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Morgan Plus 8: it's a time machine ... a slow one

posted Nov 15, 2010, 3:46 PM by Tony McLaughlin
Tony McLaughlin, June 15, 2003
Any comments on the article by Jeremy Clarkson in The Sunday Times Driving supplement last weekend?

May 18, 2003 Jeremy Clarkson

Morgan Plus 8: it's a time machine...a slow one

I seem to recall reading recently that some Australian blokes have used a Jeff Goldblum-style transporting device to move a particle from one place to another.

I'm not so sure. If the claim had been made by a Californian Silicon Valley type, or by a Scottish man with a jumper and wiry hair in a shed, then maybe it would have a vestige of credibility. But Australians are far too busy eating prawns and lighting barbecues to be at the cutting edge of anything even vaguely important.

Historically, Australia has given the world absolutely nothing of any value. Even Mel Gibson was born in New York. So why should we believe them when they say that the particle in teleporter B had moments earlier been in teleporter A? Think about it. It's not as if they claim to have teleported a green-eyed dog or a horse with a striking white mark above its left rear fetlock. One particle, so far as I'm aware, looks much like any other particle. Sort of small and round.

And if they have achieved such a thing, what's the big deal, anyway? The tricky bit is moving lots of particles and putting them all back together in the right order.

You only need be out by the tiniest amount and it would be a disaster. Being beamed to your Caribbean holiday destination in the blink of an eye might sound appealing, but not if you got there to find you'd become Rolf Harris. Or a vacuum cleaner.

I must also say, speaking as a motoring journalist, that I'm not in favour of teleportation because it would put me out of a job. I should also explain that Gene Roddenberry only came up with the ?beaming? machine in Star Trek because there was not enough in the budget for the original series to film a model of the Enterprise's shuttle craft landing on a different planet every week.

Time travel is much more exciting. Hollywood has been fixated with the notion for as long as I can remember. Over the years, they've had all sorts of things being jettisoned into the past ? DeLoreans, Kathleen Turner, Jean-Claude Van Damme, large Austrian robots and, in a little-known film called The Final Countdown, the entire USS Nimitz aircraft carrier.

Conveniently, it arrived in the Pacific Ocean on December 7, 1941, about one hour before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. There's a fair bit of dull moralising but the dogfights between the F-14s and the Zeros are wonderful. If a trifle short.

I dream about being able to go back in time and spend long hours in the garden working out when I'd like to materialise. Sarajevo perhaps, just as Archduke Franz Ferdinand was getting into his coach. Or what about London in 1665? ?Stop killing the dogs,? I would say, ?the dogs aren't killing you. But they will kill the rats that are.? Then I could hotfoot down to Pudding Lane with a fire extinguisher.

Think of the lives you could save with a time machine. Think of the good you could do. And think how much you could win on the horses.

Alas, this is even more improbable than a Castlemaine XXXX beaming machine. Mathematicians say that time travel will never be possible, or people from the future would be here already, clogging up Ladbrokes and generally making a nuisance of themselves on the stock exchange.

However, the argument is wrong. As daft as it might seem, a small engineering company in Malvern Link, Worcestershire, has quietly invented a time machine. It's called a Morgan Plus 8 and last week it whisked me back to 1933.

I first began to test cars for a living in 1984, beginning with a comparison test between the then new Peugeot 205 and the Fiat Punto. Since then I've driven everything from Australian road trains to F-15 fighters. I've steered oil tankers round the Cape of Good Hope and powerboats into Monaco harbour. I've even ridden a motorbike through the Savoy hotel. But I'd never driven a Morgan.

Jointly designed by Mr Morgan and the grandson of the man who designed the Rocket (the train, that is), using broadly similar technology, it was quite cutting edge and contemporary in 1723. But apart from the addition of fuel injection in 1984, nothing has changed.

As a result, I always felt there was plenty of time. Why rush to drive a Morgan today when I could get round to it in 2030 and it'd be exactly the same car.

Not so. It seems the supply of Rover's bronze age V8 is about to dry up and, as a result, next year the old Plus 8 will quietly slip into the history books.

So when a friend rocked up at my house last weekend with a swansong model ? wire wheels and no bumpers ? I felt the time was right to break my Morgan duck. With the roof stowed and the side windows removed, I turned the key and set off.

It was extraordinary. With most cars we concern ourselves with the all-important ability to sprint from 0 to 60. But this did something far more impressive: it took me backwards 70 years in 2.5sec.

It wasn't just the view down that swooping, pre-war bonnet past the mountainous headlamps. It was everything. I never saw the famed programme The Troubleshooter in which Sir John Harvey-Jones spent some time advising the Morgan dynasty to move with the times, but plainly they have ignored him.

Drum brakes, a frame made from ash, cart springs, unassisted steering ? this is the stuff of the industrial revolution and, as a result, you can feel the whole car flexing in the middle as you bumble along.

And you will be bumbling. I'd always thought that the Morgan Plus 8 was a fast car. A big engine in a light body and so on. But I suspect it isn't. I can't be absolutely sure because the speedo was completely obscured by the steering wheel, but in the time it took to overtake a lorry I had time to say 117 Hail Marys.

Small wonder there's not much of a waiting list to buy this car any more, I reasoned. Obviously everyone is buying one of the new Aero 8s, with its Daktari nose and its more modern underpinnings. Or a TVR. Or a lawn mower. Anything that goes better than this.

And it wasn't just a lack of oomph either. It didn't stop, turn, grip or handle in any way that could be called vaguely contemporary. It didn't make a particularly growly noise either, and I couldn't even find a heater. So, as I shivered and shuddered my way through the Cotswolds, I decided this car is not for me.

That, however, is not the end of the story. Since then I've made a couple of calls to both the road test editor of Top Gear Magazine and Richard Hammond, my co-presenter on the television show. Both of them said they absolutely loved the Plus 8, not despite the shortcomings but because of them.

I think I know what they mean. If you're the sort who prefers an old black and white war film to The Terminator, and Old Speckled Hen to a bottle of Beck's, and you fancy having some of this olde worlde charm on the road, then the Morgan will be right up your street.

It's ideal for taking to the pub on a sunny Sunday morning, not least because it was built for the days when you were allowed to drive home again.

I suppose I'm glad it's out there. But I'm also glad we've moved on.

VITAL STATISTICS

Model Morgan Plus 8 Engine type 4 litre V8 16 valve Power 200bhp @ 4800rpm Torque 225 lb ft @ 3500rpm Transmission Five-speed manual Suspension (front) Independent sliding pillar with coil springs and telescopic shock absorbers; (rear) semi-elliptic leaf springs with telescopic shock absorber Wheels Standard bolt-on alloy 6.5" x 15" Tyres 205/60 15 C02 289g/km Fuel 23.23mpg (combined) Top speed 130mph Acceleration 0 to 62mph: 5.3sec Dimensions 3960mm length; 1600mm width; 1150mm height Price £40,000 (approx) Verdict It's from the dark ages, and serves mainly to show how far we've come Rating
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