Sporting Cars on the Road

The Hurlingham Vauxhall by the Editor

Since the days of the old 30-98 Vauxhall this marque has passed through various phases, and anyone who took out one of the latest models after being used to its prototype would have considerable difficulty in reconciling himself to the fact that both models came from the same factory at Luton. There were many who, when the control and policy of this firm passed into the hands of the General Motors Corporation, deplored the change, but a run in the latest type would soon dispel any fears that they may have had on this score.

The influence of the American design is evident as soon as one takes the wheel, and though as a general rule, the building of a sports car is not considered the strong point of the American manufacturer, this at least is a case where some of these features make a great improvement. The old Vauxhall certainly went, but it was a rough machine, and though roughness in a sports car was excusable at one time, the need for it has now been shown to be a fallacy, and in the Hurlingham model Vauxhall which we recently had the opportunity of putting through its paces, we found an excellent example of a machine which combines good performance with thoroughly gentlemanly behaviour.

One point at least in which it retains one of the characteristics of its predecessers, and which is regarded now as essential on any sports car, is that it has a 4-speed gear box, and one with very useful ratios. The speeds on the indirect gears we found to be 22 m.p.h. on first gear, 35 m.p.h. on second, and 53 m.p.h. on third. Third gear enables an excellent average to be put up as it gives remarkably good acceleration, and one gets in the habit of spending a great deal of time in this gear on anything like a twisty road. The gear change is very light and easy to the point of making one almost careless in engaging the various ratios, and certainly contributes to the fact that driving this car is a very restful proceeding. The steering is very light and centres itself in a very pleasing manner after taking a bend ; however we found it geared rather low for our liking, and although extremely pleasant for ordinary motoring was not quite quick enough on the uptake for really ” snappy ” corner work. This of course is largely a matter of personal preference, and many favour the low gearing to the ” heavier ” feel of a higher gear, but we do not. The outstanding feature of the Vauxhall is undoubtedly the braking system, and in this the makers are to be heartily congratulated. It is a very difficult matter to hit the perfect balance in a servo system between heavy operation and the over-sensitive which makes braking a fierce business. Only a light pressure on the pedal is required, but at the same time there is none of that tendency to “stand on its nose” which is apparent in some systems where the pedal pressure required is low. Firm pressure on the pedal produces the most astonishing braking power, without the slightest pull on the steering or tendency to lock the wheels, and yet without any special delicacy in application it is possible to pull up as gradually as a train.

Unfortunately it was not possible to find a suitable piece of dry suface on which to test the actual braking distance, and it was therefore necessary to carry out our tests on wet concrete. The fact that the car came to rest from a speed of 40 m.p.h. in 65 ft. on this surface, makes one wish that it had been possible to find the figure on a dry surface.

A criticism might be levelled by some that this model is not as low on the ground as most sports models, but the real proof of this is in the behaviour on corners, and the absolute freedom from rolling in this car shows that whatever may appear to be the case superficially, the weight is actually in the right place, and the body is not only an extremely handsome piece of work, but is very comfortable, the high back of the seat giving ample support to the shoulders.

The flexibility of the engine is remarkable though in common with most high compression units a certain amount of attention to the ignition control at low speeds is required if occasional pinking is to the avoided.

Owing to the rather evil weather conditions prevailing on the occasion of our test we were unable to get a really accurate idea of the maximum speed of the car, the most we actually reached being 70 m.p.h. The car we tested had not had any attention paid to the engine for some thousands of miles, and there is no doubt that a speed of 75 m.p.h. could be attained in reasonable circumstances, while an actual test of one of the earlier models with a closed body gave a lap speed of 72 m.p.h. on Brooklands and a maximum speed of 79 m.p.h. which is remarkably good for an engine which comes into the 3 litre class.

The Vauxhall has a fairly heavy chassis and is capable of providing accommodation equal to many cars with considerably larger engines. It has obviously been the makers’ policy to produce, not a semi-racing type of vehicle, but one suitable for almost any purpose for which an automobile may be required, coupled with a performance and general behaviour at high speeds which places it high up in the sports car class, and they have succeeded admirably. The springing is perfectly comfortable at low speeds which is not always the case with a fast model.

The result is a car which does not require any more attention in service than an ordinary touring car, and one of the most pleasing features in the eyes of a prospective buyer is that fact that it only costs £650.