My husband, Chuck, is a romantic sort of guy. He’s also a car guy and a camera guy, which explains why he decided several months ago that we should run his Morgan roadster up the Pacific coast from the San Francisco Bay Area to Vancouver Island in Canada. As he explained to me, we’d drive no more than 200 miles a day, to save our backs and maybe reduce the likelihood that the car would break down along the way. We’d have lovely stops to admire the ocean, visit charming B&Bs, and take photos with his Leica IIIg. His IIIg was made in 1957 and was outfitted by Chuck with a 50 mm 1:2 Summitar lens that was made in 1950. This would be a trip to celebrate both a Morgan and a Leica, each of which is made by a company that has stayed uniquely true to its origins and core values over decades, and each of which has attracted extremely loyal users.
I was highly dubious about this road trip but reluctantly agreed once Chuck painted the cozy picture of the B&Bs we would stay in along the way. As one of my friends said when I told her about this planned trip, I was either an unusually supportive wife, an adventurer at heart, or hopelessly naive. On further thought, she declared, I must be all three.
This story requires a short primer on the Morgan. Morgans, which look a little like ancient MGs, are handmade in Britain and are known for their fast engines and very light ash wood frames. That combination explains why there are few of them in the US — they are not designed to meet current American safety standards. They are built extremely low to the ground, have essentially no frills — for example, their leather seats are wafer thin and their tiny rear-view mirrors may be attached to the windshields with suction cups — and are, well, quirky, as you might expect from a complex object made by hand. Morgan owners savor these quirks; it’s part of the pleasure of owning one of these unusual, erratic automobiles. When they get together in their Morgan clubs, these owners often remind me of proud but commiserating parents who can’t help but share stories about their children.
What most Morgan owners don’t know, however, is that there is a link between Morgans and Leicas. The founder of the Morgan Motor Company in 1909, Mr. H.F.S. Morgan, owned and frequently used his Leica Model 1a. Clearly Mr. Morgan, like Chuck, loved quality cars and quality cameras! When Chuck learned about this tie, he knew he had to take his IIIg, the closest model of his various film and digital Leicas to H.F.S. Morgan’s Model 1a, on our Morgan road trip. He loaded it with CineStill bwXX, a black and white motion picture negative film that has an old-timey look, and we headed out.