Drive: Malvern Hills to Llanthony, Wales (150km return)
Photos: Dawn Green
“A chase in the hills up to Abergavenny, I’ve got to get there and fast . . .”
Playing over in my mind, these chirpy lyrics from Marty Wilde’s 1968 hit pop song, ‘Abergavenny’, sound right on the money as I gun the Morgan Aero 8 down the flowing roads of Worcester and into Wales.
On the money because the city of Abergavenny is a pivotal gateway to our day out and ‘fast’ is the way to go in something approximating the Morgan Aero 8’s performance.
And this particular example’s pedigree makes the drive even more memorable.
While any Morgan is special, being hand made in a tradition and method that sets it apart from other marques, here we have the actual car that wowed the crowd at the 2006 Geneva International Motor Show.
The Aero 8 intrigues with its fusion of timeless lines and 21st century engineering.
Under-skin are high-strength aluminium sections glued and riveted together to form a ‘tub’ that serves as the car’s basic structure.
The BMW quad-cam 4.4-litre V8 engine is mounted in a cradle constructed from aluminium extrusions, a design giving the necessary strength and durability for crash safety.
This wonder material is further utilised in making some of the braking and suspension units; ditto those swoopy body panels hand-beaten and mounted on a frame of kiln-dried Belgian ash.
No wonder the Aero 8 weighs in at a frugal 1130kg.
Our drive starts in the Morgan Motor Company’s home town of Malvern Link where Company sales manager Mark Ledington readies it for our voyage of discovery.
He fills the 55-litre fuel tank from the factory’s single bowser, throws me the keys and says, ‘’Enjoy’’.
Will certainly do.
The first time I let out the clutch the car stalls, but I console myself that this is just the Aero 8 exerting its mindful personality and ensure my next try is more concentrated.
There is quite a deal of clutch travel and the return pressure is strong, if fluid, and it’s with a yip from the 18-inch Pirelli P Zeroes that I exit the factory and head out of town, with warm sun on my shoulder and cool car in my hands.
The DOHC 32-valve V8 pushes out 248kW of power and 449Nm of torque and acceleration is mighty swift (good for a 0-100km/h time of 4.5 seconds).
But its real forte is the prodigious mid-range grunt, as evidenced on a punt off the A465 and down a long and winding B4423 from Llanvihangel Crucorney over Hay Bluff to Hay-on-Wye.
Destination, the imposing ruins of Llanthony Priory located far up the Honddu Valley in the north-eastern tip of the Brecon Beacons National Park.
The way there is typical British back-block road, breathtakingly narrow in places with lay-bys scalloped out of the hedgerows on alternate sides to enable drivers to pull over and give way to one another.
It’s not just courtesy, simply good common sense and it works well.
This type of driving, though, calls for judicious use of throttle and plenty of anticipation – the latter not as easy as said, seated in a low-slung sporty roadster.
At times, the roadway pulls on a canopy of leafy greenery and things become seemingly surreal.
I’m driving through a long tunnel of nature backlit by soft sunlight. Hallelujah!
But it’s back to earth when the going opens up with a clear view of anything ahead, for it is here where the right pedal can go down. Hard.
In 2nd and 3rd within the six-cog gearbox, and tacho needle tickling peak torque at 3500 rpm on the handsome, white-faced tacho, the Aero 8 responds with a rush and keeps on keeping on.
Turn-in is sharp, due to the new, electric power steering and despite an absence of traction control, the car grips and gets the power down as well as you might want.
All-around control-arm suspension underwrites the handling and a flat underbody and discreet Venturi tunnel at the rear contribute to high-speed stability.
The ride is supple; damping and spring rates, front to rear, well matched. And did I mention the 50/50 weight distribution?
The Aero 8 stops as well as it goes taking just 35.8m – or nine car lengths, Morgan claims – to come to a complete halt from 100km/h, thanks to the large, ventilated disc brakes boasting six-piston 348mm front and twin-piston 332mm rear AP Racing calipers.
The aerodynamic profile of the car is such that the drag co-efficiency is similar whether the roof is up or down.