Most new cars these days are made for people who either can’t drive or don’t want to. They’re just point-and-press machines, designed to get you from A to B with as little effort and engagement as possible. Some can even park themselves, and very soon they’ll drive themselves too. Such is the level of modern gadgetry and computerisation, they can also double up as mobile entertainment centres.
The Morgan Plus 4 is not this sort of car. It is a proud analogue vehicle in a digital world. It has little sliding windows, a rag-top that is neither automated nor especially wind or waterproof, held on by nail-breaking press-studs and clips (thank goodness for Shellac is all I can say).
No satnav, no Bluetooth, no cup-holder and no parking sensors. The only concession to comfort is a heated windscreen, since there is no room for air vents. And a radio — but you’d have to be Houdini to reach it, since it’s tucked right under the bonnet in the well of the seat.
It does, however, have a really smart red leather dashboard. And matching seats. And three funny little windscreen wipers which make it look a bit like a three-eyed alien. A little net glove compartment, and no boot whatsoever. Doors that you have to lock by hand using an actual metal key and which come with a special extra key that you can use to unscrew the top half (a bit like a stable door, if you can imagine such thing in miniature on a car) for that full rag-top experience.
Oh, and something else. A great big, thrilling two-litre engine. Rear-wheel drive. A throaty roar like a gin-soaked flapper. Runner boards. A bonnet that stretches around corners, like a limousine in an old-fashioned cartoon.
Stepping into it you step back in time, to some long-forgotten place where skill and craftsmanship were worth more than the minimum wage, and where driving was a pleasure as much as a chore. The chassis is made of wood — yes, wood. The metal is beaten by hand — yes, actual human hand. Frankly, it’s a miracle cars like this still exist.
And thank God they do. Pure, unadulterated fun and games — that’s the Morgan, and a thumping good drive too. A fine slice of great British engineering. If you’ve got the money it’s almost your patriotic duty to buy one. In fact, the Queen should definitely get rid of her boring old Jag and tear up the grass of -Windsor in one of these babies, scarf on tight, soft -leather driving gloves, Philip in the passenger seat. Parp, parp, you oiky lot: out of my way.
That said, her Majesty might have a spot of difficulty getting in and out because it’s flat to the floor, give or take an inch or so of very hard suspension. Basically, you’re sitting in a go-cart position.
The pedals too take a bit of getting used to: you’re essentially talking a forward foot movement that engages the entire leg, rather that a heel-to-toe one. After a while, though, it starts to make sense: body and machine are much more involved with another. I wouldn’t say driving it was athletic, but you certainly have to engage physically, which all adds to the experience.
In terms of handling, I was surprised. Being rear-wheel drive and extremely long of bonnet, I had anticipated trouble on bends; in fact I was able to throw it cheerfully around any number of tight corners, and at speed too.
Pick-up and speed go without saying: it’s a Morgan. But going fast is not all this car is about: there’s real drivability in it too. In the brief hour or so that it wasn’t raining I took the roof off and took my daughter for a spin around the back roads of Chelsea (I had promised her a trip to the ghastly Brandy Melville shop).
Saturday afternoon pre-Christmas shopping, and it behaved fine. Didn’t stall once. None of that heavy clutch, jumpy first gear, pulling away like a demented Jack Russell on a tight lead nonsense you get with, say, a Ferrari.
Another advantage over Ferraris: people don’t think you’re a total wanker. Not only did the very act of crawling down the King’s Road plant a permanent grin on both our faces, it seemed to have the same effect on passers by. Put simply: everyone loves you when you’re driving a Morgan. Taxi drivers let you out at junctions; pedestrians wave.
My final challenge: parking it outside Peter Jones. Even this went off well first time, although the height of the curb is worth considering since the car is so low. I just have one tiny gripe: the door key. Fiendishly fiddly.
Then again, if you live somewhere you have to lock your car doors, you almost certainly can’t afford it.
Ford GDI 1999cc
0-62mph: 7.5 sec
40 mpg (average)
Road Tax band
London Morgan www.londonmorgan.co.uk / 020 7244 7323
Sarah Vine is a columnist for the Daily Mail