Morgan Trike improves the driving experience with water-cooled engine

Matt Jennings/Morgan Motor Company

  • The new Super 3 gets a water-cooled 1.5-liter three-cylinder from Ford with 118 hp.
  • First Morgan to feature unibody construction, featuring a super-formed aluminum body instead of a wooden frame.
  • Donuts are easier with just one wheel. Morgan Super 3 launches in US later this year.

    It’s raining. Of course it is. This is the English summer, when the weather punishes both the cautious and the unwary. The decision to drive a car with no roof, or any other form of weather protection, has been fated to deliver a soak. Yet even that doesn’t do much to dampen my enthusiasm for what must be high in the race to become the most charismatic new vehicle on the planet.

    Note “vehicle”, not “car”, because the Morgan Super 3 is not a conventional car. The odd number of wheels makes it a motorized tricycle, putting it in a legal space between a motorcycle and a car. Up front there is a steering wheel, control pedals and a gear stick, but at the back is a single driven wheel. World legislators are divided. In Europe, the Super 3 is treated like a car with its headlights on the outside, as you can see in these factory demonstrator pictures. In the US, it has to carry the center lights like it’s an oversized motorcycle.

    Morgan Super 3

    Morgan Super 3.

    Matt Jennings/Morgan Motor Company

    No existing automaker has a longer heritage of three wheelers than Morgan. As early as 1910, the British company built its first, the Runabout. It featured an 8-horsepower V-twin engine and tiller steering that looks like a motorized bath chair. Steering wheels soon followed and in the pre-WWII era Morgan tricycles became very popular in Britain, with some owners racing and even setting land speed records.

    In 2013, Morgan was revived with a new 3 wheeler that combines a Harley-style air-cooled V-twin engine built by S&S in the USA with a chassis that uses Morgan’s traditional techniques: a steel frame with aluminum plates across a wooden mold structure. It was huge fun, but little more advanced than the original cars, and the V-twin engine soon struggled to meet even mild motorcycle emissions standards. By the time it was retired in 2020, the 3-wheeler had been choked down like a Malaise-era V8, and power dropped from 116 hp to just 82 hp.

    That’s why the new car has switched to water-cooled propulsion, with a new 1.5-litre Ford three-cylinder engine which Morgan says will meet regulatory requirements right up to Europe’s eventual ban on internal combustion engines. This makes 118 hp and 110 lb-ft of torque while propelling just 1400 pounds of mass. Radiators are positioned on each side.

    The rest of the Super 3’s structure is even more radical, as Morgan has joined the herd and switched to unibody construction. Seriously, this is the first car in the company’s history that doesn’t have a wooden frame, its structure is made of super-formed aluminum panels.

    Morgan Super 3

    Interior of the Spartan Morgan Super 3.

    Matt Jennings/Morgan Motor Company

    The new engine got rid of the convincing look of the last 3-wheeler’s chrome cylinder heads, which Morgan’s designers replaced with an alloy casting to mount the front control arms. Rather than attempt to disguise the need for additional space, Morgan has celebrated it with flat panels that include attachment points for a variety of panniers and racks.

    Morgan Super 3

    Morgan Super 3 gauges.

    Matt Jennings/Morgan Motor Company

    Getting started is easy. With no doors, you board the Super 3, which can be challenging for those with shorter legs. Morgan has helpfully provided a metal stiffening step just in front of the seats, and resting an ankle on one of these makes it easier to swing inward by bracing against the roll bar.

    Once inside, the cabin is as spartan as an ancient Greek city-state, with a metal dash, two circular digital gauges and a row of four rocker switches. In the center is a start button under an inhibitor cover. The seats don’t move – changing front-to-back mass distribution could cause stability issues – but the position of the pedal box can be adjusted.

    Morgan Super 3

    Morgan Super 3.

    Matt Jennings/Morgan Motor Company

    Aside from the need to hang the outer arm over the edge of the cockpit, the Super 3 is actually roomy considering its modest dimensions. Everything is waterproof. It can even survive jet washing.

    The new motor suits the tricycle quite well. In the European market it usually powers Fords, this is a utilitarian powerplant. But in the light Morgan and exhaling through a rorty exhaust, it sounds and feels sharp. The balance of controls is good – the five-speed manual gearbox shifts as smoothly and precisely as in the Mazda Miata for which it was developed. The unassisted steering is low-ratio but rich in off-center feedback, and both the brake and accelerator pedals have been carefully positioned to allow heel-and-toe rev matching when downshifting.

    Morgan Super 3

    Morgan Super 3.

    Matt Jennings/Morgan Motor Company

    Morgan’s claim of a 6.9-second 0-60 mph time might not sound particularly impressive by the standards of modern sports cars, let alone sportbikes. But the harsh acceleration is made particularly exciting by the fierce slipstream penetrating the limited protection of the aero screen, and also by the rear tire’s struggle to find traction. The little engine revs up at 6900rpm and as it gets closer to that number the tachometer reading changes color and then displays a jiggling digit to show how hard the engine is working – a detail that makes me yell Brought laughter the first time I saw it.

    The combination of wet, slippery conditions and the Super 3’s total lack of driving aids – there’s no traction control or even ABS – had me concerned at first, given the strange handling physics of three-wheeled vehicles. But while the Super 3’s grip levels were very modest in the rain – and probably not much higher on dry tarmac – it’s easy to push to its well-marked limits.

    The narrow front tires look like vintage motorcycle rims but are actually custom Avons with a 130 profile and flatter sidewalls that perform better when gliding. At the rear sits 15-inch 195 profile all-season tires, chosen to give similarly low levels of grip at either end. On wet roads I can attest to that, but also that the Super 3 is willing to change its cornering line in response to small throttle inputs. It can easily oversteer on slippery surfaces. Donuts are easier with just one wheel.

    Morgan Super 3

    Morgan Super 3.

    mike duff

    Hooliganism aside, the Super 3 felt a lot more dynamically polished than its raw predecessor, though I don’t want to find out how it handles its claimed 130mph top speed. Braking also took some getting used to; It was possible that the Super 3 was close to locking its front tires while losing speed at a slower rate than four-wheeled traffic. It’s another area where it feels closer to a motorcycle than a car.

    We don’t have US pricing for the Super 3 yet, but expect it to start at around $70,000 when it gets here later this year. That would make it a very expensive, impractical automotive toy, but also a compelling one considering how few alternatives could offer a similar driving experience regardless of price.

    specifications

    Engine:1498cc triple cylinder

    Transmission:Five-speed manual transmission, rear-wheel drive

    Perfomance:118 hp at 6500 rpm

    Torque:110 lb-ft at 4500 rpm

    0-60km/h:6.9 sec

    Top speed:130km/h

    Weight:1400 pounds

    Price:$70,000 (estimated)

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