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The company that saved Aston Martin has invested in Morgan

Morgan Investindustrial

As Morgan was unveiling its latest Plus Six sports car in Geneva, it also announced that Investindustrial was taking a majority stake in Morgan Motor Company. Morgan has been family-owned for 110 years.

If you’ve heard of Investindustrial before, that’s because this won’t be the first time it has kicked in a bit with a specialist British car manufacturer. It also has a reasonable stake in Aston Martin, having invested £150 million in the company for a 37.5 percent stake in 2012.

Morgan Plus Six

“The past two years have been the most successful in our company’s 110-year history,” said Dominic Riley, chairman of Morgan Motor Company.

“However, to really fulfil Morgan’s full potential and secure our long-term future, both the family and management team felt it was essential to bring in a strategic partner. A partner that shares our vision for Morgan and has the expertise, financial resources and track record of success in the automotive world, to make it happen. That partner is Investindustrial.”

The future is bright for Morgan

Morgan Plus Six CX generation architecture

The Plus Six is just the beginning of a new model offensive, which the partnership with Investindustrial is hoped to accelerate. The CX platform, first used in the new Plus Six, ought to help speed up manufacturing and development and open doors to new markets the world over.

Morgan wasn’t exactly in a bad place before Investindustrial bought in. Last year it scored a net profit of £3.2million from revenues of £33.8m, in spite of 2018 being a wind-down year in terms of production. Nevertheless, the Investindustrial partnership will shore up Morgan’s financial standing and bolster its efforts to future-proof itself.

As long as that most unique spirit that makes a Morgan a Morgan remains, we’re all for it.

Morgan Plus Six

“Morgan is one of the most famous names in the automotive world,” said Andrea C. Bonomi, chairman of the Industrial Advisory Board.

“Morgan’s handmade British sports cars are true icons of the industry. We have followed the company and seen its progress for some time and see significant potential for Morgan to develop internationally whilst retaining its hand-built heritage, which is at the heart of the Morgan Motor Company.”

Last blast: a fiery farewell to the Morgan Plus 8

Morgan Plus 8

Every one of the 800-or-so Morgans built annually is covetable and collectable: a classic in waiting. The Plus 8 you see here, however, is particularly special. Soon, it will become a permanent exhibit at the factory museum. But first, I’ve been granted one exclusive last blast.

When the Plus 8 was launched in 1968, Stanley Kubrick was busy wowing cinema-goers with 2001: A Space Odyssey. Few could have guessed that Morgan’s retro roadster, its design already harking back to the 1955 4/4, would live beyond the movie’s sci-fi future.

This car is the last Plus 8: the final page in a story that spans 51 years (excluding an eight-year hiatus when Morgan switched from Rover to BMW engines). It’s also likely to be the last V8-powered Morgan. Clearly, it deserves a suitable send-off.

Wood you believe it?

Morgan Plus 8

Before that, I’m treated to the famous Morgan Motor Company factory tour. PR man James Gilbert’s abundant enthusiasm is infectious, and he’s evidently on first-name terms with everyone who works here. We start in the chassis section, moving literally downhill to the bodywork, then paint, then trim and final assembly.

The wood shop – where frames are painstakingly hand-cut, shaped and assembled – is where most Morgans really take shape. “We only use English ash,” explains James, “we tried French and Belgian wood, but fragments of First World War shrapnel kept damaging our tools.”

At one end of the room, the huge rear wheelarch press resembles something from the industrial revolution, its iron clamps bending planks of wood into a perfect curve. At the other, what first appears to be a coffee machine is actually a 3D printer, used for making prototype parts. The stark juxtaposition of old and new is fascinating.

Adjacent to the final assembly area, I spot Morgan’s one-off SP1 – a ‘Special Projects’ hot rod created for a wealthy African customer. It’s a reminder that every car here is built-to-order and bespoke, with almost unlimited options available (if your pockets are deep enough).

Tangled up in blue

Morgan Plus 8

The final Plus 8 isn’t for sale, but rest assured it wouldn’t be cheap either. Reckon on roughly £126,000 after VAT, says James.

I find the car parked beside the factory entrance, where another tour group has already stopped to admire its low-slung lines. That eye-popping paint colour is BMW Azul Blue, a shade usually seen on the M3 and M4. Together with matte-black alloys, which look like they belong on a salt-flats racer, it’s about as far from the traditional ‘BRG and wires’ look as possible.

There is a nod to heritage in the ‘MMC II’ number plate, though. The Malvern equivalent of Porsche’s ‘911 HUL’, it’s been worn by many significant Morgans over the years, including the car Peter Morgan himself drives in a photo that hangs in reception.

Ready to rumble

Morgan Plus 8

Twisting open the Land Rover Defender door lock, I fold my frame carefully through the shallow door aperture. Once inside, the Morgan feels snug rather than spacious, and there’s virtually no room for luggage. However, it doesn’t lack creature comforts, including heated seats – a real boon on a frosty January afternoon.

You sit low, with legs outstretched and the airbagged wheel pulled unusually close. It’s the opposite of the stereotypical ‘long arms, short legs’ driving position found in Italian cars, and takes some getting used to.

Quality is impressive, with none of the rough edges you might expect from a low-volume marque. Only the parts-bin plastic column stalks jar a little.

Looking out through the letterbox-shaped windscreen with its three tiny wipers, I drink in the view along that long, louvred bonnet. And things only get better when I press the start button and the 4.8-litre BMW V8 coughs into life. Its rambunctious rumble stops the tour party in their tracks.

Heading for the hills

Morgan Plus 8

Moseying through town, the Plus 8 wins an appreciative nod from an elderly gent at the bus stop, then a van driver gives a thumbs-up. I already feel like something of a local hero.

This car has a six-speed manual transmission, rather than the popular six-speed auto, but the engine’s brawny 370lb ft of torque means you can cruise almost everywhere in fourth gear. Stick it in sixth at 20mph and it’ll pull cleanly – all the way to its 155mph maximum.

Climbing into the snow-capped hills, the road finally clears and I flatten my right foot. With 367hp and a kerb weight of just 1,220kg, the Plus 8 feels indecently quick. Nigh-on supercar-quick. The challenge, as I’ll discover, is keeping it in a straight line.

Thunderstruck

Morgan Plus 8

Morgan quotes a 0-62mph time of just 4.5 seconds. And on a dry summer day, I’ve no doubt the Plus 8 could achieve that.

However, ‘my’ car is fitted with track-focused Yokohama AD08R tyres, which look like cut slicks and severely dislike damp, freezing roads. Act the yob and it’ll spin its rear wheels in first, second and third gears. A degree of delicacy is therefore required, particularly in a car with zero electronic safety aids.

Thankfully, there’s nothing delicate about that noise. It swells from a low, resonating thud to a full-blooded howl. The V8 sucks in fuel like a giant gargling with gravel, its four exhausts popping on the over-run like artillery fire. No BMW ever sounded like this.

Picture perfect

Morgan Plus 8

No BMW looks like this either, at least not since the days of the classic 328. WIth its voluptuous curves and delicate chrome details, the Plus 8 looks perfectly at home in the English countryside.

Nonetheless, snapper Bradley isn’t convinced and demands I brave the elements by lowering the roof. This requires unfastening several catches on each side, and needs to be done from outside the car.

For the full wind-in-the-face effect, I also use an allen key to detach the flimsy side screens, storing them in the boot of Bradley’s Corsa.

Clambering in and out for photo duties feels an effort, but I’m thankful the Morgan has power steering – unlike the workout-weighted AR Plus 4 I drove a couple of years ago.

Baby’s got the bends

Morgan Plus 8

With the winter sun beginning its slow descent, there’s time for a brief blat around the Malvern Hills before I point the Plus 8’s prow towards home.

The lack of grip on near-freezing roads is front-and-centre in my mind, but swift, communicative steering and a balanced, relatively benign chassis mean there are no sudden surprises. Grab the Morgan by the lapels and it rewards with a drive that’s both physical and pulse-spikingly visceral.

The downside, though, is ‘retro’ ride quality. The Plus 8’s suspension bucks and bounces over ridges and is easily unsettled by mid-corner bumps. It’s nowhere near as sophisticated as modern sports cars.

Highway to home

Morgan Plus 8

Pulling over to raise the roof, my head is spinning with an odd mix of brain-freeze and giddy euphoria. An altogether different drive is ahead, however: back to Surrey via the M4 and M25. How will the Morgan cope in the ‘real world’?

Not brilliantly, as it happens. The sliding plastic windows are draughty, the wide tyres roar, the blare of the V8 becomes tiresome over time and the 90s-spec Alpine CD player is almost inaudible over the din. To top it all, it’s started to snow steadily.

Fortunately, other drivers keep my spirits up by waving and honking their horns. Following a tunnel of tail lights through the darkness, I’m reminded of something James said earlier: “The least suitable cars are the most fun for road trips”. He has a point. A long haul in a Nissan Micra feels inconsequential. This is an adventure.

Slip-sliding away

Morgan Plus 8

The final part of my drive is on rural roads dusted by snow. I’m driving on tip-toes: slightly scared, sensing every shimmy and squirm, determined to keep this unique piece of British motoring heritage intact. By the time I arrive home, I’m utterly exhausted.

The Plus 8 closes a long chapter in Morgan history. All eyes are now on the 2019 Geneva Motor Show, where it’s rumoured the car’s ‘wide body’ successor will be revealed. Hell, we’ve only waited 51 years.

Until then, I’ll imagine the Plus 8 roaring into a sepia-tinged sunset: gone, but not forgotten. Certainly not by me.

In pictures:

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Morgan profits up 95 percent… while production FALLS

Morgan profits up 95 percent in 2018

Morgan Motor Company has announced it increased its profits in 2018 by almost 100 percent, making it the third year in a row that the sports car manufacturer has turned a profit.

Morgans numbers are looking good at the end of 2018, with a year-end pre-tax profit of £3.4million. The year before, it was £1.73million, thereby making 2018’s numbers a 95 percent increase.

What got Morgan to such a good place in 2018? The big numbers are associated with a combination of strong prices for the run-out Aero GT and Plus 8 50th Anniversary models, in conjunction with a streamlining of production at the factory. Increases in profit margins come from strong prices coupled with lower production costs – a win-win formula.

Morgan profits up 95 percent in 2018

With this in mind, consider the fact that Morgan production was actually down by the end of last year, given that production was winding up on all the V8-engined models.

While the passing of the naturally-aspirated V8 is a sad end to a glorious era for Morgan, the only way is up. The last three years have seen Morgan invest as much as £6.3million in research in development. A new bonded aluminium platform should underpin a range of new sports cars, including the ‘Wide Body’ that the company has teased recently.

“Morgan Motor Company’s continuing success can be attributed to three essential ingredients: our skilled workforce, our strategic vision and our heritage,” said Morgan managing director Steve Morris. “Our results in 2018 have been extremely impressive and give us the solid foundation to move forwards into an important year for the business.”

“We have waved a fond farewell to our iconic V8 models and are looking forward to entering the most exciting chapter yet, as we celebrate our 110th anniversary, with a new ‘Wide Body’ sports car due this year.”

Morgan 110 years

Celebrating 110 barmy brilliant years of Morgan

Morgan 110 years

Morgan Motor Company has introduced a range of ‘110 Anniversary’ models ahead of its 110th birthday in 2019.

The cars will have performance and styling upgrades across the board as well as unique badging to mark their significance. A selection of Morgan Design-chosen colours will also be available in the new ‘Classic’ and ‘Metallic’ ranges. They reflect fan and company favourite Morgan hues from across the marque’s history.

Morgan 110 years

The Plus 4, Plus 4 Roadster and 3 Wheeler will be getting the 110 Anniversary treatment. The Plus 4 starts at £44,106 and the roadster £55,074 – both come with over £8,000 of extras included in the package. A front valance and a rear-exit sports exhaust give the specials a purposeful look and sound. A special Moto-Lita wheel and performance seats are highlights in the cabin.

The 3 Wheeler gets a new quilted interior leather appointment, while on the outside, roll hoops and exhaust heat shields finished in black provide a menacing look. It starts at £39,486, with over £3,000 of add-ons included in the price.

Morgan 110 years

Morgans have always been as barmy as they are brilliant. Their 110 years in the business, uniqueness and left-field approach are to be celebrated. These new special editions will surely be a delight. We’ll take the blue Plus 4 Roadster, please. Thank you.

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Morgan hotel rental

You can now stay in a hotel and rent a Morgan

Morgan hotel rental

What’s the ideal holiday getaway? For some, they need a beach. Others, a nice resort with a pool. Some people like to soak up the local history and culture. We, on the other hand, would much prefer a week at The Nare – a UK-based hotel that offers Morgan sports car rentals to guests.

That sure beats a tatty old pedalo with peeling paint and rusty pedals, doesn’t it? The Nare Hotel is a Pride of Britain members hotel situated on the Rosalind Peninsula in Cornwall – an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Now that area can be enjoyed at the wheel of a Morgan 4/4 for the reasonable figure of £250.

Though beginning at the Nare, it’s alleged that this opportunity is to be made available across Pride of Britain’s entire assembly of independent hotels. With each hotel independently owned, with a distinct style and character, it is surmised these characteristics are best reflected in their choice of rental car to offer.

Morgan hotel rental

“We’re delighted to be able to offer a unique partnership with Pride of Britain Hotel group” said Steve Morris, MD of Morgan Motor Company.

“Guests staying at selected Pride of Britain Hotels around the UK will now be able to enhance their stay with the hire of a Morgan sports car.

“We’re thrilled that The Nare Hotel in Cornwall is the first hotel to offer a Morgan hire car, I can’t imagine a more idyllic experience than a stunning Cornish hotel and a traditional British sports car during summer.”

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Morgan is restoring an old bus to celebrate 50 years of the Plus 8

Morgan is restoring an old bus to celebrate 50 years of the Plus 8

Morgan is restoring an old bus to celebrate 50 years of the Plus 8

The second-to-last Routemaster bus to be withdrawn from service in 2005 has been bought by British sports car manufacturer Morgan.

Manufactured in 1968 – the year the first Morgan Plus 8 was sold – the iconic London bus entered service in January of that year. Since then, SMK 759F is believed to have clocked up more than 1.5 million miles before retiring nearly 44 years later. As it took its final journey on 9th December 2005, crowds gathered along the route to give it an admirable send-off.

Described as being in ‘incredible condition’, Morgan bought the bus earlier this year and has set to work making sympathetic conversions. It’s expecting to display it at events around the country this summer in a joint 50th anniversary celebration with the Morgan Plus 8.

“The Routemaster bus is arguably one of the most iconic vehicles in existence,” said Morgan’s managing director, Steve Morris. “It serves as a symbol of Britain and is part of our national identity. It therefore gives us great pleasure to continue the life of one of the last decommissioned buses as our event space. Morgan has an exciting year ahead, and we can’t wait to utilise the bus at events all around the UK.

“Our plans for the bus will make it the ideal event space for Morgan customers and enthusiasts alike.”

All the work will be carried out in-house by the same team responsible for hand-building Morgan sports cars.

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Morgan EV3

Confirmed: electric Morgan EV3 will arrive in 2018

Morgan EV3

Electric cars aren’t boring. Manufacturers have been pressing that message for a number of years now, but nothing says ‘carbon-neutral excitement’ quite like an all-electric Morgan three-wheeler.

The British sports car manufacturer first teased its EV3 in concept form in 2015, before turning up at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show with a prototype. Today, it’s announced a partnership with Frazer-Nash Energy Systems and plans to launch the EV3 as a production model in 2018. And that’s excellent news.

Morgan has previously suggested that the EV3 will hit 62mph in around 9.0 seconds, but it now says its partnership with Frazer-Nash means it will have “greater acceleration over and above what was previously expected.” Top speed will be 83mph.

But outright performance isn’t what this car is about. Expected to weigh less than 500kg, the three-wheeler will provide the kind of authentic driving experience Tesla owners can but dream about. Other advantages of using Frazer-Nash’s expertise include greater levels of torque, a lower centre of gravity and, of course, proven reliability from using parts already trialled in other vehicles.

“We are delighted to announce our technical partnership with Frazer-Nash Energy Systems as we enter this exciting phase of EV3 production,” said Morgan’s MD, Steve Morris. “We have been working closely on optimising the EV3’s architecture in every way to develop a car which will offer proven reliability range and cooling performance, combined with the pure driving experience that is expected of every hand-crafted Morgan.

“The greatest challenge lies within introducing EV technology into our factory work flows, customer experience and supporting dealer network in a robust and most importantly safe manner. Frazer-Nash Energy Systems offer us every confidence in achieving this. This will result in Morgan’s first entrance to the world of EV being incredibly rewarding, but moreover sets the scene for many exciting future opportunities.”

A relatively small 21KWh lithium battery will be encased within the tubular spaceframe chassis, expected to provide a range of 120 miles. While it’s never going to be a car for long journeys, that’s plenty for a guilt-free hoon around local B-roads. Power will be sent to the rear wheel via a liquid-cooled 34.8kW electric motor.

Production will start in the third quarter of 2018 at Morgan’s factory close to the Malvern Hills.

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Future classic cars

The future classic cars you can buy new

Future classic carsAs car enthusiasts, there’s little we enjoy more than scouring the classifieds for classics – daydreaming about what we can (or more likely, can’t) afford. But fast-forward 30 or 40 years and which current cars will be future petrolheads be lusting after? We think the following are dead-cert future classics – do you agree with our choices?

Future classic carsAlfa Romeo 4C

The 4C looks every inch the junior supercar, and its carbon fibre chassis means it won’t rust like classic Alfas of yore. Yes, a Porsche Cayman is sharper to drive, but the 240hp 4C feels more special – and will be a much rarer sight.

Future classic carsBMW M2

A decidedly old-school BMW, the M2 has a 370hp turbocharged six and a chassis that, well, likes to go sideways. It harks back to the original 1985 E30 M3 – now one of the fastest-appreciating classic cars of all.

Future classic carsFord Focus RS

We know somebody who’s just bought a new Focus RS and put it straight into air-conditioned storage – so confident is he of the car’s future value. And while it seems criminal not to drive this epic 350hp hot hatch, we’ve no doubt it’s a cast-iron future classic.

Future classic carsMazda MX-5

The venerable Mazda has, in its earlier iterations, already become a classic. The latest Mk4 MX-5 doesn’t stray from the original formula: modest power, a lightweight roadster body and rear-wheel drive. It’s a car that will make enthusiasts smile – both now and in years to come.

Future classic carsMorgan 3-Wheeler

Back to the future? The Morgan already looks like a car from the 1930s, and its hand-built retro charm will only grow with the passing years. Few cars will make you laugh out loud like a 3-Wheeler – even if you do get a few flies in your teeth in the process.

Future classic carsPorsche 911 R

Nothing screams ‘future classic’ like a limited-run Porsche. And with the same 4.0-litre naturally-aspirated engine as the GT3 RS and a manual gearbox, the 911 R has exactly the right ingredients to get enthusiasts excited.

Future classic carsRenaultsport Megane Cup-S

Visit the Nurburgring and you’ll mostly spot three types of car: Porsche 911s, BMW M3s and Renaultsport Meganes. The latter is one of the finest-handling front-wheel-drive cars ever made, and the run-out Cup-S special pictured here is set to be particularly collectible.

Future classic carsTesla Model S

Even if there’s a huge breakthrough in battery technology, it’s hard to imagine a time when the performance of the Tesla Model S won’t be impressive. This all-electric luxury saloon can seat seven people, yet the quickest P90D version hits 62mph in 2.8 seconds. A genuinely groundbreaker.

Future classic carsVauxhall VXR8

At the other end of the spectrum, here’s a car to use up the world oil supplies – and have a lot of fun doing so. The Vauxhall VXR8 has a supercharged 6.2-litre V8, hits 62mph in 4.2 seconds and can destroy a pair of rear tyres even quicker than that. Just don’t mention the fuel economy.

Future classic carsVolkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport 

The Golf GTI Clubsport is a more hardcore proposition than the luxurious, four-wheel-drive Golf R. In stripped-out S spec, it’s also the fastest front-driven car around the Nurburgring. Such ’Ring records will come and go, but it’s a safe bet the uber-GTI will remain uber-desirable.

Jay Leno buys a Morgan 3 Wheeler from Homer Simpson

Video: Jay Leno buys a Morgan 3 Wheeler from Homer Simpson

Jay Leno buys a Morgan 3 Wheeler from Homer Simpson

American TV host and car collector Jay Leno is to appear in a forthcoming episode of The Simpsons – in which he buys a Morgan from Homer.

A teaser clip released by the sitcom shows Leno ringing the doorbell at the Simpsons’ Springfield pad and telling Homer he wants to buy the Morgan 3 Wheeler parked outside.

Although we don’t know how Homer came to own a Morgan 3 Wheeler, he tells Leno he’s happy to sell it to him as long as he pays cash ‘with no questions asked’.

In the clip, we also see Leno’s 1973 Citroen DS, but the collector also owns a number of McLarens (including the exotic F1 and P1), a Bugatti and several Bentleys.

He admits that he had to advise scriptwriters on the intricacies of Morgans.  “I can tell the person who wrote it is not a car aficionado, because they had no idea what they were talking about,” he said.

“The original script said it had a marble interior.”

It’s not the first time The Simpsons has featured car-related storylines. In 1999, Homer buys a ‘Canyonero’ SUV and discovers it’s a model marketed at women, so gives it to Marge. In 1991, Homer finds out he has a long-lost brother who is the boss of a car manufacturer in Detroit. He designs his own car, ‘The Homer’, which makes the company go bust.

New Morgan ARP4 boasts Cosworth power

New Morgan ARP4 boasts Cosworth power

New Morgan ARP4 boasts Cosworth powerThe iconic Morgan Plus 4 is 65 years old this year. To celebrate, Morgan’s AR Motorsport division has revealed the limited-edition ARP4 – a 228hp Cosworth-powered Plus 4.

Just 50 examples of the ARP4 will be built, each costing £54,995. In addition to a powerful 2.0-litre Cosworth engine, the car features a host of chassis and interior upgrades. The result, says Morgan, is a car that ‘pushes the boundaries of the traditional classic’.

The British sports car maker hasn’t quoted figures yet, but promises ‘significantly more performance than a standard Morgan’. Each car will be set up by an AR Motorsport race technician, with adjustable shock absorbers, upgraded brakes and a different axle ratio to the regular Plus 4.

02_Morgan

The ARP4 is still built on a traditional ash-wood frame, but its aluminium panels are left untrimmed for lightness and a suitably sporty look. However, this isn’t a stripped-out track-day special. Morgan has beefed up soundproofing in the hood and throughout the body to reduce road and wind noise.

Other improvements on the ARP4 include a redesigned dashboard (fear not, purists – the retro toggle switches are still present and correct) and super-bright LED lights front and rear – which also give the car a more distinctive face.

The Morgan ARP4 is launched at the Silverstone Classic show on Saturday 25 July.