GREAT RACING MARQUES VAUXHALL.
By E. K H. KARSLAKE.
IT is one of the unfortunate features of sport, that in most cases it must find some form of financial backing. Motor racing is probably the most expensive sport in the world, and the only way that it can be made possible on any but a very limited scale, is either on the American system, where large sections of the public are prepared to court the fickle goddess Fortune with the help of bookies, or else on that prevailing in Europe, where manufacturers use it as a means of advertisement. In the latter case it is justified from the financial point of view not only as an advertising medium but also as a most efficient laboratory ; but that the two aims are not wholly compatible is shown by the fact that whereas only the winning team gets the big publicity after a race, much more is often learnt by their less successful competitors.
As an instance of this one may quote the case of Vauxhall. The racers built by this firm have not gained a very large number of wins in. big racers ; but it is evident that a firm who can build a sports car like the 30-98 h.p. Vauxhall have not failed to benefit by their racing experience.
In 1911 was held the first big race for 3-litre cars, in the shape of the Coupe de l’Auto on the Boulogne circuit, and a single car was entered by the Vauxhall firm. This machine had a 4-cylinder engine with a bore and stroke of 90 x 118 mm. (2,967 c.c.), which distinguished it from most of its competitors, whose designers, having studied light-car engines under the limited bore regulations, were still building long-stroke engines. The Vauxhall was driven by A. J. Hancock, but it did nbt have time to make much of a showing, as, after quite a good first lap, it went out on the second with a run bigend. The next year, the Coupe de l’Auto race was again for 3-litre cars, and this time was run in conjunction with the Grand Prix at Dieppe. Three Vauxhalls were
entered for it and were of the same side-valve type as had run in 1911. One of the cars was driven as before by A. J. Hancock, while the other two were entrusted to W. Watson and J. Lambert. The race was a two-day event, but at the start the Vauxhalls showed themselves among the fastest machines in their class, and at the end of five laps, or about 240 miles, Hancock held the lead. Watson, however, had fallen out at the end of the second lap with a broken big-end bolt, but the other two cars started on the second day. Neither however was able to finish the race, for Lambert retired w:th big-end trouble, and Hancock with a broken piston.
In 1913, however, the Vauxhall firm again returned to the charge with two of the 3-litre cars in the Coupe des Voiturettes, which this year was held once more on the Boulogne circuit. The two cars which were entered were driven by A. J. Hancock and W. Watson, and with the Sunbeams, had the task of upholding British prestige on the Continent. The English cars soon showed that the Peugeots were their only serious rivals, and at the end of the first lap Hancock was in fifth place. After various changes he was still there on the penultimate lap with Watson sixth ; and on the last circuit he got into fourth place, while Watson went out of the race with a broken back axle. The 1912 Grand Prix, in which the then ” baby ” machines with 3-litre engines had shown themselves nearly a match for the big cars in the unlimited class, had aroused tremendous interest in racing on a limited engine capacity basis, with the result that in 1914 the R.A.C. decided to organise a great two-day 600 mile race over the Isle of Man course for cars with the somewhat curious engine size limit of 3,310 c.c. The Vauxhall company therefore set to work to build a set of racing cars to compete in this Tourist Trophy race. After the Peugeot victory in the Grand Prix and light car race of 1913, Laurence Pomeroy, the Vauxhall designer, had come to the conclusion that there was no longer any chance of winning races with side-valve
engines as used in the Vauxhall racing cars for the past three seasons, and he therefore set about producing some brand-new overhead valve engines for the race.
Unfortunately the old stofy of motor racing had to be told once more, and when the day of the race arrived, the new Vauxhalls were nothing like ready. The three cars started, however, with A. J. Hancock, W. Watson and J. Higginson as their drivers: but cars which had only just been assembled in time could not hope to be successful. On the first lap, Watsons’ Vauxhall broke its crankshaft, and a few miles further on, Higginson’ machine fractured an oil pipe, his lubricant all leaked away, and the engine was wrecked. Hancock’s Vauxhall was therefore the only car of the team left in, and it was held back all the first day by minor troubles, not the least of which was a broken water pipe. So much had to be done before starting on the second morning, that he had to spend nearly an hour before he could get away, and after another day of vain struggle, the car was crashed just before the end of the race, and the last Vauxhall eliminated. For the first time in its history, the French Grand Prix of 1914 was also for cars with a limited engine size —41litres. Another set of Vauxhalls was therefore built for this race, and started in the great event at Lyons with Hancock, Watson and Ralph de Palma as their drivers. But the cars suffered from the same cause as had been their undoing in the Tourist Trophy, and
started in the Grand Prix in far from a finished condition. Hancock had to retire on the first lap with a broken piston, and he was soon followed by his team-mate, Watson who could not induce his carburetter to carburate. Ralph de Palma lasted rather longer, but he too was unable to finish the race.
After the War.
In 1922 the R.A.C. revived its Tourist Trophy, which owing to the war had not been run since 1914, and once more Vauxhall decided to enter for it. This time the race was for 3-litre cars, and a set of new Vauxhalls were therefore built with 4-cylinder engines of 85 x 132 mm. bore and stroke, giving a capacity of 2,996 c.c. These engines had aluminium cylinders with liners, a bronze cylinder-head, and the fly-wheel in the centre of the crankshaft, and pneumatically operated front wheel brakes. The cars had 0. Paine, E. Swain and M. C. Park as their drivers, and it was soon seen in the practice period that they were possessed of very high speed and terrific acceleration. In the race, however, they were not altogether fortunate. Park’s car went out on the second lap with a broke piston, and on the fifth, Swaine’s suffered exactly the same fate ; this left only Payne:of the Vauxhall equippe to finish the race, which he did, securing third place.
It was in many ways unfortunate that the R.A.C.
decided to make this Tourist Trophy a race for 3-litre cars, while the big continental races were already being run under the 2-litre rule. Besides this, owing to lack of support by the trade it was decided not to hold a T.T. in 1923, and there was therefore no big race for which the 3-litre Vauxhalls were now eligible. Nevertheless, they enjoyed something of a revenge when at the Championship meeting organised by the Essex club later on in the season, Park on the Vauxhall succeeded in beating the Sunbeam which had won the T.T., and proved itself the fastest 3-litre car of its day. Since then the 3-litre Vauxhall has had a long and glorious career at Brooklands and in hill-climbs, and has shown its speed and stamina by annexing a number of records, many of its most notable performances having been accomplished in the hands of J. D. Barclay.
The Famous 30/98.
Just before the war, the Vauxhall company had introduced a standard car with 4 cylinders of 98 x 140 mm. (4224 c.c.), which was of course the famous 30-98 h.p. Vauxhall, and which embodied then many lessons learnt from racing in 1911-13. After the war the power of the engine was increased by the adoption of overhead valves, and in 1923, two of these cars were entered for the Georges Boillot cup race at Boulogne. Summer’s car however was not able to start in the race, and so Coe
started alone on the other Vauxhall. The largest and fastest cars in the race were the new Boulogne type Hispano-Suizas, but by the second lap Coe was running a good third to two of them. By the fifth lap he looked a likely winner of the Boillet cup on formula, when he was forced to retire.
Two 30-98 h.p. Vauxhalls were again entered in the same race the next year, but again C. G. Coe’s was the only one which started. Bad luck however, dogged him once more and he was again forced to retire, after covering nine laps.
In the meantime however the 30-98 h.p. Vauxhall like the 3-litre, was a consistent performer in Brooklands handicap races,. and in 1927 came another long-distance face organised by the Essex Motor Club in which one was entered. This was the 6-hour touring car race, in which E. L. Meeson entered a ” 30-98 ” with a 2-seater saloon body. Unfortunately the car had little chance to show its mettle for it came to a dramatic end as far as that race was concerned by catching fire.
Since then the Vauxhall Co. has rather retired from the field of racing activity ; but for its efforts in the past all sporting enthusiasts have a great debt of gratitude, for the sports car of to-day owes many of its best qualities to the development of the 30-98 h.p. Vauxhall.
Matters of moment, December 1960
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