While the exterior body contours of the 1928 Morgan Super Sport Aero will be closely copied in our updated cyclecar, the cockpit is an entirely different matter. Much has evolved in nearly one hundred years of automotive technology, so the dash and controls in the cockpit will need an extensive re-thinking.

1928 Morgan Aero

Since Morgan three-wheelers borrowed extensively from their motorcycle cousin’s technology of the day, it is no surprise that the cockpit of the 1928 Aero reflected that fact. In addition, Morgan development was integrated with its on-going production, so each vehicle reflected the state-of-the-art on the day it passed through the factory doors for the first time. Nothing was standardized, not even basic chassis dimensions (only in 1933 did Morgan adopt a standard chassis).

The following sketch summarizes how many Morgan Aero cockpits were arranged, although exact placement of instruments and controls varied considerably.

Throttle, air, and ignition controls were attached to the steering wheel spokes, in the manner of a motorcycle handlebar, with cables inelegantly passing through the wheel. A long lever for mechanical front brakes was placed on the center tunnel but the rear brake was operated via a foot pedal. Meanwhile, another foot pedal operated the clutch but actual shifting required using a right hand gear lever. Note that shifting and applying front brakes at the same time meant no hands on the steering wheel!

Lucas ammeter circa 1928

A Lucas 16-ampere ammeter designed for motorcycles with a 52mm diameter may have been fitted into a round switch housing that also included toggles for the headlamps and running lights.

A horn button and bullseye sight gauge to check oil flow typically finished off the cockpit. The oil sight glass was commonly installed for engine monitoring in the early 20th century (and still in use for industrial applications today) before oil pressure gauges became the standard.

Example of 1928 Morgan Aero cockpit (restored)

Interestingly, these early Morgan vehicles seemed to abhor symmetry. Not only were instruments and controls not balanced around the steering wheel, but typically the center line of the dash was ignored as well.

Watford speedometer

Watford speedometer advertisement c. 1922

The centerpiece of the 1928 Morgan dash was the 60mph Watford speedometer with an inset odometer. Originally focused on motorcycles, the magneto and gauge business mushroomed North & Sons LTD into a significant company by the 1920s, employing over 600 at its Wippendell Road, Watford, UK factory.

In 1933, stressed by the Great Depression, Watford was acquired by Lucas, and then subsequently the instrument division was spun off to Smiths. Thus, the period-correct choice of speedometer today would be a vintage style Smiths instrument.

The venerable Smiths Company, founded by London clock maker Samuel Smith in 1851, still manufacturers a classic speedometer with inset odometer that is part of a long tradition shared by many British vehicles.

1997 Moto Guzzi California 1100

What does the Moto Guzzi motorcycle bring to the table in terms of cockpit instruments and controls?

Instruments and indicators on our 1997 California 1100i donor

None of the Moto Guzzi indicators and gauges fit the classic 1920s style. We can remap some of the harness wiring and redesign the placement of indicator/warning lights. But the majority of the hardware will become surplus.

Guzzi motif design

The Guzzi basic dash information can be reformatted on a single plate sandwiched between the tachometer and speedometer gauges centered around the steering wheel:

  • left and right turn indicators
  • low oil pressure warning
  • battery discharge warning
  • neutral gear indicator
  • low fuel level
  • engine diagnostic (check engine) LED
  • high beam indicator

Remapped Guzzi dash information in a vintage style

The dash center could provide a rotary light switch — side running lights, headlights, and emergency flash hazard warning — along with the ignition key, start button, and cold start (choke) pull.

Center dash controls

A horn button in the center of the steering wheel, and a turn stalk with flasher function would complete the rudimentary cockpit requirements.

An assist handle might be useful too for entering and exiting the vehicle (after all, there are no doors!).

Since the cyclecar will not have backup (reverse) lights, incorporating a beep sound when in reverse might be a good safety feature as well.

The final addition could be a locking cubby (glove box) for registration documents and other small items that are best kept out of the general storage behind the seats.

Guzzi motif design with wood steering wheel over gauges and indicators; center dash controls and cubby on right

The limited real estate just behind the wheel begins to look cluttered in this design.

Aero motif design

1929 Morgan Aero with single tachometer gauge

Due to dash area constraints, many vintage Morgan 3-wheelers, especially those designed expressly for racing, employed only a single tachometer gauge. The logic was that shifting at the right point won the race, and no one needed to watch the speedometer … the speed limit was as fast as you could drive!

A minimalist dash is possible with just one 85mm tachometer that can also handle other data — speed, odometer, and so on — using an unobtrusive LED display made by Motogadget in Germany.

Aero motif dash with centered Motogadget tachometer and fuel gauge

A fuel level gauge and engine start functions are placed in the center of the dash. Behind the locking cubby door is an engine lockout switch that uses the same circuitry logic as the old kill switch.

Motogadget Chronoclassic

Motogadget Chronoclassic multi-function tachometer

The Chronoclassic multi-function tachometer provides embedded indicator lights for turns (a single light for either left or right), high beam, neutral shift position, and a programmable warning light. In addition, the lower LCD display screen can be toggled with a button to show voltage, temperature, speed, odometer, trip distance, gear indicator, and various other metrics like acceleration and average speed.

The appearance follows the classic Smiths gauge face design and would fit well into our cockpit scheme.

Fuel gauge

The Chronoclassic incorporates all the information of the original Guzzi instruments with the exception of fuel level. For this, a separate fuel level sender and gauge is required.