A section devoted to old-car matters
A 30/98 with a difference
A feature of recent VSCC competition events has been the surprisingly large number of 30/98 Vauxhalls taking part, which is a pleasing thing, for these cars are what vintage motoring is all about. Among these 30/98s has been the car modified before the war by the late Alan May, Sydney Allard’s close friend, which Julian Ghosh has brought out again. As there is some confusion about how many Rolls-Royce components May used in its construction, I was invited to go and see for myself, and drive this potent touring car. So one Monday an accommodating Opel Ascona 1.9 SR was driven to Sutton Coldfield, where we were first taken into Ghosh’s garage, a veritable treasure-trove of vintage lore.
Ghosh more or less began with a single-seater racing Special, consisting of a side-valve aircooled JAP engine in an Austin 7 chassis, using Morgan i.f.s. Since then he has progressed. At the time of my visit he showed me 4 1/2-litre and Speed Six Bentleys awaiting re-assembly and a 1922 3-litre chassis, No. 48, which he intends to buildup into a replica a something akin to the flat radiator car raced by the late May Cunliffe, using is Claudel-Hobson carburetter, ML magnetos and is front-brake axle. There is also a circa-1929 24-litre Y 12-cylinder Napier “Lion” aero-engine which Ghosh hopes to install in a Rolls-Royce chassis as “a sort of road-burning go-kart.” He also has parts of is Meadows HRG, etc.
As to the Vauxhall, this is is 1915 Velox model, OE260, which Alan May modified before the war, around 1931 it is thought, using a lattice-boxed 1926 Rolls-Royce Twenty chassis frame. I remember how he would pit this fast 30/98 against Allard’s current Allard Specials, in friendly rivalry. The Vauxhall was used after the war, up to September 1950, and Ghosh bought it from the May family in March 1975. The engine is normal 30/98, except that there is no head gasket, the c.r, is approx. 9 to 1, Martlett pistons are fitted, and May contrived an internal balance pipe between the inlet ports, within the head, and arranged a pressure oil-feed to the valve rockers, with a bleed to the push-rods. He also made up is four-branch bunched exhaust manifold and contrived to fit a big SU downdraught carburetter from an 8-litre Bentley. As d/d carburation is frowned upon for racing by the VSCC, Ghosh has re-arranged this as an updraught, keeping the same choke and jets. The engine has the later counter-balanced crankshaft and is Scintilla AG4 magneto. Ghosh takes it normally to 4,000 r.p.m. and adds another 200 r.p.m. when the need arises. He estimates that the power output is in the region of 130 b.h.p.
The drive goes through a Borg & Beck clutch to a 1926 non-synchromesh Rolls-Royce 20 gearbox. The rest of the transmission is normal 30/98, the back axle being from OE248, with is ratio of 3.3 to 1. The front axle and brakes are from an H6B Hispano-Suiza, a fine piece of work, with hollow stub-axles and Rudge-Whitworth hubs. The steering box is also Hispano-Suiza, but the steering wheel and control levers above it are Rolls-Royce. The body is the original Velox up to the scuttle. Behind that May constructed a simple two-door four-seater touring body, which can have presented few problems, because his Company, Southern Motors Ltd., made replica bodies mainly on Rolls-Royce chassis. The hood-sticks are original, incidentally. A weight ticket that came with the car says 24 cwt. R-R type hydraulic shock-absorbers are used front and back. The headlamps are Bosch. Various sizes of tyres are used by Ghosh, depending on the contests for which the car is entered. When I tried it the front wheels were shod with Avons which had been re-treaded very satisfactorily by Tyresoles of Brighton, with Dunlop Forts on the back wheels, the size being 5.25 x 21.
When Ghosh bought this unique 30/98, tor roughly the same price as he paid for his modern Morgan Plus-8, there was still good, clean oil in the sump. Apart from some ignition trouble the car has proved notably reliable and has required very little refurbishing, although the h.t. leads were naturally perished. Run on 5-star petrol, it gives 20m.p.g; the lubricant now used is Newton straight SAE 50.
To sample this quick Vauxhall on the road is is salutary experience. Because it really GOES! No acceleration figures have been taken but the maximum in third gear is 90 m.p.h. Incidentally, the ratios with the R-R box are not very different from the Vauxhall ratios, being 11.55, 6.60, 4.45 and 3.30 to 1, compared to 12.0, 7.76, 5.04 and 3.30 to 1. But the R-R box provides very easy gear changing, with the characteristic longer movement into top from third, and the indirect ratios are completely silent. Incidentally, Alan May, like Sydney Allard, believed in drilling lightening holes where ever possible; thus both brake and clutch pedals, to the left of the small accelerator, are copiously drilled, as is the gate of the gear-lever.
I enjoyed driving this car. It handles in a taught manner, is easy to control and would be a fine machine in which to travel fast all day on Continental roads, yet, I felt, would be equally adept at coping with town traffic, for it is essentially docile. You advance the ignition lever and leave it there, after the engine has started. The clutch is better at racing starts than when eased in, the brakes, having hard linings, need a very heavy right foot. But otherwise, there are absolutely no problems in driving this 30/98 in the fashion to which it is accustomed. From a comfortable seat, entered from the passenger’s side, as the outside hand-brake obstructs the driver’s door, you look down on the typically vintage-Vauxhall bonnet, although the famous scollops are invisible. The two-pane screen is now vertical; May used it inclined, supported with out-riggers. The gear-lever falls easily to the right hand, as they say in the best road-test reports, and, as I have said, it is no problem to get quick, quiet changes.
The wooden instrument panel carries standard 30/98 dials, i.e. small clock, tachometer and speedometer, all by Jaeger, on the left, a central CAV switch panel with ammeter, and on the right a Cartherometer above the oil-gauge. Oil pressure is, 15 lb./sq, in. hot, water heat normally 65-70C. The Vauxhall choke-knob lives with the R-R advance/retard and throttle open/shut knobs, on the ring above the steering wheel. The steering lock is very good and the steering neither heavy nor too high-geared. A very pleasant motor car to possess!
Since he acquired it, Julian Ghosh and this Vauxhall have lapped the Silverstone Club circuit in 1 min. 24.6 sec., Oulton Park in 1 min. 31.1 sec., Cadwell Park in 2 min. 13.0 sec., and it has gone up, Shelsley Walsh in 46.5 sec. Which speaks for itself. On the general subject of 30/98s, it is nice to learn that Alan May’s brother Edward has built-up OE 132/OE134 and will be using it in this year’s VSCC events… — W.B.