Morgan will reveal the all-new, second-generation 3 Wheeler on 24 February ahead of a market launch later this year.
Morgan’s reinvented 3 Wheeler roadster will be a thoroughly modern machine using the same advanced aluminium chassis technology as the new Plus Four and Plus Six roadsters, but will still feature a design Morgan describes as “bold and eccentric” with a technical front end and a “fluid form”. It will be Morgan’s first all-new design since the Aero 8 sports car was unveiled in 2000.
Morgan claims the 3 Wheeler will offer the same raw driving experience as the outgoing 10-year-old model. The new 3 Wheeler’s most visible – and initially most controversial – change entails ditching the old S&S-sourced air-cooled 2.0-litre V-twin engine in favour of a normally aspirated, longitudinally mounted version of Ford’s considerably more refined 1.5-litre three-cylinder unit, as used by the Fiesta ST.
The change is likely to result in a dramatic boost in performance, since the V-twin produced barely 60kW (because of punitive exhaust emissions restrictions) whereas the Ford unit should be good for 90-100kW (it runs to 147kW with a turbocharger in the hot Fiesta), although Morgan isn’t yet confirming its precise output.
Like the old car, the new 3 Wheeler will be rear driven, with the nose-mounted engine sending power through a five-speed Mazda MX-5 gearbox to a bevel box behind the cockpit, and then to the single rear wheel via a toothed belt.
Morgan managing director Steve Morris said: “We see the new 3 Wheeler as an opportunity to offer existing loyal customers a vehicle that they can enjoy every bit as today’s, but it will [also] allow us to target a wider group of potential owners.
“We see this as a truly global product. Our big focus will be on building US sales, although we expect demand in the UK, France, Germany and Italy to be strong as well.”
Morris said the model’s key advantage in the US is that its non-car status allows it to sidestep a tangle of compliance issues that surrounds many imported low-volume sports cars.
While anxious to avoid over-confidence, Morris believes that 3 Wheeler sales could match those of all four-wheeled Morgans combined once the new edition is established in major markets.
Historically, the 3 Wheeler was Morgan’s best-seller, and even the 2011 model matched four-wheeler sales for a time.
“Around 2012, we were selling 28 cars a week in total,” said Morris. “We believe the new model could help us match or even beat those figures.”
Morgan has no wish to “sanitise” the visceral 3 Wheeler driving experience: the 2022 car’s footprint is “virtually identical” to that of the outgoing model, its cockpit is just as open and it has the same diminutive road presence. However, the cockpit is wider and it has a lower floor that allows better access and better accommodation for taller and wider drivers.
Many details, such as the main instrument and fascia design elements, draw heavily on the best-loved features of the outgoing model.
Wells is well aware that 3 Wheeler owners “do extraordinary things” with their cars, including long-distance touring holidays and expeditions. The new model will therefore cater to this more effectively, with convenient mounting brackets for luggage racks, cameras, lights and a variety of windscreens. A “huge” range of racks, mirrors, luggage cases and panniers will be offered as options, too.
Radical graphics are already a familiar feature of the 3 Wheeler, but Wells said his design team is ready to hit new heights of invention.
One item unlikely to be offered is a roof, although owners will be able to buy fabric tonneau covers and possibly a hard half-tonneau that will effectively turn the car into a snug single-seater.
Although the styling is entirely new, the relationship with the old 3 Wheeler is clear. This isn’t a classically streamlined car, but much attention has been paid to aerodynamics. (The small frontal area and the act of moving the engine inside the car help a lot here.)
Perhaps the most prominent feature, though, is a pair of near-flat “diffuser plates” on the body sides. Wells said these have a number of key functions: to manage airflow along the body (including helping to extract hot air from two front-mounted radiators), to carry pannier mountings, to provide an ideal palette for graphics and “to add drama”.
Five years ago, Morgan’s plans for the EV3 electric three-wheeler were scuppered when a key supplier failed to deliver. Even so, the new 3 Wheeler is “protected” for manufacture as an EV as much as it can be. “It’s not a priority,” said Morris, “but it’s on our radar.”