Monday, 18 November 2013

The latest CAD and a day at Morgan Cars

I was at a Majenta-run event a few days ago, who were demonstrating the latest Autodesk CAD products. When it comes to creating new designs I'll sketch on napkins, envelopes or anything that's handy so it was an eye-opener to see how easy it can be to turn my half-formed drawings into fully-dimensioned CAD drawings with the right software.

They staged their event in Malvern at the Morgan Motor Company and after we had a tour their plant.

Morgan began making cars in 1905 and while many an automotive brand has disappeared Morgan continue to thrive, and employ 180 highly skilled craftsmen today. Buying a Morgan is more akin to going to Savile Row for a suit, as you first select your base model and the craftsmen spec it up to your requirements. It's  not as pricy as you may think either.

Each car is built by hand by just one person and it's a joy to watch the craftsmen work. I chatted to Lee, who was cheerfully building a 3-wheeler for a German customer and who told me the engineers love it when their customer drops by to see their car being built.
I'd always thought Morgan's were old-fashioned and made from wood and bits of old carthorses, but how wrong I was. Wood is still used in the great tradition of automotive coach building, but the chassis is underpinned by amazing Superform aluminium hi-tech structures (also found in Astons or Ferraris).  Superform are an amazing local Worcester company that have developed new ways to shape aluminium using air pressure, and export all round the world.
Building a Morgan begins with building the aluminium chassis
The chassis then goes to the body and carpentry shop
After fitting all the panels, the cars are disassembled ready for painting. Each car receives 11 coats of paint for solid colours, and 13 for metallic
The cars are then re-assembled, and then go to the leather and fitting-out shop. Morgan is great at bringing on new apprentices, and I was impressed by how many highly-skilled cheerful young people are doing such highly skilled craftsmen jobs.
70% of Morgan's are exported, and many customers send their plates over, so they can enjoy driving them home
Buying a Morgan is more practicable than you might imagine, as underneath the wood/aluminium bodywork is a high-tech aluminium chassis and engine with an incredible power-to-weight-ratio. Morgan still race at Le Mans, and often kick the ass of many a more modern looking car.
I was also impressed by how Morgan have reinvented themselves and found a niche in todays car-buying ultra-competitive world. Not only have all the underpinnings been cleverly redesigned, but they've also had the courage to develop new counter-intuitive products.
Morgan's new 3-wheeler may be a joke with 2 out of 3 Top Gear presenters, but the 3rd bought one. I asked the engineer showing me round about this product, and he said they were looking at Morgan's history and made a design study for the Frankfurt Motor Show. Unexpectedly the orders piled in so they anticipated 3 orders a week, but are now making 12 to 15 highly specked-up individual vehicles each week.
The Morgan 3-wheeler may look crazy, but driving it must give you a grin from ear to ear
My grandfather used to fly RE8's during the First World War, and I reckon he'd be at home in one of these!


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