Certain vehicles reach deep into your chest and affix themselves permanently to your heart. To your brain. To your very soul. One of the greatest vehicles I’ve ever had the pleasure of putting in my driveway is, without a doubt, the Hotchkis E-Max Challenger. For new machines, I still have strong memories of my time spent with the Aston Martin V12 Vantage. Just recently, however, I had one of the most memorable motoring experiences of my entire life. While in New York for the 2013 NYIAS I was attending an event at the Classic Car Club of Manhattan. Also in attendance was equal parts famous and infamous Alex Roy, he of cross-country glory and owner of assorted automotive awesome. Roy had parked his Morgan Three-Wheeler just outside, and I found myself staring at it with a near child-like wonder.
I introduced myself to Roy, we chatted briefly about the Morgan, and I asked him if it would be alright if I sat in it. He paused for a beat, looked back at me and said “Why don’t you drive it?”
There was no hesitation with my reply. “Yes, of course!” were the words that came forth from my face, not as a shout but definitely not at standard street-side discussion level either. Alex procured his extra helmet from somewhere within the cramped passenger-side footwell and handed the lid to me. This was really happening.
I didn’t so much as slide as I did shimmy my way into the driver’s side of the Morgan. The steering wheel is removeable, and it’s very necessary that it behave in such a manner. These are cozy confines, and my size 12 Clark’s boots weren’t in love with the amount of space available for shifting gears. It didn’t matter though, because I’d make this work even if I had to drive the car barefoot. I didn’t have to resort to that and I actually found that it felt like I had more room than first impressions led me to believe once we were underway.
To get moving, I press the starter button that gives life to the nearly 2,000-CC S&S motorcycle engine mounted very visibly up front. Power is supposed to be somewhere between 80 and 100 horsepower, and it all gets routed a five-speed manual gearbox plucked from the Mazda MX-5. The curb weight of the Three Wheeler is around 1,200 pounds and, even with the combined girth of Roy and myself, we’re still riding far lighter than every other vehicle around us. Save for motorcycles of course.
Alex warns me before we pull away from the curb that the trike does have a few issues. Within the first week of ownership the throttle actually fell off. he mended it, and it feels fine now. Not too long ago one of the side exhaust pipes waved good-bye to the Morgan but Roy reunited the two. I can see that the left front headlight is partly supported by duct tape, and I am finally being told that first gear may be missing a few teeth. This is confirmed as the rear end makes a rather large and startling banging noise when clutch and throttle are pushed into opposing directions.
The build quality is utter crap. The driving experience though… is simply stunning.
Following some navigation tips from Roy, I wind up blasting through New York’s SoHo neighborhood as stunned fancy folks have no idea what they’re looking at. It’s midnight, and there’s a chance they don’t quite believe what they’re seeing. I don’t blame them as I don’t quite believe where I’m sitting. Still, it’s eyes up, two hands on the wheel, and careful shifts to avoid recreating that awful noise from the rear end.
The Morgan is eager to play in traffic, and there’s plenty of playing to do. My eyes sit at the same height as the door handles found affixed to the sea of taxi cabs we’re passing through. Both taxi drivers and their passengers all turn to stare out the windows, and then angle their eyes downward to locate the sound of the S&S motor. Still more onlookers appear on street corners, at intersections, and in crosswalks, and all of them stand with a slight slack-jawed wonderment. I’m officially the most interesting man in New York City at this very moment, and I’m savoring every second of it.
Of course, the entire time this is happening both Alex and I are laughing our heads off. I’m serious when I say we were both laughing nearly the entire time. In fact, I started to cry because I was laughing so hard. The entire process and experience of driving the Morgan is utterly ridiculous. The front darts from side to side like Stevie Wonder as he enters the chorus of Higher Ground. Potholes become potchasms. Still, the handling is sharp and very direct, the brakes respond instantly to haul in the lightweight machine, and the available power can be summoned easily thanks to the responsive (and re-affixed) throttle and the always-excellent Miata gearbox.
Driving the Morgan Three Wheeler is the most fun and memorable experience I’ve had behind the wheel of any machine I’ve ever driven. I know that’s a bit of a bold statement, but it is the truth. One of my greatest passions is simply hopping into a fun car and going for a drive. I love cars, and I love the act of driving. With the Morgan, the experience has been distilled into a far more potent product. You’re having fun as you’re also hanging on and alert to make sure the fun continues. I only got up to speed once or twice, hitting maybe 50 miles per hour on an open stretch of road, and things get exponentially hairier with the three-wheel setup.
Roy said it best once we got back to our original starting point. “There’s no way a guy can pull up next to me in Aventador and claim to be having as much fun, especially for the price.”
He’s right. I’ve been fortunate to drive some amazing machines, but the Morgan has reached into my brain and fused the experience of driving it to my very being. My life is now measured in Before Morgan and After Morgan… and I need to get more Morgan in my life.
[A very special thank you to Alex Roy for letting me drive his Three Wheeler]