Morgan’s Handcrafting Factory

A century later and Morgan still (thankfully) does it the old-fashioned way

by | Jan 16, 2020 | Culture

Myles Kornblatt

Morgan’s Handcrafting Factory

A century later and Morgan still (thankfully) does it the old-fashioned way

by | Jan 16, 2020 | Culture

Myles Kornblatt

Morgan Motor Company is a British automobile manufacturer celebrating over 110 years in the industry. It’s not just that the name has survived, but the vehicle design and production are secured in the same century-long tradition.

This idea is more than just a theme that Morgan can use for brochures. The Malvern, England, facility seems to actively let modern technology and bustle pass them by. And that’s exactly what makes this such hallowed ground for classic car lovers.

There’s a great spirit within the factory. Morgan moved to this location on Pickersleigh Road in 1918. It’s easy to spot the centurial buildings that are like stair steps on the gradually sloping property.

This history makes touring the property like a fair attraction for car enthusiasts. It’s a Yesteryear Village of craftsmen who have apprenticed here and earned their way into trusted positions hand-building the body panels. From the curve of the hood to the cut line for the rear spare wheel, it’s all about a professional eye to get a precision fit.

No firm daily quotas or timers are chipping away on any job. The Morgan Motor Company is the anti-assembly line.

British ash wood has been a mainstay in Morgan cars from the beginning, and that makes the woodshop one of the most exciting places to visit. After all, nowhere else today is there real lumber being crafted into brand new vehicle frames. It feels like a time warp as a lathe slowly hand shaves silhouettes that are clearly integral to the car bodies.

Ash is also quite malleable, and it can bend into impressive shapes. The continual curve of the rear fenders starts with three thin sections of wood. They are bonded by epoxy and clamped within a unique mold holding the form as it dries. This mold is one of the oldest and most worn-in tools in any of the shops. Whiskey distillers would be jealous of the aged history within this shaping mold.

Morgan’s cars are new construction in the old coachbuilding tradition.

The result is one of the most distinctive features customers talk about, and it’s also a piece that connects the car directly to the Morgans built before the owner’s lifetime. Few other exotics can claim this much reverence.

This long-standing history is not stubbornness. Morgan adapts as needed, and then carries it all as part of the full legacy. Even the blast walls between workshops are still in place from when production shifted to WWII munitions.

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Two decades ago, Morgan added a new building to the production facility. It was initially built to complete the new Aero 8 model, and now it adapts to the latest product. The switch was designed to meet the demand for the Morgan 3 Wheeler, and today it’s the quality control area for their latest creation, the Plus Six. This vehicle is a modern machine. Still, only keen eyes will notice that it’s longer, wider, and larger in every dimension compared to the classic Plus 4 line that’s built alongside it.

The new Plus Six (blue) was designed to make it closely compatible with their traditional cars like the Plus 4 (silver).

The Plus Six has a 335 horsepower inline-six engine borrowed from BMW. This is the power plant they use for a grand touring machine like the 840i coupe, and so there’s a reason to get excited when it’s in a Morgan that weighs more than 1,200 pounds less. It has a modern interior that incorporates digital readouts, comfortable legroom and a paddle-shift gearbox. Still, the Plus Six is built in the traditional style, which instantly connects drivers with the road. It never loses touch with the old-fashioned Morgan feeling of low-cut doors on an open-top car.

Not all the news from the company stays with tradition. In March 2019, the boutique British Morgan was sold to the large Italian investment company, Investindustrial. Having Morgan outside of the family hands, and out of Britain, for the first time might feel like a betrayal to enthusiasts. After all, part of the allure of a traditional car is the century-long legacy of the namesake family. However, this change ensures a broader future.

The finishing touches on new Morgans.

A small company with a single-minded attention to building craftsman cars has a hard time in the modern world. Morgan focuses most of its budgets on vehicles, and so they don’t have a full eye on the regulations. This includes at home, where Britain made changes to the license requirements for three-wheeled vehicles a few years ago, and Morgan never even knew to lobby against it.

Investindustrial is a massive conglomerate that now tucks Morgan into a portfolio with another legendary British marque, Aston Martin. It also has significant business and legal teams to protect investments.

It’s a new day at Morgan, and that ensures the old way of manufacturing will continue for future generations.

 

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