SPORTING CARS ON ROAD AND TRACK. SOME IMPRESSIONS OF THE 30,98 VAUXHALL.
By RICHARD TWELVETREES.
SINCE becoming closely interested in sporting cars of various makes, I have often been questioned as to my opinion of the 30 /98 Vauxhall, and have always felt rather feeble in confessing my lack of firsthand knowledge of this famous make until recently, when Messrs. Vauxhall Motors, Ltd., placed one at my disposal for a ” M.S.” test. On arriving at the showrooms in Great Portland Street the other day, there was the car waiting, and, without any preliminary instructions, cautions, or anything of the kind, she was handed over for a week-end trip. I was immediately impressed with the idea that this car had the complete confidence of the makers, who placed absolutely no restrictions as to the kind of test one should impose, which is an ideal condition under which to start out on a real road trial. Now, I do not propose to rake up any past history about the excellence of the Vauxhall, and many readers of this journal have had far more experience of its performance than I shall ever have ; but, at the same time, there are others for whom the possession of a ” 3098 ” exists only as a remote possibility, and who may welcome a few remarks as to its behaviour under ordinary test conditions.
Unlike so many sporting cars of to-day, the Vauxhall combines real touring comfort with high speed driving, which is particularly emphasised by the skilful arrangement of the controls in relation to the bodywork. For instance, one’s feet fall automatically upon the pedals, a perfectly easy and natural movement of the right hand finds the change speed lever, and the outside brake lever is admirably situated for those who prefer to drive principally on the side brakes. Personally, I always find that quicker driving is possible by keeping the foot brake for emergency use only, though the interconnection of the front wheel brakes, and the countershaft brake with the pedal, on the Vauxhall, is quite sufficient to give good retardation for all ordinary purposes.
By virtue of the adjustable front seats, one can regulate the driving position as desired, and there is just enough tilt to the back of the driver’s seat to give the happy medium between the bolt upright posture for fast driving and a comfortable inclination of the back. In other words, the Vauxhall is not a chassis with a sporting body added by an unappreciative coachbuilder, but is designed throughout with an intimate knowledge of the sporting driver’s requirements.
With the possible exception of the compensating gear for the front wheel brakes, the “30 /98″ is a very beautiful car, the graceful lines from the bonnet to the rear being extremely attractive when viewed from above. These lines give a very good streamline effect, without emphasising the fact that the car is capable of very high speeds, thus protecting the owner from the attentions attracted by cars of ” ultra-sporty ” appearance.
One of the great charms of the ” 3o /98 ” is that it can be driven with absolute comfort for ordinary touring purposes, and does not necessarily compel one to drive hard all the time, but even when ambling along at low speeds, there is that suggestion of power which is so fascinating for the man who likes to put his foot down occasionally.
Speaking of the latter diversion, I made an acceleration test on a clear piece of road, and by starting from a standstill on second gear, changing into third at “forty,” and engaging the top gear at “sixty,” a speed of seventy miles per hour was reached in the incredibly short time of twenty-six seconds ! ” Nuff said” about acceleration ! My impression is that usually the Vauxhall steering is very light, and, as far as my recollection goes of one of the early 25-h.p. models, it called for no criticism, but it seemed as if this particular car was a little heavier to handle than one would wish, though at the same
time I found no difficulty in taking corners quite fast, and the castoring effect was excellent. Perhaps the joints had been taken up recently, which is the impression I gained by the feel of the steering. Compared with some gear changes, the movement of the lever appeared a wee bit heavy, and, unless one waited for the top gear, quite a pull was necessary to engage the dogs, These, however, are things to which one becomes accustomed, so must not be taken as criticism. I am not quite decided as to the brakes, and, whilst they gave me no anxiety, even at maximum speeds, it seemed as though a slightly quicker action would have been desirable. With regard to brake adjustment, I would respectfully suggest that the turnbuckles might be arranged
in more accessible positions, so that it would be possible to take up any wear without the need for lying under the running boards.
Perhaps, when one becomes accustomed to the car. the speed can be gauged by the rev.-counter, for it is difficult to read the speedometer, situated as it is on the left of the instrument board. These are my only criticisms, so, having performed my duty, let me pass on to give a few experiences of this wonderful car on the road. A quiet run from London to Tunbridge Wells and back with four up on the Friday evening convinced me that all the praise I had heard of the ” 3o /98 ” was well merited, my passengers being enthusiastic about the comfort of the body and the gliding motion of the car, which was equally noticeable at high and low speeds. With many sporting cars, the sensation when rounding corners at fairly good speeds is more agreeable to the driver than to the passengers, but the Vauxhall is so beautifully balanced, and sits down so comfortably that manoeuvres round acute bends can be performed without causing any consternation among the crew. Hills ? Well, there are none on that particular road to be noticed by the Vauxhall, but on one or two occasions we astonished the natives by a little bit of third gear work which gave the engine a chance of showing what it could do in the way of turning over. After a run of eighty miles, most of it in the dark, we all fell in love with the Vauxhall, and looked forward
to the chance of letting it go on a really good road in the daylight.
The next day, Saturday, was devoted to jogging peacefully around the Maidenhead district, partly in search of unclimbable hills and quiet roads for a few speed tests. None of the little known stunt hills in the neighbourhood proved stiff enough to worry the engine, nor did the negotiation of a very steep grass bank with a gradient of I in 2 prove too severe a test, so, giving up the task of trying to beat the Vauxhall, we proceeded to Brooldands to watch the racing. As everyone knows that the standard ” 30 /98 ” is capable of between 8o and 85 miles per hour with full equipment on Brooklands track, there was no particular point in wasting time with a track test, besides, the powers that be have placed the sporting motorist’s playground out of bounds on Sundays. (Cries of ” Shame ! “)
However, as a ” M.S.” test is not complete without a run of 300 or so in one day, we decided to take a trip to the Malvern Hills and back to see if a bit of hard driving would create any call for minor attentions or adjustments to the car.
Dawdling painfully along the Great West Road at a well-disguised 40 miles per hour, we eventually got rid of the procession of ” popular ” cars. We made for Beaconsfield and passed on to High Wycombe, where, from the porch of the Red Lion Hotel, Disraeli made his first political speech in 1832. Even if one happens to be engaged in the business of testing a Vauxhall, it is impossible to pass the strange-looking mausoleum near the village, which was built by an eccentric nobleman, Lord le Despenser, in 1763. The same gentleman was responsible for the curious-looking ball, capable of holding nine persons, surmounting the tower of the church.
Between High Wycombe and Chipping Norton the road was clear enough to allow us to gain some slight idea of the speed of the ” 30 /98,” and, though there were but few straight stretches, the car accelerated up to 8o m.p.h. on several occasions without being fully extended. At this point I must qualify my previous remarks about the steering, as I found it quite possible to hold the car with one hand when travelling very fast, the nature of the road rendering frequent application of the side brake necessary. Another fine run brought us to Morteon-in-the-Marsh, and a little later the picturesque village of Broadway was reached, this place being quite one of the show
places of the country, though perhaps rendered a little artificial by endeavours to add to its natural beauties. Passing Pershore and Worcester, we completed the outward journey by climbing up to the Roman Camp on the remarkable range of hills just outside Malvern, and then, turning sharp to the left, took a narrow track, which brought us to a wonderful point of vantage from which the whole of the surrounding country stretched out before us like a gigantic panorama.
A short climb on foot brought us to the top of the Worcestershire Beacon, which, rising to a height of 1,444 feet, is the loftiest of the Malvern Hills.
The return journey home was broken at Worcester to listen to the organ at the Cathedral, one of the finest in the country, having a sixty-four foot pedal stop, and a note which literally shakes the entire edifice. A few minutes pause at Woodstock gave us a chance to look into Blenheim Park and get a glimpse of the delightful castle, Chaucer’s house and the cottage where Edward the Black Prince was born being additional points of interest at this place.
Then, as the evening was approaching, we settled down in the car for a quick run home, only making one detour at Henley to climb Alms Hill, which was taken in a stride from the bottom in second gear. There is a very good tool kit in the Vauxhall, and all the articles are arranged in convenient positions, but I am sure these things are very seldom needed. If asked for an opinion of this car, I should say, “Well, it is a ’30/98′ Vauxhall,” which is sufficient to indicate the closest approach to mechanical perfection in modern automobile design and constructoin as applied to sporting car practice.
The principal dealers for Vauxhall cars are Messrs. Barclay & Wyse, Ltd., of Great Portland Street, W. 1.