New Morgans are as rare as comets - the last proper model launch was in 1936. Back then, loyal customers threw tantrums at the newfangled Morgan 4/43. After all, it had no fewer than four wheels! Many Morgan diehards still say the only true Moggie is a pre-36 three-wheeler, so when they see the new Aero 8 they will probably blockade the factory gates. But the latest motor from Malvern still requires wood, sweat and tears to build and looks more likely to engage in a dogfight with a Messerschmitt 109 than to scorch along the M25. It has crossed eyes, thanks to those headlamps that point towards each other. Make no mistake, those fans of the classic Morgan might blanch at the Aero 8's attempt to combine old and new.
Some cars are bred for racing, but this aluminium-bodied supercar of 4.4 litres was bred from racing. In the late Nineties, Morgan decided to have a bash on the GT racing circuit, so they pitched a modified Plus 8 against the likes of McLaren and Porsche. Chief technician Chris Lawrence said the experience paid off. "BMW asked us how it took three men and three years for us to develop this car when it takes them 3,500 men and six years. Forget computers and lab tests - you discover solutions far more quickly when someone is trying to push past you on the track." Behind the wheel it is a mad mix of old and new. Despite the minimalist buttons and jazzy aluminium dashboard, the interior is compact and the driving position - stiff upper body, elbows in - makes you think of rigor mortis. Breathe too fast and you steam up the screen which is but a micron from the end of your nose. However, the seat and steering adjust, so once you have settled it is time to push the start button and sally forth. Which is where the real surprises start.
Ride-wise, this is the first Morgan that is friendly to the base of the spine, the new wishbone design delivering top-notch refinement at all speeds. But before pushing that throttle pedal too much it is worth noting that this car weighs just 1,000kg, the equivalent of 10 burly blokes, and has a BMW V8 engine harbouring more horsepower than that scene from Ben Hur. With a 0-60mph time of well under five seconds, make sure any loose teeth are well clenched.
However, open-jawed adoration is hard to avoid. Nine-inch wide tyres keep the car firmly on track and it shrinks around you on the open road like an old glove. Options for equipment take the Aero's price to around £50,000, so this is a millionaire's Morgan, given that very few people would intend such fare as more than a weekend plaything. Fit and finish are of a very high standard and Morgan have every reason to celebrate their first creation for 64 years.
Managing director Charles Morgan is relying on fresh demand to increase production from the factory to a heady 14 units a week and a new plant is being planned. For a firm who were criticised by Sir John Harvey-Jones on TV in Troubleshooter, Morgan are in remarkably good business shape. In fact, Morgan's biggest worry is trying to reduce the waiting list for its cars, an enviable position, although the Aero 8's arrival is aiding the situation, with many customers taking up Morgan up on their offer of switching their orders from the classic model. But what of that notorious waiting list for the Aero 8 itself? The truth is, it is now no worse than for many German supercars - two years should be all you will need wait for this newcomer. And unless you want a three-wheeler, you will not be disappointed ...
This article appeared in The International Express newspaper. It is posted here to aid a researcher who is writing a yarn about Morgan cars.