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Morgan and Pininfarina create the Midsummer Speedster

NEWS

Morgan and Pininfarina create the Midsummer Speedster

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Morgan and Pininfarina have unveiled the fruits of their labours for the last two years and the result, to Ken Pearson’s eyes, is stunning.

At first glance, the Morgan Midsummer looks like everything you’d expect a Morgan to be; long and low with a horseshoe-shaped grille at the end of a long, widening bonnet and front wings that extend from front to rear. It’s a recipe that has stood the test of time and continues to be fettled and refined to this day, but as I learned when the new Plus Four was announced earlier this year, one cannot simply look once at a new Morgan.

Indeed, studying the shape of the svelte speedster reveals a slight shift of style; the horseshoe grille retains the classic vertical strakes but wears a crown at the top with four rounded-rectangle openings. The shape reappears six times on the side skirts, three times on the front wheel arches and fifteen times on the magnificent 19” forged dish wheels that are each 3 kg lighter than those found on the Plus Six. These are wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 5 tyres that seem to almost completely fill the wheel arches. 

Things get more interesting further down; while the new Plus Four is styled to appear as though there is nothing below the curved front bodywork, the Midsummer goes in the opposite direction, with a contrasting stainless steel lower trim that heads from nose to tail, providing a stage for the bodywork above to sit on and even sharing the same cut-line ahead of the rear wheel arch. It underscores the stretched tail that falls from the cabin to the bumper in one near seamless swoop and comes to a halt at each of the exhaust pipes. Rather than placing some sort of diffuser between the outlets, there is a gloriously empty space which is a refreshing change to my eyes.


Morgan Midsummer Speedster

So where have all these small changes come from? Take a look at the side trim once again and you’ll see the name of one of the most revered design studios in the business: Pininfarina. The Midsummer is the result of a collaboration that began two years ago between the two companies which seems like an unlikely pairing on the surface. Morgan has been refining its formula for over 100 years while Pininfarina has had its name attached to some of the most dramatically styled supercars of all time, but the origins of the brands share some similarities.

Harry Morgan spent his early career working for the Great Western Railway, where metal skins would be placed over wooden frames to build carriages. Battista Farina joined his brother’s company which built carriages before moving on to cars, with the firm eventually becoming Fiat’s de-facto stylistic consultants. Both founders began with coachbuilding so it seems like a marriage made in heaven for the traditionalists and the modernists to combine for a project like this.

Pininfarina majors on using technology to aid and enhance its designs while Morgan keeps the knowledge that every shape will be hand-formed front and centre. Images have been released showcasing the evolution of the concept, from the initial sketches it seems that everything from retro-modern to futuristic streamliner shapes were considered before the designers arrived at the form that will make it to the road.


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Overall, the Midsummer looks strong, powerful and even fast when sitting still; it is certainly reminiscent of the streamlined speedsters of the 1930s but with modern touches neatly integrated into classic shapes. Take the lights for example - the two round headlights are a far cry from today’s standard of sharp-edged narrow aperture clusters, but they contain LED projectors and indicators within them. Likewise, the two round tail lights pack in more than just one bulb and are wonderfully minimalist in a world of full-width light bars and customisable signatures. The subtle changes, tweaks and alterations to the classic Morgan formula have been completed masterfully. I think it is absolutely stunning and I can’t stop looking at it.

Under the skin and attached to the aluminium chassis is the suspension which features adjustable Nitron dampers that have been tuned specifically for the Midsummer. I assume that means that the car has been set up to handle as well as it looks, with less of a focus on being a grand tourer. While the design of the split-opening bonnet with 14 piano key-style outlets is a highlight in itself, what lays within is noteworthy too: the turbocharged BMW B58 3.0 litre straight-six engine, as used in the Plus Six.

Although no performance details have been announced, we can expect it to be similar to the 335 bhp and 369 lb ft (500 Nm) currently found elsewhere in the range. The target dry weight for the car is around 1,000 kg so with a driver and fluids on board, the Midsummer will still be lighter than a new Mini. Expect a 0-60 mph sprint of less than four seconds and a top speed around 170 mph. 


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The cabin design is clear to see from the outside, owing to the glassless design of the speedster and a highlight for me is the wooden halo that surrounds the interior, looping from bulkhead to bulkhead and giving additional height to the normally low doors. This reverses the norm of using wood to attach body panels to and thus being hidden from view - with the Midsummer, the material most associated with Morgan has been put front and centre for all to see. Rather than taking a plank and cutting it to shape, the teak used for the 9 wooden sections is a multi-layer laminate.

It begins with 83 square metres of material and then takes 30 hours of precise slicing and layering to create the exposed elements. Each layer is no more than 0.6 mm thick and the dashboard and door tops are made up of 126 and 120 layers respectively. Morgan has chosen to use laminated construction rather than a single block or plank of wood to give greater strength and durability.

The exposed teak also runs through the centre of the cabin and plays host to the manual handbrake and my least favourite feature of the car: the gear selector. While it doesn’t look brilliant in something like a 1-Series, it just looks out of place here. Hand-made dials are the stars of the show on the dashboard itself, with five in total for fuel, coolant temperature, revs, the time and speed.


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The highlight for me is the triangular pattern that surrounds the central hub of the speedometer, but look closely and you will see a concave structure to the speedo and rev counter. Ahead of the driver is a digital display with speed and essential car data on offer, and between the three central dials are shortcuts for heating, adjusting the volume on the standard-fit Sennheiser audio system, starting the engine and parking on double yellow lines by activating the hazard lights.

The steering wheel is multifunctional in the sense that it can be used to steer the car, sound the horn and play host to the gearshift paddles but that’s it. It has been specially made for the Midsummer and now features a forged aluminium centre. Leather makes up most of the rest of the upholstery with the launch car being shown with a deep red colour for the seats, transmission tunnel and door trim.

As always, I’m seeing more than what is presented to us with the Midsummer; with the new Plus Four already on sale and this gorgeous speedster taking on some of its design cues like the de-cluttered light arrangement, the fact that the Plus Six is yet to be updated to fit in with the new Morgan style is a bit of an elephant in the room. Or at least it was - as Morgan’s Chief Design Officer Jonathan Wells said: “Midsummer establishes design foundations to build upon for future modes.”

So perhaps if you squint and imagine a windscreen at the end of the bonnet, you may see hints of what a new Plus Six could look like, but for now I’m going to try and ignore those thoughts and appreciate the elegant hand-formed bodywork that is the result of 250 hours of aluminium beating and the exceptional details that have been added to the classic shape both outside and in. The Morgan Midsummer truly is a sight to behold and my relatively newfound appreciation for the brand continues to strengthen. There are just two small issues: Morgan are only making 50 Midsummers, and every single one of them is spoken for. It’s easy to see why.


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Written by

Ken Pearson

Published

19 January 2024

Last Updated

19/01/24

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