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Morgan three-wheeler close to green light for us

The three-wheeler is a bare-boned revival of the original Morgan from the 1920s.

The oddball British baby has survived three locally-focussed crash tests and is into the finishing straight for Australian Design Rule compliance. More than 250 people are waiting for the verdict after registering for a spot on the waiting list, although it will still be the middle of next year before local deliveries can begin.

"I'm pretty confident now. I think we'll get it," the Australian agent for Morgan and Caterham sports cars, Chris van Wyk, tells Carsguide. "The hard part was the crash tests. Now we've cleared those we've done about 70 per cent of the work." "There are three different things we've had to do, for different parts of the vehicle, to meet the ADRs.

Australia has to have its own set of rules and that's what we're wrestling with now. We're not worried about lights and seat belts or stuff like that. "In Europe and America it's classified as motorcycle so there are no crash tests required. But in Australia there is a special category for tricycles, so we need a crash test." 

He is forecasting a likely price around $65,000 for the three-wheeler but says the biggest problem will be getting cars, as demand for the three wheeler is more than four times higher than expected. "When Morgan announced the car in March 2011 they were talking about 200 cars a year, but they ended up with 900 deposit-paid orders.

They have been totally overwhelmed, and that was before they got the car into America," van Wyk says. "They're now building cars as fast as they can." The three-wheeler is a bare-boned revival of the original Morgan from the 1920s, powered by a 2-litre S&S vee-twin engine usually installed in custom Harley Davidson motorcycles.

There is plenty of customisation potential, including paintwork that mimics a Spitfire fighter from World War II. Fans of the car include American talk show legend Jay Leno. The price will between $60,000 and $70,000, although van Wyk says that depends on the exchange rate and the final certification costs. He says getting the three-wheeler approved for Australia is a tough battle.

"We've been working on this for more than a year. Really, we started as soon as we heard about it in March 2011. We had to find out the rules, for a start." But he says there is huge interest, from a huge range of people. "We're talking about CEOs of big companies at one end. A lot seem to be motorcyclists who've fallen off once too often and don't bounce too well," he laughs. From the first 20 enquiries, 17 were existing Morgan owners, but since then they are all new faces. 

"It's totally unprecedented in my 12 years with Morgan." Morgan is tiny in Australia and will deliver less than 20 of its old-fashioned sports cars this year, although van Wyk is also planning for a handful of local Caterham sports car handovers. "It's a very specialised boutique market. Last year we did 20 Morgans and had a zero with Caterham. This year I'm expecting 18 Morgans and four Caterhams," he says.