1913 Vauxhall '30-98HP' 4.5-Litre

1913 Vauxhall '30-98HP' 4.5-Litre Two-Seater Sports

The Vauxhall 30-98 is considered by many knowledgeable enthusiasts to be the finest British sporting car of the Vintage period. Its adherents will maintain that while Bentley generated greater publicity - thanks largely to their victories at Le Mans - the Vauxhall company (which raced at both Grand Prix and Tourist Trophy level before the Great War) had produced a car that could run rings around 3-Litre Bentleys on cross-country journeys.

The 'big engine/lightweight car' formula has been repeated to good effect many times throughout the history of the sporting motor car, and Vauxhall's famous 30-98 was one of its earliest successful applications. As has so often been the case, the spur behind this particular combination was the desire for competition success; the first 30-98 being constructed at the behest of car dealer and motor sport competitor, Joseph Higginson, in 1913. Higginson's firstobjective was victory in the Shelsley Walsh hill climb in June of that year, and the Laurence Pomeroy-designed 30-98 duly obliged, setting a hill record in the process which was to stand for 15 years.

Laurence Pomeroy's tenure as Vauxhall's Chief Engineer saw the Luton-based concern produce some of the truly outstanding designs of the Edwardian period, commencing with the 20hp Prince Henry in 1910. A larger version of the Prince Henry's four-cylinder side-valve engine was developed for its successor, the D-type, which, with some 70bhp on tap, was good for 70mph-plus when not overburdened by formal coachwork. Pomeroy's 30-98 was powered by a 4.5-litre, four-cylinder, side-valve engine - in effect a stretched version of the Prince Henry/D-type's - mounted in a conventional but lightweight chassis; suspension being by beam axle at the front and live axle at the rear, with semi-elliptic springs all round. Power was transmitted via a multi-plate clutch to a robust four-speed gearbox, and thence via a short prop-shaft to the straight-cut bevel rear axle. The braking system consisted of a foot-operated transmission brake and a handbrake operating on the two rear drums, the front wheels being un-braked.

At first glance this unremarkable specification seems an unlikely one for a performance car - even an 'Edwardian' example - but the 30-98's 90bhp-plus power output, combined with a weight of only 24cwt (with the factory-built, four-seater 'Velox' tourer coachwork) gave it a formidable power-to-weight ratio for the time. A fully road-equipped 30-98 was capable of around 85mph, and when stripped for racing, the company guaranteed a top-speed in excess of 100mph for the later overhead-valve models, a capability demonstrated at Brooklands on numerous occasions.

Only a handful of cars was sold before the outbreak of WWI interrupted production, and when manufacture resumed in 1919, the model was given the designation 'E-type' - its Prince Henry predecessor having been the 'C' and the 25hp Tourer the 'D'. Manufacture of the E-type ceased in September 1922 after 287 cars had been constructed, there then being a slight hiatus in production before its successor, the overhead-valve 'OE', commenced delivery to customers in early 1923. Despite a reduction in capacity to 4.2 litres, the power of the OHV motor went up to 110bhp-plus, although this increase made little difference to the car's performance.

Prior to designing the Prince Henry, Pomeroy had drawn up a new 20hp 3.0-litre model: the A-type, which was produced from around 1909 to 1914. Completed in 1993, 'DK 1045' uses an A-type chassis and running gear, while the D-type engine has been enlarged to 4.5-litres, just like Vauxhall did to create the 30-98. Previously owned by Vauxhall expert Julian Ghosh, this car is listed in the Vauxhall 30-98 Register in the section devoted to 'Other Prince Henry and Sporting Vauxhalls'.

Descriptions & pictures by conceptcarz & bonhams

Production Start 1913
Country of origin Great Britain