Morgan Motors British Family Run Business

Morgan Motors British Family Run Business

Morgan Motors based in Malvern assembles by hand around 1300 cars a year and employs about 160 craftsmen.

Morgan Motors visitor centre and museum exhibit the company’s history and there is a very popular guided tour of the factory showing the manufacturing process of this iconic sports car.

The founder of Morgan Motors was Henry Fredrick Stanley Morgan, who was born in the village of Moreton Jeffries, Herefordshire, in August 1881. He was educated at Stone House, Marlborough College and the School of Practical Engineering in Crystal Palace London. Although his first love was cycling he quickly changed allegiance to the motor car after a hair-raising drive in a 3 h.p. Benz in the hills of Herefordshire where he crashed the car. This accident delayed his ambitions of owning his own car as he was handed a £28 repair bill, but in 1901 after becoming an apprentice at G.W.R. Railway Works in Swindon he managed to purchase his first car; a 1902 Eagle tandem.

Morgan Motors Malvern Link

Morgan Motors Malvern Link

In May 1905 Morgan purchased his first home; Chestnut Villa, Worcester Road in Malvern Link where he built a small garage. It was from here that he became a dealer for Darracq, Wolseley, Siddeley and Rover cars. He went into business with close friend Leslie Bacon and as the business expanded they appointed a skilled motor engineer called Alfie Hales from Birmingham who became foreman of the workshops. Morgan also started Malvern’s very first ‘Omnibus‘ service running between various districts around the Malvern Hills.

Morgan Motors Sports Car Three Wheeler

Morgan’s interest in engineering soon had him experimenting with his own ideas and the iconic design of a Three-Wheeler vehicle began and shaped the success of the Morgan Motor Company.

This brilliant and simple design became one of the most successful lightweight cars in the early days of motoring. It was fitted with a powerful motorcycle engine, simple transmission and a light-weight chassis and body, which inspired a new type of vehicle that became known as the ‘Cyclecar’. This new type for motoring offered freedom of the open road even to those of modest means. The ‘Morgan Runabout‘ placed Morgan as the man who first introduced motoring to the masses.

In 1909 a prototype was built as a straightforward three-wheeler with a steel tubular chassis fitted with a Peugeot 7 h.p. V-twin engine. It’s unusual power to weight ratio of 90 brake horsepower per tonne enabled this little car to accelerate as fast as many of the car being produced at the time. Much of the development work was carried out in Morgans workshop with help from Mr Stephenson-Peach. This prototype was not originally intended as a commercial venture, but the positive feedback to Morgan’s vehicle got him to think about putting the car into production. Unfortunately, this move proved too risky for his partner Leslie Bacon so they went their separate ways, but remained close friends throughout their lives.

Morgan Motors Runabout Deluxe

Morgan Runabout Deluxe

The first Morgan Motor car was a simple, single-seater steered with a tiller and powered by a single cylinder 4 h.p. engine or an 8 h.p. The V-twin engine was made by the London company J.A. Prestwich, and drawings were produced by the now famous Sir John Black of the Standard Motor Company. A patent was granted for this original car, which Morgan named the ‘Runabout‘. It was unveiled to the public at the Olympia Motorcycle Show in London in 1910, and although there was lots of interest only a few got built and sold mainly due to the old fashion tiller steering and there not being a two-seater version.

Morgan pushed on and decided to enter the ‘Runabout‘ into the MCC London to Exeter Trial to prove its soundness of design.  It performed well and won a Gold Medal which was the first of many such victories based on reliability trials, racing and record-breaking at the Brooklands autodrome.

A two-seater version was later produced equipped with wheel steering and even a hood which proved a huge commercial success. In 1911 it appeared at Olympia where the managing director of Harrods, Mr Burbridge made the ‘Runabout‘ the first vehicle to appear in the famous store’s shop window. Harrods went on to become the first Morgan Motors dealer and negotiated exclusive rights to sell all Morgan ‘Runabouts‘. Harrods, however, were fitting their own body onto the running chassis that was being built in Malvern, and their heavier bodies adversely affected the car’s performance, so Morgan terminated the agreement and went on to develop an extensive network of dealers across the country.

Morgan Motors Cyclecar

Morgan Motors Cyclecar

The Malvern factory worked on other designs but this first Cyclecar was, with out doubt, the best engineered, and most reliable vehicle in its class, and set the standards for all other manufacturers to follow. The simple two-speed transmission was very fast, however, it had no reverse gear so to go backwards it required gravity or the driver had to get out and push. The engines were usually J.A.P. V-twins, although the simplicity of the chassis design allowed many other types to be fitted.

In 1912 the Morgan Motor Company was formed as a Private Limited Company with Morgan as Chairman and his son as Managing Director. In June 1912 Morgan married the younger daughter of Rev. Archibald Day from Malvern Link and the couple enjoyed a honeymoon in Wales in a unique ‘Runabout‘, rather appropriately painted white.

Morgan Motors achieved many accolades

  • 10 British and World Records for various classes of Cyclecars
  • Won 24 Gold Medals in major reliability trials.
  • Achieved numerous victories on the race track. One of these victories included an amazing drive by Mr Harry Martin who won the first International Cyclecar Race at Brooklands in just 81/2 minutes, finishing over two minutes ahead of the second-place car.
  • Morgans sister, Miss Dorothy Morgan was a regular entrant in reliability trials gaining first class awards in a Morgan three-wheeler.
  • In 1913 a Morgan made the fastest time at the celebrated Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb, Worcestershire at an average speed of 22 mph.
  • At the end of the year, the Morgan Runabout gained a greater number of awards for reliability and speed over any other Cyclecar or Light Car.

Morgan Motors Expansion

Morgan Motors factory Malvern

Morgan Motors Factory Malvern

In 1913, Morgan purchased land on Pickersleigh Road in Malvern Link; just a quarter of a mile from the Worcester Road factory. In the summer of 1914, two large workshops were built and this is where the site of the present factory is found, traditionally known as the “Works”. The development of this new site was however soon halted due to the outbreak of the First World War and whilst car production continued, the output dwindled as men were called up to fight and existing resources were allocated to munitions production.

By 1918 peace had returned and Morgan Motors was one of the first manufacturers to get back into full production, mainly due to the simplicity of the design. Pickersleigh Road was quickly enlarged and extended with 2 additional workshops and Morgans eldest daughter Sylvia laid the foundation stone at the official opening on 16th October 1919. This was a good time for the Morgan family with many former workers returning from military service and resuming their former jobs and he celebrated the birth of his 5th child Peter Morgan, their only boy.

In 1920 another special Morgan car was launched, inspired by Capt. Albert Ball and was called the ‘Aero’ in recognition of the famous aviator.

Little alteration, apart from bodywork modifications were needed for several years and the car retained its sturdy, lightweight construction and the two-speed transmission system stayed in production until the early 1930s. Acetylene lamps were replaced with electric lights and starters were added. Experience gained in reliability trials helped with the cars development and a more powerful overhead valve V-twin engine was fitted along with front wheel brakes making the Morgan car the first in the field to enjoy this innovation.

In 1925 George Goodall joined Morgan Motors to take over from Alfie Hales, The General Manager at Morgan Motors since 1911. George went on to become Managing Director of the Company retiring in 1958 but still retaining a seat on the Board. The Pickersleigh Road factory expanded with six rows of workshops, and a 7th row later became the machine shop in 1931.

Morgan Motors Super Aero

Morgan Motors Super Aero

In 1927 racing success led to the introduction the sporting model called the Super Aero. With a lowered streamlined bodywork it went straight into action on the hill trials and the race tracks and dominated motorsport as well as being the most fashionable car to be seen driving. The robust and reliable, Morgan cars were now being exported worldwide and the factory was offering more modest vehicles, like the entry level Standard Runabout, and the more luxuriously equipped DeLuxe. There, was a four-seater ‘Family’ model and even a commercial Delivery Van based on the three-wheeler chassis.

In 1931 a new transmission system was developed with a three speed and reverse gearbox, a single chain, and detachable wheels. Engines were being supplied by Matchless, and a high-performance machine known as the Super Sports helped keep Morgan Motors at the forefront of competitive motoring. Even Morgans daughters were seen at Donnington at an A.C.U. rally.

Morgan Motors F4 Malvern

Morgan Motors F4

1933 Morgan Motors enjoyed a large number of World Records and saw the advent of a new model; The F-type fitted with a Ford engine. The first production F-type was a four-seat family tourer called the F4, followed by the F2, a two-seater version.  The F-types used a Z-section steel ladder-frame chassis instead of the tubular steel chassis and featured a conventional bonnet and radiator.

This was one of the most popular three-wheelers ever produced and drove a number of other firms to copy the idea.

In 1936 a four-wheeler was exhibited at the London and Paris Exhibitions and this new model was called the Morgan 4-4 to differentiate it from the three-wheeler. It had four cylinders and four wheels and the car had a Z section full-width steel chassis with boxed cross members and the body was an ash frame panelled in steel. This combination provided the durability of a coach built car, with the lightness required for a sports car. The car was an immediate success! The launch of the Morgan 4-4 Roadster, a four-seater was followed by a drop head Coupe in 1938. The F-type remained popular and the addition of a high-performance two-seater version, called the F Super followed, but the three-wheeler although remaining in production, sales were now in decline.

Morgan Motros 4-4 Morgan

Morgan Motors 4-4 Morgan

In 1937 a 4-4 sports model was built for racing and fitted with 1098 c.c. Coventry Climax engine giving 42 b.h.p. with balanced crankshafts. It was entered into the Le Mans 24-hour race in 1938 and was tuned and prepared in Malvern. The car finished 13th overall and was entered again the following year coming in 15th and second in class. Around this time the Climax engine was replaced by an overhead valve power unit from the Standard Motor Company. This engine was specially built for Morgan, organised by his good friend Sir John Black of Standard (he’d produced the patent drawings for the first Runabout in 1910). The new engine was linked to a Moss gearbox mounted centrally in the chassis and connected to the 5-1 rear axle by a short propeller shaft.

Morgan Motors stops production

During the second world war only two departments were retained by the Company; the Service shop and the Spares department. The Standard Motor Company occupied some of the workshops for the Aero Engine division and other parts of the factory manufactured a variety of components for the war effort, which included carburettors, aircraft undercarriage, and other precision engineering work. The Flight Refuelling Ltd owned by Sir Alan Cobham’s took over other workshops to develop wing anti-icing and in-flight refuelling systems using a modified a Handley Page ‘Hereford’ Bomber located in the factory.

Click here to read the next instalment about Morgan Auto and the company history.

Book a Morgan Motors Factory Tour and come and stay at Orchard Side Bed and Breakfast to make it a relaxing and special weekend. If you drive a Morgan or classic car Neil and Gigi will offer you garaged parking at Orchard Side Bed and Breakfast.

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