A modest local dealership has been set up for anyone keen to get behind the wheel of some very unique cars in Singapore. We ask the director of NB Auto about the process of getting the Morgan brand into the country
Morgan is a British automobile maker that makes some very unique, vintage-inspired cars. It’s also very likely that many readers would have never heard of them. But you can now buy them in Singapore as the cars are now being sold here by NB Auto, from a modest facility tucked away in Tuas, along Benoi Crescent.
We spoke to the firm’s director, Douglas Ng, on why there was a decision to become the dealership for such a niche product. He explains that his family had always held great enthusiasm for old-school British sports cars, and he was also heavily influenced by his father in this aspect. When the idea of actually importing and selling Morgans here came up, the family decided that it was worth a shot as an additional facet of a number of other businesses that they already manage.
“Before this, others have imported Morgans into Singapore on their own before, and every one of them was by a car enthusiast who wanted something special in their collection,” Ng tells us.
Yet the process of getting them in officially was a complicated affair, not helped that it was all conducted online as it happened while most of the world, including Singapore, was in lockdown because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Weeks worth of video calls to England and plenty of discussions with homologation officers from Singapore’s Land Transport Authority were what Douglas had to deal with for months to get all the official paperwork approved.
“As you can see, Morgan cars are quite unique, so it’s hard to apply the LTA’s standard assessment criteria to them. Some of the brand’s models cannot be homologated here because they stray too far outside the rule,” Ng explains. “For example, the famous Morgan Three Wheeler, powered by a front-mounted Harley-Davidson engine, will not pass muster here because it has no doors, and is technically a motorcycle rather than a four-wheeled car. Yet thankfully the operations guys at the LTA are also real car enthusiasts that took a real interest in making it work for the models that can be imported here.”
Currently, Morgan only has two models in its catalog that can legally be sold in Singapore: the Plus Six and Plus Four, two identically-bodied cars with different engines. The cars are still made in Malvern, Worchestershire in England, and the company has a history going back more than a century. The chassis may be all metal, but on top of that the cabin is built on a painted ash-wood frame for that authentic vintage feel.
The two drop top automobiles are a throwback to an earlier age of motoring, with nearly no storage space, a manually folding roof, and doors so small that you don’t really expect them to offer much protection from side impacts. There’s actually no boot space in the Plus Six and Plus Four at all. A round hatch at the rear looks like it could cover a cargo space, but it’s actually the access panel for rear axle maintenance.
The cars do fully modern drivetrains however.
The Plus Six uses the engine and transmission from the BMW Z4 M40i. The 3.0-litre turbo inline six cylinder engine with 335 horsepower sends power to the rear wheels through a BMW automatic transmission with no traction control or electronic stability assistance. Meaning that if the car skids or spins its wheels from a poor launch, it’s all up to the driver to rescue it. The whole car weighs just 1,075kg. In other words, it’s a very light car with a very powerful engine, and can be yours from S$415,888, before COE.
The identically shaped Plus Four is a little less scary, with a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo BMW engine with 255 horsepower in the front. The manual version goes for S$325,888 before COE, while the automatic costs an extra S$10k.
“We’re not big name car dealers,” says Ng. “While it’s easy to set up shop along Leng Kee Road and hope for customers to walk in, the nature of a Morgan and the kind of cliente it attracts wouldn’t allow that business strategy to make any sense at all, and we’re taking baby steps as we move along.”
NB Auto currently has one Morgan Plus Six already on display, with the Plus Four expected to make its way here soon. The facility is also able to offer full servicing, and Ng says that the Morgan HQ in England has been very supportive in helping them to establish the place. “As they are not a big company themselves, getting parts flown over or documentation endorsed is a surprisingly quick process, as they have nearly no hoops to jump through or complicated supply chain issues that larger carmakers may face.”
For now though, Ng reveals that HQ has given him a “modest sales target” to meet for the first year of operation. It’s not a car for everyone, but there is enough interest amongst the well-heeled car nuts here, as well as in neighbouring countries, that are interested, and that should give some legs to the enterprise for some time yet.