As is so often pointed out, Morgan started out making three-wheeled cars and didn't actually produce a car with four wheels until 1936.
That 113-year history of cars with one fewer wheel starts a new chapter this year with the launch of this, the Morgan Super 3. The new model abandons the motorbike-based engine of the previous model in favour of a much more contemporary Ford-sourced 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo engine.
One Irish order already
The best news is that the new Super 3 will come to Ireland, and Fermoy's Edgewood Automotive, Morgan's only official agent in Ireland, has confirmed that the car in its most basic form will cost around €78,000 (although early models with more spec will likely be more like €85,000). Apparently, one Irish customer has already ordered a Super 3, and judging from what we're seeing here, we'd expect at least two new orders a week, every Saturday and Wednesday, about 8.05pm...
The move away from the exposed V-twin motorbike engine to a Ford unit that's mounted inside the car's bodywork means that the new Super 3 looks distinctly different to the old three-wheeler. The overall effect is the same, but the car now has an open nose, with headlights and indicators mounted on stalks, and a very technical look to the front end. The front suspension is a clever pull-rod system that draws on Formula One technology for its design and is compact enough to allow easier airflow into the car's side-mounted radiators.
'Sideblade' radiator covers
Those radiators are covered with light, slim panels which Morgan calls 'Sideblades' which allow more space for the front wheels to swivel, and which keep the Super 3's turning circle down to an acceptable level. Those Sideblades can be painted to match the main body colour or finished in a contrasting colour, and they provide a canvas for the application of decals and livery packs.
At the back, there's a distinct seam running around the bodywork, which is meant to evoke the design of mid-century jet aircraft, and a small lidded boot, to which an extra external luggage rack can be fitted.
Morgan says that the interior has been made to be resilient to the elements - just as well given that there's no roof and only a tiny aeroscreen-style windscreen. All of the interior fixtures, right down to the USB sockets, get IP64 waterproofing and are dust-resistant too. For the seats and upholstery, you can choose from vinyl, water-resistant leather, saddle leather with enhanced durability and technical fabric that combines a high level of water resistance, UV resistance and ease of maintenance and which Morgan says "offers an appealing alternative to leather."
The centre-mounted dials are actually digital units, but in the Morgan tradition, they manage to look charmingly retro. There are even proper toggle switches(!) and for the first time in a three-wheeled Morgan, there's a cabin heater. The seats are fixed, but both the steering wheel and pedals adjust back and forth so you can get comfortable, and there's a universal mount in the cockpit to which accessories can be fitted, including a bespoke, waterproof, sat-nav unit that runs a Google Maps app (there are more such mounts on the Sideblades to help carry more luggage, including bespoke luggage sets from Malle of London).
Underneath, the Super 3 is far more modern than it looks. The chassis is made of 'Superformed' aluminium (basically the alloy panels are heated until they're almost liquid and then shaped), with stressed exterior monocoque panels (previous three-wheelers had a separate body and chassis). Morgan claims that the Super 3 meets the same crash test regulations as its four-wheeled cars.
The 120hp naturally-aspirated 1.5-litre Ford engine drives the rear wheel (singular...) through a Mazda MX-5 gearbox and a carbon-fibre reinforced belt. The front wheels are massive in diameter - 20-inches - but mountain-bike-like in width, and wear specially made Avon Speedmaster tyres. Initial performance claims include a 7.0sec 0-100km/h time, a 209km/h top speed, and fuel economy of around 7.0 litres per 100km. Morgan reckons that the new Super 3 will be hugely reliable too, not least because it has used a cutting edge computer-aided-engineering system to design the mechanical package.
Steve Morris, Chairman and CEO, Morgan Motor Company, said: "Following on from the incredible success of the outgoing Morgan 3 Wheeler has been no easy task. When we first decided to reintroduce it back in 2011, the company couldn't have imagined just how popular and successful the V-twin model would be. The Morgan 3 Wheeler represents something different, something unique and something to be celebrated. As we launch Super 3, I am confident that our latest three-wheeled offering is as relevant as ever. We have developed this vehicle at a time when the industry, and the wider world, has been challenged beyond comprehension. Yet our engineering and design teams, along with our project partners, have been able to deliver a fitting new chapter to Morgan's three-wheeled story. The all-new Super 3 introduces new levels of engineering integrity to Morgan, a new sense of adventure to the brand and a new design language that indicates our future direction."