The Beachcomber

Morgan 3 Wheeler Offers Big Thrill in Small Package

By VICTORIA FORD | Jul 14, 2017
Photo by: Chris Seiz
Morgan POV
(Video by: Chris Seiz)
Morgan test ride
(Video by: Chris Seiz)

The first time Andre Moutenot got behind the wheel of a Morgan, he was smitten. The year was 1968. He was 17 years old. Nearly 20 years later, he bought his first one.

Since then, the Cranbury/High Bar Harbor resident has had multiple Morgans, as well as other exotic sports cars, namely Porsche’s 356, 911 and now the new Boxster.

“I just like something that has character,” Moutenot said of his taste in automobiles. The Morgan, with its Old World styling and contemporary values (small-batch, handcrafted) is a head turner, a crowd pleaser, generating smiles, waves and thumbs-ups everywhere it goes – a true joyride.

Indeed, when spotted on the road in Ship Bottom a few weeks ago, the Morgan 3 Wheeler was impossible to ignore: low to the ground, hotrod-like with its engine exposed, the sleek body shaped like a bullet or maybe an aircraft, the driver’s helmeted head above the cockpit, behind a tiny windshield. Catching up with him at a red light, quick introductions were made and a business card was passed before the signal turned green. He was headed off-Island to meet up with his British car club friends for a jaunt through the Pines.

The opportunity to go for a ride in it would come several days later. And when it did, the appeal spoke for itself, in a tempered purr, accentuated by elegant handling and superior craftsmanship inside and out.

Last year, Moutenot took his Morgan Plus 8 on a seven-week-long cross-country trip, covering 10,000 miles of back roads, to raise money and awareness for the Susan G. Komen Foundation in memory of his wife, Karen, who passed away in February 2016. The August-to-October trip was his catharsis, a way to work through his grief. Karen had been his partner on the road of life both figuratively and literally.

“She was an Iowa farm girl,” he said. “She could drive better than I could.” The couple married in 1970 and bought their first LBI home in Barnegat Light in the early ’90s.

He blogged about the adventure, titled “My Morgan and Me,” including the time he drove through a Kansas rainstorm and ended up with 4 inches of rain inside the roofless car; his posts drew commentary and enthusiasm from all over. And in real life, at every coffee shop or deli, the car attracted attention “like a puppy at a park,” he said.

Both the Komen organization and Morgan Motor Co. are lucky to have a knowledgeable and articulate ambassador in Moutenot.

His M3W has the S&S, 1800-cc V-twin, produces 83 horsepower, belt drive, a Miata five-speed transmission. Interestingly, according to Moutenot, the company has never made an engine or a drivetrain, instead borrowing other makers’ parts, e.g. S&S, Buick’s Rover, Triumph. The vehicle weighs just over 1,000 pounds. Price, depending on age and condition, ranges from the low- to mid-30s to upward of $100,000.

“The prototype was constructed in 1909 and was a simple three-wheeler with a tubular steel chassis fitted with a 7 h.p. Peugeot V-twin engine,” according to the company’s written history. “A four-wheeled model began production in 1936, and Morgan cars have long become famous the world over for their unique blend of charisma, quality materials, craftsmanship and performance.

“In 2011 we relaunched the Morgan 3 Wheeler, a modern interpretation of H.F.S. Morgan’s classic design. Our ‘Classic’ range continues to be our flagship vehicle – with models including the 4/4, the world’s longest-running production vehicle, and engine sizes ranging from 1600cc to 4800cc, these famous icons are the models perhaps most associated with Morgan.”

Moutenot got his M3W at a dealership in Georgia and registered it in New Jersey as a motorcycle (even though it doesn’t quite meet the state’s criteria for a motorcycle or a car). He also owns a 1953 Plus 4, which is more a sedan or touring car, with a back seat. He loves how all the Morgan models, even those separated by four decades, preserve the look and feel of the original design.

In the company’s own words, “The ethos at Morgan remains unchanged: all our cars are coach-built and subjected to continual development in order to meet current standards of safety and to offer the responsive thoroughbred performance with which our name is associated. The development of our model range has taken the marque into the 21st Century, and today Morgan builds in excess of 1,300 cars per year.”

If the stars align, Moutenot said, he would like to plan a road trip to New Orleans in the fall.

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