MORGAN AERO AND LIFE CAR FOR THE 21st CENTURY

 

In the mid 1990s a remarkable new Morgan began to take shape. In order to remain competitive on the race track and to maintain Morgan’s reputation for producing world class sports cars, Charles Morgan decided to develop an entirely new chassis. Together with Morgan dealer Bill Wykeham, Charles raced a specifically designed aluminium chassis Plus 8 in 7 rounds of the international 1996 BPR race series. This became the FIA GT series in 1997. This car proved that the factory were capable of making and running a successful race car, but also that with the higher performance requirements of this series, the aerodynamics of the existing shape were the major limiting factor to success.

To achieve this he worked with engineer Chris Lawrence (who had driven Morgan Plus 4 TOK258 to a class victory at Le Mans in 1962). The new car was developed in the factory and on the race track over a period of five years and was finally unveiled to the public at the Geneva motor show in March 2000. The Aero 8 was a remarkably advanced car using a strong, lightweight bonded aluminium chassis and all aluminium body panels, still assembled around a wooden frame, creating a revolutionary new Morgan sports car. The B.M.W. 4.4 litre V8 engine gave the car a dramatic performance, the equal of many an exotic supercar. The Aero 8 was an instant success and many orders were taken.

Morgan returned to LeMans once again in 2002, the 40th anniversary of Chris Lawrence and Richard Sheppard-Baron’s victory, with a racing version of the new car called the Aero 8 GT. Driven by Richard Stanton, Steve Hyde and Richard Hay, the car suffered recurring vibration from the back axle which was replaced during the race, however, it was engine failure that eventually forced retirement after 17 hours. Despite failing to finish, it was a most creditable achievement for a new car with only a few months development and on such a small budget. Morgan’s entry for the following year’s race was inexplicably rejected by race organisers the Automobile Club de l'Ouest, however they were back in 2004. This time the drivers were Adam Sharpe, Neil Cunningham, and Steve Hyde. Although the race was eventful, to say the least, with a delay of over three hours with a fuel pump problem, two radiator changes, a broken throttle cable and serious engine trouble, the car completed the 24 hours. Not only was this a remarkable achievement in the world’s most gruelling race, but in recognition of the Morgan pit crew’s outstanding performance, the authorities awarded them the team prize for the best technical crew in the race.

In 2003 the Morgan community and motor industry in general lost a most remarkable man with the death of Peter Morgan. Peter had steered the company successfully through some particularly difficult periods, and the continued success of the Morgan Motor Company today, when almost all others have failed, is a fitting tribute to this gentleman.

Following its introduction, the Aero 8 was continually refined and updated, and then in 2005 a stunning new fixed-head version called the AeroMax was launched. Inspired by Morgan enthusiast Prince Eric Sturdza, head of Banque Baring Brothers Sturdza in Geneva, the elegant design was the work of a talented young graduate from Coventry University, Matthew Humphries. Although it was originally intended that this should be a one-off vehicle, such was the interest shown it was decided to put the car into production, but as a very special limited edition of just 100. All were sold within a few months of the model being launched!

Throughout the development of the Aero models, the traditional cars continued in production in ever-increasing numbers.

The famous Plus 8 was discontinued, to be replaced by the Roadster V6. This new model, although superficially similar to the Plus 8, used the Ford 3 litre V6 engine and maintained the tradition of having a high-performance classic in the range.

To emphasise the Morgan Motor Company’s commitment to environmentally clean, efficient sports cars, in 2008 the remarkable LIFE car was developed in collaboration with QinetiQ and other high-tech organisations.

This advanced hydrogen fuel cell powered car is designed to achieve the equivalent of 150 m.p.g., using electrical power stored in a bank of ultra capacitors and fed to 4 super-efficient electric motor-generators connected directly to each driving wheel. The system includes regenerative braking technology, thus capturing up to 50% of kinetic energy during braking and deceleration which would otherwise be lost. The chassis and body are pure Morgan, using a chassis developed from the Aero, fitted with lightweight aluminium panels assembled around an advanced wooden frame.

The remarkable response to the AeroMax encouraged the Morgan design team to develop another exciting supercar based on the proven Aero chassis. Forward of the windscreen, the car retained the sleek lines of the other Aeros, aft of the cockpit Matthew Humphries and his team designed a distinctive new shape. This now featured a capacious boot which would also accommodate the removable roof panels giving drivers the option of open air motoring in favourable conditions. Power came from the BMW B4.8 N62 engine which had been used in the Aero models since February 2008.
 

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