When Pistonheads announced that they would be holding a Sunday Service at the Morgan factory in Malvern I knew I had to go! I like the values of Morgan, that it is still owned by the Morgan family and that a few years ago their then CEO Charles Morgan tested their new 3 wheeler by entering it in the Gumball 3000 rally and driving it across the USA – if only more motor company bosses had that much passion for their cars! Through my day job I have spent a lot of time – possibly too much – in modern car factories, so getting to see how a more traditional factory worked was an opportunity I wasn’t going to miss. Even Jen was excited about it and she doesn’t usually come to car things with me.
The lead up to the event didn’t go too well, the day before I’d had a tyre let go on my MR2 at motorway speed – not fun. This meant that we had to take Jen’s Fiat 500, not as fun for a cross country hoon early on a sunny Sunday morning. The beauty of the Pistonheads Sunday Service events is that they are all including, so it doesn’t matter if you turn up in a Fiat 500, you still go into the same car park as the Porsches and Lamborghinis. As usual the car park was filled with all manner of interesting cars, including a Mercedes SL “Pagoda”, a modified/restored Morris Minor which we both liked, the usual array of Porsches and Loti and even a few Arbath 500s – although Jen’s was the only standard “cute” 500.
By far the highlight of the morning was the tour around the factory – Morgan had even got their employees to come to work on a Sunday morning, just so we could see the factory working and laid on guides for a shortened version of their normal tour (30 minutes, rather than 90, due to the number of people they had to get round). The tour started with a explanation of their current line up, with a handily parked line up of Morgans. Then it was on to a museum room, pictured above, housing some important cars from their history, such as the Aero 8 which competed in the Le Mans 24 hour race.
Next it was in to the assembly workshop, where the newer cars get their BMW engine mounted to their aluminium chassis; and the traditional cars get their steel chassis built up and attached to the wooden frame. This part of the factory wasn’t too dissimilar from other car factories I’ve been to, you could see the line of cars, each one more complete than the previous and the “just in time” parts supply next to the line – but there weren’t any robots or conveyor belts in sight – the cars were resting on wooden trestles. Adjacent to the assembly workshop was the body workshop, where the aluminium bodies are shaped by hand, using traditional methods, I was in awe watching the skilled craftsmen shape sheets of metal into car parts, seemingly just by hitting it with a hammer! The woodshop was next and I’m sure this is pretty unique in vehicle manufacturing these days; the room smelt off sawdust, just what I was expecting from the Morgan factory, the workshop was in two parts, the first which we didn’t really get to see was where the wood got turned into the various parts for the frame, then in the second half, they are fitted together, then glued and screwed to form the frame, which I’m sure is harder than it sounds.
In the opposite
shed building was the trim shop, where the cars go after they have been painted, now they really started to look like complete cars, the guide explained the myriad of options available and it was good to be able to see a lot of them being built. After the trim shop we went back across the yard to another workshop where the new 3 wheeler is built, what really amazed me is that the 4 wheeled cars had various workshops, yet the 3 wheelers were made in just one – 15 at a time, each car assembled by one man – that has got to be a really satisfying job!
Jen and I both enjoyed the tour, and I’ve vowed to go back for the full 90 minute tour with my Dad – hopefully tagged onto a drive of a 3 wheeler through the Malvern hills!
Hopefully Soichiro Honda’s prediction that “in the future there would be just half a dozen car companies – and Morgan” rings true and craftsmen continue to hand build cars from a small factory in Malvern because the automotive landscape would be duller without them!