From Paper to Reality – Part 1
I am not uncertain if it would be prudent to start off a profile of Morgan Motor Company’s former Head of Design, Matthew Humphries , with a confession in public media of a crime (albeit a minor one) of misdemeanour. Whether I and my accomplice will be punished to the full extent of the law for it, remains to be seen. But here goes.
A few years back, we came across a fully drivable Morgan Three Wheeler Super Dry Edition. It was not registered and thus was parked more as a prop to the new flagship store that just opened of this quirky, out from the left-field, hipster-ish quasi-Japanese-British fashion brand in town. Like Super Dry, the Morgan Three Wheeler looked quirky, out from the left-field and hipster-ish. And it looked bloody cool. Being crazy as ever, I casually went up to the local Super Dry management to ask if I can borrow it for one of our parties the following week. I think that my request was so weird, that they had no alternative but to say yes—with the stipulation that it remained used only as a display. As it turned out the car was quite a hit among our guests as it sat admirably stationary during the entire evening. But then the next day as we waited for the transporter to take her back to her custodian, myself and my cousin—and fellow accomplice—Paul got this urge to be mischievous. “What is it like to drive?” Paul asked, with a toothy grin. Given the small window of opportunity that we had, I quickly lifted the safety catch and flicked the Starter button. Its S&S 2-Litre V-Twin motorcycle-derived engine rumbled to life in a rattle & hum. Had there been a propeller in the front, we thought it could have been a bi-plane. Paul set the Mazda-sourced 5-Speed into first, “think I take her down the block a couple of times”, he muttered as he crackled and popped away. Paul in fact took six go’s down the block, much to the delight of onlookers and shopkeepers around the neighborhood, with his signature grin getting wider and wider each time. As I got the phone call that the transporter was about to arrive, I signaled my cousin to hastily bring the car back in just in time. We scrubbed her down and gave her safely back—like nothing happened.
From that day on, I always knew that the person who designed this Morgan has got to be a car guy just like one of us. And he is. “I currently have an Abarth 500 that I use as my daily run around. I have a Porsche Boxster 987 and also a 1966 MGB GT that I was given in parts as my 21st birthday present. I was lucky that my father has a collection of classic cars from old 911s to a Jaguar XK120 Coupe and a 3-Litre Bentley amongst others, so I get to use them with him which was good fun.” Matthew’s love for fine automobiles however stretched back even further, “my father took me to a classic car show in his Citroen DS21 when I was 4 and from that point on I was addicted. I used to make paper cars out of rolls of paper that I would sit in and pretend that I was in the film, ‘Grand Prix’.”
While having a great taste in racing movies just like me, Matthew’s leaning toward design progressed from making wooden wine racks and drawing oil paintings in prep school to studying Automotive Design at Coventry University in the United Kingdom. So make no mistake then, as Matthew’s heart maybe about cars but his soul is about being a designer—and a philosophy that could have explained my cousin Paul’s toothy grin when driving the Three Wheeler. “I love the discipline of design and just love making things. I love seeing a product go from sketch to model to the final product. Design should have a reason. If a product has no function, then is it art? Cars can be art, but to me the key function is to involve the user. This could be on an emotional level or a functional one. At the end of the day, there is no point in designing the most beautiful vehicle in the world if you cannot get anyone in it to enjoy it”.
Working From Three To Four
It was at his third year at the University when Matthew’s design career took off when he went on a work placement at Morgan Motor Company. It was during his three-month stint there that impressed Charles Morgan, the Company’s Founder’s grandson and its then Managing Director, to the point of commissioning Matthew to design the firm’s first concept car in thirty years. “After the work placement project with Morgan I then went back to University thinking nothing would happen with the design. Then I got a call from Charles Morgan saying that they had decided to scale up my design and produce a full scale car! So from October 2004, I started working at Morgan in the morning designing the first Aeromax, and then would go back to the University in the afternoon.” As the Aeromax was put into a limited run of production after the success of the concept car at the 2005 Geneva Auto Show, Matthew then hit his stride at Morgan, becoming their Head of Design and running the in-house Morgan Design studio. All at the ripe old age of 21.
Following the appointment came a series of new Morgan concepts and production cars from the Morgan LIFEcar electric vehicle project, the new look Plus 8, the Eva GT concept, the Aero SuperSport and Coupe and of course the rejuvenated Three Wheeler that was part of Morgan’s success way back at the beginning of 20th Century. “The main objective was to expose what the cars were about. The design I produced was intended to expose the materials and the process that Morgan used in producing cars.” Matthew’s tasks however, went beyond penning great looking sports cars for them. “I implemented a design process into the company”, he explained, “my team was then responsible for all the visual communications of the brand as well as the cars. We produced the show stands, showroom and website designs. This kept a strong theme for all the branded materials within the company.”
Letting Time Ticks By
Nowadays, Matthew has turned his attention to running his own design company, Matthew Humphries Design (MHD). “I now work with different specialised partners mainly within the EV market. This part of the industry is growing massively and ever-changing, which is helping to develop and challenge the old school industry.” Aside from that, there is also a collection of MHD Watches. “The watch design started when I was first tasked with producing dials for the Morgan cars.” He continued, “our watches are simple and clean. They are functional whilst having enough mechanical and ‘automotive’ detail to keep any petrol head interested. They should also look great whilst being worn in any modern or classic sports car.” Sounds like the perfect timepiece for Paul and I to wear next time when we jack another Morgan Three Wheeler then.