Nick Casson, owner of Riviera Classic Car Hire, insisted I should take out my new purchase, a truly classic & iconic
Morgan, for a trip before the weather turned for the worse. I had bought the car from Nick while shooting a promotional video for him, he knew that particular vehicle was an all-time favourite of mine & he proposed a scheme whereby I got exclusive ownership & use, but it remains in his garage of rentals in Golfe Juan – so we can both get some cash to cover the running costs.
I decided to pop across to the tiny Principality of Seborga, just over the Italian border, to see my long time Italian/English friend & Radio Caroline (see the movie ‘The Boat That Rocked’) DJ, Mark Dezzani. Mark occasionally also does slots for the English speaking ‘Riviera Radio’ station, based in Monaco & I have worked with him on many occasions for mutual clients, either in his deejaying, or video capacities.
I’d had a wonderful year, culminating in the acquisition of the car & was happy that Mark, with our colleague Walter, from Vingtimille, could join myself & team at our end of year ‘thank you’ cocktail & dinner party at ‘Le Pistou’ restaurant, Cannes, where owner/chef Pascale put together a wonderful menu – & at a very reasonable price – merci Pascale!
I had not even driven the car previously (good friends Costi & Sophie, from Antibes, were the ‘talent’ in our video & did all the driving) & was a bit nervous when climbing in & concentrating on Nicks instructions. I had also not driven a right-hand drive car for longer than I can remember & the lay-out & gear configuration took some getting used to. These cars were originally built for racing & consequently have a ‘fly-off’ handbrake – the lever is just pulled back (to facilitate locking the rear wheels & sliding the back end around corners), then you push the top button to lock/unlock – sounds simple, but the first time doing hill starts are quite interesting!
This model is a 4/4, which denotes 4 cylinders (makes sense), then – 4 wheels! You’d think it was obvious that a car has 4 wheels, wouldn’t you? However, when Henry Frederick Stanley Morgan first started making vehicles in 1910, they were three wheelers, culminating in the ‘V-twin Three Wheeler’, which are still made today (with modern two litre motor-bike engines, frighteningly fast!)
The first 4 wheel cars, the 4-4 ‘Series 1’, started production in 1936 & were replaced with the 4/4 in 1955, which share the same current body design & even today the frames are, famously, made of Ash wood! Production still continues at the family owned factory in Malvern, Worcestershire where public visits are possible to see the various departments in use: Craftsmanship, Design, Chassis Shop, Wood-shop & Paint & Trim Shops.
On pulling out of Nicks’ garage, I stopped at the lights in Golfe Juan & was greeted by an elderly lady, with a huge smile, she gave me the thumbs up & just said ‘Super!’ – my first Morgan experience had begun! I avoided the motorway as the removable windscreen had been replaced with the fabulous looking, chrome rimmed, individual ‘Brooklands’ aero-screens – brilliant, but a bit windy when you get up to around 100Kph – & instead followed the bord de mer, through Antibes & the Promenade d’Anglais.
First stop was Monaco, where friend & fellow photog, Ed Wright, who was fascinated to see my new ‘wheels’, kindly offered to do some shoots around the Principality. There were quite a few seasonal tourists around & I’ve never experienced so much attention, with people coming up & chatting & taking photos – I like to think it was because of my new leather jacket & Stetson hat, but, in reality, it was probably the car!
There is no boot in the Morgan. I first thought Nicks’ casual comment was due to the fact that (like one of his Bentleys) it was just very small – but, no, there is NO boot! I was therefore going to buy one of Morgan’s own custom made, branded, leather suitcases for long trips, but then Nick suggested one of his vintage Louis Vuitton’s would fit the bill – he was right, I ended up buying that as well!
I was by now getting used to the looks from fellow motorists & pedestrians & was further amused when the armed Italian Army guys at the border, not only waved me through, but saluted & applauded! The journey continued through Ventimglia & Bordighera, then up into hills where Seborga is perched, Mark greeted me & we just had time for a few more pix before the light faded. It was then Negritas & a home made meal of fresh, pan-fried calamaries with a crowd of Mark’s friends. Bellissima!
Not a bad initial voyage – I look forward to the next trip!
RCCH Promo Video / https://youtu.be/4ZDx09Fw88I