Cigar Aficionado

Ragtops and two-seaters may be the new rage as carmakers ramp up modernized sports cars that once again allow wind in the hair and no room for kids or juice boxes. But one car company never stopped doing it the old-fashioned way. Morgan Motor Co. has been hand-building quintessential British sports cars since 1909.

Unlike the newest entries, the open-car roadster dream that Morgan weaves at Malvern Link in Worcestershire comes with no frills, but lots of understated style. Think of the classic sports cars of the '50s that they stopped making before you got a chance to buy one. The long louvered hood tapers down to its discreet chrome snout of a grill and opens on either side of the engine. Fenders hug the wheel well and extend into running boards. Traditional wire wheels are available as an option. Low-slung doors are suitable for jumping into the driver's seat. The no-nonsense walnut dashboard has room for little else but the speedometer and odometer. Luxuries like a map reading light are extra. The windows snap in place, rather than rolling down. The spare tire sits proudly atop the trunk lid. You can get a radio, but we think you'd do better to keep it minimal and spend your money on leather upholstery.

The Morgan's ride is equally as retro as its look. Stiff and rattling by today's standards, that's part of the charm of feeling the road. Change doesn't come easy at Morgan. For a time in the '80s, it imported propane-fueled cars to the United States rather than bend to stiffer emission standards for gas engines. Yet managing director and heir Charles Morgan has brought innovation since taking over in 1985. For instance, the aluminum fenders are now made by an automatic press process. Assembly time has been cut in half to 23 days, thanks to large investments in factory facilities. Still, buying the Plus 8 model ($60,000) can put you on a one-year waiting list.

Don't wait to order. Signs point to a breakdown in tradition of sorts. In 2000, Morgan introduced a new model, its first since the '30s. The Aero 8 ($78,600, not yet available in the United States) comes standard with such newfangled concepts as air conditioning and a smoother ride. It also offers a navigation system. For now, despite the nods to luxury, the Aero 8 comes on the usual handmade wooden (ash) frame. There will always be an England.

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