If you want a brand-new car with a truly classic spirit, you turn to Morgan. Although the British brand’s models are being modernized a bit, they still echo their vintage forebears. Especially the throwback that is the Morgan 3-Wheeler. But as odd as it may look to some, Jay Leno is a firm 3-Wheeler fan.
The modern Morgan 3-Wheeler is confusing, impractical, and delightful
Like the Polaris Slingshot, the modern Morgan 3-Wheeler isn’t quite a car, nor is it exactly a motorcycle. But that’s partially why founder H.F.S. Morgan built the original 3-Wheeler back in 1909, Hagerty explains. British tax laws at the time dictated that a four-wheeled vehicle was a car; Morgan’s three-wheeled ‘runabout’ was therefore technically a bike. And it’s much the same with the modern-day 3-Wheeler, Autoweek reports, as is the overall formula.
Like its namesake predecessor, the Morgan 3-Wheeler has an externally-mounted motorcycle V-twin powering its rear wheel. The original models used a selection of British-made V-twins, culminating in the Matchless-powered Super Sports. They even have hand throttles, not unlike motorcycles, Autoweek reports. In contrast, the modern 3-Wheeler has an S&S 2.0-liter fuel-injected V-twin with 82 hp. There’s no hand throttle, but there is a five-speed manual taken from a Mazda MX-5 Miata, Automobile reports.
Since its 2012 release, Morgan has tweaked the 3-Wheeler somewhat. In 2014 the company strengthened the chassis, revised the steering and suspension, and “beefed up” the center drive unit, Autoblog reports. And today, it even has a power outlet and optional heated seats, Jalopnik reports.
Make no mistake, the Morgan 3-Wheeler isn’t a luxury car. It just has a few gauges and switches, the leather bench seat, some storage pockets, and that’s about it. There’s no roof, airbags, doors, or ABS. And while there is a rear storage compartment, it’s really only big enough to fit the tonneau cover. Though, as befits its hand-built nature, all of the metal switchgear and interior trim feels solid and high-quality, MotorTrend reports.
But you don’t buy a Morgan 3-Wheeler for luxury features. As Jay Leno explains below, you buy it because of what it’s like to drive.
For Jay Leno, even driving his Morgan 3-Wheeler into a ditch is “great fun”
Jay Leno actually owns two Morgan 3-Wheelers: a 2014 model and a 1932 FX4 Super Sports. He drove the 2014 car after touring Morgan’s factory, and at one point ended up driving into a ditch, Hagerty reports. But that didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for it in the slightest.
The Morgan 3-Wheeler’s stripped-down design and heavy (no pun intended) use of aluminum mean it only weighs 1250 pounds, Road & Track reports. So even with relatively modest power, it goes 0-62 mph in 6 seconds, Evo reports. However, outright acceleration isn’t the point of the 3-Wheeler; the experience is.
Because the Morgan 3-Wheeler is so low, “30 mph feels like lightspeed,” Roadshow reports. The V-twin burbles and rumbles and the Miata transmission is easy to shift, Automobile reports. And because of the extremely direct steering and lack of bodywork and body roll, the 3-Wheeler handles surprisingly well, MT reports. Plus, with that V-twin soundtrack and low seat height, “you do feel like you’re flying a Sopwith Camel,” Jay Leno says.
Little wonder why R&T’s Peter Egan described it as offering “more kinetic fun—and more pure charisma—than any car I’ve driven.”
If you want a new one, get it now
Tightening emissions standards means the V-twin-powered Morgan 3-Wheeler is about to ride off into the sunset. Although it might return in the future, the P101 Editions will be the last with the S&S engine.
Although the original Morgan 3-Wheeler was cheap, the modern one’s hand-built nature makes it somewhat the opposite. The US-bound P101 Edition starts at $59k, Car and Driver reports. Used ones, though, are noticeably cheaper, even the post-2014-update ones. They typically go for $40,000-$50,000 on Bring a Trailer, though the earlier models sometimes dip below $40k.
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