British cars and motorcycles have always been much more than simply machines. Jon Wells, Head Designer at Morgan, talks craftsmanship, design and how motorcycles have influenced his work
Founded in 1909 and still family owned, Morgan has been around for only seven years less than Triumph. Amazingly, Morgan has been producing cars continually since then, other than a brief hiatus during World War II. Today the company focuses mainly on classic, 1950s-style cars (the 4/4, Plus 4 and Roadster) with modern mechanics and electronics – similar to Triumph’s Modern Classics range.
At the top end, Morgan produces the more modern Plus 8 and Aero range, both with V8 engines. Also, for an even more raw experience, they produce the 3 Wheeler, which sports a two-litre S&S V-Twin.
As you’d expect as Morgan’s designer, Jon has a passion for British automotive style. A motorcyclist himself, Jon has converted a few of his own bikes into stripped-back cafe racers. “The beauty of motorcycles, I feel, is the way form and function are so tightly aligned.”
“My decision to go into automotive design at university was in part because I would get to design motorcycles. Since I was small I’ve loved bikes. Initially pedal powered but as soon as possible, with an engine. There is a direct relationship between man and machine with a bike that is, arguably, the most involving of all the vehicles.
“Every aspect of a motorbike is functional. The tank has form to hold fuel and provide grip for your thighs, the chassis provides visual proportion and the structure from which to hang the componentry, and the overall mechanicals provide as much a part of the aesthetics as the fairings, which themselves are required to improve the aerodynamics. All of this make designing bikes so exciting for an industrial designer.
“There are many similarities with a Morgan car – every part of a Morgan has a function. Anyone who has driven a 3 Wheeler will know how involving it is to see the exposed suspension working away in front of you.”
Although Morgan is a car company (even if the 3 Wheeler model is registered as a motorcycle in the UK), it didn’t stop Jon from coming up with a motorcycle concept.
“We’re a car company, obviously, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to see a Morgan motorcycle!”
As a light-hearted design exercise for the company magazine, Jon sketched a number of concepts, including a plane, boat and even a Morgan tractor, all applied with Morgan’s design ethos. So, how did he approach the bike design?
“Well, it’s something between a cafe racer and a bobber. I didn’t want to create a standard cafe racer, as Morgans aren’t out-and-out race cars for the most part. Also, I didn’t want to make it too much of a cruiser – our cars are somewhere in-between.
I love what Triumph are doing
“Morgan’s focus is British sports cars and, as such, it was safe to say a Morgan motorcycle would also need to feature a certain classic aesthetic. I wanted my bike to be a delicate meld of old and new.”
From four wheels to three wheels and now two, we like the look of the Morgan motorcycle, even if it is just a design exercise.
Although not yet a Triumph owner, Jon has been keeping an eye on the company’s fortunes. “I have to say I love what Triumph are doing,” Jon adds. “They’ve really nailed the blend of classic design while continuing to move the brand forward. Modern performance with timeless design – it’s what we aim for too.”
Visit Morgan’s website to see more.