May 25 I can’t tell you the Morgan Plus 8 is value for money, or the fastest two-seater on the road for circa £90,000. It’s also ridiculously noisy at motorways speeds, leaks worse than the Labour Party and is a bugger to access, even with the roof down.
And yet after almost 1,000 miles of driving around Ireland, I can’t honestly think of a car that has given me so much pleasure, including any Porsche 911, Ferrari, Lambo or Aston.
If this sounds like a rather rash statement, you might want to consider what you want from a sports car. Is it a machine that cossets you in driver aids and help you clock 60mph in 0.1 of a second faster than the bloke’s car parked next to you?
Or would you like a machine that truly tests your driving skills, demands respect but will reward driver input by the bucketload?
All I can tell you after testing cars for 30 years is that the Plus 8 is, without doubt, one of the best cars I have ever driven…
‘It’s a kit car, right?’ Don’t you just love Americans… They assume because something is old and interesting, it can’t possibly be manufactured in a conventional way with spanners, tools and scuffed knuckles.
I’m in the car park at Ashford Castle, Cong. Ireland’s top country hotel was the location for the 1952 movie The Quiet Man. John Wayne’s bedroom was just down the hall from mine, and Ted Kennedy below.
So once I’ve informed the ‘noisy’ man that it isn’t a kit car and was actually hand-built by men in England, he’s even more impressed. I should forgive him because right now, Morgans aren’t sold in the US. It’s all to do with health and safety and will, hopefully, be resolved later this year after a change in federal law.
But the Yank likes the car, even though he’s convinced the roar from those four tailpipes comes from a V12. He especially likes the leather interior which, in truth, squeaks and rattles like hell on the road.
And the roads here are some of the best in the world for squeaky driving. The route from Westport to Cong is, well, ‘awesome’. Drive it now in a Morgan, before cars start thinking entirely for themselves…
May 22 There are cars that rub people up the wrong way. Count in that pack every BMW X5 ever built, the vehicle with a pointless personalised number plate, and any car with a Porsche badge. I guarantee it – nobody will let you out at a junction.
Morgan isn’t included. Everybody loves the little two seater – perhaps because it looks as if it comes from the pages of Wind In The Willows. Yes, I’ve become Mr Toad in tweed and goggles, parp-parp.
Well, no goggles actually but they would be useful. And the great thing about the Plus 8 is that nobody seems to realise it has a 4.8-litre monster under the bonnet. Let alone one built by BMW.
So my tour of Ireland has got off to a sound start. My lower back is suffering from the hard seats, my sat-nav has packed up (possibly the vibrations through the windscreen!) and it’s pointless turning on the Alpine stereo.
The only thing to do is drop the hood, don a silly hat and drive like Mr Toad…
May 20 There is a moment, after the initial rush of blood to the head, when you have to start living with a new vehicle. Motoring writers tend to ‘own’ test cars for a week – which means we rarely reach what in marital terms is called ‘post honeymoon’.
As much as I love the Plus 8, the Morgan and I would have been divorced within hours of our first encounter, if I had been looking for a long-term commitment, that is. Fortunately, I had no such intention when I made the booking months ago.
The Plus 8 is all about a weekend fling. Pulling on an inappropriate leather jacket, pretending it’s always sunny and using that 390bhp BMW lump to overtake anything and everything that gets in the way.
Like a pre-millennium Alfa Romeo, a modern-day Aston Martin and every Maserati ever built, the Morgan is beautifully flawed and often infuriating.
Yet if you seek the holy grail of passion and soul in a car, well, there aren’t many cars left like this stirring Plus 8 these days…
May 19 One of the men at the Morgan factory in Malvern, Worcestershire, has been making cars for 50 years. Every Morgan is hand-built and looks like it could have been driven off a Jeeves & Wooster film set.
All except this one – the mad, bad and rather pricey Plus 8.
Morgan has retained the retro look for the 8 but given it a modern twist, just like the Aero 8, which will also be re-launched in the coming few months.
We drove the Plus 8 last year and were blown away by a heady package of performance, fun and thrills that far outweighed the car’s shortcomings.
Today we have the 2016 model, with revised chassis and suspension, it’s really just an excuse to get our fix of Plus 8 while the sun shines. Or rather doesn’t , as it’s England in May.
That’s why Car Couture is off to Ireland this weekend where rain is virtually guaranteed. Will the Morgan’s rough edges and even harder ride drive me to drink – or will the thrill of the open road prove more intoxicating?
Join us for a long weekend on the Emerald Isle to find out….
My Christmas nightmare? Shopping in the sales. Not entirely sure what drives people to leave the warmth of their family home in the festive season to battle it out for £10 off a toaster but Britain’s favourite pastime these days involves a credit card and jingle music on a loop.
Which led me to consider which cars we’ve driven at Car Couture in 2015 that I might, just might, consider to queue for if there was a bargain to be had. Surprisingly, the XC70 is one of them – ahead of the all conquering XC90. Just because it’s not a statement car and has a classless quality.
Here are the others you can read about elsewhere on this site…
Morgan Plus 8 – the rawest, craziest sports car built by Roberts, not robots. The fuel gauge flicks around like a mad thing, the noise is deafening, the fun is unbeatable.
Aston Martin Vantage V12 – brutally effective machine that looks sensational and performs accordingly. Showing its age not but still an absolutely cracking convertible.
McLaren 570S – The surprise supercar of 2015. The slowest and cheapest machine in the McLaren stable is the ultimate street racer. Full stop.
Maserati GranTurismo MC Stradale – We can’t wait for the Alfieri coupe in 2017 but until then, this wonderful, roaring 2+2 is cooler than any Mercedes.
Porsche 911 S Cabriolet – It is the benchmark convertible for all others to follow. Appeals more to the dead than the heart but still a sports car for all seasons.
Black Tuesday – they’re coming shortly to take the Plus 8 away. Hmm not sure I’m going to be in – not even the prospect of an Audi R8 landing tomorrow is raising my spirits.
See the Plus 8 is a one of a kind. You can go faster in a Golf R, have more comfort in a Mercedes SL and stay dry in a Porsche, even when it’s raining. But the Morgan? Well, it’s kind of unique in the car market right now.
Caterham and Ariel make equally bonkers cars but the Plus 8 could, feasibly, be used all year round. Okay, so the windscreen is an extra but let’s not split hairs here.
I’m truly, truly going to miss this wonderful like motor car. If you have a heart and can be slightly irrational sometimes, nothing comes close…
Whether or not you ‘get’ the Plus 8 may well depend on whether you are a heart or head person.
The Morgan has a fuel gauge that flicks between 3/4 full and empty at will; the heater throws out waves of warm air whenever it feels like it; the suspension is rock hard, while noise from those quad exhaust pipes is so loud that the music system is pointless.
Despite these facts, ‘heart’ people will swoon over the pure driving experience. It brings out the lunatic in you for a while – then you just settle down to enjoy the rumble of the V8, the majestic overtaking power and, of course, peering down that long, low bonnet.
Not everybody likes the Morgan. It’s too retro, too old-fashioned for some. But there’s something about this car that gets under your skin. You won’t find it in a tick box review in a motoring magazine test but believe me, the experience is overwhelming…
They say never meet your heroes – so what was I doing testing the Porsche 911 Targa then? The car I’ve lusted after since the 993 was presented to us journalists in Austria 20 years ago hasn’t quite lived up to expectation.
The folding hard top, silver hoop bar and chunky rear end really look the business. However, the Targa’s clinical driving experience has left me unmoved. I want more excitement for £90k.
911 Targa’s have niche appeal, slotting into the range between the coupe and cabriolet. I love the styling, the whole concept but why wasn’t I looking back longingly when I handed over the keys in Malvern today?
In contrast, I drove a Morgan Plus 8 test back to the Cotswolds afterwards. It’s raw, outrageously loud, a bit sweaty – and bloody amazing! I relished every second of that winding A road.
I’m at an age when comfort, economy and heated seats should be my priority. Maybe I’m a bit weird but I know which of these two open top cars I would like to own the most….