Skip to content

A visit to the Morgan factory

On Monday, after living in Malvern for over thirty years in total, I finally visited the Morgan factory for the first time. Locals will know full well what I’m talking about, but some of my more distant readers may not know that Malvern has been the home of the Morgan Motor Car company for over 100 years. They are the last remaining family-run car company in the UK, and have what can only be described as an idiosyncratic approach to building very fast classic cars. Everything is famously hand-built by craftsmen (and they were all men, the only women to be seen were at the Reception and serving the coffees), and there isn’t an assembly-line or robot in the factory. I took some pictures on the way around the factory, and I’m going to apologise in advance for the quality of the photos. I didn’t want to use the flash as I thought it would be very rude to disturb the craftsmen, so the snaps are rather blurry. But they should be good enough that you can get the gist.

The day didn’t go to plan at the outset. The visit was arranged by some friends who had got a small party together, which included their small children – the boy in particular is fascinated by cars. They had taken the precaution of phoning to check that the children were welcome, and were told that whilst it was not actively recommended for under-5s, it was at the parents’ discretion. However, when we all met up five minutes before the factory tour started, they were told that “Elf’n’Safety” meant an absolute ban on the children visiting the workshops, and that the policy had changed from what they had been verbally assured just a few days ago. That was extremely annoying. We had a (very polite) argument amongst ourselves about what to do, which ended up with myself and one friend carrying on with the tour but feeling extremely guilty about doing so.

wooden sub-frames

A view of the Morgan workshop

It was absolutely fascinating seeing the cars being hand-built. Each is built to order, for a specific named customer, whose paper-work accompanies the car through the sequence of work-shops. The factory is built on a slope, and the car bodies start off in workshops at the top of the slope, before moving downhill at each stage. Some of the models are wheeled between the workshops, but the top-of-the-range ones are actually driven from one building to the next, even in a totally bare state! There are so many options (paint colour,  leather colour, wood-stain colour, position of the exhaust pipes, left/right hand drive, four basic models with variants) that I don’t think that any two cars we saw were the same. Several of the models use very traditional “coach-building” techniques, based around a hand-built ash sub-frame and steel chassis. Needless to say, Morgan are the only car company left using these traditional techniques. We were told that each of the aluminium body panels is individually made to fit a particular car, and would not necessarily fit the car next along the line, even if that was nominally the same model. It was very noisy indeed in that part of the factory, as each panel was hammered into shape.

wooden jig

Jig being used to shape ash laminates for part of the car body

I had thought that perhaps the Morgan factory would be firmly stuck in the past – in the early part of the twentieth century in fact. In 1991 they famously turned down the suggestions of John Harvey-Jones, who was a consultant who wanted them to streamline and mechanise their production lines.  But while they are extremely prod of their heritage, and won’t change just for the sake of it, they are also a very innovative company, happy to adopt new technology when it suits them. Their top-of-the-range super-car has body-panels made from super-formed aluminium, where hot panels of sheet metal are effectively blown into shape using air-pressure. Morgan were the first car manufacturer to adopt this technology, which was originally developed for forming aircraft nose-cones, though several other more main-stream car manufacturers have now followed suit.

All in all, it was a fascinating and very instructive  two hours, ending in a small but interesting museum and the obligatory shop. I forwent the implied retail opportunity – I’m really not in the market for a new car, let alone one as expensive as these! I am however kicking myself that it’s taken me so long to get around to visiting the factory. Christopher would have absolutely loved it – and would have taken many more and better photos! And it’s a real shame that our friends and the children were unable to join the visit – though I do see that an active workshop is perhaps not the best place for an inquisitive toddler.


{ 2 } Comments

  1. pauld | 24 October 2012 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    “though I do see that an active workshop is perhaps not the best place for an inquisitive toddler.”

    No, no, its the perfect place to learn about hammers, chisels, saws and a whole host of other tools 🙂

  2. Q&J | 25 October 2012 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Meant to email yesterday as I met aforementioned mother and her small children. I went round factory about 25 years ago, and also last autumn-time and, apart from the cars, my poor memory didn’t recall the details but the place looked much the same – but very interesting. A worth while trip. A place in Malvern where skill is still valued (no further comment!).