The Vauxhall 30/98

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The Vauxhall 30/98 is not one of the most desirable of cars. You cannot stand beside it (your investment)) and claim “It’s an ex-works team car, old boy” or “one of the Le Mans cars” nor even “Tim Birkin, (Tazio Nuvolari), (Louis Chiron) (etc., etc.) drove this one.” All you can do is to go motoring in it. When you do this you realise you have not got “an investment”, but you have got one of the nicest vintage sports/tourers ever made and you just want to go on motoring and motoring, not talking about it. The Vauxhall 30/98 represents vintage motoring at its best and there is a very genuine enthusiasm among the owners. In the early days of the Vintage Sports Car Club there was a story about a 30/98 owner who was fined by the police when all he was doing was bidding good morning to another 30/98 owner coming the other way. The trouble was he was standing on the seat raising his hat in a gentlemanly manner.

The E-type Vauxhall 30/98 was a side-valve 4-cylinder of great smoothness, flexibility and charm and ran on thin beaded-edge tyres so that it was possessed of light accurate steering, though its actual performance was not startling. It was really an Edwardian though it was made from 1919 to the early twenties; it probably represents the ultimate in Edwardian-style motoring. The OE 30/98 which followed with overhead valve engine became the epitome of the vintage touring car and many were tuned and developed into very fast sports/racing cars.

In the nineteen-fifties I turned up at Montlhery one day to find Tom Plowman about to do a flat-out run for an hour round the banked track in his OE 30/98. It ran faultlessly and covered 107 miles in the hour, which the French time-keepers found hard to believe. The OE was an overhead valve 4-cylinder of 41/4-litres, the valves operated by push-rods, and possessed a good power output, excellent torque and was nearly as smooth and flexible as the E-type, but possessed of much greater performance. A good 30/98 will cruise all day at 75 m.p.h. in a most calm and effortless manner, and will wind up to 85-90 m.p.h. with no trouble at all. There are many 30/98 Vauxhalls which will reach the magic 100 m.p.h. and this with a touring 4-seater body.

The Vauxhall 30/98 owners have got together and formed an Owners Register and the 1980 list quotes 33 E-types, 137 OE-types, and 4 Specials, these figures covering the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, Canada, Argentina and the United States. All the owners are listed and while many of the cars have been modified over the years, especially in the braking or the carburation departments. 

There are many totally original cars still in active service, such as HM Buckley’s Grosvenor bodied 2-seater with dickey seat, or Dr. Holmes Pickering’s 1921 4-seater E-type. In the OE field Reg Parker has a totally original 1925 Wensum 2-seater and P Garland has a Velox 4-seater which is described in the register as “Completely original high-radiator car. No modifications from standard” and you can’t say fairer than that.

Many of the cars have been built up from bits and pieces, starting with a known and registered chassis frame, with say a Delage front axle, a rear axle from a broken-up 30/98 and an engine built up from bits from various dismantled cars, the whole lot fitted with a body made to the pattern of an original 2-seater Wensum or a 4-seater Velox. There are sufficient original cars about to ensure that the new body is correct in all detail. As with all interesting old cars there are never enough to go round so when you get to the end of the 1980 register you find there are recorded five cars, as yet un-numbered, being built up on new chassis frames that a group of keen 30/98 owners have got together and commissioned to be made. Three of them have engines to put in, the other two do not at the moment. The question in some Vauxhall 30/98 owners minds is “Will these cars be Vauxhall 30/98s, as they will not have been made by Vauxhall Motors?” None of them will claim any fame or history, they will just be nice, usable, vintage touring cars. But there is a question-mark over them as far as owners of real and original cars are concerned. It could be that these “new” cars will de-value an original car on the “investor’s market”, or they might increase the value. They might even fetch more money than an original car, as they will be new, and to some people “newer” is “better”. However, nobody is making a “genuine team-car, old boy” or a “Le Mans car”, or “ex-Tim Birkin car, old boy” so motoring history is not going to be violated. At least these “new” 30/98s are in the register and not being built quietly in a back-street workshop, to be sprung on the unsuspecting public at an auction sale.

If you are thinking about a 30/98 Vauxhall the Owner’s Register, run by David Marsh, knows all there is to know about the E-types and the OE-types. DSJ.