Yesterday I went to buy a second-hand lawnmower in the countryside near Zurich. Not much excitement in that you will think and indeed, neither did I, until I made it to the address, followed the seller Markus to the barn where he had stored the mower, and discovered next to it a shining black Morgan Threewheeler, one of the most original and exotic cars of these last years. Markus was obviously very happy to find a soulmate and happily spent the next hour with yours truly, talking about cars in general and Threewheelers in particular, and then to round it off took me for a short ride in this strange creation, something that was a truly unique experience!
Morgan started producing the modern Threewheeler five years ago, in 2011. The car bears some resemblance to the original Threwheeler that was in production for more than 40 years until 1952. Hand-built around a wooden frame and weighing only 525 kgs, as the name suggests the car stands on three large and narrow wheels, and another (of many) peculiar features is that the engine, a two-cylinder Harley Davidson delivering 82 hp, is placed at the front of the car, fully exposed. 82 hp from two cylinders may not sound like much, but as I was soon to discover, in this car it is! If however you want even more power, it is apparently quite easy to trim it up towards 135 hp. Behind the engine, under the bonnet, you will find the oil tank and the battery, and behind the seats, the tank sits next to it the tiniest of luggage spaces that will accommodate a rain jacket, which is pretty good since the car has absolutely no roof and the only cover supplied is a tonneau.
The seating position is extremely low and narrow, as is space around the pedals, so you’d better be friends with your passenger beforehand, and the passenger had better not be a wrestler. If you try you will easily be able to touch the ground with your outer arm, an exercise that should only be tried out from the passenger side as the exhaust pipe runs alongside the chassis on the driver’s side. The pedals can be adjusted in length, which the seats can’t, but you can only do so with tools and it is a reasonably complicated exercise. Markus has replaced the original steering wheel with a smaller one, as the original wheel does not really leave enough space for a man of average length…
Before we squeeze in next to each other, Markus pushes the start button upon which the most wonderful, blurring sound flows from the exhaust. For obvious reasons it is more reminiscent of a Harley than a car, and the Threewheeler is actually registered as a motorbike in Switzerland, although you are allowed to drive it on a car permit as well. I squeezed in on the passenger seat next to my new best friend, rubbing shoulders with him as we took off among Swiss hills.
The standard Threewheeler does 0-100 in 6 seconds and the last thing you will wish for (at least as a passenger) is more power, since the extremely low seating position gives a very intense impression of speed – and everything else happening around you. The sound is gorgeous, there is an extreme feeling of lightness about the whole car, which actually feels like something of a hybrid between a bike and a car, obviously due to the size of the wheels and the single rear wheel. Especially quickly driven corners are quite hairy and speaking of corners, the short hand brake sits just next to the gear change. When I ask Markus about this he says it comes from rally sport so that you can hang out the rear around corners. Apparently he has a few friends doing this on alpine roads but says he is to old for it. “But they’re also quite crazy” he adds, something I find quite easy to believe from my squeezed passenger seat.
Markus bought his Threewheeler second-hand a year ago and says build quality has been so-so. As he has discovered, his car, although being a 2013 make, consists of parts both from 2011 and 2012, and he has had some pretty bad – and costly – mechanical failures. Each car is truly individual as tuning and trimming possibilities are limitless, and some mechanical details need to be modified if you do not want the car to break down straight away. But Markus says he wouldn’t hesitate buying it again and again and again, as he has never drive anything like it, neither car nor bike – of which a few were also parked in the same barn.
There is nothing practical about the Threewheeler, it is a pure toy best enjoyed alone on dry roads near a mountain somewhere. It will set you back around 40.000 EUR and it may be a pretty good investment, as quantities produced are small (no reliable number can’t be found but according to Markus around 30 have been sold in Switzerland, and this is a country where there are a lot of expensive toys with little practicality…). But above all, it is a unique driving experience and most probably a buy you will never regret!