Charles Morgan And His Aeromax: One Man And His Motor

Auto Tech
Well, this is the Aeromax. I think probably one of the most beautiful cars in the world. The Aeromax was a fantastic project for Morgan. It was probably the first time the company got seriously involved with the modern world of car styling. Personally too it was interesting because it took Morgan into a completely different price bracket. Is Morgan credible at over 100,000 pounds? I call it the workhorse of the specialist luxury sports car of the world. So you know it's the one that gets you home. It's the Welsh pit pony if you like of the sports car world. So can we do a luxury version of it? Morgan hand built 100 Aeromaxes. Now the reason for that was because we were charging perhaps double the price that the nearest Morgan was at that time. We wanted to make sure that those people who had actually invested in the company you know kept the value of their money. Of course when all the deposits came in in more or less, less than a month, we thought why didn't we say 200, but of course we'd said 100 soon as you say again to a limited edition. It's not really a limited edition. You lose a lot of credibility I'm afraid and a lot of goodwill. Why is it a great car? I think because you know it is quite practical. I mean you can go to the supermarket and create, you know, a big stir while you're doing it. So you know that's nice as well. I think the second thing though is that you know whenever you stop you just look back and you go wow and we call that automotive theater. I mean the perfect example of describing it probably is at the petrol station on the motorway. And as soon as you're in a neat car everybody sort of stops and looks if it's a new car and they ask you about it, what is it, you know how fast it go, how much it costs. Automotive theatre isn't that. Automotive theatre is when you've gone in to pay for your petrol. You come back and they're still standing there. You say why are you still standing there? And they say I just wanna see it move and that is automotive theatre because that means you got a car that is, you know, a bit more than just new. It is a piece of kinetic art. How long has it been around? 5 years perhaps. It is still stopping people in their tracks. How the Aeromax came about was because I had a customer who was absolutely completely behind the technology that we put into the Aero. He was a very, very well respected car collector. He was a prince, actually a Romanian prince but Prince Eric Sturdza. And so he bought one of the first Aeros and then he bought another one and then he said to me. He said look. I want a special car, Charles. You know a one-off. And just at the same time Matthew Humpries from Coventry University sent me some sketches that he'd done. To be honest quite a lot of students send me sketches, you know, I mean so they know that it's pretty easy to put Mr. Morgan, Morgan cars here on my sketches, but the fact is that Matthew's really stood out. They really were amazing. So I called him down at the factory. I said I've got this customer. He wants a special Morgan. It's gotta be based on the panels we already make. So you know you can't change very much. So he sketched the first Aeromax and to be honest it was typical, it was completely impractical, the roof was too low, you couldn't get in it. There were sorts of things that you would have, but it looked fabulous and I showed them to Eric and Eric said yes, build it. I'll finance the building of it and then we showed the prototype at Geneva I think in 2006, was it '07. It was actually hidden away you know because we didn't want too many people to see it because obviously it was a one-off. It was Eric's one-off car. Eric was absolutely delighted. Matthew and I went so happy. It looked a bit like a banana actually, a bit like a Mercedes. You know sort of slightly looked as if it was a bit weak in the middle, but you know as I say the owner was absolutely delighted. After we built the prototype, the next stage of course was to go into production. What actually happened was that I must've had about 300 people who left their business cards at Geneva saying if you ever go into production, I'm your man. So what I then did was I did a sort of survey of making the end probably about 150 people, and I had some very amusing people, you know. One of the questions was what cars do I own currently. And after about a sort of 10th car occasionally somebody would go I got a BMW 3 series. I think but I'm not sure where it is. People haven't seen it for years. Yes. The Aeromax was called the Aeromax because while it was in development, Kira and I had a son, Maximus, and Eric actually became very close to us. We both sort of more or less said you know Aeromax, sounds really good, you know. It's the best Aero you've done so far. So it's the Aeromax. And he said yes, put your son Maximus, this is perfect, actually perfect. And I thought you know so it just came like that really. Actually Maximus quite fondly because obviously then he grew up and he saw an Aeromax. I said do you like that? That car is sort of named after you now. And at about 3-1/2 he said no, no. I much prefer Diggers over there, dad. I'd rather have a Digger because typical isn't it. I use my Aeromax every day. Now I know that's a great privilege. It's a little bit of an indulgence, but having said that you know I find it completely practical, you know, whether it's sort of whizzing around Malvern or whether it's going to London or whether it's perhaps going further afield. The classic Morgan is a shape a bit like the Coke bottle, and it's loved like the Coke bottle for what it is as a sort of icon. And you tinker with it at your peril. The Aero Range is a different thing. It's a car for all seasons. It's a car for every day but the edge of that of course and the niche for that is that it is even more extreme than important and so you know the thrills are greater. It's a bit lighter. It's a lot more individual and you know it's more exciting to drive. So the actual style of that has to be more aerodynamic by definition because it's an everyday car, but I think it can still push the boundaries in terms of style because essentially people still buy cars for what they look like, you know. They don't really buy them because of the function. They really buy them because they like the look of it. So it gives the artist if you like a bit of a free rein. I love the quote I heard from the chairman of Cartier last year actually when he came to the factory and mercilessly used it much to his amusement but he said, "Charles, you gotta remember one thing. You can never repeat the past, but you can always be inspired by it." And to be honest that's the very true idea behind every Morgan. The thing is that what's quite interesting is cars of this period in the 1930s and 1940s when you see them that have this style are enormous. You know the Delahayes, the Mercedes, the Duesenberg, they are vast. And this is a very small car. The footprint of this car is not a lot bigger than a MINI, and yet of course it looks like a completely elegant thing. Of course it's balanced because the engine is way back from the front axle line, so it's what they call a front-mid engine car and you sit on the back wheel so you feel you really can drive it by the seat of your pants. I mean I've done 170 in it [unk] not obviously on the road so it's pretty much quick enough. The aerodynamics could be better and that's basically why we've gone from the Aeromax to the Aero Coupe, and we found in fact when we were motor racing in GT3 that the Aero Coupe was a hell of a lot more aerodynamic. So we were getting about 30, 40, 50 KPH more on the long straights than we were with the old Aero style car. So we've gone to the Aero Coupe primarily to get more maximum speed, but on a country road if you're in a super car it's absolutely impossible to do anything whereas this car you can. People like this car. You know it doesn't create envy. It's funny because actually a lot of expensive cars, you know, a lot of people don't really like people driving them, but I had a bloke on a scooter whiz up beside me, you know, and go like this on my windscreen. It was one of those things where you go no, no, no, no, no. No, no, no. And eventually I wound the window down. He said I just gotta tell you. I just gotta tell you. I've seen this car in pictures but now I've seen it in the flesh. I can't tell you how happy I am now. I've seen it, you know. And I thought it was so sweet actually you know. The important thing about a Morgan is that you sort of feel a sense of fun when you get in and drive. So essentially that comes from the fact that they're very light and quite precise and you're sitting very low and you feel balanced. So to an extent every Morgan actually and especially the 3 Wheeler just makes you feel you're in a real driving machine. I supposed it just encourages you to be a bit lighthearted really. You gotta have a lank. Actually it's funny because these days, you know, some of the luxury cars aren't nearly as much fun to drive. As for example a Citroen Saxo or a Ford car and that's purely the fact that the Ford car and the Citroen Saxo don't weigh anything. So of course they're fun whereas the big Audis, 3 tons. So you know to be honest where's the fun there? It's like driving a lorry. Of course there's still a big thrill in a V8 engine, but that's not really what it's about. What's it about is a car that you can use that power. Most cars actually see the engines bang on the front wheels which is completely the wrong place because you know all the time you're not trying to move those front wheels, and they've got that bloody great weight on it. No, I think cars have lost to a certain extent some of the finesse because you know all the safety features and all the electronic controls have taken the fun out of driving, you know, and although the car is a lot safer, they haven't really kept the mechanical properties of the original cars. They haven't kept the engineering excellence of the original cars. I always say my favorite Morgan is the one that we haven't built yet, and we're always improving them, and actually the Aero Coupe is a better car than this. You know you do have sort of lots of nostalgia for, you know, the other cars. I mean you know and so we won a sports car championship in the Morgan Plus 8, the original Morgan Plus 8 with the Rover engine and so you know that's quite close to my heart. What I wanna do is improve cars all the time. So you know cars aren't perfect yet.

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