Unsung but Essential Icons

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As I control the creative direction of Aestheticons I choose what’s featured. Largely that means that I chose aspirational gems. However, instead of looking up in awe and appreciation we need to consider the more mundane.

The items featured in this piece are neither glamorous, alluring – unless you are into the really weird – nor really do anything in excess of their primary function. At that, they are superlative and without them elements of our busy lives would be a struggle. They are Unsung – not enjoying massive Instagram accounts with millions of adoring followers – but Essential Icons.

Cable ties

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I defy anyone who derives the smallest amount of pleasure from tending a garden, to fix a plant to a trellace or a bamboo cane or a brush screening to a gate without the use of a cable tie. Not only can this devilishly small but wonder strips of plastic fixing be a the gardener’s friend, they, with equal competence, support the work of electrician, plumbers and builders and many others in thousands of conceived and yet to be conceived ways.

Known as originally as Ty-Rap, cable ties were first invented, primarily to secure airplane wiring into the bulkhead, in 1958 by US based electrical business Thomas & Betts and more particularly their employee, Maurus C. Logan. Mr Logan developed into production the idea he’d conceived of aboard a Boeing during construction. The Patent was submitted on 24th June 1958.

Why not add to your tool drawer with this Amtech selection of 500 cable ties? Click the AMAZON link below the image

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Amtech S0680 Assorted Cable Tie, 500-Piece

WD40

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As our readers know I Like to cycle but over the winter months my bike has a tendency to be a little neglected and exposed to the elements. When the cooler seasons have done their worst on my waistline the time is right to look for the foot pump and adaptor and get some air into those bike tyres. The tyres are only half the battle. The gears, brakes and chain scream out for the TLC that can only be lavished on them by WD40 the spray delivered a light penetrating, protecting and lubricating oil.

As the saying goes a “Sucess has many Fathers” and there appears to be some controversy as to originator of WD-40. It seems that the formula of WD-40 was developed in 1953 by The Rocket Chemical Company in San Diego, California and first produced in commercially available quantities in 1958. The contributions – depending on sources – of a Iver Norman Lawson and a Norman Larson (President of Rocket) are named as the “inventor” of the formula with the name WD-40 seemingly stemming from the expression “Water Displacement  40th Formula” – suggesting there may have been a 39th, 38th and so on versions of the formula.

It may be that Lawson invented the low viscosity formula – still a trade secret but still has the original and distinctive smell – and sold it to Rocket where Larson had the bright idea of putting it into aerosol cans. It arrived in the UK in the late 1960’s.

For those many jobs around the home or office for which only WD-40 will do, why not pick up a can or two by clicking the AMAZON link below the image?

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3 x WD-40 Smart Straw Aerosol 420ml Penetrant, Lubricant, Releasant Oil / Stops squeaks / Cleans and protects / Loosens rusted parts / Frees sticky mechanisms

Paper Clips

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As a lawyer I am very pro the paper-less office, technology can teach us loads about sensible digital storage and retrieval. In parking our fears and posting to the Cloud we make a statement that’s more about efficiency and less about tree hugging.

For years we relied on the trust paper clip to secure our files, ensure correct attachments to letters and avoid inevitable embarrassment on a windy day. Called a “Trombone” in French, a literal use that I find very appealing, the simple paper clip does exactly what the tin says.

History tells us that in the US on April 23rd 1867 Samuel B. Fay successfully obtained the first Patent for a bent wire paper clip. On November 7th 1899 William D Middlebrook obtained a Patent for a paper clip making machine that produced an item – made popular as the “Gem Paper Clip” which went on sale in the UK in the 1870’s – and are similar to those sold today. The name Gem – trademarked in the US by Cushman and Denison in 1904 – became known Worldwide and in Sweden, I am told, that the word for paper clip is “Gem”.

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No desk is complete without a selection of plastic coated paper clips – please click the AMAZON link below the image to get yours.

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Zealor Paper Clips with Assorted Colors and Sizes (28 mm, 50 mm, 100 mm)

Image Credits – with grateful thanks – http://www.officemuseum.com, Zealor and the WD-40 Company Inc.

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Filofax, Stabilo Boss and Post-it Notes

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I was at our son’s school’s Speech Day and the Head of KS5 – what we used to call the Sixth Form – was addressing 26 Year 13 pupils in celebration of their graduation. All 18 to 19 year old boys and girls.

Two of the girls were referred to as having “particularly severe highlighter addictions”. No, they weren’t prone to slope off for a chemical hit behind the Bike Shed – unlikely to still exists at a school where behind “the virtual reality white board” or “elaborate holographic image” is more likely – but I digress. He wasn’t inferring any noxious ingestion, but to the over use of Stabilo Boss highlighter pens invented by a member of a Bavarian pencil dynasty, Günter Schwanhäußer.

We will all recognize the Day-Glo coloured inks used by Stabilo Boss for highlighting text in books, plays and other literature. It seems that these pupils’ use has progressed to the almost clinical.

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This got me thinking. These student are barely Millennials yet they are using – some apparently to excess – a technology that has been around since 1971, with the original yellow Stabilo Boss, the world’s best selling highlighter. They are continuing to use this aging tech, but why? Primarily because as it promises, as per the Ronseal advertisement “It does what it says on the tin”!

I have been discussing with my eldest daughter, now 23, that there seems little sense in discarding technology simply because it has been superseded by something newer – see our previous post on the Braun Calculator Braun Calculator – which in essence may not be better but just newer. We agreed that there were many good reasons to continue to use a favored product, if it delivers the required function. It may also be wise to revisit those products that have served well over the years but may have got slightly left behind by the enrapture of the new.

This got me thinking about those products that perform brilliantly, without unnecessary song or dance – and deserve re-discovery. Filofax is one such item.

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For all of its pejorative connotations with the now uncool 1980’s Yuppie Culture (you may need to explain that to our younger readers) I still have one and use it regularly. A friend has recently adopted a family version in green and based I her kitchen to record “troop movements” in her weekly agenda. I really enjoy its versatility and purpose.

I know a Filofax is not at the leading edge of new tech. You can download a business card smart reader App to populate the contact fields on your I-Phone and most Filofax’s don’t give you an electronic reminder prior to your meeting. Naturally without a digital search function you need to engage your brain to remember where you have scribbled a note or phone number. A Filofax this is an enduring and stylish way to maintain your data – and also probably doesn’t need to be GDPR compliant!

Products from the LeFax business founded in Philadelphia by JC Parker in 1910, by 1921 were imported into the UK by London printer Norman & Hill. In the mid- 1980’s the company changed its name to “Filofax”. The popularity of the Filofax was phenomenal but a fad. The Letts Filofax Group in 2012, after several corporate takeovers, was acquired by HSGP Investments.

For me the coincidence of two technologies, the Filofax and the Post-it, are inextricable.

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At a certain point in the 1990’s an optional extra to the Filofax range was a dispenser for various sized “Post-it” notes adding definition and colour to the reminder flags that were stuck to your Filofax entires. A product of such amazing simplicity, again its long term reliability is akin to staple or the paper clip. I challenge anyone not to see the practical sense in using the brightly coloured notes as a powerful aide memoire.

If you have had any experience of signing of legal documents there has evolved a short hand that a “Post-it” flag indicates, without any end for direction from your advisors, where you signature is needed. Again, we have an indelible reliance on a product launched in the late 1970’s.

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3M had a patent until 1997 under the “Post-it” brand. They were originally small yellow squares of re-adherable, removable and temporary small notes. The name “Post-it” and the yellow colour remain 3M trademarks. The late 1960’s research of a Dr Spencer Silver and his colleague Art Fry resulted in the launch of the “Post-It” product in 1979. A litigious claim settled in 1998 appears to have acceded to the role of inventor Alan Aaron in the development of the “Post-it” with the 1974 disclosure to 3M of his “Press-on” memo sticky note invention.

Add to your collection of reliable – unpowered and analogue – well designed business and social tools by clicking the following Amazon links – appearing below the image.

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Stabilo Boss Highlighters Original Colours + Pastel Shades Complete Set 15

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Filofax The Original Personal Organiser – Red

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Filofax Personal Nappa Leather Zipped Organiser – Black

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Post-it 3M 654-TFEN Notes, 76 x 76 mm – Energetic Colours, 6 Pads (100 Sheets Per Pad)

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Image credits – with grateful thanks – Filofax, 3M and Schwann – Stabilo Boss.

Arctic Monkeys “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino”

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Here’s my 10 cents on the recent release by these icons of British music.

The Arctic Monkeys are not the same band they were in 2006 with “Whatever People say I am….” but twelve years on their songwriting and musicianship have matured, wonderfully.

“Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” is varied, complex and above all box-fresh.

I suspect the intention may be for it to be seen as a concept album – and here an ace is scored. It is also aimed at dissuading the purchase of single tracks – the scourge of the album market – and arguably disrespectful to an artist’s creative intentions.

As a piece of standalone mastery, it is a class all its own. That said stand-out tracks for me include the title track, “Four Out Of Five”, the more classic AM “Science Fiction” and “The Ultracheese”. Alex’s delivery is as usual, Sheffield steel and the reverb is wonderful.

The homage to Bowie is well done and there are so many film soundtracks and sound beds for commerials their music publishers must be thrilled!

Great job lads, brilliantly executed.

STOP PRESS:

In case you thought I was alone in loving this new album, then you’d be wrong! The judging panel of influential Q Magazine have just announced that “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” has been given the accolade of “Album of the Year 2018”.

Read the report here from the Irish Independent Tranquility Base Album of the Year 2018 – Q Magazine

Do yourself a favour and get a copy for the car and/or the turntable by clicking the Amazon link below the image on the album’s cover.

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Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino

In case you have not already heard the stunning debut album by the Arctic Monkeys from 2006 “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not” please click on the Amazon link below the image to secure a CD or vinyl.

Remember this album not only won the Mercury Prize it was also the fastest selling debut Album ever in the history of the UK Charts!

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Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not

Image credits – with grateful thanks – Domino Recordings Limited

Mike Hawthorn – 1958 Formula One World Champion

 

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At the weekend, with a couple of my kids, I visited the Brooklands Museum – see the Museums website here  – Brooklands Museum in Weybridge Surrey the home of British Aviation and early Motor Racing. My late father had been an early Trustee of the Museum assisting it to secure substantial support from Shell, his former employer. I am told there is a plaque to his memory on site but, sadly, we couldn’t locate it.

My father was a very keen follower of Motor Racing, he ran part of Shell’s  commitment to sport and visited tracks all over the world in the 1970’s and 80’s. As kids we even lived in the village of Silverstone.

Prior his early years in the Army and then in commerce in Africa and elsewhere, my Dad was schooled at Ardingly College in West Sussex. A rather typical English Boarding School which produced well rounded chaps in the 1940’s. His close friends and contemporaries included Bill Cotton (the son of the 1940’s Band Leader, “Billy Cotton”, who became the head of BBC TV) and John Michael (“Mike”) Hawthorn, who because of his hair coloring, was nicknamed “Snowball”. See our previous post mentioning Mike Hawthorn here – Morgan Cars

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Born in Yorkshire on 10th April 1929 this blond and debonair young man was an iconic British racing driver and the very essence of what made motoracing glamourous. He drove a Ferrari and his penchant for racing in a bow tie did much to concrete his reputation as a gentleman racer of the finest tradition. Behind his steely blue eyes lay a depth of grit and ambition that would see him secure the Formula One World Championship alongside a host of other trophies.

Mike Hawthorn’s biography “Challenge Me The Race” carries the line “The first motor races I ever saw were at Brooklands. I was only a very small boy, but to me it was heaven to watch the cars thundering round those towering cliffs of concrete where the banking curved under the Members’ Bridge, to wander along the lines of brightly coloured cars in their stalls in the paddock, to jump as an exhaust snarled suddenly and to sniff the aroma of castor oil.”

Leslie, Mike’s father had relocated from Doncaster to Farnham, Surrey – opening The Tourist Trophy Garage in 1931 – to be nearer Brooklands. His father is said to have driven a young Mike in a Riley 2.0 litre around the legendary track thus sealing his ambition to race. This must have been a fascinating era with the Sunbeam, Napier Railtons and Bentleys battling on the banked curves of the Brooklands circuit.

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Mike started racing bikes in 1947 and after a period in Formual Two driving a Cooper Bristol and being courted by the Jaguar team – managed by Lofty England –  he joined the Ferrari Team in 1953. He suffered burns following a crash in 1954 in Syracuse (Italy) and whilst  hospitalized his father was tragically killed in a car accident. Mike joined Jaguar in 1955 as team leader, replacing Stirling Moss. After a tragic Le Mans in 1955 and a week Jaguar performance at the same race in 1956 – which led to Jaguars retirement from racing – in 1957 Hawthorn rejoined Ferrari.

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On 19th October 1958 – nearly 60 years ago – driving for Scuderia Ferrari, Mike failed to win the Moroccan Grand Prix at the newly built Ain-Diab Circuit. He was beaten into second place by Stirling Moss driving a Vanwall. Despite his position, Hawthorn secured, by a single point (total 42 points), the 1958 Formula One World Championship, the first British driver to do so. Moss came second with 41 points. Anoraks will be amused to note that Bernie Ecclestone competed in the same race – one of only two starts ever by Bernie in a Formula One – the second being the same year at Silverstone.

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Immediately following the race Hawthorn announced his retirement from motoracing after eight amazing years. Sadly, the 29 year old champ was unwell following the loss of his friend Peter Collins and a recurrent, and, many have said probably terminal, kidney complaint.

Sadly on 22nd January 1959 Mike was killed in a British Racing Green, Mark 1 3.4 litre Jaguar – Reg VDU 881 – that had been loaned to him by the Jaguar team, that crashed on the Guilford by-pass. Whilst the circumstances are unclear it seems that on the wet surface with a witness attesting to seeing his car traveling at around 100 mph, he may have been racing Mercedes Team’s Rob Walker, who was driving a gull-winged doored Mercedes 300 SL.

See this dated Pathe newsreel announcing in its staccato voice over the sad news of Mike’s death  Mike Hawthorn Killed

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Image credits – used with grateful thanks Brooklands Museum, Pathe News and Motor Sports Magazine

MGB

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I was flattered to be asked to contribute To the January-February 2018 edition of The London Magazine – the Capital’s oldest. I was asked to write their 25th “My London” piece which you can see here please – My London by Mark FR Wilkins . I refer to one of London’s tribes, as a  “typical” MGB owner. I suggest that this still holds largely true, despite that the owner may now be in his 70’s although the corduroy’s will still be worn!

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These are adored British cars that have even described by Simon Chalesworth in his brilliant piece on the MGB in February 2018’s “Classic and Sports Car”, as the “gateway drug into whatever this is that we do with old cars”. I understand, that a good quality example of an MGB can be acquired at reasonable cost and by a proficient mechanic or a hired hand it can be up, running and looking fine in reasonably short order and comparable cost.

The MGB is a four cylinder, two-door British roadster – open topped/rag roofed sports car – produced by British Motor Corporation, later British Leyland, between 1962 and 1980, from its famed Abingdon (Oxfordshire) works. It used braking and suspension from the MGA and the engine dated to a design from the late 1940’s.

A previous outing of the MG brand was seen in Aestheticons with the MGA – please see here our previous piece – MG – MGA

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The MGA is a stunner and I thought it couldn’t be surpassed but those who know tell me that the MGB is infinitivly more fun and certainly a greater level of comfort – particularly later models – over its predecessor. The Sunbeam Alpine, also featured here before, seems to have set an newly raised bar one that the MGB sought to attain –  see our earlier post here – Sunbeam Alpine – Bond’s first car

Below is an MGB Mk 1, in Tartan red with a black interior and red piping. It was built in Abingdon in February 1963 and was an early car; the MGB being first shown to the market in September 1962. This car, a stunning example, is Norwegian owned and had 22 previous owners!

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The MGB with its 1798 cc BMC B-Series engine – which was upgraded in 1964 and again in 1967 – initially achieved a 0–60 is around 11 seconds but required detuning in 1975 to be comply to stricter US emission standards, the US being a key export market – you’ll note our featured image is a left hooker. The same year the MGB, which was one of the first cars to benefit from crumple zone technology, was fitted with black polyurethane bumpers to comply yet further with the US Health & Safety codes – some see these as a blight the MGB’s otherwise clean lines and great looks.

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Variants including the MGB GT – which first appeared in 1965 – the MkII MGB and MGC that both appeared in late 1967 with the latter benefitting from a six cylinder engine in a MkII MGB body. With around 9000 examples of the MGC made by August 1969 it was withdrawn and is highly regarded by collectors for its ride and handling.
 In 1993-5 the MGB bodyshell was brought out of retirement by Rover and used for a limited 2000 MG RV8 roadsters to celebrate the MGB’s 30th Anniversary.
As much as I adore these splendid small English sports car my garage is destined for others. I’d be more than keen to have a die-cast model of an MGB on the shelf in my Man Cave – join me by clicking the Amazon link below the image! 

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MG B MGB Cabrio grün Modellauto 10002 T9 1:43

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Photo credits with grateful thnaks – Trygve Sørli/www.petrolicious.com, The London Magazine, Marc Vorgers,

Brompton Bicyclesm

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I really like to cycle. There’s a “wind in your hair” moment – obviously beneath your safety helmet – when you appreciate the liberty of your pace but also the penny drops that you are actually doing yourself some good. Stamina and a general feeling of wellbeing improve immensely from bike riding.

If you are a City commuter then the idea of riding to work may be somewhat daunting. Aside from the perils of other road users, including the crazy antics of cycle messengers/couriers – who are very time poor – and the inconsideration often shown to pedal power by motorists there are distinct health and wealth benefits. Provided the weather holds, many Cities now have dedicated bike routes offering the cyclists a reasonably direct line between home, through parks and tunnels to emerge close to their work place.

Once you arrive at work – what on earth do you do with your prized bike? You can park it in a designated cycle rack with all manner of heavy “U” locks or chains seeking to prevent theft or why not carry it and place it under your desk!

Yes, armed with an engineering degree from Cambridge University and a somewhat thwarted career in computer science, Andrew Richie’s City Analysist father introduced him to those seeking to commercialize the Bickerton Bike. A patented model of collapseable bike produced entirely from aluminum profiles with no welding and reasonably light.

After extensive modification of the earlier idea to ensure that the dirtiest parts of the bike – primarily the chain – were central to the folded vehicle and named after the Brompton Oratory that could be seen from his flat, in Egerton Gardens, where he developed the first prototypes, James filed his second patent in 1979 for his folding bike. The Patent was granted on the 30th May 1984.

I am very relieved to hear that James Ritchie appears to be in that rare group of perhaps eccentric British inventors, that would logically include James Dyson and Clive Sinclair and Trevor Baylis, that are truely obsessed by their design and live and breath the prospect for their invention. Mr Richie certainly believed in his invention and spent an inordinate amount of time bringing it to market. He readily admits to being a perfectionist for whom all the design and manufacturing details needed to be just right. His belief has proved to be correct.

The Brompton is an iconic and memorable site on the street of London, New York and San Francisco.

His modesty as to his design talents is disarming. He quite rightly notes that he combined the elements of a bicycle that have been around since the Victorian era. He credits Alex Moulton – who we first heard of in relation to his design work on the suspension of Sir Alec Issigonnis’ Mini – see our pervious post here – Mini – the best selling car in Britain  who popularized the smaller wheeled bicycle and without this Mr Richie believes that he would not have conceived the idea of the Brompton.

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It appears that a favourite pastime for the legions of fans of the Brompton folding bike – aside from selecting your preferred vehicle from the company’s wide range of options, alternative parts and accessories that may be tailored to your individual needs – is to add a Brooks saddle, perhaps giving the bike a slightly more noble look. We have celebrated the iconic saddles made by Brooks in Smethwick (West Midlands) – please see our earlier post here – Brooks bicycle saddle

The cleaver team at Brompton based at their production facility in West London have devised and recently launched a Brompton bike that is powered by human and battery! See their video here Brompton’s First Electric Bike

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Can I interest you in a Brompton? The ever popular M6L model is available in either blue or black – please click on the Amazon link below the image of each bike

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BROMPTON M6L 2017 Tempest Blue Folding Bike

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BROMPTON M6L 2017 Black Folding Bike

Or perhaps you’d prefer the same look in a lighter Brompton bike – the H6L – please click the link below the image

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Brompton H6L Superlight 2017 Folding Bike Black Titanium

STOP PRESS

The Independent, one of the UK’s more objective newspapers, in June 2018, carried a very well reasoned piece concerning electric bikes – including Brompton’s very own version. Read the piece By David Phelan here Best Electric Bikes

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Image Credits – with grateful thanks Brompton Bicycles and James Richie

Morgan Cars

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It may be seen as era specific, but back in the 1940’s, as any Hollywood movie will attest the “half timbered” car was not at all unusual. The huge eight seater Chrysler Town and Country dating from 1941 is perhaps, in many ways, the most iconic example of the Woodie, partly as it became the surfer’s station-wagon of choice. Wood was used as opposed to metal both for budget as well as design reasons. Others had equally evocative names the Pontiac Torpedo, the Nash Suburban and the Buick Roadmaster.

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In 1950’s railway carriages – particularly in France – were made of wood. Solid wood furniture was made up to the 1960’s ahead of “advancements” such as Formica. The surrounds of a Butler’s Sinks in any self respecting 1940’s scullery were always wood.

I recently saw publicity shot for a country house hotel that had a bright green Morris 1000 Traveller in the front drive. Denoting no doubt, that in addition to highly anticipated, hot and cold running water, the hotel would spare no expense to transport its guests back to a drafty era that creaked on the bends. The Traveller – for which I have great affection – was launched in October 1953 and was based on the Sir Alec Issigonis’ – the designer of the Mini – see our earlier piece here – Mini – the best selling car in Britain Morris Minor that debuted in September 1948.

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So let’s be clear that the use of wood in car manufacturer – quite literally – “Went Out With The Ark”. Or did it?

I am fascinated by Morgan Cars, above all, for their quintessential Englishness. They have character and cannot be ignored when assessing iconic sports cars. They also continue to have a waiting list that at times has exceeded ten years but is said to currently be around six months.

Founded in 1910 by Henry FS Morgan in Malvern (Worcestershire, England) who ran the business until his death in 1959 at the age of 77. In 1911, Morgan started building affordable – they attracted a lower road tax as they were treated as motorcycles  – and stable three wheelers. An early version of the three wheeler was shown at the 1911 Motor Cycle Show and Harrod’s took an agency to sell them in London priced at £65.

My family legend has my late father (a Brooklands Circuit Trustee until his death in 1991) being nearly totalled in a three wheeler driven by his school pal and the UK’s first Formula One World Championship (1958), Mike Hawthorn.

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By 1935, in response to more realistically priced four wheeled cars, including Ford’s Popular, the more familiar Morgan “4-4” – four cylinders and four wheels – and Morgan’s first four-wheeled car, was launched at a price of £194. A four seater model was released in 1937 and in 1938 a four seater drop-head version was launched. In 1938 a 4-4 was entered for Le Mans. World War II intervened and production stopped until 1950 when an in-line four cylinder Standard Vanguard engine was used.

The company continues to be 100% family owned and produces more than 1300 cars annually that are all assembled by hand. Unusually, Morgan – despite some run-ins with the Health and Safety guys – particularly in the USA – continue to build their cars with an Ash wooden frame and body shell – the chassis being, of course, metal.

The Plus4 Morgan models launched in 1953, 1956 and 1968 used the Triumph TR2, TR3 and TR4A engines. See our previous post here – Triumph TR2, TR3 and TR4

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In 1955 production of the 4-4 was revived with the Plus8 chassis and a Ford engine.

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In 1968, Morgan used the Rover V8 (later the Land Rover version) Engine – delivering much better acceleration – to launch the Morgan Plus8 – our featured image – and my favourite Morgan. This model was fazed out in 2004.

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The Morgan Aero 8 was first introduced in 2002 and went through a series of incarnations with the most recent iteration being launched in 2015.

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The Aero 8 was followed in 2008 by the Aeromax that was limited to 100 units. A targa-roofed version, the Aero SuperSports, was launched in 2009 but production ceased in 2015. An Aero Coupe, hard topped version of the SuperSports, was launched in 2011 and withdrawn in 2015.

Whilst a great condition Morgan Plus8 can now fetch a King’s Ransom why not place this scale model die-cast on your shelf. Please click the link below the image

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MORGAN PLUS EIGHT MODEL CAR 1:43 SCALE GREEN CARARAMA SPORTS OPEN TOP K8

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Photo credits – with grateful thanks – Charles Ware’s http://www.morrisminor.org.uk/40-traveller-wood, Hemmings and Richard Thorpe Classic Cars.