Tue, Mar 14, 2017 11:07 AM
If you regularly hit the roads around Middlewich and Northwich at peak commuting times, your journey could well have been cheered by the sight of a young man driving a tiny three-wheeled car.
That man is James Edwards, and he’s also on his way to work - except that James’s job means he spends a lot of his time tending to and tweaking cars which are more modern equivalents of the one he loves to drive. That’s because James is a technician with Northwich Morgan dealer Oakmere Motor Group. And he acquired his car, a rebuilt 1930 Morgan Family, purely by chance - as he explained.
“I got to know its previous owner through being a member of the Morgan Three Wheeler Club,” he said. “I met him at a club AGM, and found out he was looking for someone to sell it to - but he wanted it to be a young person with the enthusiasm and passion to make good use of it.”
James - who fitted the bill, as he’s 22 years old, and had wanted to own a Morgan ever since he started working at Oakmere Motor Group, added: “I couldn't believe my luck when this car was offered to me.
“I had thought a V-twin engined model was far out of my reach. This desirable two-speeder seemed too good to be true! I knew I’d be very lucky to find another one like it, because when they’re sold they are rarely advertised, and are usually sold by word-of-mouth.”
James paid what he described as “an affordable sum” for the privilege of owning this increasingly rare piece of British motoring history; it’s a descendant of the first two-seater Morgan, which was originally launched in 1911, and from a generation of cars which enjoyed plenty of success on the track and in hill trials.
James bought the car in October 2016, and travelled down to Goodwood in West Sussex to collect it - and he quickly got an idea of the level of interest the car attracts whenever it’s out and about. “There were five or six other Morgans at that event - but mine was the one which was attracting all the attention,” he said.
That’s something James has had to get used to, as, far from keeping the car under wraps during the winter, he’s been taking every chance to enjoy it.
“I’ve clocked up about 650 miles so far,” he said when we spoke in early February. That has included one particularly memorable trip to and around the back roads of the Midlands for the Vintage Sports Car Club’s Measham rally.
“It was a partly navigational event, and it all went swimmingly,” James said. “I covered 340 miles or so, which involved driving for about 16 hours, including overnight.”
But it was all worth it: “The car won its class - so I was extremely pleased, especially as part of the drive was in temperatures of minus 6 centigrade, and I had to keep stopping to top up the radiator, which consumed about 10 litres of water in all!,” James said.
And given that the car has a minuscule fuel tank which holds just two gallons (less than 10 litres) - meaning James can cover just 60 miles on a single tank - he also always has to carry about the same amount spare in a separate container. To put that into perspective, the three-wheeler which Morgan still produces today has a 42-litre tank - not much smaller than you’d find in many family cars.
The car is powered by a side-valve 980cc JAP engine (named after the company’s founder, John Alfred Prestwich), which was built at the company’s factory in north London. This firm was contracted to make engines for Morgan, as well as several other makers of small cars, which benefited from the units’ small size but high power. The 20bhp James’ engine can produce sounds measly by modern standards, but it gives the Morgan Family a pretty respectable power-to-weight ratio which means it can easily keep up with modern urban traffic.
It was originally built as a two-seater Aero model, but was rebodied in the 1960s to the Family spec, and subjected to a thorough restoration.
Since taking ownership of the car, James has got used to travelling at a more leisurely pace: “It trundles along nicely at about 40, and I’ve had 55 to 60 out of it downhill - but with only two gears, and no reverse, it’s a very different style of driving from what I’ve been used to!”
Although he’s getting plenty of enjoyment from his current Morgan, James has, like many other enthusiasts, been truly bitten by the bug - and is already nursing dreams of one day extending his collection by tracking down a Super Aero. A faster, more powerful take on the company’s classic three-wheeler formula, this had a lowered, more streamlined body, and quickly became a success on the racetracks and trials hills alike.
He says he has been lucky to have been mentored by another Three-Wheeler Club member, Iain Stewart of Whitchurch, Shropshire, who has an engineering background and has put his expertise at James’ disposal. “He competes with his Super Aero extensively at circuits and hill climbs across the country but still manages to find time to answer technical questions I’ve had about my car!” James said.
Meanwhile, James is more than happy to take his work home with him - even if it means trips to the petrol station often turn into a major event. “I’ve found I need to allow quite a bit of extra time to go and fill the car up, because people are always stopping me to admire the car and ask questions about it,” he said.
“That said, I really enjoy all the time I spend with it. I definitely intend holding onto it for as long as I can - even if it means, because of the car’s basic nature, every trip has to be pretty carefully planned!”
But James has also got his eye out for a trailer on which he can carry the car, making some of the longer journeys he has in mind for the little Family far more civilised.
That might deprive motorists around mid and West Cheshire of the sight of him negotiating the traffic in this unique little runabout - but it means he’ll hopefully be a familiar sight at enthusiasts’ events over a wide area, where he’ll be a fantastic advertisement for the products of Morgan, and the work done in his day job, along with his colleagues, in keeping this most British of car-makers firmly on the map.
Oakmere Motor Company is the official supplier and repairer of Morgan, Caterham and TVR cars for a wide area of north-west England. A wide selection of new and carefully-picked used models is always available, selected from right across the region, with the assurance of top-quality service and support from the official UK Morgan Dealer of the Year 2016. Call Oakmere first if you’re aspiring to own one of these classic British sports cars.