Morgan, oft referred to as making cars out of wood (not true), has been making motors for over a century. Its modern offerings look akin to something out of 1933 rather than the 21st century, but one of its models has roots in the 1910s – the 3 Wheeler. Today it’s a toy, an oddity for eccentrics and those who enjoy kicking it old-school, but at its inception it was a viable replacement for a horse. Even family transport. Here’s everything you need to know about the Morgan 3 Wheeler.
It was born out of necessity
Henry Frederick Stanley (HFS) Morgan was a young chap in the Malvern Hills (hills being the operative word here) who needed to get around. Sadly, horses were too much of a pain, motorcycles were too dangerous, and cars were waaay too expensive for him. It was feet or nothing. Well… until he had an idea to make a car out of a motorcycle.
HFS took to his shed/workshop with some assistance and modified a motorcycle to create something a little different. Its engine was mounted to the nose, flanked by two wheels to steer, with a single, central, wheel at the back to provide the drive, while steering was taken care of by a tiller. He needed to get around, and now he could.
It wasn’t a car
Motorcycles used to be the best way to get around if you were on a budget and needed to go far. They weren’t anywhere near as expensive as cars to buy or run, and they were easy to work on. Kind of essential when cash wasn’t free flowing and engines weren’t reliable.
HFS’ three-wheeled runabout wasn’t a car, but nor was it a motorcycle. However, it was technically on the bike side, so it was cheap to run. And as it was powered by a motorcycle engine it was easy to fix.
It got Britain moving
After friends saw his single-seat runabout, they wanted in, so more were made. He built cars at a facility on Pickersleigh Road, Malvern Link, after getting a loan from his father and wife – and a business was born. He showed off his motor at the 1910 Olympia motor show, getting plenty of interest but few orders from the public.
So the following year he returned with a three-wheeled car with two seats, a windscreen, bonnet and an actual steering wheel. It was cheap to buy and people went nuts for it. Incidentally, it became the first (but by no means last) car to feature in Harrods’ shop window.
Thanks to their low price point and ease of use they soared in popularity. HFS’s runabout became the country’s. Four seaters and vans were made, as well as race cars…
It was a race hero
Put it like this – a small, light car powered by a bike engine is always going to be rapid, but throw it up against the likes of era appropriate cars and you’ve got yourself a rocket.
It was so good that Morgan’s car company couldn’t keep up with demand. Win on Sunday, sell on Monday.
Fighter pilots loved it
Ok, just the one, but a pretty special one. Albert Ball was the UK’s top First World War pilot. He worked hard to fly in the first place, and it just so happened that he was rather good at it. He downed more enemy planes than most and was a match for the fearsome Red Baron in the sky.
He owned a GP model Morgan three-wheeler, and dubbed it ‘the closest thing you can get to flying without leaving the ground.’ If anyone knows it, it’s Albert.
Cheap ‘proper’ cars killed it
As time went on, it was easier to get your hands on a motor with four wheels and a roof. The likes of the Ford Popular made the Morgan three-wheeler a rather antiquated choice for the modern person on the go. Much like the horse that was too much for HFS in the first place, it was time to stop using the three-wheeler in any serious capacity.
It returned in 2011
Morgan announced the Morgan three-wheeler would return at the 2011 Geneva motor show. Initially said to be powered by a Harley Davidson V-Twin, it ended up running an S&S V-Twin. Weighing in at 550kg and said to hit 62mph from rest in less than five seconds, it’s no longer a means of sensible transportation. Again, like the horse, it’s a thing for fun. And oh my, are they fun…