Thursday, March 10, 2011

Morgan Plus Four Experience

Morgan Plus Four Experience

Cornwall, a county somewhat removed from the rest of Britain, a land of mists and moor, rugged cliffs and, well some great roads actually!

My wife and I decided that we needed a break from the humdrum of daily life, and decided to stay for a long weekend in one of our favourite hotels in Cornwall. We hadn't had a break for over a year, so I decided to go a little over the top and hire a Morgan classic sports car for the weekend.

The model supplied was a 2.0 litre "plus four" 2 seater convertible. With its running boards and spoked wheels, the car looks like something from the "golden age" of motoring.

Getting into the car is a little awkward, but the doors open and stay open at ninety degrees which helps. It's quite a long way down into the leather bucket seats, but once you have managed to get your right foot inside the car you feel very comfortable indeed.

The seats are adjustable for legroom and the angle of the backrest, and there is certainly plenty of legroom in terms of length, but the width means that both the driver and passenger are limited in width. However, ones legs rest on well padded material, so it's really surprisingly comfortable.

The first thing one notices once one is sitting in the car is the front view. A long, narrow bonnet and front wings topped with side lights is most impressive. The front of the car looks a long way away!

Inside the car one is almost sitting on the rear wheels, so there is no boot space, other than a shelf behind the seats, but this was enough for two large overnight cases. Any sort of suitcase bigger than that which would be allowed in the cabin of a passenger jet would be too big to fit in the car.

The mechanism for the fold down roof is a simple affair. One simply undoes two press studs that secure the side of the roof to the side of the car, and then undoes two clips, one on each side of the top corner of the windscreen, then folds the whole thing backwards. The rear of the roof is held by two bonnet type spring clips, and these are undone by means of a lever inside the car, on the side behind the driver's door. Lifting the back of the roof in this way is the easiest way to get into the "boot".

The best way to drive this car is with the roof down. With the roof up, one is adequately protected from the elements, (it rained very hard on our second day with the car), and the one modern accessory, the heated front screen, is very efficient at keeping condensation forming on the screen. However, getting in and out of the car with the roof down is much more difficult than with it up, and visibility to both rear quarters is severely restricted by the side of the roof. However, this is a car of yesteryear, and built for its own sake, rather than to fulfil the latest safety requirements.

That's probably why the steering wheel, a steel and wood rimmed affair is so refreshing - no airbag!

The particular model we were hiring was powered by a two valve per cylinder two litre engine. With one hundred and twenty six horse power it's no mean machine, and with a 0 - 60 time somewhere over nine seconds it's not particularly fast either.

However out on the road I loved it. An active rear axle, where the axle travels up and down on a fixed pin, means that the car corners absolutely flat. The exhaust note is a pleasant change to the sterile silence of today's modern motorcars, and the whole experience of being in a classic British sports car gives you a feeling of gentle superiority.

Because it's not a modern sports car, luxury car or supercar, people seem to smile when they see you, rather than take offence at an expensive, modern luxury car.

The Cornish lanes are made for this car. Because you can see the dimensions of the car so easily, and because it is a relatively narrow vehicle, you can just "point and shoot" where you want to go. The steering has no power assistance, but is pin sharp and combined with an almost lazy power delivery from the engine, one can swoop around the lanes without too much worry about what may be coming the other way.

Inevitably, given the limited width of the foot wells, the pedals are close together. The accelerator pedal is an organ type, so you can rest your whole foot on it, and the clutch and brake pedals protrude from the floor. And herein lie my two points of dissatisfaction.

Firstly, there is no way to stretch your left leg, as you cannot get your foot behind the pedals. This means that any long journey is going to be tiring, as your left leg remains bent at the knee the whole time.

Secondly, the brakes. Servo assisted front disc brakes with rear drum brakes result in a lack of "feel". One has to press down hard on the brake pedal, and there is quite a bit of travel in the pedal before the brakes start to work. One gets used to this, but it's hard work all the same.

In conclusion, a great fun car that does exactly what you would expect. Not fast, not a practical day to day car, but a real driver's car with great handling. A classic.