Elginite cruises country roads in British Morgan 3-Wheeler
By Denise Moran For Sun-Times Media December 4, 2013 10:48AM
Howard Curran of Elgin with his Morgan 3-Wheeler. | Denise Moran for Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 6, 2014 12:50PM
ELGIN — When Howard Curran takes his 2013 Morgan 3-Wheeler for a spin in the Fox Valley area, passers-by are tempted to pull out their cellphones to snap a photo.
Curran, the owner of Curran Landscaping in Elgin, said he got hooked on the vehicle when he viewed his friend’s original Morgan 3-Wheeler from the 1930s. Rather than finding another vintage model, however, Curran said he wanted a modern, more-reliable vehicle.
Morgan Motor Co., based in Malvern Link, England, was established in 1909 by Henry Fredrick Stanley Morgan when he designed the first Morgan 3-Wheeler, according to the Morgan Motor Co. website. The first Morgan 4-Wheeler was produced in 1936.
“Morgan Motor Co. is the oldest British car company still in operation,” said Curran.
The company survived World Wars I and II. When World War I ended, the company was one of the first manufacturers to resume full production due to the simplicity of the vehicle’s design. Production stopped during World War II but resumed in 1946.
The last Morgan 3-Wheeler left the factory in 1953. In 2011, the company re-launched the vehicle with a modern interpretation of the classic design.
“People have been clamoring for years for Morgan Motor Co. to start making them again,” Curran said. “A guy in the Washington/Oregon area was making replicas. Morgan Motor Co. bought him out around 2011.”
Curran’s vehicle is featured on the front cover of Hammacher Schlemmer’s 2013 Last Minute Gift Guide. The 3-Wheeler also won the People’s Choice Award in September at the British Car Festival, which was presented by the British Car Union at Harper College in Palatine. There were 500 vehicles at the event.
The British Car Union, formed in 1986, has representatives from 20 separate Chicago-area British car clubs.
“I just joined the Windy City Morgan Owners Group,” Curran said. “It has approximately 40 members.”
Curran said he ordered his 3-Wheeler in March from the Northshore Sportscars dealership in Lake Bluff, one of the few authorized Morgan dealers in the United States. Curran received his vehicle in August. He paid an extra $1,000 to have it air-shipped so that he could drive it before winter arrived.
The Morgan 3-Wheeler is described in the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog as “a modern manifestation of motoring’s halcyon days. This rear-wheel drive vehicle seats its driver and passenger within an aerodynamic aluminum ‘bullet’ hull and a padded leather aircraft-style cockpit. Powered by a 2.0-liter, 80-horsepower S&S V-twin engine that provides 4½-second 0-60 miles per hour acceleration and a top speed of 115 mph, it provides superior track and hill performance with the classic growl of a bygone era without the temperamental performance of cars from that period. Unlike vehicles that mollycoddle drivers with power steering or automatic transmission, this one provides yesteryear’s thrilling experience of applying effort when gripping the leather-clad wheel or engaging the manual brakes. Its five-speed manual transmission provides reliable downshifting, and its rugged front tires grip the road for precise cornering.”
The list price in the catalog is $59,000.
The Mazda Miata five-speed transmission in Curran’s vehicle was built by S&S Cycle in Viola, Wis., and shipped to England so it could be installed in the 3-Wheeler.
Curran said his vehicle is heavily optioned. It has quilted leather seats, a checkerboard bonnet (hood) with a bonnet strap, a boot (trunk), and a tubular steel chassis with ash wood frames and aluminum body panels.
“It weighs 1,250 pounds,” Curran said. “It’s plenty fast but very stable. You can corner as fast as you like.”
Ride with dad
Curran has been an Elgin resident for the past 24 years. He and his wife, Barbara, live with their yellow Labrador retriever, Nellie, in an 1894 Victorian house on the west side of the city. The house was featured during an Elgin house walk.
Curran Landscaping has been in business since 1949 and does work on the northwest side of Chicago. Curran’s father, Howard Curran Sr., started the business.
“I remember putting Christmas trees atop the roof of the old Chicago Sun-Times building,” Curran’s father said. “We did it two years in a row during the 1960s.”
The 3-Wheeler is stored in a barn in Plato Township. Curran has taken his father for a ride in the 3-Wheeler so they could go out for dinner. Curran said that he prefers to drive the vehicle on country roads.
“It is classified as a motorcycle and requires its operator to have a motorcycle license,” Curran said. “It drives like a car. I like how it looks.”