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Three wheels on my wagon

2012-02-20 07:12

UGLY, BUT FAST: A close-up of the Matchless V-twin that propels the 80-year-old Morgan Super Sports.


Morgan has made all sorts of vehicles over many decades but it's still its three-wheelers that get all the attention at car/bike shows - well, they are a bit of both...

"How can this funny-looking car possibly balance on three wheels," asked the inquiring teenager who stood alongside me staring at a rather strange contraption at a recent Old Car Show in George in the Western Cape. I said his logic was sound but the strange-looking vehicle he was pointing at was extremely rare and probably one of only five remaining on the African continent – a genuine Morgan Three-Wheeler.

"So let’s show it a little respect because it’s almost an octogenarian," I added.

This particular Morgan Trike is owned by Geoff Sturges, a Cape Town enthusiast who has owned the 1933 Super Sports from the mid 1960's– surely some sort of record for old vehicle ownership in itself.


He migrated to South Africa in the late 1960's from the UK and it made sense to ship the Moggie with the rest of his household effects due to his love of all things mechanical – and Morgan ownership of any kind is certainly that!

Classed as a ‘Cyclecar’ in those halcyon days, trikes and light cars with engines not much bigger than those fitted to motorcycles were especially popular in the UK between the World wars. Significantly lower annual road tax was another good reason for ownership – but yo hoped never to have to reverse anywhere because no provision in the gearbox was made for such luxuries - you had to lift the back wheel off the ground (wheelbarrow style) to change your direction of travel!

TRICYCLE, BICYCLE AND THEN SOME: This Matchless-powered Morgan Super Sports belongs to Geoff Sturges who has owned it for more than half a century!

The Morgan Motor Company is still very much in existence and has been building "funny-looking" cars for more than 100 years. Three-wheelers were undoubtedly Morgan’s bread-and-butter business from 1910-53, culminating in a closed and rather civilized version that had a Ford 6kW engine. If you wanted to buy a new one back then you needed to look no further than Harrods of London - the superstore was once an agent for the brand.

What makes the Sturges trike all the more interesting is the fact that it is Matchless powered - very few were because JAP was by far the more popular choice of engine. The Matchless engines is capable of 31kW so you might be surprised to know that CA 176 514 can shift along at well past the national speed limit - but who treats an old lady to that kind of abuse!

Transmission (by chain) is two-speed - fast and very fast, I’m told.


Morgan was never big enough to assemble its own engines so bought them in from other companies and in the case of trikes used JAP (no, not from Japan, but London), MAG, Blumfield, Green Precision, Blackburne, Anzani and Matchless.

The one distinct advantage of this kind of philosophy was that they could cherry-pick (even to this day, albeit in small numbers) exactly what their customers demand: Coventry Climax, Standard Special, Vanguard, Fiat, Rover or the very latest, rapid, BMW M5 engines to power up the very latest 2012 Aero Morgan four-wheeler.

• If you’ve got R350 000 lying around you really can still buy a new Morgan Trike from the factory in Malvern, England. The classic looks are still to be found but the mechanical underpinnings are slap up to date. How does a “Screaming Eagle” 1800cc Harley-Davidson engine sound to you? Or the Mazda five-speed gearbox - yes, the modern ones can go backwards.

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