They said don't go to the front door, don't ask for a tour, just walk on in. So, in the bright fine summer of 1988 we did just that. Morgans were always out there, but not being an MG, Triumph or Healey, I didn't really have a sense of the car. With the sudden appearance of the 4/4, it was time to get into the life.

Located in the sleepy midlands town of Malvern, the Morgan family has gone about building cars in much the same fashion for over 100 years. It could be argued the designs and their underlying engineering have changed little as well. The factory, built on the side of a hill, and consisting of several sheds, is a portal into the twilight zone.

While one might think it makes sense to build the cars in a down-the-hill-fashion, meaning each chassis is rolled down the hill from bay to bay until a completed machine drives back up, nothing could be further from the truth. Although the chassis are assembled in the second bay (the first one is the delivery bay), from here on out its like a yo-yo. To move from one manufacturing stage to the next, the cars are rolled down hill, dragged back up, then rolled down again.

I understand things have changed since my visit, but it wasn't that long ago, however, that this photo tour could be considered current and up to date.

Throw some coal on the fire and lets start wrenching. You will come to notice a dearth of power tools in the Morgan factory. While we were here, a guy came by with a little hand operated pump on wheels and started filling diffs. May I also draw your attention to the fact Morgan frames are not now, nor were they ever made of wood.

Look, modern machine equipment. Well, at least not ancient. However, before we go off thinking the machine shop is a thoroughly modern operation, check the next photo.
Why yes, this is an honest to god nineteenth century fly press! The center shaft has a big giant thread. When the flywheel is spun, the momentum of the flywheel imparts a slow stamping motion to the tool. In this case they're punching front suspension bits from a roll of mild steel. We have one of these in California. We use it with number and letter dies to make old style English license plates as a "period" accessory. Morgan uses it to make your new car.

Colin here (I made up the name) has been cutting out door frame timbers for nigh on 35 years. While its possible to make excellent high quality and consistent wood pieces on CNC equipment, you won't find any of that here. Instead, we have good ole traditional wood working equipment, and good ole traditional wood workers. Interestingly, the oldest group of workers we saw were the wood shop boys.

You've heard the expression "file to fit." Well, as soon as we're done modifying this stuff it'll be ready to make into car bodies.
Once the bodies are assembled, each one is fitted to a frame which was assembled up top 'o the hill. If there is a logical origin to the wood frame myth, it probably comes from the coach built bodies. The technique was pretty much standard until WWII, but mostly gone after the war. Although in fairness it must be said, MG used coach building into the middle '50s.
Morgans truly are made by hand. Metalwork has to be built a little oversize and massaged to fit. We watched a veteran wing fitter working with his apprentice. They had a strip of metal, a sight gauge, with marks for the length of the various model's front fenders. The old timer looked down vertically over the gauge and had his apprentice progressively cut metal from the back of the wing, until it fit for length. As long as you look at the gauge from the exact same angle every time, the result will be consistent-ish. This is where experience comes into play. I'll bet all those wings are fitted within a half an inch or so. Who knows, a new pair of shoes could throw the whole affair out of kilter.

The communal cigarette lighter? No, the g as flame is for soldering grille bars, and gas tanks. At least I think it was gas tanks. I'll just pop over for a "cuppa" and quick light of my fag on that gas flame. They even provide an easy chair in which to recline and rest.

With bodywork assembled, its back up the hill to the paint shop. They have a relatively modern looking paint booth, and a bunch of crusty old paint encrusted wheels with which to ove the cars around. The bonnet panels were a mystery. I couldn't see a means of ensuring the same panels stayed with the same car. Way back when, MG would prepaint hood panels, then trim them to fit the individual car on which they were installed. Perhaps Morgan are doing the same. I'm probably the only one, but I felt it best not to interrupt and pester the workers with questions. Had the flood gates opened, We could have kept going for hours.
Wedged into one end of a bay, non union electricians (at least I assume they're not union, but of course there ain't much work getting done) carefully install wiring harnesses.
"Your car was assembled by skilled old world craftsmen..." This one is my favorite. See the greenish pile under the bench? Its a collection of bits of wire. I finally broke down and asked. It seems there is an extra unused bit in the harness. Rather than change the manufactured harness, they just clip it off and throw it under the bench. I neglected to ask why the pile never gets thrown out. Maybe they're afraid some day a customer will call and ask why his giggling sprocket doesn't turn, and they'll have to recall all the cars manufactured since 1955 and reinstall the missing wire.
Time to make the donuts, or in this case seat covers. This is something I understand. My company has been making British seat upholstery for over 20 years. We like to keep our shop a little neater than this.
Why yes, the gentleman is using a hammer to drive in tacks, one at a time. Today, we in the States prefer air powered staplers.
Ahh, at last the final inspection and delivery bay. There are dozens of photos of customer's cars on the walls, and a stuffed owl up in the rafters - can't have local birdies messing the seats don't you know. I'm not making this up.