Many British motor companies faded into history, but Morgan Motor Company soldiered on for 110 years, owned by successive descendants of the founder. It was the last British domestic carmaker to be acquired by foreigners, in this case an Italian venture capital group known as Investindustrial. The new owners have had a number of successful auto-related investments over the last 30 years, such as Aston Martin and Ducati.
Under Investindustrial, nothing’s changed and the company will continue to produce its own unique models. It also has a new line of special projects to commence this year, with the first being the Plus 8 GTR. It follows numerous special project models in recent years, such as the Aero GT, SP1 and Aeromax.
Only 9 units to be available
To be limited to just 9 units, the Plus 8 GTR explores design themes such as the high shoulder line, not seen on a traditional Morgan body for decades. Its 5-spoke centre-lock wheels are reminiscent of Morgan’s 1990s Plus 8 race cars, framed perfectly by subtly re-sculpted wheel arches. Further design elements include a revised rear end, front wings, and front splitter, and the fitment of a hard top. The model also benefits from learning and expertise gained by the company since the Plus 8 officially finished production in 2018.
One particular design inspiration was the Plus 8 race car that competed in the GT series throughout the late 1990s, more commonly known as ‘Big Blue’. This car served as the testbed for Morgan’s first bonded-aluminium chassis, which would go on to underpin the Aero 8 and ‘Aero-chassis’ Plus 8 models. It seemed fitting, following the recent launch of Morgan’s latest CX-Generation bonded-aluminium platform, to use this opportunity to pay tribute to the car that pioneered Morgan’s use of aluminium structures.
Plus 8 rolling chassis
The project has only been possible because of the recent availability of a number of Plus 8 rolling chassis, which have been re-acquired from a third party following a discontinued project. These were all built by Morgan before 2018, but were never used for their intended purposes. All are to be recommissioned and will benefit from the upgrade of selected mechanical components.
As part of their transformation from rolling chassis to finished vehicle, each GTR will be handcrafted using Morgan’s traditional coachbuilding techniques. In a break from over a century of Morgan tradition, much of this work will be completed not at its factory but at the nearby Morgan Design and Engineering Centre.
These ‘Aero-chassis’ Plus 8s use the Morgan first-generation bonded-aluminium chassis developed initially for the Morgan Aero 8. Previously, from 1968 to 2004, Plus 8 models used Morgan’s traditional steel chassis and were powered by Rover V8 engines.
BMW N62 engine
All ‘Aero-chassis’ Morgan Plus 8s were powered by the BMW N62 4.8-litre engine, and the GTR will be no exception. In its original specification, this unit produced 362 bhp but the exact power output for the GTR is yet to be finalised. A choice of a 6-speed manual or ZF 6-speed automatic gearbox will be available.
Production begins in mid-2021, and the Plus 8 GTR will be offered in certain countries, subject to local rules on importation. As part of the special projects programme, customers will be invited to commission their bespoke Plus 8 GTR alongside Morgan’s design team.
“Reviving a V8-powered Morgan at the current time may not seem like the obvious choice for a manufacturer firmly focused on new platforms and powertrains. However, when the opportunity presented itself to recommission a number of rolling chassis and create an exciting special project such as Plus 8 GTR, we embraced it fully,” said Jonathan Wells, Morgan Head of Design. “This project has allowed Morgan’s design and engineering teams to revisit some of their favourite elements of past Morgan models, as well as experiment with some features that we hope will appear on future Morgan cars.”