Morgan says it wasn't a PR stunt. We beg to differ.
Car versus plane publicity stunts are becoming a bit of a cliche now. We recently saw Lamborghini race an Aventador S against a plane to demonstrate the exotic's sharp handling, and now sports car maker Morgan is the latest automaker to pit a car against a plane in a unique drag race. Albert Ball, a World War I fighter pilot and Morgan owner, once remarked that his pre-war Morgan Three Wheeler was "the closest thing to flying without leaving the ground."
To put that claim to the test, Morgan pitted its flagship performance car, the Aero 8, against a Pitts S2S muscle biplane in a head-to-head drag race at the Bruntingthorpe airfield in Leicestershire, England. Behind the wheel of the Aero 8 was Morgan's Head of Design Jon Wells. With its 4.8-liter BMW V8 engine developing 367 hp and weighing just over one tonne, the strong power-to-weight ratio makes the Aero 8 a worthy opponent to the agile aeroplane. Flying the biplane was veteran pilot Richard Goodwin, known for performing awe-inspiring aerobatic displays at air shows. His specially modified biplane, known as G-EWIZ, is powered by a six cylinder, 8.5-liter engine producing over 300 hp.
"Statically, and on paper, the power to weight ratios of our Aero vs Rich's muscle biplane were evenly stacked," Wells explains. "None the less, it was surprising to see just how well matched they were from a standing start." Timing was key, as there were only a few runs for the car and plane to travel in formation.
It's spectacular to watch as the biplane flies in formation with the Morgan sideways in the air precariously close to the speeding sports car at over 100 mph. And just to add to the spectacle, the pilot activated the smoke cannons usually reserved for airshow displays to entertain the crowd. "The plane was gently floating at 45 degrees, just feet above me," Wells recalls. "I was even able to make eye contact with Rich above me in the cockpit and it wasn't until he banked up sharply and my attention was fully refocused on the rapidly disappearing runway that the realisation of just quite how insane this was dawned on me!"
The unique "drag race" was apparently organized with only four days' notice, but Morgan insists that it wasn't a PR stunt. We beg to differ, but it still looks like it was terrific fun. "This was no intended PR stunt, just a cool opportunity presenting itself to a team small and flexible enough to just 'make it happen'" Wells said. "Neither Morgan, Rich or I needed more of an excuse!"