The Super 3 could be the best Morgan ever | Thank Frankel it’s Friday

25th February 2022
andrew_frankel_headshot.jpg Andrew Frankel

Know that moment of terrible realisation? The one when you suddenly become aware of something you should have done a long time ago, but somehow never got around to? I’m having one now. Because in eight years of writing this column, there is not one on my computer with the word ‘Morgan’ in its title. That’s the best part of 400 stories and while the name has popped up tangentially in other tales, none has featured Britain’s oldest sportscar manufacturer as its subject. It gets worse because at the same time, I’ve devoted 18 such columns to Porsche in one form or another. Eighteen! That’s over a third of a year.


So the launch yesterday (Thursday) of the new Morgan Super 3 provides the opportunity to at least and at last start trying to redress the balance a bit. I won’t go into great details about the new car because it’s already been explained elsewhere on this site. But I was interested to learn the origins of its Ford 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine because while you can buy such a motor in the UK (in the Fiesta ST), that engine is turbocharged and this one is not. And I’ll bet you all the money in my piggy bank that Morgan didn’t undertake the considerable engineering programme required to relieve it of its forced induction system.

It turns out it’s a Ford ‘Dragon’ engine built by Ford in India and used over there in cars like the EcoSport and until recently in Brazil and maybe other countries in the Ka. So now you know. The car looks really cool, the spec seems great with proper, stressed-body monocoque construction and I really hope it’s great to drive, but…

We all know it won’t matter if it’s not. And I wonder if this in some part explains why I’ve not hitherto done an exclusively Morgan story. For the truth is, although I’ve driven examples of most of their output for over 30 years, I’ve yet to drive one I thought was a good car. In fact, most were awful.


Harsh? Not really. I think where Morgan has been so smart over the years is to understand that their cars simply don’t need to be ‘good’ by any conventional definition, in the same way a Lotus Elise or Caterham Seven might need to be described as good. 

Indeed I found very instructive the experience of a friend who went for a factory tour and was then allowed to take one of the cars – I forget which – for a quick test drive. ‘It was the worst car I have ever driven,’ he told me straight after, ‘and I’m still trying to decide whether to buy it or not.’ He resisted in the end, but the fact it didn’t ride, steer, go fast or do any of the things you might expect a quite expensive two-seat British sportscar to do, didn’t deter him at all. In fact, I think he liked it all the more because of it.


The first Morgan I drove was a 4/4 belonging to my then stepmother and even the teenage me could tell how bad it was. More than anything it just felt desperately slow and, looks aside, possessed the sole redeeming feature of a really sweet four-speed Ford gearbox. But the Cortina estate in which I fetched and carried stuff for a summer job had exactly the same thing going for it and was, in all other respects, a far nicer thing to conduct.

Then came work and a Plus 8. I took it up to the Lake District in, I guess about 1990 to compare with an E30 BMW M3 Convertible. And at least that had the unfeasible turn of speed my stepmother’s car so clearly lacked. In fact, it made even the BMW seem pretty lame by comparison and had I been conducting that test today I might have been a bit suspicious about that. In the event, I reported as I found and only discovered some years later in a pub with a then Morgan employee that the engine in that particular car may not have been entirely to standard specification. Or even close.


Others came and went and I learned that if I drove them as they wanted to be driven – slowly – then there was a certain undemanding pleasure to be drawn from the look of the cockpit, along a usually heavily louvred bonnet and to the wider world beyond.

You just didn’t want to push them too hard. I remember once we had an Aero 8 at Autocar’s annual handling day and it not only came last, but by a margin I don’t recall being approached before or since. Then the 3 Wheeler turned up a few years later and unless you drove it absolutely the way it wanted to be driven, it was seriously scary.


But this new one might be very different. It seems to have been built to modern construction standards and with a small and light engine set well back in its chassis, as opposed a heavy and enormous one bolted to the front of the car. And I think there is a real opportunity here: just imagine a car as visually striking and imaginative as the Super 3 that in the driving experience actually, and for the first time in decades, then delivered on the promise of its appearance.

Knowing even what we know now, I am sure customers will already be queuing up for the Super 3 because it’s that kind of car. But if it’s also great to drive, I expect that queue to be out the door, down the street and round the corner beyond.

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