Morgan Roadster

1 This simple but elegant grille hasn't changed since the 1950s, and it was retro even then.

2 Putting the headlamps into Morgan-built nacelles forced changes to the nose that made the ensemble more harmonious.

3 This cowl actually resembles what was current on 1935 racing cars, so it was not at all anachronistic or inappropriate on a sports car.

4 The thick belting leather strap is de rigueur, at once a period piece and a totally functional accessory. And it looks great on this car.

5 The flattened fender tops were easy to make by hand long ago and give a distinctive character to classic Morgans - as they did for the Jaguar SS 100 and the Riley Imp of the '30s.

6 The cut-down doors let you swing your elbows freely as you wrestle with the heavy but accurate steering. Perfectly traditional, perfectly functional. Except in the rain.

7 External hinges are practical, light, and strong, but they dictate the door shape, which must have a nearly vertical leading edge. Older versions had rear-hinged doors.

8 The radio antenna aligns with the aft edge of the hood and the angle of the windshield. But who listens to the radio in a Morgan?

9 Skirts below the fender highlight line add a touch of modernity, keep mud off the body sides, and allow a nice horizontal baseline.

10 The side marker lamps are as small as legally possible on the rather bare new Sport model, available with two Ford powerplants: a 1.6-liter four-cylinder and a 3.0-liter V-6.

11 Black wire wheels are a feature of the Sport models, as is the lack of bumpers. If black wheels work for Lamborghini . . .

12 The optional bumpers actually finish the front end nicely, as did underpan fairings on some racing Morgans. But the nice thing about these cars is that you can have whatever you want. Just order it and wait many months (it used to be years) until your car is done.

13 The spare tire lies on the plane of the rear body. In flat-radiator models, there were two spares, carried upright, which looked good but are hardly necessary with modern tires. Even one spare may be more than what's needed, but it looks right.

14 How very British: two identical Lucas lamps with different colored lenses provide legal lighting at minimal cost.

15 Lack of an air bag highlights the vehicle's lengthy life span.

16 Controls "fall readily to hand," as generations of British road tests had it. And indeed they do in the classic Morgan roadster.

17 Ample use of leather for the cockpit surround, dash top, and even on the instrument panel itself is luxurious. It's also practical for a car that requires a half hour of fumbling to erect the top, after which the rain-spotted leather can easily be wiped dry.

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