the curves, the smell, the looks. I'm in love with a car
The Morgan is a romantic of the road, as Anna Blundy found when she took one out for a drive and found admiration wherever she went
Sunday 01 October 1995
You lean lasciviously across a Morgan's curvaceous bonnet and drool into the hand-sewn interior vaguely asking any idiotic question that springs to mind in order to keep talking long enough to get a proper leer at it. When was it made? How big is the engine? How many of them are there in the world? Why can't I have one? Not that you care about any of the answers except the last one. You just want to drive it, if only for a minute. And, luckily, Wykehams hires them out.
For a flourish of your signature, a promise to be good and pounds 298 you can take a Morgan 4/4 away with you for three days and do what you like with it. The comparatively small (1.8 litre) engine means the insurance isn't too crippling, unlike, for example, the insurance for a Lamborghini Diablo which costs pounds 945 a day all inclusive from Farino in Essex, or a Ferrari 348 at pounds 499 a day from Modena, Birmingham.
But a Morgan is a world apart from all the flashier models of sports car in that it is quintessentially English. Since the first three-wheeler appeared in 1910, English sports cars have won at Le Mans and been the treasured possession of everyone from farmers to rock stars.
People with slicked-back hair, Gucci loafers and gold Rolex watches do not drive these cars - we are in Grace Kelly or Laurence Olivier territory. It is the kind of car to load up with a hamper and drive off to have a champagne picnic under a weeping willow tree with Sebastian Flyte. It helps to have a tweed suit, silk headscarf or cricket whites handy at all times when driving one.
The first thing you notice is that, apart from suddenly becoming a hundred times more attractive and important, people don't seem to hate you for driving a Morgan. If you drive any other kind of sports car, passers-by will sneer viciously at you, narrowing their eyes and getting their keys out ready to ruin the paintwork. As for your fellow drivers, they will go out of their way to stop you getting into a queue of traffic.
In a Morgan, however, everyone smiles at you. They are so taken aback by the old-fashioned shape and the understated English beauty of the thing itself that they forget to hate you for forking out more than pounds 20,000 and waiting from five to eight years to own one (there is a much fought over waiting- list). People ostentatiously hang back to let you in, offer to help you with the hood when it starts to rain and rush to tell you about their old grandpa so-and-so who used to drive Morgans back when cars were cars.
I leapt out to get some petrol (the doors are so tiny and the whole thing so near the ground that it is easier to leap in and out rather than clunk the door open from the inside) and a few people came over to stroke the chrome side-lights on top of the undulating wheel-guards as I was filling up. One of the admirers, a trucker with a skin-head haircut and tattoos, bumped into me while I was struggling with my crisps and biscuits and said: "Sorry, Miss."
I have never been so flattered, especially since I have noticed that builders have now stopped shouting "All right, love" and started yelling: "All right, mate" instead, in what I assume is an insulting attempt at being politically correct. He stood by to listen to the glorious roar of the engine starting and smiled longingly.
Every time I left it parked (a terrifying thing to do with a car which doesn't lock and is worth a year or two's salary), I would come back to find it surrounded by old people standing in silent contemplation of how we came from this to a Nissan Micra. The fact that a Morgan is so exclusive, entirely hand-made and yet has a powerful engine with the latest electronic fuel injection system makes driving one feel as though you are actually doing something - actively conveying yourself rather than being conveyed. You are startlingly near the road, conscious of every grain of gravel and with the wind in your hair you feel like part of the machinery, not just its operator.
Not only does it seem to make everyone who sees it smile, but it has to be the most romantic car in the world. If anyone refuses your advances after a drive in a Morgan, they aren't worth your while in the first place.
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