Earlier in the year my good friend Dan Grazier told me that he had been contacted by the team at Morgan Cars inviting him to hold a Queen Square meet at their site in Malvern. Whilst he always to get a large number of cars to the Queen Square meets in the Bristol area, getting cars to travel further afield has always proved rather more of a challenge, so he asked if I would be interested in doing a job Abarth and Queen Square event. I liked the idea and said “yes”, and asked him to get some dates. And then things went quiet. For months. But clearly the guys at Morgan had not forgotten, as out of the blue Dan received another email from them saying that at the series of mid-week evening events that they were going to hold during the summer of 2022, they were going to invite a variety of Car Clubs to be the anchor of the event and they wondered if Queen Square Car Club could be one of them, suggesting their early July meet. Hurriedly, Dan and I announced a joint event for our respective members and waited to see how many people would tell us they planned to come. The numbers did not look great, but having been to one of the first of these Morgan-hosted events earlier in the season, I was not unduly worried, as I guessed that there would be plenty of people who would turn up even though they were not affiliated to either of our respective Clubs. As the day approached, the weather looked to be on side and I managed to keep my diary clear so I could get there for more or less the advertised start of the proceedings. When I got to the Morgan site there were only a few cars there, and it never got really busy, sadly. Here is what I did see:
Although I advertised this as an Abarth Owners Club event, the response was very disappointing with only 4 examples of the marque coming along. A couple of these were 500-based models. These have been on sale now since the end of 2008, following a launch at the Paris Show that year. Since that time there have been a number of detailed changes to the standard cars and a lot of limited editions. Those who really know the marque can spot most of them, but some are so subtle that unless there is a badge you can see, you will not be quite sure which version you are looking at. It used to be relatively easy, when the model was first launched, as there was only one version as shipped ex works called the 500. It had a 135 bhp 1.4 litre turbo-charged engine coupled to a five speed manual gearbox, with 16″ alloys as standard, and the option of 17″ wheels, and a colour palette comprising of two whites (BossaNova White, the standard colour, or the pearlescent Funk White), Red (Pasadoble), Pale Grey (Campovolo) or Black. If you wanted more power – 160 bhp – then you could order an Esseesse kit, which came in a large wooden crate, containing new wheels, springs, an ECU upgrade, the Monza exhaust system and badging. It was dealer fitted and could be applied at any time within the first 12 months or 10,000 miles from registration. Needless to say, it proved popular. As were many of the optional extras, with stickers for the sides, a large scorpion for the bonnet and even a chequered pattern for the roof among the personalisation options offered. This is Andy Hurley’s 500 Esseesse.
Second Abarth here was the car belonging to Tim Whitiworth, who it turned out used to work for Morgan and who knew some of the staff on site. His car is what is known as the Series 4 version of the familiar 595, which reached the markets in the middle of 2016. After rumours had circulated all winter following the launch of the facelifted Fiat 500 last year, Abarth finally unveiled the Series 4 at the end of May 2016. Initially, we were told that the cars would not be available in the UK until September, but that came forward somewhat, with dealers all receiving demo cars in June, and the first customers taking delivery in July. Three regular production versions of both the closed car and the open-topped C were initially available, all badged 595, and called Custom, Turismo and Competizione, as before, though numerous limited edition models have since appeared and in most case disappeared. The most significant changes with the Series 4 are visual, with a couple of new colours, including the much asked for Modena Yellow and a different red, called Abarth Red, which replaces both the non-metallic Officina and – slightly surprisingly – the tri-coat pearlescent Cordolo Red. as well as styling changes front and rear. The jury is still out on these, with many, me included, remaining to be convinced. At the front, the new air intake does apparently allow around 15 – 20 % more air in and out, which will be welcome, as these cars do generate quite a lot of heat under the bonnet. Competizione models for the UK retain the old style headlights, as they have Xenon lights as standard, whereas the Custom and Turismo cars have reshaped units. At the back, there are new light clusters and a new rear bumper and diffuser. Inside, the most notable change is the replacement of the Blue & Me system with a more modern uConnect Audio set up, which brings a new colour screen to the dash. Mechanically, there is an additional 5 bhp on the Custom (now 145) and Turismo (now 165 bhp) and the option of a Limited Slip Diff for the Competizione, which is likely to prove a popular option. Details of the interior trim have changed, with a filled-in glovebox like the US market cars have always had, and electric windows switches that are like the US ones, as well as a part Alcantara trim to the steering wheel in Competizione cars.
Third of the Abarths here was the 124 Spider of Paul Meyer. Eagerly awaited, the 124 Spider went on sale in September 2016. A quick reminder as to what this car is: The Abarth 124 Spider was developed in parallel with the Fiat model. It does cost a lot more, and there are those who think you don’t get enough extra for your money, but those who have driven it will tell you otherwise. You certainly get more power. The 1.4 MultiAir turbo unit jumps up from 138bhp to 168bhp, while torque also increases by a modest 10Nm to 250Nm, which gives it a 0-62mph time of 6.8 seconds, which is half a second quicker than the 2.0-litre Mazda MX-5. The top speed is 143mph. It weighs just 1060kg meaning a power-to-weight ratio of 158bhp-per-tonne, and with the new Record Monza exhaust system it sounds great even at idle. The Abarth version gets a stiffer suspension setup than the regular Fiat 124 Spider, with Bilstein dampers and beefed-up anti-roll bars. Bigger Brembo brakes also feature, with aluminium calipers. It can be had with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission with paddles, and the latter gets a Sport mode for quicker shifts. Many of the UK cars sport the ‘Heritage Look’ pack, which is a no-cost option. It brings a matt black bonnet and bootlid, plus red exterior trim detailing and has proved popular. The £29,565 starting price gets you standard equipment such as cruise control, climate control, Bluetooth, a DAB radio and satnav, plus Alcantara black and red (or pure black) seat trim. The automatic gearbox is a £2,035 extra, while an optional visibility pack brings LED DRLs, auto lights and wipers and rear parking sensors. The final cars were sold during 2019, so there are only around 1800 of them in the UK, which means that this is always going to be quite a rare sighting.
The Abarth Grande Punto debuted at the 2007 Frankfurt IAA Show, going on sale in the UK in late summer of 2008. Offering 155 bhp from its 1.4 litre T-Jet engine, coupled to a six speed gearbox, and riding on 45 profile 17″ alloys, the standard car got rave reviews from the journalists when they first tried it, and they were even more impressed by the changes wrought by the optional Esseesse kit. This increased power to 177 bhp, brought 18″ OZ lower profile wheels, whilst new springs lowered the ride height by 15-20mm, and high-performance front brake pads and cross-drilled front disc brakes helped the car to stop more quickly. The most distinctive feature of the car were the white alloy wheels, though, as owners found, keeping these clean is not a job for the uncommitted, and many have a second set of wheels that they use fro grubbier conditions. Despite the positive press at launch, the car entered a very competitive sector of the market, and the combination of being relatively unknown, a limited number of dealers and the existence of established rivals from Renault and others meant that this always remained a left-field choice. The owners loved them, though, and they still do. The oldest cars have now had their 13th birthdays, and some have amassed relatively big mileages, but they are still a car for the cognoscenti. This heavily modified car, producing a lot more power than a standard example belongs to Gavin Jenkins.
As was still the practice in the 1970s, Alfa followed up the launch of the Alfetta Berlina with a very pretty coupe. Styled by Giugiaro, this car, initially called the GT, and premiered in the autumn of 1974, looked completely unlike the saloon on which it was based. The first cars had 1.8 litre four cylinder engines and there was one of those on show. In 1976 the range was expanded both up and down with a 1.6 and a 2.0 model, the latter adopting the legendary GTV name. A rare SE model from this period was part of the display, complete with period vinyl roof (look closely), and although the pain does appear a bit like a lot of older Alfa reds, having gone rather pink, this was the actual shade when the car was new. In 1981, with the 2.5 litre V6 engine that had been developed for the ill-fated Alfa 6 luxury saloon available, Alfa was able to create a true rival for the 2.8 litre Capri with the GTV6. A facelift modernised the look of the car with plastic bumpers front and rear and a new interior looked rather better as well as being more ergonomically logical. There was a good mix of the earlier chrome bumpered and later plastic bumpered models, the last with 2.0 and 2.5 GTV6 versions both represented. There was also a car sporting 3.0 badging and right hand drive. This is a South African car. From 1974 South African Alfetta’s were manufactured at Alfa Romeo’s own Brits plant. South Africa was one of two markets to have a turbocharged GTV6, with a Garrett turbocharger and a NACA intake. An estimated 750 were assembled before all production ceased in 1986. The South African range included a 3.0 litre GTV-6, predating the international debut of the factory’s 3.0 litre engine in 1987 (for the Alfa 75). and 212 of these were built in South Africa for racing homologation. The last 6 GTV-6 3.0’s were fuel injected. To this day, the GTV-6 remains the quintessential Alfa Romeo for South Africans.
Following the unveiling of the AMV8 Vantage concept car in 2003 at the North American International Auto Show designed by Henrik Fisker, the production version, known as the V8 Vantage was introduced at the Geneva Motor Show in 2005. The two seat, two-door coupé had a bonded aluminium structure for strength and lightness. The 172.5 inch (4.38 m) long car featured a hatchback-style tailgate for practicality, with a large luggage shelf behind the seats. In addition to the coupé, a convertible, known as the V8 Vantage Roadster, was introduced later in that year. The V8 Vantage was initially powered by a 4.3 litre quad-cam 32-valve V8 which produced 380 bhp at 7,300 rpm and 409 Nm (302 lb/ft) at 5,000 rpm. However, models produced after 2008 had a 4.7-litre V8 with 420 bhp and 470 Nm (347 lbft) of torque. Though based loosely on Jaguar’s AJ-V8 engine architecture, this engine was unique to Aston Martin and featured race-style dry-sump lubrication, which enabled it to be mounted low in the chassis for an improved centre of gravity. The cylinder block and heads, crankshaft, connecting rods, pistons, camshafts, inlet and exhaust manifolds, lubrication system and engine management were all designed in house by Aston Martin and the engine was assembled by hand at the AM facility in Cologne, Germany, which also built the V12 engine for the DB9 and Vanquish. The engine was front mid-mounted with a rear-mounted transaxle, giving a 49/51 front/rear weight distribution. Slotted Brembo brakes were also standard. The original V8 Vantage could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds before topping out at 175 mph. In 2008, Aston Martin introduced an aftermarket dealer approved upgrade package for power and handling of the 4.3-litre variants that maintained the warranty with the company. The power upgrade was called the V8 Vantage Power Upgrade, creating a more potent version of the Aston Martin 4.3-litre V8 engine with an increase in peak power of 20 bhp to 400 bhp while peak torque increased by 10 Nm to 420 Nm (310 lb/ft). This consists of the fitting of the following revised components; manifold assembly (painted Crackle Black), valved air box, right and left hand side vacuum hose assemblies, engine bay fuse box link lead (ECU to fuse box), throttle body to manifold gasket, intake manifold gasket, fuel injector to manifold seal and a manifold badge. The V8 Vantage had a retail price of GB£79,000, US$110,000, or €104,000 in 2006, Aston Martin planned to build up to 3,000 per year. Included was a 6-speed manual transmission and leather-upholstery for the seats, dash board, steering-wheel, and shift-knob. A new 6-speed sequential manual transmission, similar to those produced by Ferrari and Lamborghini, called Sportshift was introduced later as an option. An open-topped model was added to the range in 2006 and then in the quest for more power a V12 Vantage joined the range not long after. All told, there were 18 different versions of the car before it was finally replaced by a new model with a very different look and a rather higher price tag.
The Audi R8, based on the Audi Le Mans quattro concept car (designed by Frank Lamberty and Julian Hoenig) first appeared at the 2003 International Geneva Motor Show and the 2003 Frankfurt International Motor Show. The R8 road car was officially launched at the Paris Auto Show on 30 September 2006. There was some confusion with the name, which the car shares with the 24 Hours of Le Mans winning R8 Le Mans Prototype (LMP). Initial models included the R8 4.2 FSI coupé (with a V8 engine) and R8 5.2 FSI coupé (with a V10 engine). Convertible models, called the Spyder by the manufacturer, were introduced in 2008, followed by the high-performance GT model introduced in 2011. The Motorsport variants of the R8 were also subsequently introduced from 2008 onwards. An all-electric version called the e-Tron started development but would only reach production stage when the second generation model would be introduced. 6-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Jacky Ickx described the R8 as “the best handling road car today” and the car was well received by everyone who drove it. The car received a facelift in 2012 and a new model called the V10 Plus was now added to the range. Production of the Type 42 ended in August 2015
The only other Audi of note was this RS6 Avant painted in a rather unusual deep purple colour.
Donald Healey had been producing a range of expensive sports cars from the 1940s, cars such as the Silverstone, the Abbott and the Farnham. For the 1952 London Motor Show, he produced a new design, which was called the Healey Hundred, based on Austin A90 mechanicals, which he intended to produce in-house at his small car company in Warwick. It was one of the stars of the 1952 Show, and it so impressed Leonard Lord, the Managing Director of Austin, who was looking for a replacement to the unsuccessful A90. that Lord struck a deal with Healey on the spot, to build it in quantity. Bodies made by Jensen Motors would be given Austin mechanical components at Austin’s Longbridge factory. The car was renamed the Austin-Healey 100, in reference to the fact that the car had a top speed of 100 mph. Production got under way in 1953, with Austin-Healey 100s being finished at Austin’s Longbridge plant alongside the A90 and based on fully trimmed and painted body/chassis units produced by Jensen in West Bromwich—in an arrangement the two companies previously had explored with the Austin A40 Sports. By early 1956, production was running at 200 cars a month, 150 of which were being sold in California. Between 1953 and 1956, 14,634 Austin-Healey 100s were produced, the vast majority of them, as was the case for most cars in this post war era, going for export. The car was replaced by an updated model in 1956, called the 100-6. It had a longer wheelbase, redesigned bodywork with an oval shaped grille, a fixed windscreen and two occasional seats added (which in 1958 became an option with the introduction of the two-seat BN6 produced in parallel with the 2+2 BN4), and the engine was replaced by one based on the six-cylinder BMC C-Series engine. In 1959, the engine capacity was increased from 2.6 to 2.9 litres and the car renamed the Austin-Healey 3000. Both 2-seat and 2+2 variants were offered. It continued in this form until production ceased in late 1967. The Big Healey, as the car became known after the 1958 launch of the much smaller Austin-Healey Sprite, is a popular classic now. You come across the 3000 models more frequently than the 100s, as they accounted for more than 60% of all Big Healey production.
Just a couple of BMW models caught the photographer’s lens, too, the recently superceded M3 and the current Z4 sports car.
There is a long history to this car, but it was only really with the relaunch of the model to the UK market in 1974 when interest here took off. Sales of the 2CV were reinvigorated by the 1974 oil crisis. The 2CV after this time became as much a youth lifestyle statement as a basic functional form of transport. This renewed popularity was encouraged by the Citroën “Raid” intercontinental endurance rallies of the 1970s where customers could participate by buying a new 2CV, fitted with a “P.O.” kit (Pays d’Outre-mer—overseas countries), to cope with thousands of miles of very poor or off-road routes. Because of new emission standards, in 1975 power was reduced from 28 hp to 25 hp. The round headlights were replaced by square ones, adjustable in height. A new plastic grille was fitted. In July 1975, a base model called the 2CV Spécial was introduced with the 435 cc engine. Between 1975 and 1990 under the name of AZKB “2CV Spécial” a drastically reduced trim basic version was sold, at first only in yellow and with an untreated black roof. Slimmer bumpers with stick-on tape rather than plastic strips and no overriders were fitted. It also had the earlier round headlights, last fitted in 1974. In order to keep the price as low as possible, Citroën removed the third side window, the ashtray, and virtually all trim from the car, while that which remained was greatly simplified, such as simple vinyl-clad door cards and exposed door catches rather than the plastic moulded trims found on the 2CV Club. Other 2CVs shared their instruments with the Dyane and H-Van but the Spécial had a much smaller square speedometer also incorporating the fuel gauge, originally fitted to the 2CV in the mid-1960s and then discontinued. The model also had a revised (and cheaper-to-make) plastic version of the 1960s two-spoke steering wheel instead of the one-spoke item from the Dyane, as found on the Club. From the 1978 Paris Motor Show the Spécial regained third side windows, and was available in red and white; beginning in mid-1979 the 602 cc engine was installed. In June 1981 the Spécial E arrived; this model had a standard centrifugal clutch and particularly low urban fuel consumption. By 1980 the boost to 2CV sales across Europe delivered by the 1973 Energy Crisis had begun to wear off and there was a whole new generation of superminis and economy cars available from European and Japanese manufacturers. Citroën itself now had the Visa available. Peak annual production for 2CVs was reached in 1974 (163,143 cars) but by 1980 this had dropped to 89,994 and by 1983 would stand at just 59,673. Nonetheless the car remained profitable for PSA to produce on account of its tooling and set-up costs being amortised many years before and it could share major parts with more popular or profitable models such as the Visa and Acadiane. As part of this rationalisation in 1981 the Spécial was fitted as standard with the 602 cc engine, although the 435 cc version remained available to special order in some European countries until stocks were used up. Also in 1981 a yellow 2CV6 was driven by James Bond (Roger Moore) in the 1981 film For Your Eyes Only. The car in the film was fitted with the flat-4 engine from a Citroën GS which more than doubled the power. In one scene the ultra light 2CV tips over and is quickly righted by hand. Citroën launched a special edition 2CV “007” to coincide with the film; it was fitted with the standard engine and painted yellow with “007” on the front doors and fake bullet hole stickers. In 1982 all 2CV models got inboard front disc brakes, which also used LHM fluid instead of conventional brake fluid—the same as was found in the larger Citroën models with hydropneumatic suspension. In late 1986 Citroën introduced the Visa’s replacement, the AX. This was widely regarded as a superior car to the Visa and took many of the remaining 2CV sales in France following its introduction. From 1986 to 1987 2CV production fell by 20 per cent to just 43,255 cars. Of that total over 12,500 went to West Germany and 7212 went to the UK. France was now the third-largest market for 2CVs, taking 7045 cars that year. It was estimated that Citroën was now selling the 2CV at a loss in the French market, but that it was still profitable in other European countries. The peak of 2CV sales in the United Kingdom would be reached in 1986, thanks to the introduction of the popular Dolly special edition (see below)—7520 new 2CVs were registered in Britain that year. This year saw the discontinuation of the Club, which was by then the only 2CV model to retain the rectangular headlamps. This left the Spécial as the only regular 2CV model, alongside the more fashion-orientated Dolly, Charleston and the other special editions. In 1988, production ended in France after 40 years. The factory at Levallois-Perret had been the global centre for 2CV production since 1948 but was outdated, inefficient and widely criticised for its poor working conditions. The last French-built 2CV was made on February 25. In recognition of the event, the last 2CV built at Levallois was a basic Spécial in a non-standard grey colour—the same shade as worn by the very first 2CVs. Production of the 2CV would continue at the smaller-capacity but more modern Mangualde plant in Portugal. In 1989 the first European emission standards were introduced voluntarily by a number of European nations, ahead of the legal deadline of July 1992. This meant that the 2CV was withdrawn from sale in Austria, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and The Netherlands—the latter one of the car’s largest remaining markets. That year the three leading markets for the 2CV were West Germany (7866), France (5231) and the UK (3200). The last 2CV was built at Mangualde on 27 July 1990—it was a specially-prepared Charleston model. Only 42,365 2CVs were built in Portugal in the two years following the end of French production. Portuguese-built cars, especially those from when production was winding down, have a reputation in the UK for being much less well made and more prone to corrosion than those made in France. According to Citroën, the Portuguese plant was more up-to-date than the one in Levallois near Paris, and Portuguese 2CV manufacturing was to higher quality standards.
Successor to the E Type was the XJ-S, launched in September 1975, and to a not universally approving public. This was a very different sort of sporting Jaguar, more boulevard cruiser than sports car, even though the car had plenty of appeal with its smooth V12 engine which gave it genuine 150 mph performance. Press reports were favourable, but a thirsty V12 and a car with inconsistent build quality and styling that not everyone warmed to meant that sales were slow, and they got slower as the decade passed, leading questions to be asked as to whether the car should continue. As well as sorting the saloon models, Jaguar’s Chairman, John Egan, put in place a program to improve the XJ-S as well, which also benefitted from the HE engine in early 1981. A Cabrio model and the option of the new 3.6 litre 6 cylinder engine from 1984 widened the sales appeal, and the volumes of cars being bought started to go up. A fully open Convertible, launched in 1988 was the model many had been waiting for, and by this time, although the design was over 10 years old, it was now brimming with appeal to many. 1991 saw an extensive facelift which changed the styling details as well as incorporating the latest mechanical changes from the Jaguar parts bin, making the XJS (the hyphen had been dropped from the name in 1990) a truly desirable car.
After producing BiTurbo based cars for 17 years, Maserati replaced their entire range with a new model in July 1998, the 3200 GT. This very elegant 2+2 grand tourer was styled by Italdesign, whose founder and head Giorgetto Giugiaro had previously designed, among others, the Ghibli, Bora and Merak. The interior design was commissioned to Enrico Fumia. Its name honoured the Maserati 3500 GT, the Trident’s first series production grand tourer. Sold mainly in Europe, the 3200 GT was powered by the twin-turbo, 32-valve, dual overhead cam 3.2-litre V8 engine featured in the Quattroporte Evoluzione, set up to develop 370 PS (365 hp). The car was praised for its styling, with the distinctive array of tail-lights, consisting of LEDs, arranged in the shape of boomerang being particularly worthy of comment. The outer layer of the ‘boomerang’ provided the brake light, with the inner layer providing the directional indicator. The car was also reviewed quite well by the press when they got to drive it in early 1999, though it was clear that they expected more power and excitement. That came after 4,795 cars had been produced, in 2001, with the launch of the 4200 models. Officially called the Coupé and joined by an open-topped Spyder (Tipo M138 in Maserati speak), these models had larger 4.2 litre engines and had been engineered so the cars could be sold in America, marking the return to that market for Maserati after an 11 year gap. There were some detailed styling changes, most notable of which were the replacement of the boomerang rear lights with conventional rectangular units. Few felt that this was an improvement. The cars proved popular, though, selling strongly up until 2007 when they were replaced by the next generation of Maserati. Minor changes were made to the model during its six year production, but more significant was the launch at the 2004 Geneva Show of the GranSport which sported aerodynamic body cladding, a chrome mesh grille, carbon fibre interior trim, and special 19-inch wheels. It used the Skyhook active suspension, with a 0.4 inch lower ride height, and the Cambiocorsa transmission recalibrated for quicker shifts. The exhaust was specially tuned to “growl” on start-up and full throttle. The GranSport was powered by the same 4244 cc, 90° V8 petrol engine used on the Coupé and Spyder, but developing 400 PS (395 hp) at 7000 rpm due primarily to a different exhaust system and improvements on the intake manifolds and valve seats. A six-speed paddle shift transmission came as standard. The GranSport has a claimed top speed of 180 mph (290 km/h) and a 0–62 mph (0–100 km/h) time of 4.8 seconds.
The other Maserati here was my Ghibli.
After World War II Morgan re-introduced their 4/4 model fitted with a 1267 cc Standard engine. This continued in production until it was replaced by the larger Plus 4 announced at the 1950 Earl’s Court Motor Show. The Plus 4 at its introduction was fitted with a 2088 cc Standard Vanguard engine installed on a widened and strengthened 4/4 chassis with a wheelbase lengthened by 4 in (102 mm). Hydraulic brakes, initially all drum, were fitted for the first time on a Morgan. In 1953 a higher performance version was announced with the 1991 cc I4 engine as used in the Triumph TR2 (a development of the Vanguard motor). The radiator grille was now surrounded by a cowl that blended into the bonnet. Front disc brakes became an option in 1959 and were standardised in 1960. From 1955 the 1991 cc Triumph TR3 engine was used and from 1962 the engine was the Triumph TR4 unit, which increased displacement to 2138 cc. In 1955 the less powerful 4/4 model re-appeared in phase II form. The 96 in (2,438 mm) wheelbase of the Plus 4 was adopted by the 4/4 when it reappeared, after which the two models were for most purposes the same length and width. Body styles available were a 2-seat sports, 4 seat sports and more luxurious 2 or 4 seat drophead coupé (and a 4 seat coupé 1954–1956 only).
There were a number of other more recent Morgans showing how little the styling of the car has changed over the past 60 years, though over that time a large variety of different engines have been offered, especially in the 4 cylinder cars. More recently there have been significant changes with a new and wider body and a gradual adoption of modern safety and convenience features in the latest Plus Four and Plus Six cars.
This is the 718 Cayman GTS of my friend Dan Duke. He bought it last year to replace his much loved Cayman GT4, having concluded that once Porsche had reverted to a 6 cylinder engine, this was now the version of the Cayman which ticked all the proverbial boxes: eminently usable as an every day car, it is also fun when the conditions allow and hugely capable on track.
There was a nice example here of the Renault Clio V6 Renault Sport, to give the car its full and rather cumbersome name. This was a rear mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout hot hatch based on the Renault Clio launched in 2001, very much in the same style as the earlier mid-engined R5 Turbo models of the 1980s. Designed by Renault, the Phase 1 models were built by Tom Walkinshaw Racing and Phase 2 were designed and helped by Porsche and built by Renault Sport in Dieppe. The Clio V6 was based on the Clio Mk II, though it shared very few parts with that car. The 3.0 litre 60° V6 engine, sourced from the PSA group. It was the ES9J unit as used in the Peugeot 406, 407 and 607, and the Citroen C 5 and not the one that Renault used in the 3 litre Laguna engine, which had an PRV (Peugeot, Renault & Volvo) an earlier development 90° V based on a V8 that never was. For this car it was upgraded to around 227 bhp and placed in the middle of the vehicle where the more ordinary Clios have rear seats – making this car a two-seater hot hatch. In order to accommodate the radical change from front-engine, front-wheel drive hatchback to mid-engine, rear-wheel drive two-seater quasi-coupé, the car had to be extensively reworked structurally, leading to the Phase 1 version being some 300 kg (660 lb) heavier than the sportiest “regular” Clio, the 172 Cup. Due to this, even though the V6 model had significantly more power, it was not remarkably faster in a straight line accelerating to legal road speeds than the 172 Cup – accelerating to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds compared to the Cup’s 6.7 seconds – though its maximum speed was significantly higher at 146 mph compared to 138 mph. Opinions varied on the handling, but many found it very twitchy and the car soon a gained a reputation for breaking away with little warning. That was largely addressed by the Phase 2 cars which were launched in 2003. The front end took on the same sort of new design as had been applied to the regular models. The engine was upgraded, to make the Phase 2 Clio V6 the most powerful serial produced hot hatch in the world with 255 bhp exceeding the 247 bhp of the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA and the 222 bhp SEAT León Cupra R. Based on the Phase 1 engine, its extra performance was helped with assistance from Porsche and although the Phase 2 gained even more weight, the result was a a reduced 0–60 mph run at 5.9 seconds and a top speed of 153 mph. Though based on a utilitarian hatchback, the Clio V6 was not a practical family car. With an average fuel consumption of 24 mpg, this resulted in an empty fuel tank in just over 300 miles. The loss of the back seats and most of the boot space, due to the engine placement, resulted in a severe restriction in luggage space – there was only a small space in the front where the engine used to be, suitable for a holdall or week-end groceries, a small netted area behind the seats plus a small stash area under the tailgate. The enhanced steering made tight manoeuvring a little challenging, the turning circle being a rather awkward 13 m (42.7 ft) – around three car lengths – turning what might normally be a three-point turn into a five-point turn. Standard equipment in the car was good, this was not a stripped-out special, and it included rain sensing windscreen wipers, automatic headlights, air conditioning, and six speakers and CD changer. The Phase 2 Clio V6 retailed for £27,125 in the United Kingdom, until it was withdrawn from sale in 2005 coinciding with a facelift for the Clio range. The Phase 2 was received far more enthusiastically by the ever-critical UK press. These days there is no doubting the fact that this is a a modern classic.
The Tuscan was launched in 2000, by which time there had been a series of what we think of as the modern era TVRs produced for nearly a decade, the Cerbera, Griffith and Cerbera. The Tuscan did not replace any of them, but was intended to help with the company’s ambitious push further up market to become a sort of Blackpool-built alternative to Ferrari. It did not lack the styling for the task, and unlike the preceding models with their Rover V8 engines, the new car came with TVR’s own engine, a straight six unit of 3.6 litre capacity putting out 360 bhp. The Tuscan was intended to be the grand tourer of the range, perfectly practical for everyday use, though with only two seats, no ABS, no airbags and no traction control, it was a tough sell on wet days in a more safety conscious world, but at least there was a removable targa top roof panel for those days when the sun came out. The car may have lacked the rumble of a V8, but when pushed hard, the sound track from the engine was still pretty special, and the car was faster than the Cerbera, but sadly, the car proved less than reliable, which really started to harm TVR’s reputation, something which would ultimately prove to be its undoing.
Although the factory is closed for the evening by the time this event takes place, visitors can still take in the rest of what is called the Morgan Experience. There is a new building which contains a showroom as well as cafe and shop selling Morgan related products.
The Morgan Aero SuperSports is a targa-roofed development of the AeroMax platform. Presented in 2009 at Villa d’Este Elegance Concours to celebrate the 100 years of Morgan, the Supersports shares the same chassis, engine and transmission of the Aero 8 Series 4. The Aero Supersports presented at Villa d’Este was based on AeroMax. Main differences with the production model are: different position of the fuel tank, the refill fuel cap on the rear wheel arch, smaller boot (targa roof panels could not fit into the boot) and two fancy champagne bottle and glass holders behind the seats. The rear of the car retained the Lancia Thesis rear lights and wing shape but had a boat tail style with a comparatively large practical boot. The Morgan Aero Coupe – which is what was to be seen here – was introduced in 2012, a short time after the Supersports and remained in production alongside it. The cars are largely identical with the Coupe having a fixed roof in the same design as the targa panels on the Supersports. Production ceased in 2016.
Among the cars on show were examples of the new Super 3, a second generation of the popular three-wheeler of the modern era. There have been a lot of engineering changes to make this is quite different from its successful predecessor.
In one of the display areas on the front of the building was Morgan’s LMP2 car, built to compete in the le Mans Prototype class.
You can also rent a Morgan for anything from a day or more at prices which seem quite reasonable, something I definitely need to schedule. The fleet of cars that are available, all recent models from the current range, live here and you could see them parked up.
Also on site are a whole load of customer cars, some brand new, but others clearly back either for service work or resale.
Something I’d not discovered on my previous visit here is that there is actually a fascinating museum on site. There is a rather unpromising looking door at the back of the shop area or there is one directly from the outside, and once you enter, there is a treasure trove of Morgan memorabilia and space for a few cars to be displayed.
H.F.S. Morgan’s first car design was a single-seat three-wheeled runabout, which was fabricated for his personal use in 1908, with help from William Stephenson-Peach, the father of friends, and the engineering master at Malvern College. Powered by a 7 hp Peugeot twin cylinder engine (from an abandoned motorcycle project), the car had a backbone chassis, an idea retained for all following Morgan three-wheelers, and used as little material and labour as Morgan could manage. A single-seat three-wheeler with coil-spring independent front suspension, unusual at the time, the driveshaft ran through the backbone tube to a two-speed transmission (with no reverse), and chain drive to each of the rear wheels. The steering was by tiller, and it had band brakes. It also had no body. With financial help from his father and his wife, the car was put into production at premises in Pickersleigh Road, Malvern Link. Three single-seater cars were exhibited at the 1910 Motor Show at Olympia in London. This is a replica of that car.
The Morgan F-Type was the final development of the three-wheeler. Launched at the Olympia show in November 1933, it was powered by an 8 hp 993 cc four-cylinder Ford side-valve engine. The first examples of the new car were four-seat family models known as the F4, but by 1935 a two-seater, the F2, was introduced and in 1938, the faster F Super appeared fitted with the more powerful 10 hp engine. This car was first registered in June 1942 and has been owned by the Morgan family from new. Charles Morgan learnt to drive in DWP 969.
This is a “Flat Rad”, the name given to the first of the 4-wheeled cars, produced from 1935. and more correctly called the 4-4. The first cars had the sliding pillar suspension of the three-wheeler plus an underslung live rear axle sitting over Z-section cross-section chassis side rails, carried in leaf springs. The first cars had a 34 bhp 1122 Coventry Climax four cylinder engine, a crossflow with overhead inlet and side exhaust valves. In competition form it had a slightly smaller capacity of 1098cc and it put out a healthy 50 – 60 bhp. The car enjoyed considerable success with a lightened car winning the Tourist Trophy in 1937 on handicap and in 1938 if finished second in class at Le mans. In 1939, Morgan changed to the 1267 cc overhead valve Standard Special engine which was both lighter and more powerful. Post was the name was changed to Plus 4 and in 1950 the engine was replaced by the much larger 2088cc 68 bhp Standard engine from the Vanguard and the body was revised to be slightly wider and roomier. The bodies were made of steel over a wooden frame. three different styles were offered: a two seater, a four seat tourer and a drophead coupe. This last was more sophisticated with a fixed windscreen frame sliding windows and a three position hood. The first of the cowled radiator cars arrived in 1953.
MMC11 is a famous Morgan as it is the very first production Plus 8 model. By the 60s, Morgan was run by Peter Morgan, the son of founder HFS Morgan, and he had been at school with Peter Wilks, the nephew of Rover founder Maurice Wilks and the firm’s technical director. Rover expressed some interest in adding Morgan to its portfolio, which would, of course, have sucked the fiercely independent Malvern Link firm into British Leyland. Peter Morgan rebuffed the advances, but he did take the opportunity to ask his old school friend about the new 3.5 litre engine that Rover had just acquired from Buick. Morgan had always acquired engines for its cars from whichever supplier could come up with something suitable and at this point had been using the 4 cylinder Standard unit but production of this unit was coming to an end as Standard-Triumph prepared to replace it with a new 6 cylinder unit. It was too long to fit easily in the Morgan, whereas the V8 Rover unit was shorter as well as being much more powerful, and thanks to its all-alloy construction, much lighter. The deal was done and Morgan worked in developing the car that would be launched in mid 1968 as the Plus 8. There were not many other changes, though the steel chassis was strengthened and the mounts for the rear suspension were moved. The Moss 4 speed gearbox was retained. It soon became apparent that Morgan had created one of the fastest cars of the day, as although there was only 160 bhp, the car, at 850 kg, was light. This car was the second prototype, and effectively the first production car and is part of the Morgan Heritage Fleet having started out as Peter Morgan’s personal car. It has an extensive history in motorsport, ranging from trails to the 1982 Snetterton 24 Hours. It is possibly the best known Morgan in the world.
Initially presented at the 2005 Geneva Motor Show as a bespoke car built for a well respected Morgan customer Prince Eric Sturdza of Banque Baring Sturdza in Geneva, the AeroMax was the next development of the Aero chassis. The car is named after Charles Morgan’s son Max. Due to the level of interest at the show and with the agreement of Prince Sturdza a limited production run of 100 in celebration of Morgan’s centenary was agreed, with final numbers ending slightly over this due to replacement of crashed cars. Production was initiated in 2008 and completed in 2009. The iconic design was created by Matt Humphries a 21 year old Coventry University Graduate working at the factory. The Empire Line or Art Deco influenced styling has often been compared to cars such as classic Bugattis whilst retaining a clear family relationship with Morgan’s other cars. Many refinements were made to the overall shape including the use of the rear lights from the Lancia Thesis, flush fit of the doors and changes to the interior finish. The Rays alloy wheels introduced on this model became popular on other models following the AeroMax. It was the first Morgan to have a retail price above £100,000 at £110,000 but sold out within a few months. Owners have included Richard Hammond, Rowan Atkinson and Paul O’Grady. Taillights used on AeroMax, Aero Supersports, Aero Coupe and Aero 8 Series 5 were borrowed from Lancia Thesis.
Final car in the museum area was the prototype EV3. This is effectively an electric prototype version of the Three Wheeler and it was shown at a number shows starting from 2017. The electric motor was rated at 101 bhp, and was estimated to produce 150 miles of range (240 km) with a 20 kWh lithium-ion battery. Production plans for the EV3 were cancelled in late 2018 though there is a clear visual link to the new Super 3 model of 2022.
I enjoyed this event, though it was both surprising and disappointing to find that it was not better supported, especially as the weather was on side for a nice sunny evening with extended hours of daylight on offer at this time of the year. That neither Queen Square or Abarth Owners Club could muster a bigger turnout was rather puzzling given how many members usually turn up to events that either of these groups organise. Why they chose to give this one a miss is something we will probably never really know. Their loss, as I rather philosophically conclude. The location has more events to come throughout the summer and I will try to fit as many of them into my diary as I can.