Old and new at Morgan

Visiting car manufacturers is rapidly becoming a new hobby.
Initially I expected to see the same thing over and over, but nothing is further from the truth. At Audi I saw a lot of robots and automated systems at a vast location with thousands of people. In contrast, Lotus, Bentley and Aston Martin prefer the human approach; a lot is done by hand. Their factories are also quite small in comparison.
At Morgan it’s like going back in time. And it’s great.

A Morgan three wheeler at the museum
© All Rights Reserved

Either before or after the factory tour you can visit the museum. As I was early I went there first to see the vast amount of information on display. There are a number of cars, all either significant or just plain gorgeous, and a lot of smaller items. It’s not a very big museum, but it’s filled to the brim with Morgan related stuff.

The factory tour takes you through the entire company minus the paint shop. A very nice difference is that at Morgan they encourage you to take photos throughout. This allowed me to update the social media channels that go with this blog while the tour was ongoing. A very rare treat indeed.

Martin Webb, Morgan’s archivist, was our tour guide. Considering his role I expected him to have a lot of knowledge of the company and I was not disappointed.
For example: he told the group that the company was founded in 1909 by Henry Morgan and it has been in its current location for 103 years.

The creation of the wooden frames.
© All Rights Reserved

Currently Morgan has four models and each is built differently. The tour took us through each area so we could see the chassis being built up to a complete car. The aluminium panels are laser cut by another company, but other than that everything is done by hand. You will not find an assembly line or a robot in this place!

And while I’m at it, let me set the record straight. Apparently a lot of people think the chassis is made of wood. This is incorrect. The frame is made of wood – ash, to be exact.

Despite the fact building a Morgan is a very manual thing, modern techniques are used. For example: there are old fashioned methods being used to change several layers of quite flexible ash to one very sturdy part of the frame. However, they also use a modern method of putting wood panels which need to be moulded and/or glued together in a big bag and then sucking the air out (see below).

A modern method in old fashioned surroundings.
© All Rights Reserved

Needless to say the roof and interior of the cars is also made by hand. While walking through the trim shop you get to see the various materials and their colours. Martin enlightened us with a story of a customer who wanted a pink car with a pink roof. Unsurprisingly it’s not most people’s first choice, but it does illustrate you can choose things which are normally not on offer.

After the trim shop the last work is done on the cars before they go to the inspection area.
After that we got treated to a quick look in the workshop of the three wheelers. Obviously Morgans stand out between other modern/new cars, but the three wheelers are a world onto their own. A car with three wheels and a motor engine on the outside (up front) – so confusing you can choose to use it as a car (wear your seatbelt!) or a trike of sorts (wear a helmet, but not your seatbelt).
I’m not quite sure what I would do, but I have to admit that they look like a lot of fun. I certainly wouldn’t mind driving one just to see what it is like.

The bays in the inspection area.
© All Rights Reserved

Morgan is one of the companies where you can easily get a factory tour. They are very proud to show around 30,000 per year – they do several tours per day.
Considering its lengthy history and the fascinating manufacturing method I would recommend this to anyone with an interest in cars. This tour was great fun and very insightful. I’d do this again in a heartbeat.


AMOC Spring Concours 2017

In 2016 Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd. told the world that they would open a new site which would become the factory for the DBX. The location was an old MOD site at St Athan, Wales.
In early 2017 the site is still mostly empty so the Aston Martin Owners Club took the opportunity to host their Spring Concours there. Let’s see: AMOC (very good at hosting ‘parties’), AML (very good at being at the right place at the right time) and AMHT (very good at displaying the best of Aston’s history) together at one location. Yes, that’s a must see.
So off to Wales we went.

AMOC hosts a Concours twice a year, once in spring and once in autumn. If, like me, you don’t know what that is: the club’s members bring their cars and these cars are judged. In short: there’s prizes up for grabs in several categories. One thing is for certain, you can expect the best examples to be there.
In this case reportedly around 700 Aston Martins were present. Considering several halls were in use, each of them huge, I believe that number to be accurate.

One of the halls was only beginning to fill up when this photo was taken. The entire hall is twice this big.
© All Rights Reserved

The Aston Martin Heritage Trust was also there with, among others, a DBS display to celebrate this model has now been around for 50 years.
As if that wasn’t enough, there were several very special cars to be seen. There was the unveiling of the Red Arrows Edition Aston Martin Vanquish S, while previous special editions were on display nearby.

Red Arrows Edition Aston Martin Vanquish S
© All Rights Reserved

I was very happy to see the Valkyrie. Even though I had already seen her in Geneva, I thought it was very good that people who may not have had the opportunity (or the wish!) to go to Geneva now had a chance to see her to. She got a lot of attention, which is not surprising. This car is something else.

My personal highlight was definitely the CC100. This car was created for the company’s centenary celebrations. Only two were made, so chances are very slim indeed to ever see this one anywhere other than in a magazine. But there it was.
An added bonus is that one of the designers involved in that project was at the Concours. It is a very welcome extra being able to talk to him for a while and get his perspective on the project and the car.

Aston Martin CC100
© All Rights Reserved

And the list doesn’t end there: DBR1, Lola Aston Martin, One-77 and the Vulcan. All present and set up in such a way that everyone had a chance to have a good look. There were several Lagondas and I even spotted two Cygnets.
There was so much to see that after 4.5 hours I had to give up. Not only did I have quite a drive back home, but the sheer number of cars was a bit overwhelming. However, that drive (several hours) was very much worth it.

Just think: that very same evening they probably had to clear everything out, because the next day construction on the factory started. The Concours will very likely never be held here again.
It was an epic and unique event.