Morgan turns heads in most parts of the world – but not so much in Malvern, Worcestershire, where the resolutely retro-looking cars have been built for more than a century. “Malvernites” are well used to the sight of the latest Morgan trundling down the high street, and even the biplane roar from the exposed V-twin engine of the punchy electric motor.
The EV3 was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in March as Morgan’s take on a truly sustainable electric car that not only offers emissions-free driving, but is also built in the traditional Morgan way – entirely by hand, around a natural ash-wood framework. Set to enter production soon, it is the marque’s first realisation of an ambition to manufacture an eco-friendly vehicle that began with one-off concepts such as the hydrogen-fuel-cell “LifeCar” of 2009 and 2012’s all-electric Plus E.
The UK 1909 Edition is rather more special than the standard EV3, however, because it has been developed in conjunction with Selfridges department store as a showcase for the best of British manufacturing – and only 19 examples are being made. The project was instigated by Sebastian Manes, a lifelong car and motorcycle enthusiast and the buying and merchandising director for Selfridges, where he has worked since 2003.
“I have always regarded the Morgan three-wheeler as being a landmark vehicle,” he says. “After learning that the firm was working on an electric version, I thought it would be good to create a super-limited edition that would give both Selfridges and Morgan a means of promoting British craftsmanship and sustainability in an interesting way. At the moment, there isn’t a collectable electric car on the market, nor one that offers either the character of the EV3 or its bespoke construction.” Manes was also taken by the coincidence of both firms having been established in 1909 (hence the decision to make 19 cars).
Rather like Henry Ford’s original Model T, the UK 1909 Edition can be had “in any colour, so long as it’s black”. Or, in this case, a very specific Selfridges black. “We wanted to make a car that would look desirable as well as being practical, comfortable and fast in its role as a 21st-century vehicle with carbon-neutral credentials,” says Jon Wells, Morgan’s head of design. “We also wanted to emphasise the history of the two companies, which we’ve done with features such as the brass plaque on the side of the car that was inspired by the famous bronze one outside Selfridges Oxford Street, the wartime-style ‘blackout’ running lights, the brass nuts that retain the disc wheels and the Bakelite drive selector switch.” Other retro touches include the exposed wood around the dashboard, the chunky filler cap behind the seats (a dummy that conceals the electric charging point) and the hand-stitched, quilted leather upholstery.
In many respects, however, the UK 1909 Edition is entirely state of the art. The body is made from a combination of carbon fibre and aluminium, with the powertrain taking the form of a 45kW motor driven by 2,000 lithium-ion cells. The cells are contained in an eight-brick battery pack that fits neatly into the space occupied by the engine and gearbox in petrol-powered three-wheelers.
The result is a car that is thrilling to drive thanks to the instant acceleration from its electric motor, its light weight and its responsive handling. It is also both charming and fun due to being unashamedly basic, yet it is surprisingly comfortable and – unlike its petrol-engined equivalent – super-smooth and vibration free. And, if the claimed battery range of 120-150 miles is correct, the UK 1909 Edition should also prove a practical runabout.
The car will be officially launched at Selfridges’ Oxford Street store on November 25 with a price tag of £52,500, and production is set to start next year.
For those who buy into the idea of the UK 1909 Edition representing the best of British, however, there is more: anybody who orders one of the cars may also opt to purchase a range of accessories that make up a nine-part “driving kit” comprising components from other British manufacturers. In the mix are driving shoes (£1,200) made by George Cleverley using the same leather and stitch as that found in the car, a tweed jacket (£1,450) from Richard James, an Alexander McQueen driving scarf (£245), a shearling-lined Karl Donoghue leather helmet (£1,000), a pair of bronze-trimmed Linda Farrow goggles (£375) and a set of made-to-measure waterproof overalls (£1,095) from Christopher Raeburn that are intended to protect one’s regular clothes from the ravages of hitting the road in an open-topped car. Best of all, however, is a Globe-Trotter suitcase (£2,995), which goes nicely with the car’s integrated, quickly detachable luggage rack that increases carrying capacity considerably without compromising the vehicle’s looks when the case isn’t in use.
A word of warning, however: if you head to Selfridges at the end of the month in search of the UK 1909 Edition and find it a little difficult to get into, don’t despair. The chances are you’ve found the electrically powered children’s version of the EV3 that will also be available in the store alongside the real thing – for the not quite pocket-money price of just £7,250.