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Jay Leno, October 2011

On the amazing Morgan 3 Wheeler

Jay Leno, October 2011

Jay Leno, October 2011

 
If you don’t want airbags and crash things, the Morgan 3 Wheeler is truly a libertarian car
With all the supercars out there, how does a small company like Morgan survive? Well, how about the idea of coming out with the new 3 Wheeler, which is so simple, and so ridiculously fun, people just have to have it?
That’s what the Morgan three-wheeler was the first time around and that’s what this one is. It’s very clever. How do you get around all the government regulations of airbags and crash testing and so on? You don’t build a car, you build a three-wheeler – which is little more than a motorcycle yet not quite a car. Consequently you have a sense of freedom and a sense of speed that you don’t get from a lot of supercars.

My Morgan is technically a 1932. It’s got the Matchless MX4 engine, and was put together in Australia after the war. It is what they call a barrel-back, with the tyre in the rear body. One day, as I’m going down the road pretty fast and bouncing around, a guy goes by and says ‘Hey, you lost your rear wheel!’ I say ‘Thank you, thank you very much.’ And then the guy behind him goes by and says ‘Hey, you lost your rear wheel back there.’ Again, I say ‘Thank you’, thinking, how long is this joke going to go on? So I get home and park the car and walk around the back, and I realise the whole rear section has fallen off, with my spare wheel in it.

Somehow it came loose with my whole tail-light assembly and my plate and everything. I went back and looked, and posted signs and I never did find it again. Finally I called Morgan and I had another wheel and tyre sent over.

Another day I’m going down the road. You’re low to the ground, your exhaust pipe is going literally right past your shoulder. It’s a bit like driving a Gatling gun; the thing goes BANG BANG BANG! So I’m flying down Mulholland Drive and you get a little bit of tyre scrub from the third wheel on the back and the thing starts to slide. And as I come flying around this corner, I see a cop there with a radar gun. I thought, I’m screwed. I’m dead in the water.

I go past him and he sees me, and I see him. I get about a quarter of a mile around the next bend and I just pull over and I wait.

And I’m waiting. And nothing happens. So I turn around and I go back, thinking maybe he got my number or something. I go by him again. He looks at me, says ‘Hi, how’re you doing?’ I say ‘Am I OK?’ He says, ‘Yeah, you’re only going 36. The speed limit’s 45.’ I say ‘REALLY?! I was only going 36??! I was sure I was doing 50.’ He says ‘No, no, you’re only going 36. You’re fine.’ Well, that pretty much sums up the Morgan three-wheeler right there. It’s so much fun at reasonable speeds.

The new one is pretty well the same as my car, except instead of a Matchless MX4 engine of 1000cc, it has a 2.0-litre S&S motor. They were quite famous here in the States for making Harley replacement engines early on and now they supply engines to just about everybody. They’re beautiful motors, you know, belt-drive inside and everything. And I had one of their X-wedge motors on a motorcycle I built.

I was over in England recently and to see Morgan show up in all the magazines and to see the crowd around them at Goodwood, with all the supercars there, it kind of makes you smile a little bit. Most people relate very well to it. It’s got the five-speed Mazda MX-5 transmission, it’s got proper disc brakes, it’s got belt-drive. It’s maintenance-free but a hoot to drive. When I was driving it, people were waving and pointing at it.

It was really fun to go to the factory and see the excited look on the workers’ faces, because here they’re making a product that, once again, they’re back-ordered for. How many automobile manufacturers can’t make the cars fast enough? In this day and age that’s pretty good.

Sometimes I’m on the freeway in my Morgan, doing 70, and I’m holding on for dear life. It gives you a sense of excitement; real road feel. And it makes you smile. If you’re someone who doesn’t want a lot of government intrusion in your motoring, like airbags and crash things, it’s truly a libertarian car.

There are very few small manufacturers. I just had Horacio Pagani at my shop today, who builds the most beautiful automotive jewellery there is. But they’re a million dollars. Morgan’s a small independent company. I would think until this three-wheeler came along it may have got a bit dicey there. Now everybody’s happy and excited about the product. When you see one you realise the end is not near.

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