's Great British Cars – Vauxhall 30/98

Sun 12th Aug 2018

Great Britain, great cars. The UK motor industry is respected the world over, and though many of the vehicles are actually owned by foreign manufacturers, there can be no doubting of the fantastic heritage of the British motor.

To celebrate Britain’s famous history is launching a series looking back on some of the most famous vehicles the UK has ever seen.

Vauxhall 30/98
The mythology behind this Edwardian classic car is the kind of stuff which Merchant Ivory movie-makers would cast Colin Firth and Hugh Grant in and win plenty of Oscars with. It’s the motoring equivalent of Chariots of Fire, replace Roger Bannister with the Vauxhall and you have the basis of a classic.

Like all great stories told, there are a few grey areas and differing versions, but the crux of the story rests on Vauxhall accepting the challenge to build a car which could maintain 100mph on the famous Brooklands circuit. Some say the challenge was set by racer Joseph Higginson, other accounts say the 30/98 was inspired by a Major L Ropner after he wrote to The Autocar moaning that he couldn’t buy a road car capable of 100mph over a mile. It may be that both versions are true, the 100mph barrier was certainly an attractive and out of reach goal for the country’s motoring manufacturers in the early part of the 20th Century, much like the prospect of a sub-4-minute mile.

It was Laurence Pomeroy who made the dream a reality, Vauxhall’s technical director had first designed a 30/98 in 1913, but the E type was markedly different from the OE.

The earlier version was a side-valve 4-cylinder created very much in the Edwardian style, think Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Known as the Velox, ‘swift’ in Latin, the E-type had plenty of pace, but it wasn’t until 1922 and the engine was fitted with overhead valves and a detachable cylinder head that it achieved the glory.

In March 1923, test driver Matt Park took the OE version on a 100mph flying lap around Brooklands, a track that Vauxhall’s classic would go on to dominate for the next decade.

Of the 601 Vauxhall 30/98s built over the 14 years, around 200 are known to have survived and they come with a very impressive price-tag.

Years of manufacture: 1913-1927
Price when new: £1,350
Price now: £400,000-plus
Engine: 4,244cc 4cyl petrol, 115bhp
Top speed: 100mph

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