30/98: a hard act to follow

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When the production run of Vauxhall 30/98s a car which was the epitome of VSCC ambitions ran out, there was much speculation as to what Luton would follow it with. General Motors’ takeover was imminent, making Vauxhall’s future unpredictable. Would they follow Laurence Pomeroy’s masterpiece with another car of like appeal and performance?

A decent 30/98 or ‘Red Label’ 3-litre Bentley was good for about 80mph, and stripped 30/98s were said to be guaranteed to do 100mph. The quickest 30/98 lapped Brooklands at 114.23mph, a less-hot one, of normal engine size, at 112.47mph, and in 1953 Plowman’s did 107 miles in the hour. So what would General Motors come up with?

CE King, who had designed the ohv engine for the OE 30/98 in 1923, was anxious that this so-famous Vauxhall should continue in improved form. But he was up against American ideas. In 1925, GM took over. They were concerned with a mass-production market, catered for by Vauxhall’s Cadet, the big 20/60 just a stop-gap. There was, however, a return to something sporting, when the Hurlingham emerged in 1928. It was a good car but one scorned then by vintage-car folk. limes change, and now at least four of these Vauxhalls have VSCC membership.

The US styling of this sportscar revival was clear. Apparently, it was on the drawing board before GM arrived, its gearbox internals, for example, the same as those of the 23/60 dating back to 1922. The six-cylinder 2762cc push-rod ohv unit developed 80bhp at 3400rpm, with enlarged ports, a 6:1 compression ratio, Zenith 42U carburettor, and increased valve-lift, compared to 120bhp at 3500rpm from the final 30/98s. The 1930 Hurlingham had a nine-bearing crankshaft, and bath-tub combustion chambers. The car had a wheelbase of 10ft 3in, Marles steering, an axle-ratio of 4.18:1 and stiffened springs.

In 1930 Motor Sport road-tested a Hurlingham. Even then it was compared with the 30/98, which by then you could buy in good order for around £50. We found the new GM Vauxhall smoother and more refined, and capable of 22,35 and 53mph in the lower gears. It was a well-used car, which attained 70mph in top gear. The steering was thought to be a trifle low-geared, the brakes excellent, and quick cornering produced no roll. It was priced at £650. Later, the engine was bored-out to 2916cc and the cast-iron pistons changed to aluminium, which increased the speed.

Michael Sedgwick said that the age of magnificent fast

tourers might be over but that the Hurlingham had the edge on many a 30/98, even Wits 70mph was not accompanied by good handling. Cecil Clutton wrote that the 20/60 was of moderate price, roomy and well-braked, though undergeared-and in ordinary form, very much a family car. So although a sound enough machine in its way, the Hurlingham was an unworthy successor to the immortal 30/98.