Book Review: ‘Making a Morgan’ Exquisitely Captures the Vintage Brand’s Spirit
An inside look at the making of an automotive icon from specification sheet to finished car
The Morgan Motor Company is a David among an industry of Goliaths. England’s last independent, privately-owned automaker has been resistant to the changing production methods and neutered styles of the modern automotive industry–despite being advised to “get with the times.”
This high-end automaker has established a consistent identity for nearly a century as a producer of new, vintage cars that are built by people, not machines. Its lineup of unique, highly-customizable models includes the 3 Wheeler, 4/4, Plus 4, Roadster, Plus 8, and AERO8.
To immortalize the spirit of the Morgan, a husband-and-wife duo have witnessed and chronicled the production of a Morgan Plus 4 at the company’s Malvern factory. Making a Morgan: 17 Days of Craftsmanship captures the inner secrets of Morgan production, from the chassis to the suspension to the English ash wooden frame. It’s a testament not just to the Morgan car but to those who invest their time, skill, and livelihood into its heritage.
Making a Morgan: 17 Days of Craftsmanship:
Step-by-Step from Specification Sheet to Finished Car
Written and Photographed by Andreas Hensing & Dagmar Hensing
Product Details: Hardcover, 160 pages, 11.5 x 9.8 inches
Price: $75.00 / £40.00 (plus applicable postage fees)
Publication Date: October 2015
Publisher: Veloce Publishing, Ltd (Site: http://www.veloce.co.uk/, Tel: 01305 260068)
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Making a Morgan is divided into two sections: “The Morgan Story” and “Making a Morgan.”
The first portion, 50 pages titled “The Morgan Story,” chronicles the company’s formation and early years, even back to the Morgan family’s beginnings in 1534. This detailed history is filled with familial anecdotes, rare insights, and Morgan family photos. But, it’s not just a genealogy; readers will quickly notice the principles of the company throughout its history–the belief that making a product is about love, not money.
The second half, “Making a Morgan,” plays out like a journal or narrated television documentary. The authors spend 17 work days (May 4-26, 2015) witnessing the construction of a Morgan Plus 4 by the hands of lifelong master craftsmen. From the first order to heading for dealership delivery, the journey of a car within this secretive factory is narrated and photographed in a way you can envision as you read. Profiles on craftsmen are included, whose work is tied to the brand’s family-run legacy.
A quote from the prologue sums the book up nicely: “Whether or not the reader possesses a Morgan, or if, after reading this book, you might consider purchasing one, or if you would simply like to be present at the creation of one of these fascinating automobiles—we invite you, via this book, to experience a unique and exceedingly vibrant piece of automotive history.”
The front of Making a Morgan is simply gorgeous. The choice and placement of the finished Morgan on the cover is eye-catching and contrasts perfectly to its visually textured background. The book’s cover is very sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity, though, so it behooves the reader to take extra care so it doesn’t warp like our copy began to.
Inside, the book contains 160 sturdy pages with around 380 crisp images showing details of the car’s creation. Sections are divided into short six-page entries, with each page containing 33% text and 67% photographs. The text is spread out into 2-to-3-sentence paragraphs that are easy to skim and don’t look congested (like most coffee table books). The sentences are short, conveying the intent and important ideas in a casual tone.
The pictures even contain captions that reiterate what’s going on in them, for those of us who don’t know much about manufacturing.
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From my perspective, this is probably the best testament to the Morgan you can find in book form. It provides both a large context to the company and a chronicle of the minute details of the cars. Together, those aspects capture the spirit of what makes Morgans special. You can sense the respectful attitude in the tone, a perspective that is imparted to the reader rather than forced on.
Making a Morgan is written by observant, thoughtful authors who deftly make the subject matter comprehensible to the reader. Seeing hand-built production of the classically-styled Morgan documented in such detail is humbling. We can all learn from it–driving isn’t just about selling cars to make money; it’s about the joy of driving. That’s what makes the Morgan–and this book–a work of art.
The price of the book is high for anyone unfamiliar with the brand, but it’s a must-have for Morgan fans (who should have pre-ordered their copies by now). Still, even if a naive reader like me who didn’t know anything about the Morgan company can appreciate this testament to the brand, surely anyone can.
Making a Morgan is available through the publisher’s website, Amazon, Book Depository, Barnes and Noble, and other retailers.
Aaron is unashamed to be a native Clevelander and the proud driver of a 1995 Saturn SC-2 (knock on wood). He gleefully utilizes his background in theater, literature, and communication to dramatically recite his own articles to nearby youth. Mr. Widmar happily resides in Dayton, Ohio with his magnificent wife, Vicki, but is often on the road with her exploring new destinations. Aaron has high aspirations for his writing career but often gets distracted pondering the profound nature of the human condition and forgets what he was writing… See more articles by Aaron.