Today’s automotive market is marked by mass production and growing uniformity. In fact, many today even view the car as becoming somewhat of a commodity. However, Morgan Motors is a manufacturer that still views building cars as an art form. Quietly operating in England for the last 104 years, the low volume manufacturer’s cars are as unique as they are artistic. What really sets this company, known for their three-wheelers and sporty, vintage looking roadsters, apart is their manufacturing process, as well as some of the unique components used.
The manufacture of Morgan cars still takes place in the same area it did a century ago. For those of you familiar with the historic Morgan brand, you may already know that they manufacture the frames out of an increasingly uncommon material for today’s cars- wood. All Morgan cars are constructed with an ash wood frame. This process begins in the wood shop, where English ash wood is shaped and formed into the proper shape and dip treated for rot. Ash wood is the wood of choice due its its straightness and its uniform grain, which makes the wood easy to sculpt and form. The texture of the wood also allows ideal shock absorption, in contrast to other woods or other components.
Curved pieces of the wood frame are shaped by using a series of jigs and clamps which bend them into shape and mold multiple layers of ash wood together. Presses, including traditional wood presses and vaccum presses also help form the wood into shape, while glue is heat cured. The final wood frame used consists of a bonded laminate material that is durable, yet absorbent. When asked about their unconventional decision to use wood, Morgan representatives remarked that the wood components in their cars last forever. The strength and durability of Morgan’s wood frames have led to the saying that “a Morgan never dies.” In fact, Morgan cars dating back to the 1950s and older have been disassembled to show their wood frames still perfectly intact and structurally sound. Morgan also views the wood components, which hearken back to the earliest Morgans built, as being an integral and indispensable part of the brand’s history- something which makes the cars ‘uniquely Morgan.’ Apparently, environmental concerns play a factor as well; according to Morgan representatives, using wood encourages people to plant forests.
Body panels and bonnets are made of aluminum and are treated with a similar degree of craftsmanship. As one of the pioneers of aluminum technology, Morgan makes nearly the entire remainder of the car, with the exclusion of the wood frames out of the lightweight metal. The only exception to this is the galvanized steel chassis, steel firewall, and steel inner wings. The rest of the body is aluminum, much of which is pressed and formed by hand at the Morgan factory. The combination of the lightweight aluminium frame body and wood frame, make the cars exceptionally light- another advantage to the use of wood.
Morgan cars are full of heritage and personality. Despite their somewhat aged and classic feel, the cars haven’t dipped in popularity over the years. In fact, their numbers are growing steadily. With over 40,000 Morgans on the road today, the company has ramped up production to around 700 units per year, and the waiting list is over six months. If you get lucky, you may even see one at a local auto show or car club.
For more information about the Morgan manufacturing process or about the models offered under the Morgan nameplate, visit them at www.morgan-motor.co.uk.