Morgan Motor Company

Introduction

This case study is based on discussions with Charles Morgan during the period 2010-2013. Innovation was focussed around making Morgan relevant to upcoming generations through radical design innovations including – the Morgan Aeromax and Three wheeler production models, and the LIFECar concept model.  Company results posted for 2013 showed turnover remaining broadly in line with the previous year, with profits falling from £1.7m to £732k. Output remained steady at around 1000 cars, with the Morgan three wheeler accounting for half of volumes sold. Morgan, which has showrooms in Beijing and Shanghai in China, launched its latest three-wheeled model in 2011, almost 60 years after the last one was built, helping it accelerate sales from about £26m to current levels. Revenues  nudged up from £34.9m to £35.1m despite income from the UK and Europe dropping from £12.2m to £11.7m and from £16.4m to £15.3m respectively. Sales to the rest of the world made up for the shortfall, climbing from £6.3m in 2012 to £8.2m.

Morgan is incredibly proud to be the largest car maker still in British hands and this does give us a sense of responsibility,” says Charles Morgan, grandson of the founder, Henry Frederick Stanley, or HFS Morgan, and who remains a major shareholder in the business.

In 2012 the business employed 180 people, producing just over 1000 cars, generating  around £35m revenues and with sales holding steady during 2013, broadly in line with 2012 outcomes.

Located in Malvern, Worcestershire, Morgan remains a low volume, specialist niche producer manufacturing by combining craft and cutting edge technologies, with 70% of their output destined for export markets, their largest overseas markets being Germany, France, Italy and Austria and with growing sales volumes to USA and the BRIC markets.

Heritage – A Century of Speed

HFS was the son of a rector. “He was not good at school.  Sadly he was kicked out of Marlborough. But he was good at drawing.  He had the tremendous good fortune to be apprenticed to William Dean, and although he was involved there in making steam engines, grandfather loved bicycles. He went to Crystal Palace, the circular building, and studied at the Design College.

“He learnt how to become a designer.   More importantly there was a wooden velodrome and he designed his own bicycles, inspired by his love of lightweight engineering.  He came back to Malvern and started a garage. Malvern was quite a hotspot for tourism in those days because of the Water cure.   It was the dawn of the motor industry.  Brands like Darraq and Wolseley, were showcased as reliable by driving them up to the top of the Worcestershire Beacon. 

“Grandfather wanted to put people on wheels.  Bikes were very popular at the time. Harry invented a little contraption – a bike with three wheels with a motor on the front.  It was very fast.  Worcester record office shows he was stopped as he got caught for the sixth time for speeding at over 12.5mph! He built his first car, a three wheeler, with help from ‘Mr Stephenson Peach’, then Engineering Master at Malvern and Repton Colleges and grandson of the renowned designer of the “Rocket”. 

HFS Morgan patented first designs

HFS Morgan patented first designs

“He went on to break the 1100cc. One-hour Record travelling just short of 60 mph for one hour at Brooklands in 1912.  His sister, Dorothy, was a regular entrant in reliability trials.HFS began manufacturing in 1910 and the first two-seaters were exhibited at the 1911 Olympia Show. Mr Burbridge, the owner of Harrods who liked them so much he put one in the window of his famous store.

“At the end of 1913 the Morgan Runabout had gained a greater number of awards for reliability and speed than any other Cyclecar or Light Car.

Early Morgan Runabout

Early Morgan Runabout

That year the company produced racing cars with a longer chassis and lower seating with o.h.v. J.A.P. engines. They entered one for the French Grand Prix at Amiens winning against strong opposition from continental four-wheelers.”

“The first four-seater with family dimensions was designed in 1912 but only produced in 1915.  Marketed after the Great War as a ‘Family Runabout’ it sold in large numbers.”

“In 1921 Gwenda Stewart became the fastest female driver on the track at Brooklands, achieving 135.5mph in a lap record driving a 3-wheel Morgan and she went on to win many long distance speed records in Morgan 3-wheelers. 

“The ‘50s and ‘60’s were also strong racing years for Morgan and the Plus 8 was designed in the 1960’s with a Range Rover engine in a car weighing a third of the weight. 

“Whilst motor racing has always been important to Morgan more recently we have won 32 Awards over 4 years for performance at reliability trials. In 2013 a Morgan LMP2 came Second in the LMP2 Class in the Tourist Trophy race at Silverstone in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

Factory Tours and Living Heritage

Of course Morgan sells heritage,” says Charles Morgan.    “Our factory has around 20k visitors a year who come to see and learn about Morgan and visit our Heritage Motor Centre.  What are they all coming to see? Complexity and heritage.  Handmade cars that are fast, fun to drive, lightweight, responsive. The Craft and care involved in the making combined with cutting edge technologies. Our craftsmen are very skilled. Cartier, when speaking about craft and the past said, ‘you can never reflect past, but you can always be inspired by it’.

You would have thought the wrist watch would disappear with the computer. But in fact it’s never been more successful. It’s offering something that’s tried and tested, that looks familiar and is aspirational.  Why do you want a suit where the sewing is done by hand? Someone has slaved over it, for you!  It’s personal, considered.  The traditional Morgan has become very familiar and recognisable, so it has been registered as a shape.  No other car company in the world has done this.

Craft and High Tech

The combination of craft and technology are evident on the Morgan Aeromax, where the wings are made of super formed aluminium.  We hand louver the bonnet. All our cars are hand-made, hand-cut, hand assembled.

Redesigning a Design Icon

You redesign an icon at your peril.  How to start this process is a question we’ve had to ask ourselves.  We started by asking what makes our cars the icons they’ve become?

  • Driving experience – sit in a Morgan and it fits around you. It’s the embodiment of ‘driving by the seat of your pants’.
  • We have a strong family element.  The average age of our workforce is 37. They’re loyal and committed, and we appreciate all they do for us.
  • A Morgan ‘forces you to interact in a positive way with your environment’. We produced the first cars in the UK using water-based paints.  Our cars are very light and economical – you could say Morgan was the only car company which started off with an environmental agenda – ‘Lightweight, Balance, Minimalism.’
  • Customisable cars – we’ve noticed consumers in general are getting more demanding and in turn we encourage our customers to choose the car they want and, for example, to watch their cars being made.
  • Vertical Integration is one of our core strengths – we’re a small company that tries to do as much as possible for itself.  We identify the core skills we need at our factory and have in-house.”

Steps to recent business success have included —
new car design
-starting to race again and winning races, putting the brand back on the motor map
harnessing technology transfer effectively – for example using superformed aluminium as a process coming out of aero engineering resulting in big smooth curves in the bodywork and by eliminating the need for primer reducing total car weight
smarter componentry – for example through a bonded aluminium chassis introduced in 2000 making them the first automotive company to introduce this technology
handmade focus, hand cut and hand assembled cars providing a personalized approach

Design Process

Morgan has, over many years, taken the view that design really makes a difference to the ‘appeal’ of a product. The brand identity is controlled by the quality of the product design and in the way it is displayed and promoted.

Why is the 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO worth £20m?” asks Charles. “It’s got to do with people associating it with the romance and culture of this period, also symbolised by the E-Type Jag. These products have so much enduring appeal – beautiful and full of charm, character, sophistication and status.”

In recent years digital design technologies have had a big impact on the design process and the company has a well equipped digital design department leading to greater efficiencies in build times having seen production rise from 450 cars a year in the late 1990s to 1000 cars built in 2013.

Our Design team are in tune with Morgan’s DNA and have a real empathy and understanding of how to build on this by finding new design routes for the future.

“They’re using wood and leather with other authentic materials, whilst respecting their natural qualities and our performance attributes and aspirations.”

The design process starts with hand drawn sketches and mood boards. Working on an iPad is very much part of this activity. Once a concept has been drawn up then it is put onto our CAD (Computer Aided Design) platform.  Following this our design team start milling the prototypes with this being done increasingly using Rapid Prototyping techniques. We then submit the car design to a ‘critical audience’. For example we’ll take one out to a show at Pebble Beach, California, exposing it to demanding customers and exhibiting it alongside the most respected world brands in front of car designers.

 “The basic reference files on CAD have to be brought together, aided by Autodesk,” says Charles Morgan.  “The Alias Graphics kit has been very flexible in producing graphics for our cars. We produce the catalogue for new cars before we have done any tooling.  We invest in ergonomics testing and go to a wind tunnel. Once we have sold the form we are able to go into detail on the componentry and fit out. Because of the complexity of the components we are unable to hand model these.”

Three Wheeler Design – Disruptive Design Case Study

By looking at the range of vehicles in any garage it is clear that the price of six of these can buy one luxury vehicle. My impression is that there is a disruptive opportunity open to the car industry to be looking at these niches.”

In the past Morgan was renowned for its 3 Wheeler. Between 1909-1953 the company continuously produced 3 wheelers.

They have now brought this classic back to life in the form of an homologated three- wheeler Motor Tricycle. There are far less stringent road tests and standards for these than for cars. Whilst the three wheeler is a modern take on what is probably the most iconic Morgan of all time, the new vehicle embraces modern manufacturing technology and is the most environmentally-friendly product in the Morgan line-up.

The three wheeler was the start of the business when it was launched by my grandfather, ‘HFS’ Morgan. It still holds many speed records. In 1935 Morgan produced its first 4-wheeler and the Four Four remains a classic to this day providing people with a sports car for £26,000 that does 50 miles to the gallon.”

The new three-wheeler is the personification of Morgan’s brand values and has led in its first year to a doubling in orders.

All Morgan cars meet all required safety standards for road cars. However putting their cars through homologation is a massively expensive process.  They saw the biggest opportunity to free up their designers came through re-inventing the car as lightweight mode of transport, covering the ground efficiently.

Of course there are homologation issues with three wheeler.  “But this vehicle is a new description of what a car should be,” says Charles.  “Because the luxury and bigger manufacturers are trying to incorporate everything into cars, for example by combining the features of a luxury office; or by creating a very comfortable space that is quieter than the first class compartment of train; or by incorporating an ability to accelerate to faster than a bike within a substantial car – it could be said that the car was becoming too complicated, that only a few can afford these supercars and that they are environmentally unsustainable.”

Pedigree is important. For example, the original three wheeler was a strong influence on the design of the new three wheeler.  “We created a tubular chassis with an S&S engine from Wisconsin, USA. It is, in our view, slightly better than the Harley engine. We have matched up the gearbox to Honda. A Quaife carbon fibre belt is used to drive to rear wheel.

We wanted the three wheeler to have a very different interior design and feel. At the centre of the console we have positioned the starter button. We want each 12 cyclinder engine to be respected. The ignition sounds rather like a bomb going off and the ignition switch is modelled on the bomb release mechanism on the Euro fighter.”

“To complete the design process we had to review 200 orders before we signed off the model.  At the Geneva Show the car was partly tooled and partly hand built. We took 400-500 orders after that show alone.”

Working with Regional Suppliers

New Product Introductions over the past three years have led to increases of +30 in their workforce. With half their components sourced in the Midlands and with close collaborative working relationships having been developed with key suppliers.

Speaking to the Birmingham Post at the launch of the three-wheeler, Dr Viv Stephens, representing the Niche Vehicle Network said: “Uniquely, we organised a supplier event at Morgan, when the project was at its initial feasibility stage, attended by 26 specialist automotive companies from the West Midlands region, who convinced Morgan that they could add value to the processes of design, development and manufacturing.

“As a result, 12 of these companies have become partners or suppliers to the project, which will be a great benefit to the region in terms of jobs throughout the supply chain and also at Morgan.”

“Niche vehicle design and manufacturing are real strengths in the region and our focus is to promote collaborative working to produce competitive and innovative new products.”

Morgan acknowledged that the grant funding and support received had been vital in exploiting this opportunity, not just for Morgan but also for the specialist supply chain in the region.

Aeromax – Disruptive Design Case Study

In 2006 Morgan built a one off car for Prince Eric Sturdza, designed by Matthew Humphries, a Coventry University graduate working as part of an ongoing KTP between Morgan and Birmingham City University, funded by the TSB, and shown at Geneva the same year.  Following an enthusiastic reception and clear demand, Morgan built 100 cars which were all pre-sold.

In 2010 Morgan built their first bonded aluminium chassis based on the original commission for Prince Erik Sturdza.  From this the Aeromax Coupe was developed, based on the Aero Chassis.

“The Aeromax Coupe cost £2m in development, and was built on the existing Aeromax platform.”

“Having launched this new model the business sold 100 cars over 2 years generating £9m in revenues and £2m in profits representing a 24% Return on Investment.  It raised the profile of the company and made possible the next part of our planned product development.”

The Aeromax design was significant for Morgan in that it took the company’s design ethos and traditional retrospective design signature further into a contemporary space, enabling new customer and market share acquisition.

Morgan co-developed the engine with BMW.

The cars were still built using the coach building method.  Each car is built as a one-off with very little tooling.  Many of the exterior shapes are decided by the way the wood shapes itself.

There are one or two features of interest on the Aeromax car – it includes curved glass, super-formed panels, lift up windows.  It is a converted coupe along lines of Aston Martin or Bentley. It retains the features of a classic Morgan.

 

Morgan are now focussed on design work to freshen up this image. There are no side lights anymore and a Supersports model has been developed.  The car costs £90-120k to put it on road, so they are competing in a rarified market with the ‘lesser Aston Martins and Bentleys’.

R&D

To develop a new platform in automotive it takes between £50-100m investment for a new car.  ABS crash testing is very expensive.  Emissions testing on a rolling road has to be done in a laboratory. Sound testing, electro-magnetic compatibility– all require big money. We have never had that kind of money.  Well how have we done it?” asked Charles Morgan.”

We have pulled in lots of favours – the universities have helped us too. In the UK MIRA have looked very kindly on Morgan, Robert Bosch has helped with ABS testing, we have partnered with BMW and Ford on emissions, economy performance and software.”

“These collaborations helped us to get to where we are now – and we are one of only very few low volume cars that meet EU homologation standards,” adds Charles. In fact, Morgan, Westfield Sportscars and Caterham have all now received European Standards approval. However, each company has achieved this in isolation of the other at a cost of around £750k to each.

“Meeting these challenges has resulted in customers getting faster, safer, reliable, environmentally-friendly cars, without paying for it, because the price has stayed the same.

“There are two key things about R&D — almost anyone can make a prototype car.   Research is a relatively low expense,  a pea if you like, compared with development whose costs are a football in the early days.

“Morgan haven’t spent on advertising but spend between 8-10% of turnover on R&D.   However in my experience people tend to buy cars like ours because they have spoken with someone rather than because they have seen a TV advert,” says Charles Morgan.

Collaborations

The company has benefitted from six Knowledge Transfer Partnerships with UK universities supported by the UK Department of Business Innovation and Skills.

“Collaborations between universities and businesses are essential – what better way than through Knowledge Transfer Partnerships where businesses gain a graduate committed to developing a key project in your company and bringing with them the knowledge within their universities to drive growth and success more quickly. 

“Morgan developed the first AIV (aluminium intensive vehicle) and designed a chassis that meets world safety standards but is 20% lighter than comparable steel production monocoques.  We also pioneered the bodywork of super formed aluminium and Morgan were the first automotive manufacturer to assimilate this technology from the aircraft industry.

“We’ve had real experience of this at Morgan having been involved in 4 KTPs with Birmingham City University’s Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment, for over 10 years, resulting in new product design and the employment of a new Designer.

“All this product development needs to be harnessed into products that can actually sell, increasing turnover and profitability.

“For us at Morgan, as a productive business with a strong heritage, innovation and design remain integral to our brand. We were funded by the Technology Strategy Board to develop lightweight applications for the composite, magalloy, and we’ve also worked on developing a fuel cell electric car – quite an ambition for us as a small company in automotive terms.

Adhesive bonding has doubled the stiffness in the structural integrity of the chassis, with bonded bodywork coming to us from our Birmingham supplier, Radshape.

“Our new models, such as the Aeromax and three wheeler, have succeeded in combining good design with innovative manufacturing techniques. This includes super-forming aluminium, based on a technology transfer to produce ‘big curves’ working with Superform.”

Writing in the Birmingham Post 28th March 2011, Professor David Bailey outlined further details providing insights into Morgan’s close collaboration with Superform, Worcester, in producing high-strength aluminium alloys with the ability to create unique styling.

He quotes Simon Tarmey, MD , Superform, as saying, “Superform has been making complex body panels and parts for Morgan for many years, but recently, Superform and Morgan engineers and designers have… used sophisticated computer-aided tools to optimize part designs not only to achieve the beautiful, flowing shapes characteristic of Morgan cars, but also to maximize durability and weight savings that reduce vehicle weight and CO2 emissions.

The superformed parts used in the Morgan Aeromax and Supersports models save cost and improve overall quality and vehicle performance by being developed in one piece, greatly simplifying the final assembly process.

Over a 40 year period, Superform has developed its unique “superforming” technology, providing designers unprecedented freedom to create highly complex parts from sheet aluminium that it is not possible to produce through conventional stamping processes.

The term ‘superforming’ involves heating an aluminium sheet and then using air pressure to force it onto a surfaced tool to create a one-piece, three-dimensional shape. The process is ideal for creating intricate forms and for combining several parts into one.

Professor Bailey explained how, early in the ‘70s Tube Investments (TI Group), recognising the commercial opportunity, set up a new company, Superform Metals Limited, to manufacture components by ‘superplastic forming’. The company has since become part of the Luxfer Group.

Superform, still operating out of its Worcester base, is shipping superformed parts to other countries, including Germany, Italy and Australia, with exports forecast to be grow by over 40% by 2015. The superforming technology is especially popular in automotive, aerospace, rail, medical and architectural markets.

Both Morgan and Superform are passionate about preserving a pool of high-level skills here in the Midlands” Tarmey said “…so we’re really keen to continue training generations of engineers to help them achieve their potential, whilst securing an exciting manufacturing future in Worcester and surrounding areas.

Morgan Motor Company Marketing Director Mark Ledington said: “We are entering an incredibly exciting time for the two companies. Operating in such a specialist sector, staff development is one of our top priorities, and with growing demand for aluminium technology in the automotive sector, we’re keen to make a significant contribution to the region’s engineering skills base.”

Government Support for Manufacturing SMEs

Speaking to the The Birmingham Post, 24th June 2010, Charles Morgan said, “I am disappointed that small UK companies like ours have been ignored by politicians when it comes to funding. Smaller companies are often more innovative and quicker to bring new inventions to fruition, but have been passed over for support in favour of global manufacturers. Smaller companies are ideal platforms to bring in innovation without having to put such huge sums of money in.  My argument is not to overlook the smaller SME’s that have creative management – you get more bang for your buck and it is safer to try new ideas on a smaller scale. There are some incredible pockets of innovation in established family businesses and these are often overlooked by governments that are looking for ‘safer’ investment – or what government perceives to be safer, anyway.”

What’s next for Morgan

“We are looking to incorporate a degree of personalisation.  We want to bear in mind our customer. We know it takes some time to make our cars so it is much easier to produce a personalised car.  For Morgan we start to incorporate economies of scale at around 10 plus cars. 

“We are interested in accessing an Open Innovation model.  In terms of our processes we are very focussed on the West Midlands. We have a lot of experience of metals, seat manufacturers, things people can do on a chassis.

“As a company we are passionate about being fit for purpose rather than creating a mobile living room.  Recent targets have us focussing on incorporating lightweight materials and new approaches to seating.”

LIFECar 2

The LIFECar development, which has been put on hold,  involved creating a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle as a collaboration between Morgan and its partners at QinetiQ, Cranfield and Oxford Universities, BOC and OSCar Automotive in a project part-funded by the DTI (now BIS).  It was designed to run optimally at cruising speed, making it cheaper and lighter than a conventional fuel cell.  It was 45% efficient, compared to 30% efficiency for a traditional petrol engine, according to Car Magazine with the only emissions being water, heat and 22kW of electricity.

Power was being directed to four electric motors providing drive directly to the wheels with the motors capable of recapturing up to 50% of the energy, compared to a 10% recapture for current applications. The regenerative braking system provided stopping power equivalent to 0.7g with Charles Morgan claiming the car enjoyed a seamless switch at low speeds between the regenerative brakes and the conventional hydraulic brakes.

The Morgan LIFECar was promoted as being able to achieve 150mpg on a 250 mile range, reach 85mph, and sprinting to 62mph in under 7 seconds.

There were some changes to the original brief, making the car more practical, while retaining the revolutionary features that made LIFECar unique. The use of sustainable lightweight materials will ensure that not only is the vehicle fuel efficient with low carbon output, but that at the end of its very long life, it will be easily recyclable.

Morgan Lifecar 2

Morgan Lifecar 2

 This extreme hybrid with onboard power generation and electric motors at its corners is the result of radical design innovation referencing our core values and design DNA. It’s beautiful, combining our signature wood laminates and leather features and is performing really well in trials.

“We’ve been working on the LIFECar 2 concept for over a year and would hope to have it on the road in another two years.  Working with graduate researchers from Birmingham City University we’ve been developing the electric motors software and a generator for the new vehicle.   It’s a very focussed small team, but with access to a great deal of knowledge in the UK Universities,” concluded Charles Morgan.

 

Summary and Conclusions

Morgan remains the largest family-owned car maker in British hands, producing around 1000 cars in 2012 and 2013 as a low volume, specialist niche producer, combining craft and cutting edge technologies, with 70% of production exported, primarily to the EU, but with some growing interest from US and BRIC markets.

The company is very much aware of the legacy of its founder, Charles Morgan’s grandfather, HFS Morgan, actively promoting their heritage. Around 20k visitors come to the factory each year visiting their Motor Heritage Centre, as a chance to get closer to the Morgan story and their culture celebrating original cars created to be fast, fun to drive, lightweight, responsive.  Cartier, speaking about craft and the past said, ‘you can never reflect past, but you can always be inspired by it’. Charles Morgan has said, “All our cars are hand-made, hand-cut, hand assembled. It’s personal, considered.”

Morgan Cars have become design icons by delivering great driving experience, created and produced by a loyal workforce with many years experience and a genuine love of the brand, providing both a positive interaction with the environment with a genuine environmental agenda – ‘Lightweight, Balance, Minimalism.’ Customer personalisation is encouraged, with people choosing the car they want and watching them emerge during production. Vertical Integration is another key strength with the company identifying those core skills required at the factory and in-house.

Steps to recent business success have included — new car designs, starting to race and win again putting the brand back on the motor map, harnessing technology transfer – for example using superformed aluminium coming out of aero engineering eliminating the need for primer and reducing total car weight. producing smarter componentry – for example through a bonded aluminium chassis introduced in 2000 and their handmade focus, with hand cut and hand assembled cars providing a personalized approach.

Morgan has, over many years, taken the view that design really makes a difference to the ‘appeal’ of a product, with brand identity controlled by the quality of the product design and he way it is displayed and promoted.

Why is the 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO worth £20m?” asks Charles Morgan. “It’s got to do with people associating it with the romance and culture of this period, also symbolised by the E-Type Jag. These products have so much enduring appeal – beautiful and full of charm, character, sophistication and status.”

In recent years digital design technologies have had a big impact on the design process and the company has a well equipped digital design department leading to greater efficiencies in build times having seen production rise from 450 cars a year in the late 1990s to 1000 cars built in 2013. The design team use sketching combined with digital and CAD packages in modelling and Rapid Prototyping in casting concepts.

We produce the catalogue for new cars before we have done any tooling,” says Charles.  “We invest in ergonomics testing and go to a wind tunnel. Once we have sold the form we are able to go into detail on the componentry and fit out. Because of the complexity of the components we are unable to hand model these.”

The Morgan Three Wheeler was created as a retro-inspired niche product targeting the disruptive opportunity in gaps left in the market by super- priced performance sports cars. For about £30,000 people can access an exciting lightweight mode of transport, efficient and fun, inspired by the original Morgan three wheeler but incorporating modern technology and engineering.  During initial feasibility stage suppliers were invited to partner in contributing to the development.  12 local companies attending the event contributed to the project with grant funding having been received to support this approach.

The Aeromax,  a radically innovative design by Coventry University graduate, Matthew Humphries, working on a KTP collaboration between Morgan and Birmingham City University, led to the design of the Aeromax Coupe which was significant in taking company design ethos into a contemporary space enabling new customer and market share acquisition.  100 cars were build delivering 24% ROI and £2m in profits.

Collaboration with universities, MIRA, Robert Bosch on ABS testing and BMW and Ford with emissions, economy performance software have been vital to R&D. As a result the business is one of only very few low volume cars that meet EU homologation standards. Morgan haven’t spent on advertising but spend between 8-10% of turnover on R&D each year. “Morgan developed the first AIV (aluminium intensive vehicle) and designed a chassis that meets world safety standards but is 20% lighter than comparable steel production monocoques.  We also pioneered the bodywork of super formed aluminium and Morgan were the first automotive manufacturer to assimilate this technology from the aircraft industry,” said Charles Morgan.

We were funded by the Technology Strategy Board to develop lightweight applications for the composite, magalloy, and we’ve also worked on developing a fuel cell electric car, known as the LIFECar – quite an ambition for us as a small company in automotive terms.

Adhesive bonding has doubled the stiffness in the structural integrity of the chassis, with bonded bodywork coming to us from our Birmingham supplier, Radshape.  New models, such as the Aeromax and three wheeler, have succeeded in combining good design with innovative manufacturing techniques. This includes superforming aluminium, based on a technology transfer to produce ‘big curves’ working with Worcester based supplier, Superform.

Charles Morgan is disappointed that smaller businesses have been passed over by government which prefers to support larger businesses. “There are some incredible pockets of innovation in established family businesses and these are often overlooked by governments that are looking for ‘safer’ investment – or what government perceives to be safer, anyway,” he says.

Ongoing innovation is focussed around enhanced personalisation, lightweight materials, open innovation and new approaches to seating.

In September 2014 a new Morgan Special Projects team was announced, with a new Morgan SP1, a one-off commissioned vehicle for a private client, due to be launched at Salon Prive aimed at showcasing the craftsmanship within Morgan, according to a Morgan press release.

Inspired by the 2009 LifeCar concept vehicle, it has a next stage body design, incorporating a rigid steel chassis, a 3.7 litre Ford V6 engine, as used in the Morgan V6 Roadster and incorporating a new suspension setup, a bespoke Engine Management System and other features to enhance driving dynamics.

The wooden frame of the coach-built body is constructed using Ash Wood, combined with African Bubinga Red Hardwood, as the client choice. The aluminium body has been hand formed over a wooden ‘egg box’ construction, using an English wheel. To ensure structural and aerodynamic excellence, cutting-edge digital design and simulation tools were used to prove surface styling prior to lengthy fabrication.

The sculptural form of the SP1 has been highlighted using a striking multi-coat paint finish. Natural aniline leather is found at each point of contact and will wear and distress with use, maturing with each journey the client undertakes.

The component details include roof mounted toggle switches inspired by jet aircraft, flicked to ‘prepare for flight’ before a final toggle switch starts the engine.

The SP1 includes an infotainment system, driven through an iPad, installed in the fascia and secured by dual hand-stitched leather straps.  The SP1 celebrates the blend of craftsmanship and technology that is becoming one of the distinctive features of our niche production vehicles. The environmental aspirations of the LifeCAR no feature as the design priority. The focus here has been on traditional high performance features in a re-worked contemporary Morgan body design.