Most three-wheeled cars have been far from bastions of beauty or design in the automotive arena. The goofy Reliant Robin, for example, was a British market three-wheeler made of fiberglass. Its single wheel sat in the front, which made turning at speed riskier than swimming alone off the Australian coasts while wearing Lady Gaga’s meat frock. Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson hilariously, er, reviewed the Robin once. Put that milk down before clicking the link, as it will exit your nose otherwise.
But not every three-wheeled vehicle is doomed to be deadly and dorky, because now, Morgan, another British firm, has a new one.
Geneva’s annual Auto Show is the Stanly Cup Finals of the motoring world. Where New York and Shanghai tend to be stuffy and practical under their Windsor knots, pulling sheets off mostly beigemobiles and econoboxes, anything goes at Geneva. You’ll see the wildest, most outlandish designs at the Swiss convention, like a $2 million hypercar with a matching ski box or a modern homage to the VW minibus.
This made it the perfect venue for Morgan’s new offering, the simply-named 3 Wheeler. The tiny, roofless two-seater appeared as a drop of solid awesome on the platform, sporting a retro theme and a WWII fighter plane livery. Between the front wheels, unabashed and in the open air, sat a 2 liter Harley Davidson V-Twin, between the seats sat a beautifully simple Mazda five-speed, and out back sat a single wheel.
That wheel gets all the power, as in a motorcycle, and with its rear positioning, as opposed to the Robin’s reversed stance, it’s perfectly stable. The big Harley mill cranks out 100 horsepower, which jumps from seeming “respectable” to “downright disrespectful” when you learn that the whole car only weighs 1,100 pounds. That makes a 0-60 time of 4.5 seconds, and a top speed of 115. And frankly, you might not want to be going much faster than that on just three wheels.
But the 3 Wheeler isn’t a death trap, either. It has a racecar-like tube frame construction, disc brakes all around, and a pair of roll bars, should a monkey leap from nowhere into your passenger’s seat and yank the hand brake. We, however, still recommend a helmet, and your local authorities may recommend it more strongly, because the 3 Wheeler is homologated in the US as a motorcycle.
Though no official numbers have yet been released in the area, the bantam-weight specs mean great gas mileage. A 2011 Honda Civic, for example, manages 36 mpg and has a curb weight of 2,600 pounds, but has the same size 1.8 liter engine the production 3 Wheeler will have.
But isn’t this all a bit practical? Why all this Motor Trend talk about safety and gas-mileage for a bonkers roadster that seems to be missing a wheel? Because it should only cost about 50 grand by the time it gets to America.
The new Morgan 3 Wheeler makes its performance debut–check your watches-this very weekend at the 2011 Goodwood Festival of Speed in England.
None of the numbers are final yet, but Philip Houha of Colorado Morgan and Sports Cars, LLC (one of the 10 licensed dealers in America) estimates that the basic Sport model will run about $45,000, while the customized and beautiful Bespoke model will set you back about $52,000. And really, that isn’t much to ask for a hand-built British luxury car, especially when you compare it to Morgan’s other models. Their polarizing (but breathtaking) Aeromax has a sticker of at least three times that. The 3 Wheeler may be available in America as early as next year.
As for the strange retro-styling, it’s a throwback, and Morgan can claim it with legitimacy. They built their first three-wheeled car in 1909, and continued production until 1952. British racing legend Sterling Moss owned one, and he called it “a great babe magnet.” Certainly an advantage over the Reliant Robin.
If Morgan’s future is in their past, it’s a promising one.
Image courtesy of www.morgan3wheeler.co.uk.