Vauxhall 30/98

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Vauxhall 30/98

1913 - 1927
United Kingdom
4 cyl.
4.5 liter
112 - 120 bhp
3 spd.
Top Speed:
100 mph (claimed)
Number Built:
5 star
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 of 1913.

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.

As the 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.

Before 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 engines.

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.

The handbrake 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 years!

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.

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