The Morgan 3-Wheeler is a fantastic vehicle. It’s light, fun, fast, and designed to enjoy driving. However, as we have already pointed out in other posts, it has some particularities to consider if you plan to travel with it.
Limitations such as the luggage space are solved by the 3-Wheeler travelers in one way or another. You also must consider that you are driving an open vehicle, so, like on a motorbike, you’re exposed to the weather conditions. Sun, rain, wind, kamikaze insects smashing your forehead, etc. Having an intercom to talk to your partner is also important. And depending on the distances you will drive, the fuel range is to be studied with care too, to avoid finding yourself in the middle of a desertic road with an empty tank.
The truth is that you can travel as far as you want in your 3-Wheeler, once you assume the above-mentioned characteristics, and plan your trip accordingly.
Then, why buying a trailer for the 3-Wheeler? Ana Maria and I discussed about it and, despite it was an important cost, we decided to buy one for two big reasons.
The first one is that we would like to do some trips with the Morgan that imply exceptionally long road distances. If we want to join our friends for the Jungfrau Treffen in Switzerland, or Le Mans in France, Isle Of Man in the UK, or any other 3-Wheeler event celebrated abroad, we’re talking about many hundreds of kilometers – probably much more than a thousand – from our home base in Madrid. Driving these very long distances, just the two of us in the tiny 3-Wheeler, to join the rest of the gang, can be physical and mentally quite demanding. But if you cover part of this distance sitting comfortably in our SUV, towing the 3-Wheeler in the trailer, and use the 3-Wheeler only the key days, the trip will result globally much more comfortable and feasible.
The second reason is getting the Morgan safely parked inside the protection of the trailer. Because we live in an urbanization with three large apartments’ buildings, and our garage is used by many others. It’s not like we live with vandals in a terrible ghetto, but we are hundreds of people, and statistically you can have few “badge stealing baboons”, or worse. So, keeping the Morgan inside a closed trailer out of sight of these few primates is the best option to avoid displeasures.
With the decision taken, it is time to decide which kind of trailer we want. And this is not a simple task! If you’re planning to tow a trailer with a Morgan 3-Wheeler on it, you have to consider this is no ordinary car. It’s compact, and light. But still weights over 585 kg if you have the Euro4 version. You’ll easily pass the 600 kg with a full fuel tank. If you consider that a good quality trailer, with the characteristics we asked for, weights 725 kg, the sum is way over a ton. A two- axles trailer is, in our opinion, a must.
So, what’s concerning about the Morgan 3-Wheeler that you can’t simply buy a standard trailer?
First matter: the three wheels
It has three wheels! Oh yes… three wheels. So what? Well, if you check on the Internet, most of the standard trailers for vehicles available have only two narrow ramps for the vehicle to get on the platform! Without a central third ramp, the 3-Wheeler could not be loaded.
So, your trailer needs three ramps. Or, as we chose, a large rear ramp as wide as the trailer. We believe this is the best solution, because a single large ramp that can tilt will act as a door and protection for the back of the trailer.
The second matter: the balance point
The balance point of the 3-Wheeler is very much at the front than in a normal car. The huge S&S V-Twin 2 liters engine is far at the front of the car, followed by the Centa drive, clutch and gearbox just behind it. All this in front of the seats. Behind the seats you only have the bevel box, rear arm and wheel, and the fuel tank, covered with a really light ash wood frame and aluminum body, which do not counterbalance the weight at the front. So, where exactly is the balance point of the 3-Wheeler?
We asked Morgan Motor Company, but unfortunately had no reply. So, it was again our dear colleagues of the Talk Morgan forum who helped us to sort it out. This forum is an inexhaustible source of information, coming from incredibly experienced people. Thanks to them, we can say now that we know exactly where this balance point is!
The location of the balance point on the trailer is absolutely critical. If it’s behind the axles, it can cause the trailer to stray uncontrollably and cause an accident. The following video is a good example of how the weight must be distributed on a trailer.
For this reason, the first thing we consider is to have the Morgan loaded looking forward on the platform. So, the balance point is closer to the tow ball. If we do it the other way round, so loading the 3-Wheeler backwards, and consequently having most of the weight at the end of the trailer, we would need to compensate this by moving backwards the axles. Like it happens when you’re towing a motorboat. It’s feasible, but the axles of your trailer will be far away from your towing ball, and this implies that maneuvering the trailer would be more complicated. The bigger the distance between your trailer axles and the tow ball is, the more space you’ll need while turning; and while reversing, the trailer would be much less reactive. Having the Morgan looking forward is the best technical decision.
Related to the balance point, is the tongue weight on the tow ball. If there is too much weight on the tow ball, the towing car will suffer and behave in an inappropriate way. Too much tongue weight will affect the rear axle and suspensions, the braking, and the steering of the towing car. To avoid excessive tongue weight, we need to place the axles of the trailer in the correct position, so the balance point is between the axles.
Today, most of the four wheeled cars have their balance point really centered. The manufacturers try to position the balance point so the front and rear axles stand each one 50% of the car’s weight. A consequence of this tendency is that the standard trailers offered as vehicle platform have their axle(s) centered in the middle length of the platform. And this is not good if you’re planning to tow a 3-Wheeler! If your axles are in the middle of the platform, and load it looking forward, you’ll have excessive tongue weight on your towing ball. And if you load it looking backwards, you’ll have your trailer swaying uncontrollably.
Considering all the matters mentioned above, we decided to design a specific trailer for the Morgan 3-Wheeler, according to the simple drawing here below.
Knowing that the car’s balance point is well ahead, the ideal position of the axles should be such that the balance point is between them, a little ahead of the center line that separates both axles. With this design, our trailer has a perfect balance. With the 3-Wheeler loaded on it, we can retract the jockey wheel, and the trailer stays perfectly flat. In fact, it’s like a standard trailer, but with the axles moved forward. Not a big challenge for a trailer manufacturer. So, we have a perfect tongue weight and a hyper stable trailer!
Third matter: the dimensions
Another important design characteristic of the trailer is how compact it is. The platform is 3 500 mm long, and, more important, just 2 000 mm wide. Considering that the 3-Weeler is 1 738 mm wide and 3 260 mm long, it is a real challenge to build a suitable trailer so compact. We can’t make mistakes and find out that the 3-Wheeler doesn’t fit in once the trailer is manufactured!
About the width – For us it is mandatory that the trailer is not wider than 2 000 mm. We want to park it in our garage, where the parking places are 4,9 x 2,7 m. And our SUV is almost 2 000 mm wide, and we don’t want to tow a trailer wider than the car. The only solution to have a 2 000 mm wide platform and the trailer not being wider than this, is to put the wheels below the platform. But if you use regular size wheels, the platform will be too high. The solution is to use special axles with small diameter wheels: 195/55/10 to be more precise. This size of wheel is not very common, but if your trailer manufacturer is an experienced one, he should be able to offer them. The 10inch rim is the key to success here.
About the length – A 3 500 mm length platform is sufficient for the 3-Wheeler. But obviously the trailer must be longer, as the tongue needs to have a minimum length. The trailer final design has a total length of 4 750 mm, with 3 500 mm of platform. Which is a very reasonable length! And it fits within the garage place.
Fourth matter: the loading and unloading
As we put the wheels below the platform, and despite the wheels are special small diameter ones, the platform is relatively high, at 600 mm above ground. We could have designed the trailer with a lower platform, but then the wheels would be external to the platform, increasing the width by no less than 400 mm! So, the trailer would have be of 2 400 mm width, which is really a lot, and much wider than a regular SUV with the annoying consequences for driving.
The problem is that the breakover and departure angles of the 3-Wheeler are not particularly good because the car is very low. The approach angle is totally the opposite: the best possible as the front wheels are the very front of the vehicle. So, the 3-Wheeler has simply no front overhang, and the rear one despite being short has the mentioned disadvantage of being extremely low. Then, if we just drop the back door / ramp, the angles of this ramp with the floor and with the platform could be such that the 3-Wheeler would rub its rear end and its belly while being loaded and unloaded from the trailer.
How can we solve this problem? With a tilting platform. Again, if your trailer’s manufacturer is a good one, this will not be a challenge at all. You can see in the following pictures how the platform tilts and makes a smooth loading ramp for the Morgan.
If necessary, the platform can be fully tilted, so the back of the trailer rests on the ground and supports the weight of the Morgan when it gets in and out. However, this is not really necessary if the trailer is hooked to a towing ball (so to the towing car) or, as in our case, to a towing ball screwed to the garage wall. With the trailer fixed to the wall’s towing ball, the whole doesn’t move or tries to tilt at all when we get in and out with the Morgan.
Here is a detail of the front part of the trailer, with the tongue hooked to the wall’s towing ball, the jockey wheel (red handle), the hand brake, the manual winch (blue device) and tilting system (green devide).
Also, in this same picture you may notice a couple of safety devices included in our trailer. One is mandatory, due to the weight of the load: the overrun brake. It actuates on both axles. The other one is the ball coupling with anti-sway damping. Safety first!
Fifth matter: the hood
We looked at the different choices to convert the platform into a closed trailer. One option is to have a full molded polyester hood. It’s solid and the wind will flow smoother on it than on a classic canvas. This kind of polyester hood is normally fixed at the front to the platform, and then tilts so its rear end opens enough to allow the car loading. As in the next picture.
But as you can also see in the above picture, this kind of hood needs a lot of height to be fully open. Unfortunately, our garage is limited to 2,25 m height. So, a rigid hood is not an option for us. We looked at other rigid options, with back doors for example. But the solution was not totally satisfactory for our need. After some exchange of ideas, we decide to go for a classic steel tubes structure with a canvas over it.
Another requirement for us was to limit the height of the trailer to minimize its impact on aerodynamics while being towed. So, the trailer with the structure should not be higher than 1 800 mm. As the platform is at 600 mm height, this let us 1 200 mm height inside the trailer. This is high enough for the 3-Wheeler and leaves the total trailer height below the 1 800 mm limit we decided.
We finally came out with the following design drawing.
Here you have some pictures of how the structure looks like, so with the trailer without the canvas on.
We’re happy to say that the 1 200 mm inside height is perfect! I am 1,82 m tall, and I can drive the 3-Wheeler inside the trailer without hitting my forehead with the structure. So good enough! But what happens when the driver is inside the trailer, and needs to get in or out the Morgan? This can be really uncomfortable! To solve this problem, we designed a sliding door on the trailer’s pilot side. This is a part of the steel structure that slides forward, and a driver’s side hood door with zippers is provided covering the side and half the width of the roof so that the driver can enter and exit the vehicle by standing up. The driver’s area starts at about 1 300 mm from the nose of the 3-Wheeler and is about 1 100 mm long, so we completed the design drawing with this other one for the trailer’s manufacturer.
This is how it looks like. The result is excellent!
Here are different pictures of the view you have when you’re loading the 3-Wheeler into the trailer.
To help the maneuver we have installed six LED lamps inside. They’re powered with standard AAA batteries and have a motion sensor, so they switch on when you’re in.
We can finally have our 3-Wheeler parked inside the trailer, totally protected against dirt and the famous “badge stealing baboons”! Plus having it hooked to the towing ball screwed to the concrete wall, and with the coupling lock, it’s impossible to move it.
As a résumé, the main characteristics of the trailer are as follows:
- Chassis, structure, and canvas frame: hot dipped galvanized steel
- Floor and back ramp / door: flat hole plated
- Platform length 3 500 mm
- Platform width 2 000 mm
- Platform height from ground 600 mm
- Back door ramp / door 2 000 mm x 1 100 mm
- Total trailer length 4 750 mm
- Canvas structure height / height inside the trailer 1 200 mm
- Total trailer height with canvas 1 800 mm
- Two 900 kg axles with 195/55/10” special wheels
- Wheels below platform
- Hand brake on both axles
- Overrun brake on both axles
- Safety coupling
- Safety lock for coupling
- Anti-sway damping device
- Safety cable
- Semi-automatic jockey wheel
- 13-pin electric connector
- LED lights
- Adjustable wheel stops
- Manual cable winch
- Manual platform tilting device
- Tools box with key lock
If anyone wants more information about the design and manufacture of our trailer, feel free to ask!
One Reply to “Fighters and bombers #2 – The trailer”
Top informative write up, as always. I have never felt the need for a trailer for my M3W but I am (almost) tempted to get one like this as it looks great.