A fusion of swoopy, timeless curves and hunkered down, muscle-bound demeanour, Morgan’s Aero SuperSports sure makes a statement.
And now I’m just about to add a big, bold exclamation mark with a prod of my right foot on the throttle, the resultant basso boom from the thick, twin pipes exiting under each of the doors ensuring every head within vicinity is unwaveringly focused on this instant classic as we idle up to the single petrol bowser that serves the Morgan works in rural Malvern Link, Worcestershire.
A tour group, one of several each day that goes through this historic UK facility to see, first-hand, dreams being shaped and sculpted into timber and metal reality, literally stops in its tracks to watch, slack-jawed, the flagship of Morgan’s current fleet rumble by. Aroompa, aroompa, aroompa …
Here, there are no hectares and hectares of under-roof, mass production vehicle plant, instead a cluster of modest red-brick buildings of substantial vintage and an entry noticeably devoid of boom gate and officious security. This is a very special place where workers in simple overalls go about their business with a sense of purpose and spring to their step; drill, torque wrench or wood planer in hand.
As each car becomes a ‘roller’, it’s pushed by hand to the next stage of production. Assembly starts in the chassis shop, and then it’s off to the sheet metal shop, body shop, wing department, wiring and trim shop, finishing off and testing.
Every buyer is issued a vehicle build number and is welcome (make that encouraged) to come in and see their pride and joy literally take shape. Imagine that happening in Japan, the US or Europe?! Or at Altona, Campbellfield or Elizabeth?
If you don’t like being noticed, then don’t drive a Morgan. This I already know, from my time behind the wheel of the SuperSports’ predecessor, Aero 8, on some superb driving roads through the Welsh Black Mountains five years ago. On that perfect day, the Aero 8 made friends wherever it went, eliciting approving beeps from passing trucks and cars, waves from school kids and thumbs up from those savvy enough to know what it was.
Penned by a young Matt Humphries, the Targa-top SuperSports takes its style from the fabulous Aeromax coupe; the two sharing the same bonded aluminium chassis and lower bodywork. Incredibly, Humphries designed the Aeromax while he was still a design student. He’s since been installed as Morgan’s head of design and the SuperSports is his first major project for Morgan.
It’s an exclusive beast. Originally Morgan planned for a run of 200, but now that looks being more like just 120 or 130 examples (our drive car is about #100). Compare that with other rarities such as the Alfa Romeo 8C Coupe and Corvette ZR1 with 500 and 1800 respectively.
As well as the afore-mentioned bonded aluminium chassis – developed largely through Morgan’s GT racing – the SuperSports boasts ‘superformed’ alloy body panels (a process that employs high air pressures to form heated aluminium into shape). Little wonder, then, it gains a Jenny Craig tick of approval at just 1185 kg.
Under the long, rakish bonnet is BMW’s well-credentialed 4.8-litre V8, good for some 270 kW and 490 Nm. While not huge numbers in the overall scheme of things, this endows the SuperSports with ultra impressive power and torque-to-weight ratios.
Access and egress to the SuperSport’s snug but comfortable, two-seat cockpit calls for squeezing through a short door aperture, but once inside you’re rewarded with a welcoming aroma of quality leather trim and aura of largely bespoke switchgear.
Removing the Targa roof panels and packing them into supplied protective bags can take up to 10 minutes, and eats up most of the otherwise generous boot space, so we resist the temptation to go part topless. Time, after all, is of the essence as we need to return the car before the factory closes for the weekend, so, juiced up, we head for the hills (Malvern Hills that is).
At around-town speeds, the steering feels heavy, the brakes a little wooden and clutch travel a tad long. Still, at this speed, the sound of Lucifer’s Hammer beating off the stone facades and glimpse of the Lunar Grey Morgan reflected in shopfront windows is more than compensation.
Then, with a ‘Welcome to Malvern Link’ sign distant in the rear vision mirror and the road climbing and contorting, it’s time to conduct a thorough interrogation.
With 4500 rpm spooled up and second gear selected in its six-speed Getrag box, the SuperSports fairly launches towards a series of enticing esses. There’s no electronic stability control to mask any potential handling discrepancies or spoil our fun. The trade off is, that with no such safety net, I’d better be on my game – just the way it should be.
A dab of the awkwardly placed middle pedal settles the car and arrests some of the speed and with the tiniest of steering increments dialled in, the Morgan surges through a succession of left/right/left/right bends with a hard-edged barrage and no hint of body roll.
Huge mechanical grip notwithstanding, that’s all it takes for the SuperSports to declare itself emphatically as a car that just loves to be steered on the throttle.
Morgan claims a 0-100 km/h time of 4.5 seconds for the (optional) manual SuperSports (0.3 sec adrift of the standard six-speed ZF auto), a figure which feels conservative behind the wheel.
But you don’t need to max this car out in a straight line to imbibe from its deep well of accomplishment. So ably is the fat spread of torque matched to the gear ratios that sixth, even fifth, seems surplus to requirements, at least on a serpentine back road like this.
The brakes (six-pot AP screamers at the front, four-pot rear), which had seemed a tad firm and lifeless at slow speeds, develop a tireless bite at speed. Ditto the steering – the quicker and harder you go, the better calibrated its weighting and ability to speak your language. Ride quality is firm, but not disagreeably so. That’s fine by me. This is a high-performance sports car, not a saloon, after all, and one of the very, very best at that.
All too soon, our leave pass runs out and it’s time to head back into Malvern Link and return the car and keys to Morgan’s amiable and accommodating contact Mark Ledington, who came in on a day off to look after us.
We had to fight an avalanche of temptation not to, of course. Trouble is, you can run, but you can’t hide in a Morgan Aero SuperSports.
Choice of: leather trim from Muirhead of Yarwood, four wood trim alternatives, Glasurit automotive paint colour and silver or black roof panels, targa bar and wheels. Optional choice of matching or contrast piping and stitching. www.morgancars.com.au