by Tim Patterson
The marine engineering company, Vauxhall Iron Works,
entered the car business in 1903, from London premises
close to the Houses of Parliament.
The business soon
moved out to Luton, where the company is generally
credited with producing Britain's first proper sports
car, the L. H. Pomeroy designed “Prince Henry” model
The name stems from the long-distance competitions,
trials and rallies that were heavily promoted in
Germany at this time, for Prince Henry of Prussia,
the Kaiser's younger brother, was an avid motorist,
and gave his name to these events.
Pomeroy, who had
joined Vauxhall in 1905, was a great designer, and
was always interested in sporting motoring. In 1910
he had persuaded a modified 20hp Vauxhall to reach
100mph at Brooklands
The Prince Henry used a similar
engine, and was made in very small numbers before
the outbreak of World War I.
Its 4 liter engine may
have had only four-cylinders and side valves, but
although performance was only modest, the general
level of handling and control was superb by the standards
of the day, and its looks set a yardstick by which
all the next generation of sports cars were designed.
It was easily recognizable with the distinctive tapered
radiator and famed bonnet flutes.
At the outbreak of war, the Prince Henry had
already evolved into the classic 4½ liter
30/98 model, and this was revived in 1919.
side-valve model, the E-Type, it was built up until
1922, featuring such Edwardian niceties as exposed
valve springs, and a fixed cylinder head. Only rear
wheel brakes were provided, and it needed a brave
driver to make use of its 60mph cruising speed.
L H Pomeroy left Vauxhall to work in the USA, he
had been working on advanced engines, and in 1922
Harry Ricardo was involved in helping to produce
new Tourist Trophy cars which had twin overhead camshaft
The later 30/98 road cars, the OE Models,
however, had overhead valve engines, with pushrod
operation, and this meant that peak power was boosted
from 90bhp to 112bhp (ultimately 120bhp). From 1923,
front-wheel-brakes were available as an option, these
being a rather strange design, with four shoes in
the drums, which operated in conjunction with a transmission
brake when the foot pedal was operated.
lever continued to operate the rear drums, independently
of this. Various private-enterprise attempts were
made to improve on this rather alarming system, which
was not abandoned until hydraulic brakes were adopted
on the last batch. General Motors of Detroit purchased
the financially-ailing Vauxhall Motors in 1925, intent
on transforming it into a serious production concern.
Naturally the 30/98 did not fit into this strategy,
it being phased out in 1927 after only 312 examples
had built during a production run spanning some 14
Despite their small numbers, these cars earned
an enviable reputation for distance records, most
notably in the 1923 Melbourne to Sydney Trial. The
distance of 565 miles (909 km) was completed in an
astounding (for the time 14 hours and 43 minutes.
The 30/98 also successfully competed in many speed
trials, hill climb and club events. All 30/98s were
equipped with lightweight bodies and were guaranteed
to reach 100 mph.