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Friday 20th January 2012


PH FLEET: MORGAN PLUS 8

The all-new Morgan Plus 8 debuts officially at Geneva but Harris has already got one for an express PH fleet tenure


I have never before run a car that doesn't officially exist, but that is what I am now doing. At the Geneva Motorshow, Morgan will unveil the new Plus 8, but the people of the West Country and South Wales are invited to an exclusive preview on their highways and byways over the next few weeks as I attempt to use one as everyday transport.
The Plus 8 is effectively an Aero 8 chassis, the one that also underpins the gorgeous Aeromax and the Supersports, with classic Morgan Plus 8 styling.

Morgan 'interesting' in conditions like this
Morgan 'interesting' in conditions like this
Now I'm a Morgan fan, I make no secret of it and I even liked the original boss-eyed Aero 8 because it presented such a contrary view of what a sports-car should be. It burbled and shimmied about the place in a way that left it open to ridicule when tested against conventional sports cars of the time, but as is always the case with these cottage industry machines, that just didn't matter. I can remember writing the original Autocar road test and being berated by colleagues for being too kind.

Best of both
This new car takes the aluminium underpinnings of the Aero platform, the later 4.8-litre BMW V8 and bolts on a new body. I don't think I'm being unkind in suggesting that this car presents a face, a set of proportions and a general style that many people would have preferred to that first Aero 8. It takes the petite charm of the original Plus 8, which died in 2003, and adds a heap of track width and general menace. It looks five times tougher in the raw. I love it.

The perfect blend of Aero 8 and classic Morgan?
The perfect blend of Aero 8 and classic Morgan?
It is also startlingly fast. The body is 150kg lighter than an Aero's, making it less than 1,100kg, and the BMW 4.8-litre V8, late of the X5, has 367hp. You don't need an abacus to work out that leaves the new Plus 8 with the potential to smash its upright screen through the air with some force. Driving it home from the factory on greasy roads, it was spooling-up in third gear. It's actually a Morgan hot-rod.

Talking of the factory if you don't want to drop a load of money on a car that still uses wood to support its bodywork do not under any circumstances visit Malvern Link. The place is completely compelling, in its own peculiar way just as atmospheric and enthralling as those better known pilgrimage sites in Maranello and Zuffenhausen. I'm not sure there are many other production lines that can genuinely call themselves 'gravity-fed'.

Wider, meaner and ruder than any classic Morgan
Wider, meaner and ruder than any classic Morgan
PH development drive
Morgan will be asking £80,000 for the Plus 8 - that's strong money and I won't suggest that in pure objective terms it deserves the same page space as a new 911. But I will suggest that anyone who wants to approach this car in such bleak, unemotional terms probably doesn't get it anyway.

I've just driven home in it, roof down, in glorious sunshine and five degrees ambient temperature. The exhaust noise is addictive, the cabin is tight and, for a prototype, carefully finished - of course a GT3 would have dusted it, but for sense of occasion and making other people smile, I'm not sure many cars could have matched it.

Not bad for a prototype
Not bad for a prototype
With no traction control and 334hp per tonne on greasy roads, it keeps you honest, but it cruises at the legal limit without too much fuss. The hood is a predictably crude set of poppers and clips designed to prise away finger nails, but it keeps the outside from being inside and doesn't flap about too much at normal speeds. An SLK, it is not.

But with that exhaust noise and the sunlight twinking on the three weeny wipers and the heater warming your kneecaps, you just don't care. This might just be the coolest car in the UK, and I'm loving it.


FACT SHEET
Car:
2012 Morgan Plus 8
Run by: Chris Harris
On fleet since: January 2012
Mileage: N/A
List price new: c. £80,000
Last month at a glance: Invited by Charles Morgan to have it for a month - offer accepted

 

 

Author: Chris Harris