hours of Le Mans (France).
Following the Second World War, Morgan was able to quickly return to making cars (instead of anti-aircraft-gun parts and airplane undercarriages), developing a viable world-wide export market in the process. By this time, the 4/4 was available in both two- and four-seat models and with more power from its borrowed Standard and Vanguard engines.
The 4/4 morphed into the four-inch-longer Plus Four in 1950, which became a major export, with close to 60 per cent of total production (a mere 3,854 units) shipped to North America. During the 1950s and 1960s, these versions were successfully raced throughout the continent, attracting a small but loyal following in the process.
The Plus 8 arrived in 1968, which was powered by the Buick-based (but Rover-built) 3.5-liter V8. A few were shipped to these shores, but they were propane powered to satisfy emissions requirements.
Today, Morgan still makes a variety of models and has 70 continuous years of the 4/4, even if it had a different name or two along the way.
While change might be the only thing we can count on, its keeping things the same that has kept Morgan cars popular to this day, even if you have to wait 12 months for your very own.