Despite living a stone’s throw from Malvern, and often seeing the beautiful Morgan cars whizzing about the local countryside, I have never visited the place where they are made – until last week. I was invited by some friends who are members of the British Salmson Owners Club to join them on a tour of the factory. The magnificent machines below are Salmsons, in case you’re wondering, and they date from the 1930s.
But let’s start at the beginning – we gathered in the café to enjoy a cup of tea
before being met by our guide. He told us that the first Morgans were three wheelers – not like Del Boy’s with a wheel at the front but the other way round – a much more stable arrangement ! Here’s H.F.S. Morgan proudly demonstrating his design way back around 1909:
It proved to be a winner and the factory went from strength to strength. Nowadays each unit has its logo and the buildings are built on a slope so that the cars can literally be pushed on to the next stage – ingenious!
Of course, the word ‘factory’ is not really the correct term for the Morgan set up – it’s more a collection of workshops where each task is lovingly carried out by a team of skilled craftsmen. There is no rushing around, there is no automated production line, just dedicated areas where each stage of the process is completed – yes, there is a waiting list, and it’s all part of the plan to make these lovely cars all the more sought after. Wood features heavily in their construction – the car’s wooden frame (though not its chassis – apparently, a common misconception) is made of ash and the dashboards and steering wheels are finished and polished till they gleam.
Our guide tells us to stick to the red line on the floor for safety’s sake as we walk round – it’s still a factory, after all. I asked permission beforehand to take my photos and they said ‘yes, yes, we don’t mind at all – take as many as you like’. I’m not sure the staff feel the same – I catch a few wry smiles and that ‘here comes another lot to gawp at us’ sort of expression on their faces, but I carry on – they must be used to it by now!
Of course, the Morgan Motor Company has had to respond to market forces in the same way as any company – it’s ‘adapt or die’ in this cruel, commercial world, so as well as what I think of as the traditional Morgan, with its instantly recognisable appearance and that leather strap across the bonnet, there is now a range of models: this still includes the three wheeler as well as the 4/4, which has been going since 1936 so is the longest running model, a Plus 4, which is the most popular seller with wider wheels and a 2 litre engine, the Roadster, with a 4.8 BMW engine and the Aero8 which looks markedly different – more rounded – with racing car lines – so plenty to choose from then!
It’s nice to know that the factory can also rise to a challenge. The car in the pictures below, as you can see, has a most unusual paint job and we are told was commissioned by an undertaker! I don’t know if the car was ever driven and personal I’m not sure about the designs but in any event it would definitely turn heads!
The Morgan Motor Company has also produced an all electric Morgan to satisfy the anti pollution and energy saving lobbies.
Last stop on the tour was the paint shop – obviously we couldn’t go inside what with paint and fumes everywhere so it was a case of looking through the window this time. After being sprayed each car is meticulously checked over under strong lights for any flaws. Attention to detail is paramount.
We finished our tour with a look round their fantastic museum where they have some delightful examples of a bygone age. My favourite item was the snake horn and you couldn’t fail to marvel at the evocative images all round the walls going right back to the turn of the last century ……………… when H.F.S Morgan invented that first three wheeler and a great idea became reality.