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Future Shock for Afficianados

posted Nov 15, 2010, 4:14 PM by L.D. McLaughlin Jr.
Tony McLaughlin, April 8, 2004
Future Shock for Aficionados By ROB FIXMER

Published: April 5, 2004

SOME reviewers have called the Aero 8 absolute eye candy. Others have jeered it as "Clarence the Cross-Eyed Car" or "Morgan's Batmobile." But whatever one thinks of its eccentric body design, no one has found reason to belittle the car's engineering.

The Morgan of the 21st century, an almost total break with a body design that served the marque well for 70 years, is pure muscle. Its power plant is a 286-horsepower BMW V-8 designed for cars that weigh twice the Aero 8's 2,200 pounds. Thanks to a new antilock brake system by Siemens, the American version of the car stops in a matter of seconds. It managed a respectable 20th-place finish overall in a field of 44 in the grueling 12-hour Sebring race last month.

"Obviously, the car is immensely fast," Charles Morgan, the company's managing director, said in a recent telephone interview from Malvern Link in Worchester, England, where he and his crew were preparing for the New York auto show. The Aero 8 will be displayed at the show, which opens Friday at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. "But even more important, it's got to be safe, and it stops on a sixpence" - or a dime on this side of the Atlantic. "It's quite an achievement for a little company," he added.

Like the company that bears his surname, the Aero 8 is a source of personal pride for Mr. Morgan. He is the grandson of H. F. S. Morgan, who founded the Morgan Motor Company in 1912. For many years, Charles Morgan, 52, drove on the Morgan racing team, where he absorbed many concepts that eventually evolved into the Aero 8, from its all-aluminum chassis and body panels to the shape of the car itself. In a nod to Morgan tradition, it retains a wooden frame for the cockpit.

"We wanted to create a shape that was like a Morgan, but at least 40 percent or 50 percent more aerodynamic," Mr. Morgan said. "So, in a sense, that's sort of why it looks the way it does."

But that is not the only reason for the car's exotic lines.

"If we looked like a Mazda or a Porsche Boxster, nobody would be that interested," he said.

His words smack of understatement. H. F. S. Morgan, after all, built his entire company around a three-wheel car. Some might consider the Aero 8 to be tame by Morgan standards.