morgan

Morgan – a very British success story

SUPPOSE Donald Trump – a US president who, whether you love him or loathe him, once vowed to sort out North Korea by chomping on cheeseburgers with Kim Jong-un – starts a nuclear war.

Without wanting to go all When The Wind Blows on you, I reckon there’s a fair chance all of us would be completely obliterated in the subsequent missile exchange – except, of course, the cockroaches.

And Morgan, I’d like to bet. Even in the most ridiculously over-the-top post-apocalyptic scenario I reckon there’ll still be a queue of people cheerily lining up to buy a Plus 4, completely unmoved by whatever’s going on in the wider world because they’re delighted that there’s no longer a seven-year waiting list. The Malvern sports car manufacturer just quietly got on with doing its bit through two World Wars. It shrugged off The Great Depression, the Three Day Week and The Credit Crunch. Where Armstrong-Siddeley, Austin-Healey, Alvis and Ascari have all come and gone (and those are just the defunct Brit carmakers beginning with ‘A’), Morgan’s just carried on regardless.

Which is why I suspect, that in a week when Nissan announced it was pulling X-Trail production from Sunderland, Jaguar Land Rover posted a £3.4 bn quarterly loss and Ford’s global profits dipped by 50 per cent, Morgan’s announced record profits for the third year running. Despite, at it turns out, actually making fewer cars than it did a year ago.

All this even though there are many people – including lots of devoted car nuts – who hate Morgans. There are plenty of perfectly normal, well adjusted people who just don’t understand why you’d spend the best part of forty grand (and that’s the starting price for a 4/4 these days) for a creaky throwback of a car that’s been in production since 1936 and has bits of wood in its construction.

But there are, as it turns out, an equally sizeable army of driving die-hards who really, really love Morgans – me included. If I ever won the Lottery (which is extremely unlikely, given that I don’t play it) I’d be straight on the phone with an order for a 3 Wheeler and a Plus 4. Chances are they’ll be outhandled by any contemporary hot hatch, but that’s missing the point – where else are you going to find a car that feels quite so organic to drive? Morgans are old-fashioned and make you work for your thrills, but that’s why people find them so endearing.

It could happily churn out Plus 4s for the next 1,000 years and people would still be sticking orders in, but instead it’s busy working on a new model – the new ‘wide bodied’ car, which will fit in where the old V8 models left off last year.

I’m glad that Morgan’s on a roll. As long as people are queuing up for quirky sports cars with ash frames, you just know that everything else will be alright…

The Morgan dealer that’s still in business NINETY YEARS later

lifes-motors-manager-dave-randall-with-colleagues-matty-jackson-and-andy-chandler-at-the-90th-birthday-party-last-weekend

IF ONLY car dealerships could talk. I suppose if they did, the one I popped into the other weekend would be able to regale you with some brilliant anecdotes.

I was there for a 90th birthday party – and while it’s entirely reasonable for any 90-year-old to be taking it easy over a glass of sherry this one was surrounded by nightclubs and scary three-wheeled sports cars with motorcycle engines (I should know, I’ve encountered both). Lifes Motors could’ve sloped off to a retirement home decades ago, yet it’s still very much alive and kicking.

All of which makes this showroom on one of Southport’s quieter streets the oldest Morgan dealership of the lot. Not just in the North West or even in Britain, but the whole world.

What’s more, the 90th anniversary is only of it selling a certain brand of ash-framed sports car from Worcestershire; if you count its history of selling motorcycles, it’s actually 93 years old.

It’s hard to believe that the same dealership was operating at a time when televisions hadn’t even been invented and most families’ idea of motoring was a motorcycle and sidecar combination, as the Austin Seven would’ve been too newfangled and expensive.

In the nine decades since car showrooms have sprung up all over the North West, switched franchises a few times and then slowly sloped off the mortal coil; only the other week I was sad to see Formby Ford closing its doors for the last time, after decades of selling cars with blue ovals on their snouts and Austin Rover and BL products in the years before that. Yet this one dealership just keeps going, powered by cars that to the untrained eye look exactly like the ones it was selling half a century ago.

That’s the thing with Morgans. Whether yours was made in 1926, 1966 or 2016, it’s a safe bet that it’s exciting and prompts conversations with bystanders at whichever pub car park you take it too. I know plenty of people – particularly ones who work in or around cars – who hate Morgans, but the ones who appreciate them really love them for what they are. I’m definitely one of the latter, and smile whenever I hear the bass-heavy thump of a Plus 8 babbling past or see the wind-battered smile of someone clearly enjoying the elements in a Threewheeler.

I’ve no doubt it’ll still be trading sports cars that look vaguely the same when the centenary comes around. In fact, it’ll probably still be doing it long after you and I are consigned to the scrapheap!