This past week, we were forunate enough to pay a visit to the Morgan Motor Company in Malvern, England. If you ever doubted that Morgan cars are truly handmade in a traditional manner, let me tell you that it is not an exaggeration!What you first notice upon arriving at the Morgan works is that the place really feels like you are stepping back in time. It isn't just the design and construction of the cars themselves that is anachronistic, but the entire factory comes straight from a bygone era. The buildings are old and largely unchanged since the war. The ethos of artisanal craft still permeates the place, as well as a casual, friendly air that has been utterly sucked out of the hermetic car factories of today. Morgan's open gates welcome visitors, and at first we wandered around the grounds unaccompanied until we decided we ought to check in at the front office.The factory complex is divided into several long buildings, each hall specializing in a particular stage of the car's gestation. In the first building we entered, the mechanical assembly was being performed. For each car, this work is largely performed by a single man, so there is quite a lot of responsibility invested in the builder of the car to make sure the chassis, engine, and drivetrain all go together properly. An assortment of crate engines from Ford and BMW sat at one end of the hall, awaiting installation.In the next building over, we witnessed the aluminum body panels being fitted to wooden frames. Morgan outsources the forming of aluminum panels such as fenders and bonnets to a regional supplier, Superform, who use an eponymous vaccuum forming-like process to shape the parts from sheet material. The Superformed panels are delivered to Morgan where they are hand trimmed, hand pounded and hand fitted to the wooden frame to complete the bodyshell. No two cars have exactly the same panels as a result. It takes two men to painstakingly hand-punch each louver in the aluminum bonnet, one by one. Great effort goes into making sure that each louver is perfectly aligned with the previous one. The rolled edge of the spare tire well is carefully hammered around a spool of wire by hand, and each bonnet is tapped and teased to fit the exact shape of the scuttle and grille shroud.The next room over is where the wooden frames are constructed. Here I expected to see a large CNC router that would cut out the wooden pieces, saving time and improving accuracy. But instead I discovered that most of the operations to create the wood components are still performed using traditional power tools, and even hand tools such as planes are commonly deployed for detail work. The frame is held together with glue and screws, very much like a piece of furniture.The rakish curve of the rear fender is molded using an antique plywood press that has been in use continuously since 1950! The only thing that has changed is the man operating the press (see above).
Next we went across to the paint shop, where the rolling chassis is partially disassembled for painting. There is a massive, drive in spray booth and oven. Adjacent to the paint shop is the room where the now-painted cars are re-assembled, and the interiors fitted. At one end of the room, a young worker (many of Morgan's workers are under 35, which surprised and heartened me) sat patiently at a sewing machine as he quilted the leather headliner of an Aero that was underway nearby. All of the interior assembly is done in this room by a team of skilled seamstresses and craftsmen, who fit the hand-carved dashboards and interior panels.The final room we visited was the inspection shed. Inside, there are a series of cubicles erected, each containing a grid of flourescent lights to highlight imperfections in the paint. Inside each cubicle sat a nearly finished car being polished, buffed, and fussed over. There was even a polished aluminum car that shone like medieval armor. After the tour was complete, we took a test drive to sample the finished cars! More on that in the next installment...
When I started writing this blog 4 years ago, I did it out of a deep frustration. I felt like I had no outlet to share my passion for cars with others. Living in New York City, it wasn't exactly easy to seek out other car-crazy people to be friends with. I thought by starting a website, it might help me reach an audience of like-minded individuals all over the world. And I was right! The past 4 years have been incredibly rewarding. Even though the site remains a hobby rather than a vocation, I feel very fortunate that I have made countless new friends in NYC and around the world--some of them now very dear--thanks to starting this site. Over these 4 years, I went from having adventures in one wonderful Italian car to owning three (more on that later), and have brought you my original images from car events across the world and written over 550 posts.
But there have been other changes in my life as well. When I began Automobiliac I was working in a design office, posting articles on coffee break or between meetings to have some fun at my desk. Like many bloggers, I found my site was a welcome distraction from my day job and allowed me to think about cars when I wasn't "supposed to."
But 2 years ago I started my own company and now I get to think about cars ALL THE TIME as part of my job! If you weren't aware til this point, I started and run the company Autodromo, which makes watches and other accessories inspired by vintage motoring. And just like Automobiliac, this new venture has opened countless doors in the classic car world and ushered in many more new friends.
However the responsibilities of running my company have grown to the point where it is hard for me to post here as often as I'd like. And the fact that I can now think about cars all the time means that Automobiliac as a "release valve" for all my car related thoughts has ceased to be as critical. I have considered closing the site down, but in the end I have decided to continue forward. I won't be posting as often as I used to, but I promise there will be some great stuff to come this summer as I begin my first season of vintage racing with my recently acquired '59 Giulietta Spider Veloce race car (photos to come when we get her sorted out!) So please do keep coming to visit and I hope to have a few posts a month at very least that will be worth your time.
I just want to thank all of you for reading this site and for your comments, your submissions, your friendship and your encouragement over the past 4 years. It has been a great journey.
Lastly, if you want more frequent Automobiliac goodness, do follow my Autodromo instagram @Autodromomedia. There are a ton of great photos of cars and watches, and new ones nearly every day.
Bradley Price (the automobiliac)
Jaguar has a special place in my heart, but I feel it has been consistently mismanaged as a brand for many years--always struggling to find a narrative that is relevant to a younger American audience without reverting to English snob appeal. I think the latest "British Villains" campaign really hits the right balance. The new campaign emphasizes the Britishness of the brand heritage, as well as the sexiness and muscle in the latest products, all the while not taking itself too seriously. This mix of humor and suave cool are a winning combination, and I hope it really helps get Americans excited about Jaguar. Interestingly they are not running this campaign in England, according to my UK friends, who had no idea what I was talking about when I mentioned these ads in conversation.
Or more like 3 minutes of zen. HVR, is a custom restoration shop in Australia, who have crafted this breathtaking recreation of a 1939 6C 2300 MM. I don't know if the car is based on a real period chassis and engine, or if it is 100% re-creation. But the result is undeniably spectacular, and HVR's artisans deserve a round of applause.
See their facebook build journal HERE