MORGAN enthusiasts keen to drive the new Aero 8 should have only two years to wait.

The Morgan Motor Company is slashing three years off the waiting time for its new cars by speeding up production at its Malvern factory.

It is managing to do the seemingly impossible by combining revolutionary new technology and modern streamlined production with traditional coach-building techniques.

Almost 500 orders have been taken for the Aero 8 - the World's first all aluminium coach-built car - since it was launched in Geneva in February.

More than half of these orders came from enthusiasts already on the Morgan waiting list.

"We got 275 orders straight away from people on the waiting list, who wanted the Aero 8 enough to pay £49,950, instead of around £38,000 for a Plus Eight," said sales manager Matthew Parkin, "We were thrilled to bits."

Those who have been longest on the waiting list will receive the first Aero 8s off the production line in about late January 2001.

Cars being delivered now from the Pickersleigh Road factory were ordered in 1995-96, a decided improvement on what was once a 10-year wait.

But production has been increasing steadily over the last few years thanks to a radical new approach to the assembly process and it is hoped that Aero 8 production will be even faster.

The factory is now producing 12 cars a week, which is 150 cars a year more than it did a couple of years ago, although the number of workers remains around 150.

"It has been done through efficiencies in the factory and the way the cars flow through the production line. That has allowed us to improve the quality of the vehicles significantly, with new materials and production techniques, without taking the coach-building and craftsmanship out of it," said Mr Parkin.

Some of these changes are as simple as reducing the number of vehicles being worked on at once, thereby moving them along more quickly and freeing up floor space to keep a supply of parts close at hand.

Coach-built ash frames are built independently of the chassis and stored ready to be fitted, again speeding up the flow.

The Aero 8 chassis is built of the latest high-grade aluminium, especially designed for the motor industry and amazingly lightweight. Morgan is the first manufacturer in Europe to use it.

Unlike previous Morgan models that have evolved since 1936, the Aero 8 has been computer designed to be easily assembled.

The development team, headed by managing director, Charles Morgan, and technical director, Chris Lawrence, has tweaked Morgan's classic lines into what they describe as "an aerodynamic shape with an assertive, muscular stance."

The design of the new car, with its squinting headlamps and echoes of the Thirties in its wheel arches and running boards, is something you either love or hate.

To the delight of the Morgan team, the love-hate ratio is around 90 per cent in favour, led by glowing tributes to its performance and handling abilities in leading motoring magazines.

Slight alterations have been made to the outline of the body since it was shown in Geneva, adding a gentle curve to the boot lid and widening the radiator cowl.

These minor adjustments have been made in response to comments made by Morgan enthusiasts during open days at various dealerships.

The six prototypes have all been hand-built from the ground, but production components have now begun to arrive at the Morgan factory and a trial build area has been set aside.

All the chassis parts are being made in Birmingham using precision laser cutting and computer folding equipment, saving time on the factory floor.

The parts will be put together in Malvern and an ash frame will be fitted onto the chassis before being clothed with aluminium panels, some pressed and some hand made.

Instead of chrome, stainless steel is used throughout the car, both on inner panels and visible parts such as bumper bars and grilles. Sumptuous leather upholstery and smooth ash trims on the dashboard and doors are the outward signs of the coach-built frame.

There is no plan to have special teams building the new car. Instead they will follow a similar production route to the existing models.

"We employ a fantastic skill level here and everyone will be involved. It is very exciting for the work force. We are all proud of it," said Mr Parkin.