Morgan’s new CX platform is the beginning of a new era for the old-world marque
Change comes slowly to Morgan, an automaker so wedded to tradition that it still uses wood to craft the frames beneath its beautiful cars. Yet change is inevitable, even in Malvern, where H.F.S. Morgan started building cars in 1910, and this week the British boutique automaker unveiled the Plus Six, its first all-new car in 15 years.
That alone would be newsworthy, but the Plus SIx represents something of a radical departure for Morgan: the car rides on an all-new aluminum architecture Morgan calls the CX Generation. A team of fewer than 20 people began working on the design three years ago after realizing it simply must make bigger cars.
“The demographic of the people buying the cars is changing,” says Jonathan Wells, the company’s head of design. “We’re getting taller, larger occupants, so we had to address ergonomic space.” That, and looming safety side- and rear-impact safety regulations, required starting with a blank sheet of paper. “We started to become limited by the constraints of the old platform,” Wells says.
The Plus Six replaces the Plus 8 as Morgan’s flagship. The number refers the the engine beneath the bonnet: the BMW turbocharged straight-six found in the Z4 and Toyota Supra. It replaces the V-8 that BMW discontinued. The car rides on an entirely new bonded aluminum platform that doubles the torsional rigidity of the chassis beneath the Plus 8 yet weighs just 220 pounds. Morgan being Morgan, the body, hand-formed in aluminum, still rests on an ash frame, this an inch thicker than that of the previous car. The suspension features a lighter, more compact double-wishbone suspension. All told, the Plus Six shares just 40 parts with its predecessor.
Morgan plans to use the platform on future models as it expands its lineup, develops a new flagship, and experiments with new drivetrains. “It gives us a very confident decade in front of us,” Wells says. “We’re aware of what’s coming, and we’re ready for it.”
As to what’s coming, Wells wouldn’t say for sure but you can bet there’s a car with a cord on the horizon, and government-manded features like a lane departure warning system. Packing such technology into a car so anchored by tradition may cause purists to blow a gasket, but they are a necessary evil. Designing a platform that can adapt to changing regulatory and market demands future-proofs the business.
Morgan has hinted at an EV before. It unveiled the EV3, a concept based on the wonderful 3-Wheeler, in 2015, but reluctantly shuttered the project last year when its battery supplier got into legal trouble and could not fulfill the promised powertrain. For now at least, the EV3 is on the back burner. And then there’s the stunning LifeCar, a hydrogen fuel cell EV concept based on the Aero 8 that appeared in Geneva in 2008. Fits and starts aside, Morgan still believes in electrification.
“That program still exists,” Wells says. “We are continuing it. We have high-voltage EV specialists working for Morgan. It’s very much a part of our brand development.”
So too is revising Morgan’s styling, which was retro before retro was cool. “There is a fairly significant program in place to find a new design language,” Wells says.
That’s a lot of change for a company that draws so much of its image from the past. But the time is right because Morgan finds itself on more solid financial foundation. The Italian investment firm Investindustrial, which helped transform Aston Martin from a Ford castoff into Ferrari competitor, recently acquired a majority stake in the company. Its top priority is making Morgan a bigger, more visible brand known for building great cars with a small team in a little factory on Pickersleigh Road in the British countryside.
“Being able to do these things is amazing, but we don’t have a huge voice,” Wells says. “Being able to share that story will really help us, and that’s what the investment will help us with.”
That’s just one more change at a company that’s embracing the future with cars that still look to the past.