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The Morgan 3-Wheeler Defies Easy Description

Today, well-heeled customers can buy a recreated 1930s Bugatti from Pur Sang or a D-type continuation from Jaguar. But British automaker Morgan has been doing retro since before it was cool. And amongst its handmade lineup, perhaps no vehicle better represents the brand than the Morgan 3-Wheeler.

The Morgan 3-Wheeler is part car, part motorcycle

Original Morgan 3-Wheeler
Original Morgan 3-Wheeler | Morgan

As Jalopnik explains, although the current Morgan 3-Wheeler has been in production since 2012, Morgan actually started out making 3-wheelers. In the early 1900s, Henry Frederick Stanley (HFS) Morgan needed a reliable way of getting around, but cars were too expensive and motorcycles too dangerous.

But then, Motor1 explains, he decided to make a car out of a motorcycle. So, he took a motorcycle engine and mounted it to the front of a 3-wheeled chassis. His ‘runabout’ became so popular, especially with fighter pilots, that in 1911, HFS started Morgan to produce more of them.

So, is the Morgan 3-Wheeler a car, or is it a motorcycle? Yes. 3-wheeled (and even 4-wheeled) motorcycles do exist, and like other bikes, the 3-Wheeler has no roof or doors. Its 1157-lb dry weight is also more bike-like than car-like. But it’s got a steering wheel, and two seats, so it’s not technically a motorcycle. Instead, the 3-Wheeler falls into the same murky category as the Campagna T-Rex and Polaris Slingshot.

2017 Morgan 3-Wheeler engine detail
2017 Morgan 3-Wheeler engine detail | Matthew Skwarczek

The Morgan 3-Wheeler does have an externally-mounted motorcycle engine, an 82-hp 2.0-liter from S&S. S&S has produced engines for Harleys and helped Janus get its bikes 50-state-emissions compliant. But the 3-Wheeler’s transmission, a 5-speed manual with reverse, is from a car, specifically the Mazda Miata. However, the transmission is connected via a belt to the single rear wheel, which is mounted on a motorcycle-style swingarm, Motor Trend reports.

What’s the Morgan 3-Wheeler like to drive?

The Morgan 3-Wheeler isn’t practical. Although there is a rear storage compartment, it’s really only big enough for the car cover, tool kit, and a small bag. At the front, Road & Track reports are the oil tank and battery. And not only is there no roof, but there’s also not much of a windscreen, either.

Morgan 3-Wheeler low-angle rear
Morgan 3-Wheeler low-angle rear | Matthew Skwarczek

The 3-Wheeler is also fairly low to the ground. It has no A/C, no radio, and no power steering. It’s also fairly small inside. However, Morgan does offer it with heated seats, and R&T reports there’s enough space in the footwell for a small duffel bag.

But the original 3-Wheeler wasn’t meant to be practical, either. It was about delivering the thrills of a motorcycle in the more-comfortable manner of a car. And in terms of delivering a visceral driving experience, the Morgan 3-Wheeler absolutely succeeds.

Even in urban driving scenarios, Jalopnik reports, the 3-Wheeler is a blast. The V-twin has enough power for highway passing. Visibility is incredible, steering effort is light (at speed), and the 3-Wheeler’s small size and steel frame mean handling is excellent. There have even been people who take their 3-Wheelers around the Nurburgring.

Veteran auto journalist Alex Goy loved the 3-Wheeler so much, he bought one for himself. He’s even done long-distance tours in it (NSFW language warning for the video below).

It also doesn’t look like anything else on the road, which might be its biggest selling point. I’ve personally witnessed someone do a triple-take upon seeing a 3-Wheeler drive next to them. One of the exterior options is a WWII-style shark-mouth graphic. It might ultimately be a toy, but it just sparks joy in people.

Pricing

Currently, the 3-Wheeler is technically the only vehicle Morgan can import into the US without resorting to legal loopholes. That’s because, depending on which state you’re in, the 3-Wheeler is classified as a motorcycle. However, it’s not exactly priced like one.

A brand-new Morgan 3-Wheeler technically starts at $43,460. But with import taxes and added options, it’s not unusual to see examples stickered at almost $60,000.

2016 Morgan 3-Wheeler overhead
2016 Morgan 3-Wheeler overhead | Bring a Trailer

Mildly-used ones, though, are somewhat cheaper. Bring a Trailer reports used 3-Wheelers can be had for $30,000-$45,000. It is worth noting, though, that Morgan made some updates to the 3-Wheeler over the years. R&T reports early models had some overheating, bump-steer, and handling issues, although Autocar reports these were resolved by the 2014 MY.

$40,000 is a lot for a motorcycle, and there are fun, more-practical sporty cars available for less. But if you can afford it, the Morgan 3-Wheeler delivers an experience like nothing else on the road.

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