Can The Vanderhall Laguna Cure Automotive Cancer?
Another Cure For Petrolicious-itis Hits The Market
“It’s cancer,” said Mr. Sardonic, “with a key.”
He wasn’t talking about the Vanderhall Laguna. He was talking about the Lamborghini Espada, and I knew exactly what he meant. The two would appear to have nothing in common, but don’t be fooled. They are inextricably linked by illness. The Espada is one of its clearest symptoms, and the Laguna seeks to be its cure.
Mr. Sardonic, like myself and countless others, suffers from an acute case of Petrolicious-itis. It starts with a lust for Fourth Cars — which are cars you don’t need because you’ve got three others — and frequent visits to Petrolicious. The most common risk factors are spare time and disposable income. Combine Nostalgia for the Dream Cars of Youth and Chronic Desire To Be Different, and the diagnosis is guaranteed. I should know. I own or have owned all the most unreliable supercars of the past. OK, maybe not supercars. A Porsche 928 GT. With a stick. An E24 BMW M6. A Citroen SM. Cars that were very expensive new, and whose running costs make them — even after decades of depreciation -— a bargain by no measure.
Which brings us to the most obvious symptom of Petrolicious-itis, which is...
THE BIG LIE
The big lie is that my car, your car, any car, every car on Petrolicious is not only worth loving, but owning.
The big lie is what we tell ourselves when we buy that 928, or M6, or SM, or any old Alfa. Are they good? Are they bad? It doesn’t matter. New cars — even Honda Accords — are better by almost any quantitative measure. Uglier, perhaps, and certainly not as fun, but generally better on paper. Fourth Cars are as good as our nostalgia is strong, our pockets are deep, and we persist in lying to ourselves about how reliable these cars can be. Do I miss my 928 or M6? Not really, but I miss them a lot more when I’m talking to someone who has one, or trying to impress those with deep knowledge. I couldn’t tell the truth when I owned them, and I want to cover up my shame even now.
That’s why I love Mr. Sardonic. He’ll tell you how wretched the Espada is even while owning it. I love such a man. A man who TRULY loves his car. A man who has ascended to the top of Alex Roy’s Pyramid of Automotive Actualization. Mr. Sardonic has invested so much in his car, he refuses to lie. His shame and pride are one, and only its theft will absolve him.
MY FIRST VACCINATION
I own a 2014 Morgan 3-wheeler. Upon seeing the concept, I knew I had to have one. I was already suffering from Nostalgia for the Dream Cars of Youth and Chronic Desire To Be Different. It ticked all the boxes for anyone dumb enough to want a third Fourth Car. It looked old but was brand-new. It suggested taste, and deep pockets, which was more important than the driving experience, which — if it was anything better than terrible — would be a bonus. I knew it would attract more women than men, which was good, but more kids than adults, which would be weird unless they were single moms, which is what I was looking for.
Most important, it had a warranty, immunizing me against Petrolicious-itis.
Or so I hoped.
I sent the deposit, rationalizing that even if it had problems, it couldn’t be as bad as an original Morgan 3-wheeler, or an Espada, or an SM, or...
“They had warranties too,” said the ghost of my dead father, who briefly owned an SM, and a 928.
Two years after delivery, I could have bought a second Morgan for what I’d spent on maintenance. Oh wait, I did. Why? Because I didn’t want to wait for the first one to get fixed. Insanity, but that’s how long it was going to take, because it had to go back to the U.K. for frame upgrades. Or something. Maybe it needed new wood? Who knows? I was too busy lying to myself (and everyone else) about my running costs.
Was it worth it? Yes.
Why spend — and suffer — so much? Because the Morgan 3-wheeler is the greatest driving experience of all time. The Morgan is “better” than almost every press car I’ve ever driven, and everything the Classic Car Club has ever had. And that includes McLarens, Ferraris, Porches, etc.. I couldn’t bear to live without it. It fills a need in my life nothing else can. Not my E39 M5. Not my 1987 Targa. Not my SM.
Yes. I still own the SM, but that’s another story, if not a book.
The Morgan is so good when it runs — and so expensive and difficult to fix when it doesn’t — that it’s right up there with the Espada.
The Morgan wasn’t a vaccine, but cancer itself, with a wood frame.
I absolutely love it. Am I lying? I don’t even know any more, but I DO know that there must be another way. There must be a cure. Someone must make something that ticks all the Fourth Car boxes without breaking the bank.
ANOTHER VACCINE ARRIVES
Which brings us to the Vanderhall Laguna, brainchild of some crazy Americans from Utah. The Vanderhall story, like the Morgan story, is really of little importance. Nor are the specs. The Vanderhall Laguna, like all exotics and vintage cars, cannot be justified or judged by any quantitative standards.
The Laguna follows in the wonderful tradition of pointless three wheelers like the Morgan, Can-Am, T-Rex and Polaris Slingshot. They are all dangerous, questionably-engineered exercises in vanity and the evasion of safety laws — all in the pursuit of undistilled driving pleasure.
Compare any two or more to each other? They all lose.
Compare any three-wheeler to a car? The three-wheeler always wins.
The cowards and Communists supporting The War on Driving think anything with a motor is no more than Transportation. WRONG. Vehicles aren’t merely Transportation. They are TRANSFORMATION. Transportation is physical. Transportation is A2B, forced on us in time and space. Transportation is slavery. Transformation is emotional. Transformation is essential to the human condition. Transformation is A2A. It is freedom undistilled. It is the purest projection of the self, in motion.
And there is no purer vehicular form of transformation than a three-wheeler.
Ever play World of Warcraft? Every three-wheeler is an exercise in unbalanced MMO character creation. Remember that guy in your WoW group who was only good at one thing? Pick your poison. The Polaris Slingshot? Cheap, but looks/feels/sounds it. Handling? Pretty good, for a trike. Way better than my Morgan. Experientially? The Slingshot feels like riding a badly maintained chainsaw. I won’t repeat how many ways my Morgan is quantitatively awful, but experientially it is superior to a Veyron. Hyperbole? Nope. I’ve driven a Veyron. Have you? Winner: Morgan.
What about the Can-Am Spyder? I suppose it’s “better” than my Morgan in some way, but that doesn’t matter when looking at it makes you as sick as those gagging when you drive by. A T-Rex? Probably the best of the lot, but not for me. I want classic style, but who cares what I think? I feel closer to all the guys on Slingshots, Can-Ams and T-Rex’s than the majority of Porsche owners.
So, is the Vanderhall Laguna good? Is it bad? It doesn't matter. I loved it when I saw it. It's a Transformational vehicle. If the Morgan 3-wheeler didn’t exist, this is what I’d buy. Why? It ticks two boxes. Like the Morgan, it looks old, weird and cool. Mostly weird. Unlike the Morgan, it’s based on domestic iron, as in a Chevy Sonic, which means parts should be plentiful, and cheap, which is important, because it’s basically a $70k Sonic missing a wheel, with a 1.4L turbocharged four under the hood.
Like I said, parts should be cheap. At least the parts necessary to keep it moving under its own power. That aluminum chassis? Watch out for potholes. That carbon fiber body? Cool, but it would be better with dings and scratches. It’s supposed to look old. I say let it.
Senseless, and yet perfect, for the right customer. That customer isn’t Matt Farah, who prefers my Morgan, but I get it, because what I want is a classic looking 3-wheeler that won’t break, or will break less than my Morgan, which is broken half the year. If the Laguna is even slightly more reliable than a Morgan, I’m all for it.
An hour long drive near Thunderhill told me what little more I needed to know. It’s not loud enough, and the exhaust note doesn’t match the look or vibe. It’s just not right. We’re talking Slingshot territory. Fixable? Probably, but not from the factory. At least not yet. There’s a reason so much Polaris aftermarket exists. Vanderhall needs to address this, and will, no doubt.
Power? Its 200 horses feel like less than the Morgan’s 100, which is even weirder in a front-wheel drive trike. Yup. Front-wheel drive. If I have to explain why that’s an issue, than the Vanderhall is the perfect 3-wheeler for you. To those for whom it’s a problem, let me say this:
It’ll probably be easier to work on than my rear-wheel drive Morgan and its rubber belt.
As for the rest, the Laguna has more grip and better seats than my Morgan, and it’s got a radio and a removeable roof. It also has an automatic transmission. The ride is better, but that’s not saying much in this crowd. It has all the features car people complain about when they consider trikes for more than thirty seconds. These features aren’t necessarily improvements to masochists like myself, but they may be essential for the customer Vanderhall needs, and we should all want them to find, because Vanderhall is filling a gap in the market.
Who else makes a 3-wheeler that is, ahem, relatively comfortable and safer than a Morgan? With a roof?
If only Vanderhall can make these reliable, the Laguna deserves to thrive, and I predict a number of Morgans will be traded in. Reluctantly, at first, but happily, in time.
Ask me after I’ve taken a Laguna cross country, which also doesn’t make any sense, but if you have to ask why, there’s a nice Camry waiting for you at the Toyota dealership. One of these days I may tire of fixing my Morgan, in which case I’ll be modding a Laguna.
Full road test coming. #Soon
Check out Vanderhall's site for more info.
Alex Roy is an Editor-at-Large for The Drive, author of The Driver, and set the 2007 Transcontinental “Cannonball Run” Record in 31 hours & 4 minutes. You may follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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