Words: Chris Pollitt
Photos: Bruce Holder
Further building on its reputation of being the most personalised car company in the world, Morgan is now advancing further thanks to AR Motorsport. The new name and face of Morgan’s performance division, it promises big things.
Morgan has a long standing history centred on the construction of two types of car. There’s the road-going car that we all know and love, and, of course, there is the racecar. Both disciplines of motoring have been applied to every variant of Morgan to leave the infamous factory, but over recent years the shift and demand has perhaps turned more in favour of the road cars, the ‘pretty’ ones if you will.
That’s no bad thing, after all, the Plus 8, roadster, Plus 4, 4/4 and 3 Wheeler are all as wonderful to drive as they are to behold. That’s an ethos shared by the customers and it’s an ethos that keeps the deposits for new cars landing in the post box at Pickersleigh road.
But what about the racecars, the Morgans built for a purpose? Where have they gone? Well, in reality they haven’t gone anywhere, they were just perhaps overshadowed for a short while by the road cars. Well, that overshadowing is soon to be a thing of the past. We’re all more than familiar with aero racing, which still does a fine job as both a business and as a means to obtain all you could need for your Morgan. What you’re not familiar with yet is the new arm of Morgan, a new way of approaching the desire to get more from a Morgan and the dawn of a new era in Morgan cars.
This is AR Motorsport, the new division of Morgan that not only promises to boast a range of highly developed, highly engineered performance parts for Morgan cars, but also a new range of complete AR Motorsport branded Morgans, starting with the AR Roadster pictured here.
We sat down with Morgan’s Financial director, tim Whitworth, and head of design, Jon Wells, to find out the key points and reasons behind the launch of AR Motorsport.
Jon Wells: AR Motorsport is the performance division of Morgan. offering performance parts and components, lifestyle products and, of course, complete vehicles. It’s been created to reintroduce the heritage Morgan has in racing sports cars, which has been lost over the years with the cars instead becoming very fashionable products, meaning that pedigree has been forgotten a little bit.
Tim Whitworth: It’s to link in the actual vehicles you’re buying with the credibility of being raced on track. Peter Morgan always used to race at the grassroots levels of motorsport and worked on an almost ‘race it on sunday, sell it on Monday’ basis.
Because of the technology involved in what we do now, we’re basically saying we’re as good as any other manufacturer in proving our vehicles, both as performance cars and on track.
“It’s been created to reintroduce the heritage Morgan has in racing sports cars”
MOG: Why have you gone for a complete re-brand rather than just adding more to Aero Racing as it currently exists?
Tim: aero racing lost its way a little bit, and when we reorganised the group in 2010 and 2011 we decided to put all of our aftersales and all of the aftermarket products into aero racing, and consequently aero racing as a company rather than as a brand sells everything from a teddy bear right the way through to a high performance race car, but there’s no heavy focus on any one area. In the end we decided we wanted to set up a motorsport division. AR Motorsport exists within the business of aero racing, but it will also have its own specific, highly technical dealers that can support what AR Motorsport wants to deliver to the general public.
Jon: With regards to the brand, the parts ar Motorsport will be selling are precision, hi-tech parts that perform. so the brand reflects that, it’s not so much about romance like the cars of old, it’s about precision and sharpness.
MOG: Going forward, what are your plans for the new brand?
Tim: The big thing is that with any future model of Morgan car, we will try and bring out an AR Motorsport derivative. For example, the old three-wheelers that used to race around brooklands in the 1920s were exciting to watch. it’s our aim to look at the current 3 Wheeler and have a version of that at some point in the future that you can actually race, subject to regulations. at will be exciting, and it links what we did then with what we do today. but it’s technology driven today, it’s technical, it’s fast and it’s exciting.
Jon: It’s just come to that point where it’s balanced perfectly: we’ve got AR Motorsport and everything it wants to be now lining up with and complementing the future strategy of Morgan and the products coming out. AR Motorsport will build ‘hot’ versions of those cars we currently build as well as future cars.
We’re basically planning ahead. We can massively improve the impact of future vehicles by giving the AR Motorsport brand some pedigree now.
Tim: Also, when we put something on the drawing board in the future, both variants will be developed in tandem. The motorsport side won’t be an afterthought.We’ll also carry on as we have done. For example, we developed the fully adjustable front suspension on the Plus 4 supersport, which we then tested on track and now it’s fitted to all Plus 4s.
“Also, when we put something on the drawing board in the future, both variants will be developed in tandem. The motorsport side won’t be an afterthought”
Jon: The thing about clearly identifying it as a brand means people will look at Morgan and recognise us for having those two channels. it will give people peace of mind knowing that we as a company have that understanding of both road and track, not just one.
AR Motorsport is an exciting and important development for Morgan. While the current demographic of the company continues to keep the order books filled on an on-going basis, this new, focused, more hard-core arm of Morgan promises so much more. It will not only serve to satisfy the needs of current customers who wish to get that little bit more out of their car, it will also attract a new audience into the business who will hopefully perceive the Morgan range to be just as focused on performance and handling as much as any other premium sports car maker.
The thing is, talking about such plans is all well and good. but what about Morgan putting its money where its metal is and building a car to showcase this new range of cars? Well, that’s exactly what’s happened with the build of the first ar V6 roadster.
MOG: Out of all the cars in the range, why did you choose the Roadster to be the rst AR Motorsport car to be built?
Jon: Quite simply because it’s the most powerful ‘classic’ car.
Tim: The Plus 8 is being reimagined now via the speedster, which is a track car, too. But it’s bigger and heavier than a roadster so there are more factors to consider in terms of weight, brakes and so on compared to the roadster. The roadster is a very lightweight car, which was what we wanted as a base. We always have to look at weight with Morgans when we’re racing them. it’s what everybody does – you take weight out and you get performance.
The roadster suits being on the track best at the moment as well, still being more than capable on the road.
Then there’s also the important matter of what we’ve learned from the four cylinder cars both in terms of the 4/4 sport competition and also the babydoll along with the Plus 4 supersport – we’ve learned a lot from those cars. and because that’s all based on the traditional chassis we’ve been able to push that over to the roadster. In terms of styling, it will look different to the road-going car. The fact it hasn’t got any doors is a big, big difference, for example.
Jon: It’s also got an asymmetrical, driver-focused cockpit. There will be new paint schemes, new graphics packages – the whole makeup of the car. Then there’s the website. The AR Motorsport website will become the main platform to launch this car and any future cars going forward, as well as new components and products. and furthermore, the whole thing fits in with our mission of being the most personalised car company in the world.
Make no mistake, this isn’t a roadster with a few more parts bolted to it. This car has been built from the ground up to fully demonstrate what the new AR range of cars is going to be all about and features a wealth of new AR Motorsport parts along with a tried and tested setup borrowed from existing Morgan race cars such as the babydoll and the supersport, though obviously this will be tweaked and adjusted for the V6 as the car’s development progresses.
Mog was invited along to a very wet donington Park circuit for the car’s first test. Some manufacturers may prefer to go down the route of a rolling road or perhaps some gentle on-road testing. Not Morgan though – mere hours after the last bolt was torqued up, the AR V6 was taken to the circuit to be put through its paces, thus starting the final stages of the car’s development.On our arrival, we were initially struck by the overall aesthetic of the car. It’s always going to be difficult to build a truly standout Morgan, what with the shape being so familiar, yet somehow the AR V6 achieves it.
One aero screen, one tillett racing seat, a Willans harness and the roll bar and bead-rolled sheet metal panelling within the cockpit all served to highlight this car’s intent. This initial model wears a hue of matte, almost terracotta coloured paint. Unusual, granted, but also dramatic when contrasted against the gloss AR Motorsport logos and track familiarities, such as the ‘tow’ points and brilliant white racing spots.
“Mere hours after the last bolt was torqued up, the AR V6 was taken to the circuit to be put through its paces”