Third Wheel's the Charm

A Morgan 3 Wheeler is neither car nor bike. It is, however, a totally unique way to motor about. And after more than half a century away, the trike recently went back into production.

Sliding into the new Morgan 3 Wheeler is relatively easy. The seating is two up, although the two would need to like each other’s company pretty well. The seat is comfortable, featuring a raised center section that keeps occupants firmly in place. The banjo-style, four-spoke steering wheel is pretty cool and is positioned nicely.

Power comes from one of S&S Performance’s big-bore V-twin motorcycle engines–call it a pseudo Harley, but those 1983cc deliver quite the shock when you press the aircraft-style starter button. That unforgettable rumble announces that this is a motorcycle engine, not the typical car powerplant. And in typical Harley fashion, all at once everything begins to shake, buzz and rattle. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. Immediately it’s like you’re taxiing to takeoff on some new adventure.

The shifter falls right to hand, and it’s connected to a slick five-speed unit reputed to be from a Miata. As the Morgan moves off, though, you instantly notice that the updates mainly stop at that Mazda gearbox. The steering is manual, while the clutch pedal can most charitably be described as very firm.

New Model

Like the rest of Morgan’s model line, the 3 Wheeler’s body and frame feature three main ingredients: An aluminum body and chassis support an ash wood frame and leather-trimmed interior. Dry weight is about 1150 pounds, and that giant S&S engine produces some 82 horsepower in base trim. Compare those figures to your standard Little British Car.

The driving experience is one part formula car, one part fighter plane. Although it may not handle like a motorcycle, the Morgan trike definitely delivers a dash of that experience, too. The wind is free to slap you in the face, and your nose won’t miss a thing, whether it’s the trike’s mechanical smells or the perfume of the passing countryside. Suddenly you’re in prewar England.

Once on the road, the rough-and-tumble idle quickly gives way to a Harley rumble. The powerful engine and light weight mean that things start to happen in a hurry. Zero to 60 takes about 6 seconds, putting this trike on par with many of today’s performance cars. That Mazda gearbox ensures quick, easy gear changes.

You would think that having a hulking engine out front would make for some weird handling dynamics, but it doesn’t. Through the turns, the driving sensation is close to what you’d experience in a Lotus 7 or old Formula Ford. It’s easy to forget there’s just a single wheel out back.

In addition to great handling, quick turn-in and tons of torque on tap, this Morgan has one more surprise: It rides nicely. Sure, there are a few buzzes and rattles, but the 3 Wheeler cruises much more smoothly than its prewar origins would lead you to believe.

Although Morgan started out with trikes, they were fully committed to cars after 1952. Before the famed company added the trike back to their lineup for 2012, you had to find–and likely restore–an earlier one. How much does it cost to relive those early threewheeled days? Budget about $50,000 for a previously owned, late-model example.

Hey, it’s cheaper than building a time machine.

The Original

The dream for many enthusiasts is to own a genuine, early Morgan trike. Then there’s the reality: For some of us, we barely fit in the darn thing. Chris Towner’s 1938 Morgan F Trike was a bit cramped for us, so we settled for a quick country drive.

The old trike’s ride is a little rougher than the modern version’s, but its modified, sidevalve Ford E93A seems to give it a similar power-to-weight ratio. Morgan supplied the threespeed transmissions, though, with a reverse H-pattern. As a result, first is up and to the right. Second is down and to the left, and third is up and to the left.

The handling on this old Morgan is quite crisp, although the steering is even stiffer than the new car’s. Once underway, though, the machine goes where it’s pointed.

What did we learn from this Morgan trike experience? From the cycle fenders to the long hood to the intimate cockpit, perhaps three wheels can be more fun than four.

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Comments
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gjz30075
gjz30075 HalfDork
11/21/15 4:54 a.m.

The mayor of my town owns one of the new models and so he's quite receptive to having a British Car show every year, in the City Hall parking lot, every May.

Rupert
Rupert Dork
11/21/15 10:39 a.m.

Our British club has one guy who owns an old trike & a Plus Four. But I'm not aware of a new trike in this area. I'd like to try one myself.

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
11/22/15 7:47 a.m.

It was way more fun than I was expecting.

TRoglodyte
TRoglodyte SuperDork
11/22/15 7:57 a.m.

Seeing the suspension working out front is a different experience. The car is very engaging.

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