x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Lack of air conditioning is no sacrifice for Morgan Plus 4 driver

My Car Despite living in Dubai with summer at the doorstep, the businessman Vijay Pillai isn't giving up his prized possession.

Car enthusiast Vijay Pillai says his Morgan Plus 4 , which he bought from a friend, turns heads whenever he drives it. Pawan Singh / The National
Car enthusiast Vijay Pillai says his Morgan Plus 4 , which he bought from a friend, turns heads whenever he drives it. Pawan Singh / The National

Vijay Pillai is a man who knows about cars. They're his passion and his life's work. And, over the years, this Dubai-based businessman has owned a fair few interesting motors but, be honest, when was the last time you saw a Morgan on the roads of the UAE? Chances are, if you do see one, it will be Vijay behind the wheel giving it some exercise.

If you were familiar with the UAE just a couple of decades ago, particularly the cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, you wouldn't recognise it in 2011. However, if you had seen a new Morgan driving around in 1951, a brand new one would be instantly identifiable. This year sees the venerable Plus 4 celebrating 60 years of continuous production, which is an astonishing achievement but it's not difficult to see why the car appeals to so many, including owners such as Vijay.

The Moggie, as they're affectionately known by enthusiasts, shares garage space with a 993-generation Porsche 911 and this is a major clue regarding Vijay's taste in cars because, as he concurs, it's the last of the air-cooled Porsches and the new ones just aren't the same. But there's also a Harley-Davidson Street Blade cruiser in there, an awesome Ducati Diavel superbike, an Audi A8 and a Porsche Cayenne for Mrs Pillai, so he's clearly a man of varied interests.

This is often par for the course with people in Vijay's line of work. He runs two successful companies: Max Mechanical, which is an engineering business he set up in 2003, and Max Garage, which has been trading since 1980 and these days specialises in high-end classic car maintenance and restoration. "I have owned many cars over the years," he says, "and I've often bought them as projects because I enjoy the process of bringing them back to their original condition."

He says he's on the lookout for an old Rolls-Royce Corniche but the 911 and the Morgan won't be getting sold anytime soon.

He bought the Plus 4 from a friend who needed to leave the UAE and he hasn't regretted the decision for one moment. "It's been extremely reliable," he says, "and I use it all the time, usually for early morning drives with the roof down." But there's one thing missing from the Morgan that would be a deal-breaker for many residents here: air conditioning. "That's why I tend to drive it in the morning," he laughs. "But the car copes well in the heat; better than its driver does."

It's a car that brings a smile to the face of anyone who sees it. It's absolutely beautiful. "Whenever I drive with my wife in it, people love it. But it does make us vulnerable on the roads because it turns the heads of other drivers and they often veer across lanes to check it out and catch me unawares."

Understandably, he is often asked if he's interested in selling the Plus 4. "This one's a keeper," he says. "Cars like this are becoming more popular in the UAE because people who come to live here are, more than ever, choosing to stay long-term. So ownership is not the scary prospect it once was. And the internet has changed everything, too. If I need parts for the Morgan I can simply go online, often dealing directly with the manufacturer, and order practically anything."

All extremely valid points that go some way to explaining the expanding number of classic cars on our roads, as well as the increasing amount of clubs and organisations catering for enthusiasts. But the Morgan is possibly the best of both worlds as it possesses all the charm and elegance of a true classic, while underneath the timeless bodywork is a modern, efficient engine and plenty of new tech.