Continuing the much-appreciated “Motor Sport” articles on outstanding sports cars, this month we have pleasure in presenting a most painstaking study of the “30/98” Vauxhall, written for us by George Sanders. He has owned both E and OE types and covers each of these famous Vauxhall cars in some considerable detail. As one of the greatest British high-performance cars of all time, the “30/98” fully deserves the space we are devoting to it. Laurence Pomeroy, whose father was responsible for this and other classic designs, has done us the honour of prefacing Mr. Sanders’ article. We also wish to thank Vauxhall Motors, Ltd., for supplying many of the illustrations here reproduced. — Ed.
Foreword . . .
The “30/98” Vauxhall is a remarkable example of a successful type which came into existence by accident and which was never planned for production. In 1913. its year of origin, Vauxhall Motors, Ltd., were building two types of four-cylinder engine and two forms of chassis. The smaller of these, the A-type, had a 3-litre 90 by 120 mm. four-cylinder side valve engine in a 9 ft. 9 in.-wheelbase chassis. This model was the founder of Vauxhall fortunes and was designed in 1908 by my father to compete in the 2,000-Mile and Scottish Reliability Trials, which it did with outstanding success.
In 1910 three specially-tuned cars were built with a V-shape radiator to compete in the Prince Henry trials in Germany, and this became the origin of the “Prince Henry” Vauxhall which, however, was not offered for public sale until the 1911 Motor Show and which went into production in 1912. The larger four-cylinder car was the D-type 4-litre, having an engine, with four-cylinders of 95 by 140 mm. and side valves, mounted in a 10 ft. 3 in.-wheelbase chassis. Additionally, there was a variant which was formed by mating the D-type engine with the A-type chassis, this being the 1913 C-type “Prince Henry.’ The engine of this car was, moreover, additionally modified with high-lift cams and raised compression, and developed approximately 75 b.h.p. One of these cars was used at Brooklands with a narrow single-seater body having very low frontal area. It was highly successful in handicap events, being able to lap at around 100 m.p.h. [The best lap speed appears to have been 96.52 mph.—-Ed.]
The works also retained a special hill-climb car, which consisted of one of the 1912 Coupe de L’Auto team, which was a 3-litre “Prince Henry” with a short-tailed two-seater body.
As Mr. Sanders discloses, the “30/98” was a development of the 1913 C-Type “Prince Henry” and a sister engine was mounted in the 1912 Coupe de L’Auto car. It is not generally known that the first appearance of the Higginson four-seater “30/98” with the handsome round-fronted radiator was on May 3rd, at the Waddington Fells Hill Climb organised by the Lancashire Car Club. This event was run under very bad weather conditions. but Higginson, nevertheless, made fastest time of the day.
Between this event and Shelsley Walsh, two cars were run at Aston Clinton, P. C. Kidner driving the four-seater and A. J. Hancock the Coupe de L’Auto version. The latter easily made fastest time of the day and broke the record for the hill.
The spare engine was then put into the Brooklands car, which increased the lap speed to 103.76 m.p.h.,* whilst Higginson took the four-seater to the Shelsley Walsh meeting in June. In order that he should do full justice to an entirely new type of motor car so far as he was concerned he took the precaution of entering every possible event. This gave him three runs, first in the open class, the second in a match event, in which he represented the Yorkshire club against Lancashire and the Midland Club, and a third in a class reserved for members of the Midland Automobile Club.
His success on that afternoon was followed up by other hill-climb wins by himself and also by A. J. Hancock who, for example. later in the year broke the record at Caerphilly.
About six additional cars were made for various private owners. all characterised by the 9-in. brake drums at the rear. Probably the last of the first series of E-types went to the Managing Director, P. C. Kidner, in early 1915. This was an extremely handsome car which had a distinguishing characteristic in cantilever rear springs and was later bought by T. W. Mays, father of Raymond Mays.
During the war the design of the E-type was modified to make it into a regular production model. Much larger brake drums were used on the rear wheels and a number of minor improvements were introduced, such as provision for electric lighting and starting, and a gear lever inside the body. Whereas, however, on all the other post-war cars a spiral-bevel rear axle was used, straight tooth form was retained on the E-type. It was, however, my father’s intention that this car should be regarded as a stop-gap until the manufacturing programme could be rationalised around what was known as the H-type car. This was an overhead-camshaft model of advanced design, the bore and stroke being identical with the 1914 Grand Prix ears, i.e., 100 by 140 mm. The camshaft was driven by eccentrics from the front of’ the engine and the cylinder block was deeply spigoted into the light-alloy crankcase. It was intended that this engine should be built with varying degrees of “tune” to meet the needs of the competition car and the town carriage and that it should have a rather longer wheelbase than the existing “30/98.” On the test bed it gave some 100 b.h.p. at 2,500 r.p.m. but, following the departure of my father in late 1919 to take up other work in the U.S.A., the Directors decided not to go on with the H-type, but to develop the existing engine to use overhead valves operated by push rods, thus converting the E-type into the OE.
Laurence Pomeroy, M.S.A.E.
*[Later another single-seater E-type 30/98 lapped at 108.03 mph. — Ed]
The “30/98” Vauxhalls, Models E and OE
by George Sanders
A keen competitor at sports events in the years prior to the first world war, was one J. Higginson, well known as the inventor of the Autovac, who had been competing with no small amount of success on an 80-h.p. La Buire. It should be remembered that at this time most competition cars were all of pretty large engine dimensions, and that the smaller engines of about 5 litres were only just becoming popular.
Higginson, however, was anxious to obtain a British sports-car that would better the performance of the La Buire, at the same time employing an engine of smaller capacity. There was no doubt that one of the course records he particularly wished to reduce was that of Shelsley Walsh, held at that time by H. C. Holder. who, driving a 58-h.p. Daimler, had climbed the hill in 62.2 sec. in 1911.
There was obviously going to be keen competition at the coming 1913 meeting, particularly from the cars entered by the Sunbeam and Talbot Concerns, and against which it was highly improbable that the La Buire could compete on equal terms. Higginson therefore approached several British manufacturers with the request for a car that could gain for him the record at this hill-climb, and after various contacts managed to obtain the support of the late Laurence H. Pomeroy and the Vauxhall Motor Company.
It was during March, 1913, that Higginson contacted Pomeroy, who offered to produce the required vehicle; the only doubtful point being Vauxhall’s ability to produce the car in the time at their disposal. Indeed, Higginson wanted it ready for the June meeting, some thirteen weeks later.
This obviously did not give the manufacturers time to design, build and test a chassis and power unit “from scratch.” Pomeroy therefore decided to build a car from various component parts available at the works, after making the necessary modifications to them.
Enlargement of the engine was put in hand, and in finished form a bore and stroke of 98 by 150 mm. was obtained, which gave a cubic capacity of 4,526 c.c. The C and E type engines were both normal side-valve four-cylinder units having two-valves-per-cylinder, a five-bearing crankshaft, and a camshaft chain-driven from the front end, with a very large clearance between the high-lift cams and tappets (in the neighbourhood of .050 in. to .060 in.). In other respects the engines differed very little from any other fixed-head, four-cylinder engine of that day.
The clutch, gearbox, transmission and rear axle were all quite orthodox, and, apart from minor modifications and slight improvements, such as various back-axle ratios introduced from time to time, remained the same for the whole period the car was in production. To complete Higginson’s car, there was mounted a narrow, all-aluminium, four-seater body, sans doors and with light aluminium wings. The new-design flat fronted radiator certainly gave a more imposing frontal appearance than the “V”-shaped radiator fitted to the C type “Prince Henrys,” which remained in production.
Finally, came Shelsley Walsh. On his first run a time of around 70 sec. was clocked, but Higginson realised he had now obtained a motorcar fully capable of doing what he had set out to achieve. There was considerable competition that day to make fastest time. Higginson’s second run was accomplished in the remarkable time of 58 sec., thus beating his old course-record, and setting up best-time-of-the day. This achievement, however, was to be short-lived. One of the new Sunbeam racing cars, driven by Bird, managed to reduce the time to 58.4 sec., but Higginson, on his final run, and carrying three passengers, clocked 55.2 sec., thus beating his previous best time on the La Buire by no less than 13 sec. This record was to stand for 15 years before being again reduced by a sports-car, though it had actually been made against all comers, in spite of the Vauxhall being classified as a sports-car. Hancock, on the other car, had clocked 59 sec.
The older followers of Shelsley Walsh will remember the state of the road in those days, the surface being loose and dusty, and one cannot help but think that Higginson’s driving, in spite of his having a powerful car, must have been in every respect up to that of the best drivers of the day.
One can quite easily realise the publicity value of this performance, with the inevitable result that there was a very considerable demand put on the works for similar cars. The production methods in use at that time did not make for early deliveries, particularly as the first two cars had been so hastily constructed, and by the time the first few production models, in slightly modified form, began emerging from the works, the first World War had been declared. These modifications consisted of putting two doors in the body and providing a hood, spare wheels, and a somewhat poor electrical system. This 4-seater was named the ” Velox ” model.
In the meanwhile Higginson had been competing in many competitions with every success, while the “works” car appeared to be retained mostly for Brooklands. These two cars collected 13 firsts and 13 seconds during this twelve-month period, the only other driver to appear with one of these cars in this country being Bertelli. Perhaps the greatest success was finishing second in the Russian G.P., at an average of 70.8 m.p.h. in May, 1914.
Coming now to the post-1918 period, in 1920 the “30/98” Vauxhall appeared at the Motor Show, still with the side-valve engine and basically very much the same as turned out in 1914. The body, however, was constructed with some consideration for the purchaser, being fitted up with what was, in those days, quite complete equipment, the price being £1,650.
In the early 1920s these cars really began making a name for themselves, competing at all kinds of speed events and rarely missing the honours. The side-valve cars collected over 60 “firsts,” and well-known names connected with the driving of these cars are Humphrey Cook, M. C. Park, Major Coe, George Duller, E. Swain, Clay, Barber-Lomax, Ropner, Watson, Pearce-Jones and many others.
Some very outstanding endurance records were also made, such as the run from Durban to Pretoria, a distance of 445 miles, in 10 hr. 56 min., an average of 40.7 m.p.h., and the run from Sydney to Brisbane, 643 miles, in 18 hr. 58 min. These two runs, incidentally, were accomplished in 1922, and both beat the records as they stood at that time. Compared with present-day average speeds, these do not appear particularly quick, but one must remember that the road surfaces were, for the most part, the roughest imaginable.
So much, then, for the side-valve “30/98,” which was known as the E-type. During 1922/3 the manufacturers partly redesigned the engine, in order to provide the car with more flexibility throughout its range. Push-rod-operated overhead valves were used, and the stroke was reduced from 150 mm. to 140 mm. This engine would certainly rev. faster, the peak being about 3,500 r.p.m., as compared with the 2,800 r.p.m. maximum of of the E-type, while the b.h.p. was increased from 90 for the standard E to around 112 on the new model, which was known as the OE. The top-gear ratio was reduced from 3 to 1 to 3.3 to 1 (the first production E-types pulled 2.5 to 1), and about August, 1923, front-wheel brakes were fitted as standard equipment, having the famous kidney-box operation.
During 1923 two OE models were entered for the Georges Boillot Cup at Boulogne, to be driven by Major Coe and Sumner. The latter’s car did not start and Coe was left to compete single-handed against the new “Boulogne” Hispano-Suizas, considered the fastest cars in the race and certainly the largest. By the second lap Coe was running a good third to the two Hispanos and by the fifth lap it seemed he had every opportunity of winning on formula, when, alas, he was forced to retire. The following year two more “30/98s” were entered, but once again only one started and it again failed to complete the course.
I mention these two races particularly, as it was only on very few occasions that these cars were used for road-racing as opposed to hill-climbs, sprints and track racing. I don’t know why this was so, but the OE models certainly appeared to be handicapped by teething troubles at the Boulogne races.
Although these OE cars were very much smoother running, and developed more power than the E-types, maximum speed does not appear to have been so high, as, in 1913, Hancock had lapped the Track on an E-type at 108.03 m.p.h., the following year N. F. Holder proved himself able to lap at nearly 101.5 m.p.h. on a similar car, yet now, by 1924, Major Ropner, whose “Silver Arrow” OE was the fastest “30/98” at Brooklands, could not better a lap speed of 103 m.p.h.
The “30/98” changed little during the period 1923 to 1926. In 1924 various small improvements were introduced, such as a direct-drive dynamo in place of the earlier mounting which was belt-driven from behind the clutch, the wheelbase was lengthened about 8 inches, and the ground clearance dropped from 9 to 7 inches. Wheels throughout the years had been of the beaded-edge type, carrying 820 by 120 tyres, though when officially converted to well-base, 20 in. by 5.50 in. appeared to be the tyre size considered to be most suitable for normal running.
It has been said that before the chassis was lengthened, the 1923 OE car was the world’s finest skidder. I certainly do not agree, and from this point of view certainly prefer the OE to the E, unless someone had exchanged the frame of my car for a later one. The retail price had dropped in 1928 to £1,250 complete, or £950 for the chassis, at which level it remained until the car passed out of production.
Shelsley Walsh always saw a number of these cars in the entry list, but Higginson’s time remained unbeaten. 1926 saw the car with much the same outward appearance, but the engine had been definitely improved by the inclusion of a counterbalanced crankshaft in place of the earlier “bent-wire” type, which, although it served its purpose admirably, did limit the revs. It is mainly cars so equipped that have been developed to put up the fine performances which have been seen in later years, when competition has brought them up against the “modern stuff.”
A new body style was introduced, namely the “Wensum,” this being a boat-backed 2/3-seater; although in my opinion the “30/98″ looks best in her original ” Velox ” form. During 1927 the appearance of the four-seater was brought more in keeping with the times, mainly by redesigning the wings and making the petrol aperture on the tank sufficiently accessible so that a can of petrol could be poured in without loss. It always amazed me why Vauxhalls were so long in making this obvious latter modification. The most noteworthy alteration was the introduction of hydraulic brakes, and though many owners have said these were worse than useless, there is no doubt that, properly maintained, they were a forward step over the earlier mechanical layout.
One other major modification was the fitting of a different gearbox. This was a definite advantage, as it allowed for a higher third-gear speed. I believe the box introduced was similar to that which was being used on the “25/70” sleeve-valve car. And so rationalisation began. . .
Towards the end of 1925 a statement was issued by the joint managing directors of Vauxhall Motors Ltd., to the effect that they had amalgamated with General Motors on November 16th; and, although the “30/98” cars were to be manufactured for a further 2 1/2 years, this company, like Sunbeam and Bentley, who had also been participating in racing for the previous seven or more years, faded quietly out of this sphere of activity and began the manufacture of an entirely new range of cars. When the old company died, so did the “30/98,” together with the more sedate touring vehicles, the “14/40,” “23/60” and “25/70,” together with any further hopes of this company ever producing a new T.T. or G.P. car.
Since then, however, there has always been a small band of drivers who have remained faithful to the “30/98,” many of whom have met with considerable success in competition. To my mind the finest feat that one of these cars ever achieved, apart from Higginson’s Shelsley Walsh run, was the winning of the Brooklands’ Gold Star in 1932, when an OE model of 1926 vintage, driven by R. J. Munday, averaged, over the 20 odd miles, no less than 109.46 m.p.h., one lap being put in at 114.23 m.p.h.
As for Shelsley Walsh, the time was eventually reduced to about 48 sec. by Jacot, and later by Windsor-Richards, both driving different cars. “30/98s” were regularly, seen at all Shelsley meetings until as late as 1939, but due to the new regulations, it is doubtful if they will ever be allowed to re-appear.
* * *
I feel it would be of interest to those enthusiasts who still own or enthuse over these fine vintage cars to have a little more detail of the various main components, which together make such an excellent “recipe.” The details I give are from odd notes I have made in the past when dismantling or erecting my own cars, and refer, in the main, to the OE, as the engine of my recent car, OE 64, was manufactured in the fall of 1923.
Engine. — This is a straightforward four-cylinder, push-rod-operated overhead-valve engine, with detachable head. The bore and stroke is 98 by 140 mm., which gives a capacity of 4,224 c.c. The pistons are of die-cast aluminium, so designed that heat is transmitted from the piston head by two paths. Connecting rods are of H-section, made in duralumin. Heat generated in the big-end is very rapidly conducted away, it being very difficult even under the most severe tests to melt big-end bearings. It is interesting that the Vauxhall Motor Company advise you, in the event of a big-end failing due to lack of lubrication, to fill the sump to a maximum of 2 gallons of oil (the normal level being achieved with 11 gallons), and the bigends will then get the necessary lubrication by way of splash-feed.
The crankshaft, which is not counterbalanced on the earlier models, is carried in five substantial white-metal bearings. If it is hoped to put up the speed over 3,600 r.p.m., fit the counterbalanced crankshaft. These can be occasionally obtained through such well-known people as the Higher Road Garage, Urmston. The oil pump is of the valveless rocking-plunger type, driven off the rear end of the camshaft, and supplies oil under pressure to every plain bearing in the engine. This pump is most efficient; I have never heard of any trouble being experienced with it. Oil pressure should never register less than 5 lb./sq. in. at 20 m.p.h., and, although Vauxhalls originally specified Castrol “R,” I have always used “XL,” which fills the bill without the smell. The overhead rockers, which are of conventional design, are also lubricated by the mechanical pump, the supply of oil being controlled by a reducing valve in the rocker cover. Oil consumption on these cars should be around 2/3,000 m.p.g., even after considerable mileage has been covered. There are two oil filters in the system, one around the sump drain-plug which serves to filter the oil before the pump sucks it into the lubricating channels, and the other in the form of a tray, which runs the full length of the engine, just below the lowest point of big-end throw; this tray can very easily be removed by undoing the four 1/4-in. bolts located at the front end of the sump and withdrawing it by pulling on the small finger-grip provided.
The valves are of the normal mushroom type, placed vertically in the combustion chambers. Exhaust valve seats and stems, also the sparking plugs, are entirely surrounded by water, which is circulated by a belt-driven impellor set in the front of the engine block. Double valve springs are a standard fitment, and though the valve clearance is stated on the side of all engines, I give a little more detail on this point a little farther on.
Any old sparking plugs seem to fill the requirements of this engine, although my own preference is for Champion R.3; plug-gap clearance should be from .012-in. to .015-in.
The water impellor also drives the fan and it seems that most engines have a habit of developing a lot a slack in this shaft. In my own case the whole was dismantled and a distance-piece was inserted ahead of the actual impellor, which served to set back the whole shaft and so bring the driven pulley once again in line with the driving pulley on the end of the camshaft. The whole design of this unit is definitely not of the best and occasional attention to its running is well worth while. A thermostat is also included as standard equipment, and although I removed mine as being unnecessary, I soon found that in the autumn and winter months it was most valuable. The thermostat has, therefore, been replaced, and I would strongly recommend other drivers who suffer from that wretched “spit” which periodically occurs, even when running with a hot engine, to leave theirs in.
In the winter months, I have found that blanking off a good half of the radiator maintains the required inlet-manifold temperature, without any tendency for boiling to occur. For a long while I was bothered with “spitting back” when the engine was run over 2,500 r.p.m., and, after a great deal of time had been spent on carburetter, plugs and magneto, to no avail, the trouble was immediately cured by reducing the cooling area.
The camshaft, placed low on the near side, is driven by a multiple chain from the front end of the crankshaft, which chain also drives the magneto, and is supported, like the crankshaft, in five white-metal bearings. The actual cam profile has, no doubt, a large bearing on the power output of these engines. The magneto sits in a cradle, which, together with its driving sprocket, serves as a chain tensioner. To check the tension on the chain, remove the plug at the bottom of the timing case (through this hole the chain can just be felt) and having previously eased off the bolts which hold the magneto cradle and which pass through elongated holes, pull the magneto in a clockwise direction, seen from the front. This will tighten the chain without upsetting the timing. Before commencing to do this, make quite certain that the slack in the chain is between the magneto sprocket and crankshaft, and not between the magneto and the camshaft, otherwise one may think all the slack has been removed, with the result that when the chain does pull into the correct driving position, the timing will be slightly affected. Don’t forget to replace the plug in the bottom of the timing case, or the contents of the sump will be lost as soon as the engine has been running for a few minutes.
Petrol is fed to the engine through a Zenith visual-type filter and an Autovac. I have found this filter to be of very considerable use, as by the speed at which the bowl fills up a very good idea can be gained as to whether there are any air leaks in the vacuum circuit. If the bowl fills slowly, then either petrol is “out” in the tank, or air is being sucked into the Autovac. From the Autovac the petrol falls by gravity to a Type RA Zenith carburetter. The correct jets for normal running are 155 main and 165 compensating, with a 32 choke. (In the case of the E-type engine, these should be 165 main and 150 compensating, with a choke of the same size as for the OE carburetter.) From the carburetter the inlet manifold is water-heated to the point where it passes through the head, after which it is similarly heated by the water passages in the head itself.
The exhaust manifold is fabricated from steel tube, probably for the sake of lightness, but this component is not sufficiently robust to stand up to many year’s work without breaking, and many owners have replaced it in favour of one in cast-iron.
There is no point in giving a lot of details concerning the dismantling and re-erection of one of these engines, as no special tools or knowledge are required, it being on the whole quite a straightforward engineering assembly.
Details of the valve and magneto timing may, however, be helpful. First, remember that the firing order is 1, 2, 4, 3, which is rather unorthodox, although there are a few other manufacturers whose cars fire in the same order.
Valve timing is as follows:
Inlet opens : 1 1/4 in. b.t.d.c. or 9.5°.
Inlet closes : 10 19/32 in. a.b.d.c. or 81°.
Exhaust opens : 7 7/8 in. b.b.d.c. or 60.2°.
Exhaust closes : 2 in. a.t.d.c. or 15°.
Where inch dimensions are given above, these are measured on the periphery of the flywheel either before or after the indented line denoting t.d.c. or b.d.c. Take care that the line referred to is actually at t.d.c., as there is always the possibility that the flywheel has been turned round for the benefit of the starter ring. It is advisable, in any case, to check the actual position from the crown of the piston, which can just be reached through the plug aperture. The gear-wheel on the front end of the camshaft, to which reference was made earlier, is of vernier design, and by removing the two bolts which clamp the actual wheel to the shaft, any desired relationship can be obtained between the crankshaft and camshaft. Before valve timing can be undertaken, it is necessary to remove the radiator and timing chain cover. The radiator can be freed by undoing the two 5/8-in, nuts just underneath, and located within the front channel cross-member of the chassis. From here on I have always found that the easiest manner by which to proceed is to draw out a timing diagram, glue this on to a piece of plywood and, having bored-out the centre to the same diameter as the front of the crankshaft, push it over the starting-handle dog, making sure it is a tight fit, at the same time setting it in the relative position to tie up with top dead-centre. If this diagram is about 8 in. across, a very accurate valve timing can be obtained, with patience. Time spent here is well worth while; these engines are very sensitive to timing.
If it is found that on the recommended tappet clearance only certain of the valves will give the correct opening or closing, then adjust the tappets until each gives the same result. Take a note of these tappet clearances for future setting. As an example, in my own engine the makers gave a clearance of .025 in. for all valves, but probably due to wear, the clearances have now become .024, .021, .025, .027, .024, .025, .024 and .025 in.
The standard magneto is a Watford F.4, and magneto timing is quite simple; with the magneto set at fully advanced, the points should just be breaking when the crankshaft, that is the flywheel periphery, is 4 in. before top dead-centre. This can be increased up to as much as 6 in., but is not advised, as starting will be difficult and accompanied by a violent kick-back, even when fully retarded. Even when the engine has been started, unless very hot, on the slightest attempt to accelerate she will spit back through the carburetter, which frequently sets things alight. I think excess advance on many of these engines is the cause of the numerous fires one hears about, so if anyone is troubled by these occurrences, just measure the distance on the flywheel in the manner mentioned. Contact-breaker points should have a clearance of about 0.4 mm.
The manufacturer’s state in their handbook that on standard timing, which I have given, the ignition hand-lever should be set, for starting, about halfway up the rack, and when running at normal speeds, this should be further advanced to about two-thirds up the rack.
If the engine is in reasonably good condition, starting should be easy, either on the handle or by the electric starter. In this respect a Ki-gass primer is definitely an advantage. Once the pump itself is primed two or three pumps should be ample, and with the hand-throttle lever set two or three notches up the rack, if there is no slack in the linkage and assuming that, when fully home the engine will just tick over, she should start, if not first pull, most definitely at the second. (Four or five notches on the rack gives about 200/250 r.p.m.) This procedure applies just the same in summer as in winter and there is no choke fitted.
On the question of brake-horse-power, I have in my possession three graphs from the makers; one covers OE 19 and is dated 5/2/23; the second is apparently that of the engine fitted to Major Coe’s car and is dated 30/4/24; and the third is of “Super E,” No. E.1078, bore and stroke 98 by 140 mm., fitted with an S.U. carburetter Type C.2. This last-named engine is also referred to as an OE type. Quite what the engine was, or what modifications had been undertaken, is not stated, but the b.h.p. and torque figures are interesting.
All three graphs apparently refer to OE engines, though the figures given under the heading OE 19 appear more consistent to the output of an E-type slightly “hotted up.” The figures in the second column are comparable to a standard OE in good condition, and those in the third column to a “hotted-up” OE. On the other hand, it might be that the first OE engines gave a very different set of results from those made later, when power was sacrificed lower down in order to obtain more urge higher up.
Clutch. — The clutch, which is bolted direct to the flywheel in the customary manner, is of the Hele-Shaw multiple-disc type, and should be lubricated by fine flake graphite only. Liquid graphite should never be used, unless one is prepared to dismantle the clutch after a thousand miles or so.
Generally speaking little trouble is experienced from this unit, which is most efficient considering its overall size and the torque it is called upon to transmit. There are, however, occasions when, after a long run, or after a lot of violent gear changes, when the whole assembly has become quite hot, it is found impossible to disengage the clutch. Sometimes it can be freed by allowing the assembly to cool down or by exerting extreme pressure on the pedal, but as the trouble is likely to occur again, and it can be very disconcerting in traffic, it is far better to take the “bull by the horns” and strip it.
Before the clutch can be removed it is necessary to unbolt the gearbox, and, having removed the trunnions from the rear of the propeller-shaft, pull back the gearbox a few inches to allow the clutch room to come away, together with its subsidiary mechanism. There are, of course, other parts to be disconnected, such as the clutch and brake pedals, but no comments are necessary on these. Be careful when lifting away the clutch-operating cross-shaft, which carries the toggle arms, as there are two small spring-loaded carbon brushes which serve to combat any rattle or vibration which might occur between these toggles and the clutch-race withdrawal housing and are more than likely to fall out. Having disconnected the Hardy-Spicer flexible coupling (not, I believe, fitted to the E-type, which has a metal coupling) and removed the bolts holding the clutch to the flywheel, the whole should come away. If difficulty is experienced, a few clouts with a raw-hide hammer should serve to ease the small ball-bearing which locates the centre spline of the clutch in the flywheel.
Dismantling of the clutch should be done as follows. Stand the unit vertically, the top being the face which mates up to the flywheel, and undo the five or six small screws visible on the surface. Before actually removing these, rig up some sort of a lever capable of holding down the plate, which the screws serve to retain when fully driven home. The set-screws can then be removed safely without the plates becoming airborne. Gradually release the leverage until the spring has lost its tension and lift out all the plates, taking care that they are laid out in the sequence that they occupied prior to dismantling; the centre spline can then be lifted out. Thoroughly clean everything and examine the centre spline for grooves along the spline. As the majority of these cars have, today, covered large mileages it will be a fortunate owner who finds no grooves on these splines. This fault permits the plates to become lodged in set positions, whereas they should, of course, slide freely over this shaft when the pedal is depressed. There are two ways of overcoming this trouble; either file away the ridges until a smooth surface is again available, or get the shaft built up to its original dimensions. The latter course is definitely the better, because the former allows play between the plates and the shaft; however; in my own case, filing only was done, and no further trouble was experienced afterwards.
Having attended to this part, turn your attention to the plates. These are of copper and steel, there being, I think, thirteen of one and fourteen of the other. Test each plate for flatness on a measuring table and, if warped, treat with a soft hammer until perfect flatness is obtained; also remove all burrs, which will be found particularly on the copper plates. Examine the splines within the housing; these do not usually suffer very badly but if they are notched, treat them the same way as mentioned above.
Re-assembly is quite straightforward, being merely a case of dropping all the plates back in, compressing against the one spring situated at the rear of the clutch housing, and tightening down the small set screws. When assembled, fill with approximately half a pint of flake graphite through one or more of the plugs in the outer housing. I might mention that there is no necessity to undo the large 7/8-in. nut which appears to be the key to dismantling this unit. This serves only to hold, the main spline to the driving shaft which protrudes through the rear of the housing. If the clutch is cared-for as described above, no sweeter clutch could be desired, even though it may be a little on the heavy side compared with modern standards. But for smooth get-away and easy gear changing it is second to none. Normal maintenance is practically nil. Introduce about 1/4-oz. of graphite from time to time, keep the thrust race well lubricated, and keep all the withdrawal mechanism well oiled.
Gearbox. — It is not necessary to say much in respect of this unit, as the general principle is as with all other pre-synchromesh boxes. Troubles are practically unknown, although it must be admitted that these cars are heavy on the bearings. The only trouble I have experienced, and I mention it in case others suffer from the same annoying habit, was a periodic difficulty of not being able to select a particular gear, or when in gear, being unable to get either into neutral or any other gear.
I only remembered to look at the most obvious place, which is, of course, the selector arm, after much examination. This arm is clamped to the end of a shaft the other end of which carries the gearlever, and is self-locking when a particular gear is selected, through the selectors which are housed in a small box of their own on the off side of the gearbox. The bolt which locks the selector to the gearshift cross-shaft had worked loose (there is no locking device) and allowed it to move a little way to one side. Obviously misalignment occurred, and the selectors could not be moved. What was so misleading was that, every-so-often, this selector must have vibrated back into its correct position, when no further trouble would be experienced for a considerable while.
The gearbox, which like the engine is mounted on the sub-frame, should be carefully shimmed up into position of alignment with the latter. This can be done by attaching a small pointer to the front flange, which for the purpose of this test would be disconnected from the flexible joint. Turn this in relation to the flywheel until the two are concentric.
To allow for the flex in the main chassis and the rigid mounting of the gearbox in the sub-frame, a ball joint is provided on the extreme end of the gear-shift cross-shaft; keep this well lubricated. It will make for easy gear-changing on rough roads. Also, keep the cross-shaft itself well lubricated, which can be done by feeding oil through the two small holes provided for the purpose in the steel tube surrounding the actual shaft.
The gearbox should be drained at intervals of 5,000 miles, and refilled with Wakefield Castrol gear oil to within 6 in. of the lid seating. Gear-changing is easy, and comparatively light, except on winter mornings when the oil is particularly thick. Changes up and down can be effected without the use of the clutch, but in order to achieve this quietly a certain amount of brute force has to be employed. When changing gear in the more normal manner and using the very efficient clutch stop, the lining of which should be kept fairly well oiled, little pause is necessary in moving from one gear to another. The standard ratios provided are not the best for those who like high speeds on the indirects, perhaps because the car was essentially designed as a top-gear performer. With a 3.3 to 1 rear axle the ratios of the OE are:— Top: 3.3 to 1; 3rd: 5.1 to 1; 2nd: 7.8 to 1, and bottom: 12.2 to 1. Assuming the maximum engine-speed to be 3,400 r.p.m. and the car to be fitted with 20 in. by 5.50 in. tyres, allowing for various losses, speeds of 88 m.p.h. on top, 60 m.p.h. on third, 38 on second, and about 20 m.p.h. on bottom should be possible. There are available today, I believe, redesigned sets of gears which allow higher speeds on the indirects, although this is naturally quite likely to affect the acceleration a little. To my mind the best modification is to fit a side-valve rear axle, which is fitted with a 3.0 to 1 crown wheel and pinion.
Transmission. — The drive from the gearbox to the rear axle is transmitted by an open propeller-shaft with universal joints at either end. Immediately behind the gearbox is the transmission brake drum. The centre of the drum makes up part of the universal joint, which is of the metallic type, and through which two hardened, and ground pins locate alternately in the propeller-shaft and housing. This form of universal joint, though quite common on cars built during the twenties, has now been generally discarded in favour of the more popular flexible joint, as made by Hardy-Spicer, added to which, with the latter type of joint, lubrication is unnecessary. Generally speaking, little wear occurs with the forward end, and it is only necessary to dismantle this when one has cause to remove the propeller shaft in its entirety. To do this, remove the rubber boot, which serves to retain lubricant, and undo the serrated collar which is then exposed, and which surrounds the propeller-shaft and screws into the outer casing of the universal joint. On the earlier cars the speedometer-belt pulley is an integral part of this assembly, but as these pulleys, which are made of cast-iron, break for no apparent reason at the flange, I scrapped mine and took my speedometer drive from a split pulley fitted round the actual prop.-shaft, at the same time fitting a spring belt in place of the earlier flat rubber or leather drive. With this small alteration no further trouble was experienced through the belt coming off and becoming entangled in the works. It is important to keep this belt taut and the two pulleys absolutely in line.
The rear end of the propeller-shaft carries a transverse pin, on which are located two bronze trunnions; these trunnions slide in two slots of a machined housing which forms part of the pinion assembly, the trunnions being kept into position by a cover which slides over the whole, and is secured by four small bolts. When driving these cars at low speeds in the higher gears, roughness or jerking in the transmission is frequently experienced, and this can usually be traced to the trunnions having become worn on their driving faces. If they have not previously been turned round, this action will quite frequently cure the trouble, but more often than not this expedient has already been tried, in which case there is only one thing to do — scrap them and have new ones made. The head of these trunnions is of spherical design and this surface also suffers wear, but this can, up to a point, be rectified by placing shims underneath the blocks. The life of these trunnions is not long, and they will well repay very regular lubrication and replacement. To my own mind one of the best improvements which can be made on these cars is the scrapping complete of the standard prop.-shaft, replacing it by a modern-type Hardy-Spicer.
Rear axle. — The rear axle is made up of two steel castings bolted together round the periphery to form the pinion and differential housing, and into which are led two steel tubes, these tubes leading through to the hubs. There is no doubt that this form of construction makes for extreme strength with the minimum of weight. On the E-type cars the casing was also supported by a tie-bar underneath but this seems to have been discarded on the OE models. Keep this tie-bar well adjusted; there is provision at the ends. Unless for any reason it is necessary to remove the crown wheel and pinion, which are of the spiral-bevel type, there is no necessity to open up the two halves of this housing. There is, however, a frequent necessity to remove the hub assemblies, as wear often takes place at these extremities. Perhaps the following few notes on dismantling these ends will be helpful to those who are not familiar with the layout. First, remove the hub-cap, split-pin and nut, and withdraw the brake drum and hub in one piece. There is a steel bush dowelled into the front of the hub, the inside of which is splined and slides over the splines on the extremity of the half-shaft. Should the female splines for any reason become damaged or worn it is only necessary to replace this bush, and not the whole hub. Having exposed the shoes, remove the thrust race which is also visible, the shoes, oil retainer and backplate. The difficulty usually comes in removing the spring pad, which should be a floating fit on the axle tube, but which is more often than not seized solid.
This spring block is an aluminium casting, into which is pressed a bronze bush, this bush being located by the dowel pin which is the extension of the spring clamping bolt. The easiest way of removing this casting is to slacken-off the retaining ring (which can be found behind the spring pad and which serves to adjust this pad) against the thrust bearing already referred to, knocking it up the tube four or five inches and then heating the whole with a blow-lamp, until it can be forced free. Having removed the block, the bush, if not too badly worn, should be scraped, and the axle tube cleaned down until the two once again mate properly. In view of the general design of the transmission of these cars, it is most important that a smooth and easy movement is achieved, so that the axle is allowed to move when riding rough roads or when accelerating violently. When re-assembling make sure the bush is fitted the right way up, that is, so that the dowel pin can locate in the hole made for it, and which will ensure the bush moving on the axle tube and not in the aluminium housing. One other point; the small oil-retainer pressing, which screws to the back-plate, has a hole drilled on one side. This hole must be at the bottom, to allow any surplus oil from an over-filled rear axle to escape. Re-assembly of the remainder is orthodox, finally tightening up the retaining ring until the spring pad is just free.
The rear axle should be filled with Wakefield Castrol gear oil, until the level comes up to the filler-cap orifice. There is no drain plug in these axles and to remove old oil it is necessary to unscrew the filler-aperture from the actual casing. Even this procedure will not entirely empty the axle.
Brakes. — Undoubtedly one of the worst features of these cars are their brakes, and there is no doubt that it is this which has prevented the “30/98 ” from becoming as popular as others in the same class.
The E-type and the first 30 OE-type cars were fitted with two-wheel brakes only and a transmission brake, the handbrake working the rear wheels and the foot-brake on the transmission. The dimensions of the transmission drum made it impossible to dissipate heat generated when the foot-brake was applied hard at even moderate speed, and lining wear was excessive. One car I owned had actually been fitted with 3/8-in, copper linings; I do not know if this was common practice but to me it seemed most dangerous, due to the violence of the grab.
About August, 1922, Vauxhalls, who were then building the OE, apparently decided it would be a very good thing for their cars to be shown at that year’s Motor Show equipped with four-wheel brakes. The time at their disposal was not very long and no doubt this contributed to the poorness of the brakes which appeared. Obviously something had to be devised which called for no great chassis modification. The outcome was compensating mechanism rigged up externally and enclosed within a kidney-shaped box ahead of the radiator. Apart from this, and the design of the actual brakes themselves, nothing else was done, except to hook the whole up to the pedal, which then applied both front wheel and transmission brakes, the handbrake still operating on the rear wheels. This certainly provided a four-wheel-braked vehicle, but it is a great pity that in the next four and a half years no improvements were made, with the exception of increasing the drum diameters, which was done in 1927. To all intents and purposes this system, on the face of it, should work reasonably well if the handbrake is used at the same time, but it just doesn’t. To my mind the root of the trouble appears to be that the rear wheel and transmission brakes are cam-operated, whereas the front brakes are operated by a vertically-rising wedge, pulled upwards by cables operating through the kidney-box. From details that I have had worked out the linkage required to operate the two separate brake systems to advantage from the pedal would have to be very much larger than it is reasonable to fit within the limit of space available and so, without making any alterations to design, the easiest way to overcome the brake problem is to entirely disconnect the front-wheel mechanism from the transmission brake. In my own ease I scrapped the transmission brake in its entirety, it is unsatisfactory anyway, and tied up the foot brake to the front wheels only, leaving the rear wheels to be operated by the hand-brake. With the brakes in good condition, no further troubles were experienced and quite an efficient stop could be made by using the foot-brake, followed by an application of the handbrake. By an efficient stop, I mean that it was quite possible to stop from 30 m.p.h. on a dry road in about 43 feet, without experiencing any tendency to pull or skid. Many owners have attempted to hook up all four wheels to the foot-brake, and connect the hand-brake to the transmission. I have already pointed out that I believe this to be unsatisfactory without major modifications, but it is always interesting to hear from anyone who has achieved a good four-wheel-brake system by this means, and in this respect I refer to having a minimum of 60 per cent. braking on the front wheels.
Adjustment of these brakes is perfectly orthodox, though there is one small point which many are likely to overlook, and that is, that on the cable-operated front-wheel-brake models it is most essential to make quite sure that no slack exists between the ends of the cable covering and the kidney-box itself. There are two slots, one at each end of this box, in which sit two bolts, which can be adjusted inwards or outwards. Make absolutely certain that these bolts are always in tight contact with the shrouds over the ends of the cable covering. It is very surprising indeed to try the brakes on one of these cars before and after the slack has been removed; a very great improvement can be obtained without interference with the normal thumb-screw adjustments behind the drum. The kidney-box itself encloses a compensating mechanism and should permit the two front brakes to equalise themselves when pressure is applied to the pedal. The manufacturers give the following notes on brakes and brake adjustments:—
(1) Always use the hand-brake for normal stopping. Keep the foot-brake for emergency use only.
(2) When adjusting hand-brake, wheels should just be turning by hand when the hand-lever is pulled on four or five notches.
(3) When adjusting the front brakes (foot), jack up one wheel at a time, bringing the shoe as near to the drum as possible without fouling. A compensating mechanism will never give equal braking.
(4) To adjust cables, slacken nuts on front cross-member and tap brackets holding cable ends along the cross-member.
(5) The normal amount of play in the pedal action is about 1/2in, at the extreme top of the pedal, when the brakes are in the full-off position.
All drums are of steel, with east-iron liners rivetted in, their effective diameter being 12 in., and the total brake-lining area, excluding the transmission brake, 160 sq. in.
The later OE cars, that is those made during 1928, were equipped with hydraulic brakes. I have had no experience with this design, but from those layouts I have examined it does seem to me that one of the biggest troubles is the use of the rigid copper pipe which carries the fluid up to the operating cylinder within the drum. This pipe leads into the cylinder through the top of the king-pin and, as the whole assembly moves on steering the car, obvious difficulty is experienced in retaining the fluid. A definite improvement could be made in this respect by altering the layout to carry Bunday tubing, as used on the Lockheed system. The hydraulic brake air-pressure system should be maintained at 10 lb./sq. in.
On the other hand, it seems that the older design of cable-operated brakes could quite easily be converted to hydraulic operation by fitting two small transverse cylinders vertically over the king-pins; these would serve to lift the wedges very much more satisfactorily than the cable mechanism. No difficulty would be experienced in installing the remainder of the hydraulics.
Chassis. — The chassis is of perfectly straightforward design. Along roughly half of it is a sub-frame carrying engine and gearbox. The rear end of this sub-frame is slung from a tubular cross-member which also acts as the bearing to which the torque stay is clamped. This cross-member is subjected to considerable strain and frequent attention should be paid to the rivets by which it is held to the frame side-members, and also to the bolts which support the sub-frame. It is advisable to replace all these bolts and rivets with modern high-tensile bolts on an elderly car. Keep the torque-shaft bearing well lubricated and eliminate any side-play. Immediately behind this member is the cross-shaft operating the rear brakes. On the outside of the frame will be found two grease nipples and regular attention to these will go a long way towards easy and smooth brake operation.
At the extreme rear of the chassis is slung a 12-gallon copper fuel tank, held in position by two quite frail steel straps anchored to one of the rear tubular cross-members. These straps seem to receive all the splash from the rear wheels and are very liable to rust. On one occasion I had a full tank come adrift, so it is particularly advisable these days to examine them, as even twelve gallons of petrol cannot be easily replaced!
The chassis as a whole is very flexible, but seldom appears to fracture; the front end is possibly too flexible and it does help to insert an additional crosstube between the dumb-irons.
The springs are supported in the normal manner and give little trouble, the main point of wear being where the rear inverted shackles bear on the extremities of the rear cross-member. Replacing the bushes in the spring ends is not necessarily a cure and the only satisfactory way of putting these parts into good condition is to remove the cross-member and either build up the worn-away material or regrind the ends to suit the new brass bushes. To remove it, knock out the taper pins which pass through the dumb-iron ends (on the E-type these ends were made of bronze), heat the dumb-irons, and then I am afraid it is a case of a heavy hammer.
The steering layout is quite conventional. All ball joints were originally enclosed in leather gaiters and this was no doubt responsible for such little wear being apparent on the cars that I have owned and dismantled. There is a decided toe-in on these cars and the track should be about 3/8-in, less in front than between the same point measured at the rear of the front wheels (this is based on the car being fitted with 820 by 120 tyres).
Like most cars of this period, there are a great many grease-points on the chassis and it is most essential to locate all these and keep them thoroughly and regularly supplied; the handling characteristics can be completely changed through lack of attention in this direction.
The electrical system is of C.A.V. manufacture throughout, being of the double-pole type: The headlamps, though of fair proportions, can hardly be considered satisfactory for the speed of the car, and replacement by a more modern type is desirable. The dynamo on the earlier cars is of considerable size, having ample output for the demands likely to be made upon it, and is belt-driven from behind the clutch. During 1924 this component was replaced by a smaller unit situated between the magneto drive and magneto; a more accessible installation.
The E-type carried the accumulator on the near-side running board but towards the end of 1923 it was slung under the rear floor. I cannot say I quite agreed with this modification, as it meant doing away with the two foot wells, and there never was very much room for one’s feet when occupying the rear seats.
One other change was made when the OE replaced the E-type, and this was the fitting of the starter button on the dashboard. Previously the switch was placed on the floor, just ahead of the driver’s seat, and this meant that to start the car one had to almost stand up, not very easy when the hood was erected. Apart from these few changes in design, I believe the electrical system to have been unaltered during the years the car was in production. A copy of the wiring circuit can, I believe, still be obtained from the makers of the equipment, should anyone feel that it would be advantageous to have it for reference purposes.
The dashboard carries oil-pressure gauge, speedometer, clock, ammeter, voltmeter and the customary switches. On those cars fitted with pressure feed there is also an air-gauge and hand-pressure pump, and there is an additional air-pressure gauge on those OE models fitted with hydraulic brakes. If desired, a rev.-counter can quite easily be fitted in place of the clock. Perhaps one of the easiest ways in which to rig up a drive is to mount a split pulley round the magneto coupling and from here take a small belt-drive to a second pulley on the end of the actual rev.-counter drive, and anchored just ahead of the magneto.
The body, wings, bulkhead, dashboard, etc., are all made from aluminium, which contributes a great deal to the light weight of the car. Though the front seats are “just right” for long-distance driving, and a feel of absolute control over the car is immediately noticeable to the driver, the back seats are extremely bad, both from a point of view of comfort and safety. There is practically nowhere to put one’s feet, unless it is straight out ahead. What an improvement could have been made by lengthening the scuttle six or eight inches, setting the two front seats back and shortening the rear compartment! This, together with a little redesigning of the rear floor, would have made the body as comfortable inside as it looks good from outside. Still, these points are minor when it is remembered the car was built for speed, and not necessarily as a means of conveyance to social functions.
* * *
I will conclude with a few notes on my own experiences of the two “30/98s” which I have been fortunate to own.
I had always had an interest in these cars and naturally had a hankering to possess one, but my age and impecunious position had been such that it was not until 1933 or 1934 that I first became an owner. Purchased from Dixon’s of Redditch, the car was an E-type “Velox” four-seater, in comparatively good condition. The whole car was in virgin aluminium, and all instruments and equipment “worked,” and no modifications whatsoever had been made. There were no front-wheel brakes, and both the rear shoes and those on the transmission brake had been shod with copper linings. (Was this customary in those days, or was it an idea of a particular individual in desperation?) Unfortunately I have not got the engine number of this car, but remember the registration number to be DH 2681, it having been first registered in 1921.
The performance of this car after those of which I had had previous experience was terrific. I well remember the demonstration run that was given me by a person whose job seemed to depend on whether he sold the car. After I had had an opportunity of becoming used to her, the maximum speed proved to be considerably under 80 m.p.h., but up to about 65 m.p.h. the car was definitely very quick, after which acceleration seemed to fall off rather badly, and if one really pushed the engine a good rattle set in, which I think was probably due to valve bounce. In this form, PH 2681 was once or twice entered for Shelsley Walsh, but never bettered 63 sec.
The E-type car is lighter than the later OE, and there is considerably more twist in the chassis, it being of much less robust construction; the springs were narrower and the engine weighed less. Hydraulic shock-absorbers were fitted as standard, these having been made by Deridon. They were not very successful or else they were worn out, and were accordingly replaced by double Hartfords. Steering and road-holding were excellent on dry days, just the reverse on wet. On long runs petrol consumption worked out at around 20-22 m.p.g. When I took possession of this car the fuel was fed to the carburetter through the medium of twin Autopulses (no, I was wrong in saying the car was entirely standard, but this was the only modification). These, due mainly to their condition, did not prove too suitable, as starvation invariably occurred when driving hard on the intermediate gears. Consideration was given to fitting either some new electric pumps or an Autovac, but finally it was decided to re-connect the old air-pressure system, as originally used, and this, although a little inconvenient when starting up on a near-empty tank, proved itself extremely reliable and highly efficient, a pressure of 1i-2 lb./sq. in. being maintained quite comfortably from the mechanical air-pump, which is driven off the rear end of the camshaft by the same cam that drives the oil-pump.
My car was driven hard for about 10,000 miles, when its earlier mileage began to tell. On one occasion, when it was necessary to make a quick stop, which called for violent application of the transmission brake, the torque-stay broke at its neck and allowed the axle to swing heavily within the spring pads, which resulted in considerable damage to the rear end of the propeller-shaft. On the OE models this stay was made to a different section and is undoubtedly more robust; I have also noticed that on quite a number of these cars a small steel plate is fitted underneath the forward bearing of the torque-stay, which serves to prevent this component from dropping in the event of a breakage such as I have just mentioned.
The only other mechanical breakage that was experienced on the road was when I endeavoured to change into third gear at a speed above that at which the car was capable of travelling in that gear. On inspection it appeared that whip in the crankshaft had caused two main-bearing bolts to break, at the same time bending a connecting-rod and breaking a piston.
In view of this failure it was decided to completely strip the engine and replace all bearings, which work was duly carried out, and although I had intended to have the block rebored at the same time, this proved to be unnecessary, very little wear being evident. One new piston, to replace the broken one, and new rings on the others, brought this part of the “works” back into an efficient condition. Before the block was replaced the brass sealing washer was removed from the top of the crankcase, with the idea of slightly increasing the compression-ratio.
Practically all valve guides were found to be broken where they passed through the ports, and the valves were definitely “sloppy” in the guides. New valves and guides were therefore fitted, together with a new set of valve springs. I think on the E-type attention to the condition of these springs is important, as most I have driven seem to be suffering from valve bounce.
The flywheel had some 45 lb. removed, though from later experience, by way of difficulty in starting, I do not think the slight gain in acceleration is worth the roughness and I would not recommend this procedure unless the engine has a counterbalanced crankshaft.
It was most unfortunate that I never had the opportunity of trying the car out, as, on her first run, due no doubt to too little attention being paid to the condition of the brakes, she became involved in a serious collision whilst travelling at around 50 m.p.h., which was also shared by two other cars, a lamp post and a suburban villa. To all intents and purposes the Vauxhall was written off and the remnants dumped in a Birmingham garage.
After a few months, I decided that perhaps the car could be rebuilt, and so a search was made for another frame. One was eventually discovered, which bore the registration number of BN 5600. I should here refer to Paul Jacot, who gave me such excellent advice and help in reconstructing my car on the lines of his own well-known two-seater, and without whose patience and forbearing the work would most certainly never have been completed.
The new frame was completely stripped, cleaned and all rivets carefully inspected. It was then sprayed black, the inside of the channels being painted in aluminium. New springs were obtained, these being set down to lie flat under load, and bound tightly with cord. The wheels were rebuilt to carry 19-in. by 5.50-in, wellbase tyres, which lowered the chassis quite a lot. My old rear axle was partially overhauled and cleaned, and a braked front axle was fitted (although the brakes were not Vauxhall), together with a new cross-shaft, the rear brakes being rod, the front cable-operated. They were interconnected to be operated by the foot brake, the hand-lever being concerned solely with the transmission drum. All copper linings were removed and replaced by the more normal type of asbestos lining.
The engine, having been only slightly damaged, was fortunately ready without any further alterations, as she had literally done no mileage since overhaul. Actually one slight change was made, this being the fitting of a downdraught Amal in place of the standard Zenith carburetter, which was quite easily done by reversing the inlet pipe and making a slight alteration to the hot-spot water pipe, though I do not think performance showed any improvement for this change, added to which I was continually troubled with excess petrol in the inlet manifold when starting up from cold.
The clutch, gearbox and transmission were next fitted, and here I erred by not overhauling the clutch, which was either sticking in altogether or slipping.
Though the standard exhaust manifold is light and reasonably efficient, I experienced continual trouble with “blowouts,” and in consequence discarded it in favour of a set of outside pipes. Another radiator was obtained and fitted with a quick-action filler cap; a hole was at the time put through the honeycomb by Serck, to allow the starting handle to pass through, instead of below, the radiator, as I intended to mount the radiator between the dumb-irons and so achieve a lower bonnet line. In order to keep weight to the absolute minimum, which had been one of my aims all along, it was decided to skimp the bodywork as much as was reasonably possible, without making the car unfit for normal road use. A one-piece bonnet and scuttle-top only was made up, and kept in position by straps, the scuttle frame being made up from light-section angle-iron. A new aluminium dashboard was made, which also served to stiffen the scuttle frame by the manner in which it was fixed. The instruments included a fuel-pressure gauge, oil-pressure gauge, water thermometer, rev.-counter and speedometer. The only electrical equipment was two sidelamps and a tail lamp, which were connected direct to an accumulator and just about served to get the car home at the end of an evening.
The steering was overhauled and the column dropped about 5 in.; this can quite easily be done by revolving the circular steering box in its chassis bracket and reclamping into position. After a considerable amount of trouble, an Ashby spring steering wheel was substituted, though I think these cars definitely handle better with the standard rigid wheel. The hand-throttle lever was discarded and a new magneto control lever, of sufficient length that it could be operated without moving the hands from the rim of the wheel, introduced. The original floorboards were replaced by a new set of less weight, and two small wicker seats from a 1914-18 Vickers’ bomber screwed direct to the floor. The tail comprised a suitably-shaped framework of similar material to that used for the scuttle, covered with plywood, and finally with Rexine. Two small aeroscreens were attached, and the whole painted black and silver. The car, when fitted with small segment flat wings, certainly looked “right.” In this form, unladen, it weighed slightly under 20 cwt., and, theoretically, should, with 90 odd b.h.p., have been able to travel. Maximum speed proved to be just under 80 m.p.h., but acceleration had improved, and was now excellent, 10-30 m.p.h. occupying 3 1/2 seconds. Road-holding was also better, but the car tended to suffer from front-wheel slides when cornering rapidly on dry roads. This was eventually cured by doubling up on the front shock-absorbers by adding a pair of Houdaille dampers. No further trouble was experienced in this direction. The steering castor was also improved by the addition of 1/4-in wedges under the front springs.
In this condition the car was twice entered for Shelsley Walsh, and once for Wetherby, but on both the former occasions, in spite of quite good practice runs, it failed to keep running on four cylinders during the actual event. At Wetherby, however, she ran well, and clocked a satisfactory time, beating all other “30/98s,” with the exception of Jacot’s, as well as a number of the more potent sports-cars. In 1936, due to matrimony, I sorrowfully parted with her to a friend, who, in due course, had a very excellent two-seater body specially constructed for the chassis. Before disposing of her, I removed a number of the more special components, including the downdraught carburetter and front-wheel brake layout and axle. I managed to keep track of this car until the middle of 1945, when I heard from her latest owner, to whom I hope I was able to give a little information concerning her past. Strange to say, only a few months ago, I met, quite by accident, her first owner, who was delighted to hear that the car had given such satisfaction and pleasure over 25 years.
For a few years I lost the pleasure of handling a “30/98,” but during the war I began looking for a genuine vintage vehicle. Naturally my thoughts turned to, amongst others, the “30/98,” and although it would be practically impossible to find one that was not, by this date, very well worn, my past experiences, and the pleasure I had derived from these cars, eventually got the better of me. Having decided to own another “30/98,” the next thing was to find one that had not at some time or another been involved in at least one collision. Eventually I resorted to the advertisement columns, and through this source had one offered to me at a reasonable figure, by an enthusiast near Bristol. I duly inspected the car, an all-aluminium “Velox” four-seater, registration number FJ 2789, engine OE 64, chassis OE 63, which was really to my mind in appaling condition due to sheer neglect, having obviously been standing in the open for a long while. During the passing of the years the hood had rotted away, followed by the side-curtains, and finally the upholstery and the floor. The body and wings had not corroded although they had grown barnacles, the axles and all exterior paintwork had turned green of their own accord, and bonnet hinges, front floorboard release catches and front seat runners had well and truly rusted solid. Strange to say the engine was quite free, and after a rough inspection of such parts as the clutch for freedom, the propeller-shaft for play, state of the rear splines, etc., it seemed that mechanically the chassis was good, and would be worth rejuvenating. Examining the contents of the railway van in which my purchase came home, I began to doubt my sanity in having bought such a wreck. In the full daylight it now looked worse than ever, and to crown everything it had been bumped in transit, with that result that, apart from both front wings being pushed in, the starting handle, always very prominent on these cars, had been almost bent double. Fortunately, it had not gone back on to the front end of the crankshaft. Advantage was taken of the railway bridge; the car turned the scales at 24 3/4 cwt.
I was not disposed to completely strip the car and then commence re-building, a method which would undoubtedly have been the most satisfactory, but was forced by circumstances to start at the front and work backwards.
Overhauling the car occupied two years of spare time; at the time there seems little chance of petrol being available for years! The engine was not disturbed, apart from overhauling the water pump and replacing the bearings in the magneto drive, which were found to have completely collapsed. Everything else was stripped and new parts fitted where necessary. The bodywork presented the biggest problem, but even this was put in reasonable order, by removing all the leather work and replacing by canvas. It was a great shame this had to be done, but the original leather had pulled away from its frame due to long exposure to the rain. In due course the car was on the road again, looking, at least externally, as she must have done when her first owner took delivery. It is hard to imagine a more desirable car of the old-school for fast, and with care, safe motoring; but it is not a motor-car for the very young or the aged. The steering can be dead accurate, and the car can be placed just where one wishes. Road-holding, to my mind, is excellent even on wet roads; averages of over 50 m.p.h. can be maintained with absolute safety on Class B roads. Speeds of around 80 m.p.h. can be held for mile after mile on the better roads, and on such runs as Preston to Carlisle the “30/98” really comes into its own.
Apart from occasional obstinacy in starting, no trouble was ever experienced except on one occasion when the clutch gave way to its habit of sticking in. Petrol consumption was around 14 m.p.g. in towns, and 21 m.p.g on runs. During the autumn of 1946 I did enter her for the Speed Trials at Cofton Hackett, where she clocked the fair time of 36.2 sec. compared with 35.6 and 36.8 sec. of the two 4 1/2-litre Invictas entered. For various personal reasons OE 64 was sold in December 1946, though it is my hope to obtain another specimen in the not too distant future. No truer slogan was ever given to a product than that by Vauxhall Motors when referring to the “30/98” — “A sporting car which has never known a superior.“
[Other articles in this series include the following: 12/50 and 12/60 Alvis, Jan., 1940; Lancia “Lambda,” June, 1942; MG Midget, July, 1942; G.N., November, 1942; s.v. Aston-Martin, May, 1943; 2-litre Lagonda, Feb., 1944; Bertelli Aston-Martin, Jan., 1935; Austin Sever “Nippy,” April, 1935; “14/40” Delage, Oct., 1935; H.E., Dec., 1935; 3-litre Bentley, Feb., 1947; F.W.D Alvis, May, 1947; Twin-Cam Aston-Martin, June, 1947; Amilcar, July, 1947; Ballot, Dec, 1947; 4 1/2-litre Bentley, Feb., 1947. For details of issues still available and prices, please see p. 123.]