Defunct marques are never gone forever as they always seem to be resurrected by the burgeoning Chinese car market.
While today’s MGs look little like the MG roadsters of yore, the Morris JE dusts off another illustrious British nameplate for a slavishly faithful recreation of an old design.
There is, however, a modern twist – it’s an electric vehicle.
The JE is the first product from the resurrected Morris Commercial brand. It’s a dead-ringer for the old Morris J-Type, a forward-control van produced between 1949 and 1961. This isn't, however, a replica like an Aston Martin Continuation car.
Much as the Volkswagen Type 2 (Kombi) and Citroen H Van eventually became fashionable, the Morris J-Type came to enjoy a loyal following. The JE, therefore, employs utterly delightful retro sheetmetal that goes beyond mere homage and into quasi-replica territory. You'll see some obvious differences, however, like modern front bumpers and a charging port located behind the classic pear-shaped grille.
Morris Commercial fully recognises the JE’s talents as a mobile billboard, saying its distinctive looks “provide eye-catching mobile marketing solutions”. In addition to the van, there are pickup and minibus versions forthcoming and Morris also promises autonomous driving technology down the line.
Underneath the lightweight, carbon-fibre composite body is a bespoke chassis with a lithium-ion battery powertrain. Morris expects an electric range of 321km from the 60kWh battery and the JE can be charged to 80 percent in just 30 minutes with a rapid charger. Morris hasn’t released any other specifications.
Another huge point of differentiation from the old J-Type is the price. Where the J-Type was a workaday van, the JE is more upscale boutique than fish delivery. Prices are expected to start at £60,000 (A$114,206). Blimey, that’s a bit of dosh, innit?
Of course, for that price the JE isn’t going to have a low-rent delivery van interior. The seats and steering wheel are trimmed in leather with contrast stitching and there’s a modern infotainment system.
Morris Commercial promises high-quality materials – even in the cargo bay – and an ‘exquisite level of detail’ with ‘luxury materials and quality British craftsmanship’.
That cargo bay has 5.5 cubic metres of load space and can accommodate items up to 2.4 metres in length, while the van has a total payload of up to 1000kg.
The reborn Morris Commercial brand was founded by Dr. Qu Li, a Chinese businesswoman formerly affiliated with the defunct MG Rover and who was responsible for scooping up LDV’s assets a decade ago and selling them to SAIC Motor.
She headquartered the company in Worcestershire but, while the JE was designed and engineered there, it’s not yet known where it’ll be built.
The Morris nameplate last appeared on a van version of the Austin Metro hatchback in 1985 before that car was rebranded the Austin Metrovan.
Production of the JE is set to start in 2021 though the Morris JE is unlikely to come here. A word of advice to Morris Commercial: send this to Japan. The land of Mitsuokas and the Nissan Figaro and S-Cargo would lap this up.