1920 Vauxhall 30/98
Year of manufacture1920
Number of seats2
1920 Vauxhall 30-98 E-Type Tourer
Coachwork by Damyon Brothers, Melbourne
Registration no. VM 387
Chassis no. E267
Engine no. E256
Offered here is a very well known example of what is considered by many knowledgeable enthusiasts to be the finest British sporting car of the Vintage period. Vauxhall 30-98 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 first objective 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 fifteen 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 were 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.
The OE was not to gain front-wheel brakes until late 1923, when a cable system was introduced. This was operated, along with the transmission brake, by the foot pedal, with the linkages and compensating mechanism - the inaccurately-termed 'kidney box' - mounted somewhat untidily in front of the radiator. Hydraulic actuation of the front-wheel and transmission brakes was adopted in 1926. By the time the final batch of OE chassis had been completed in early 1927, there were few customers for the 30-98, the antiquity of the design telling against it when compared to the more refined competition from Bentley and Sunbeam. Total production of OEs numbered 312 cars.
This particular E-Type was despatched new from the Luton factory in rolling chassis form to Australia, where the big Vauxhall was deservedly popular. Its owner there for many years, Roy Gaudion wrote: 'these cars were imported as bare chassis with only radiator, aluminium bonnet, scuttle and lighting equipment.'
On arrival in Australia, the Vauxhall was bodied in Melbourne by Damyon Brothers, a respected family firm founded in 1885 by three siblings: Joseph, Charles and John, who looked after body making, painting and smithing respectively. Damyons bodied numerous cars of quality including those of Rolls-Royce and Bugatti, but ceased trading in 1937.
The Damyons' body for 'E267' was an attractive design in the factory's Velox style but panelled in steel to withstand the stresses and strains of motoring on Australia's mainly unmade roads. This original coachwork was restored during the late 1960s by the car's then owner, Ron Gaudion, who made a new wooden framework using the old timbers as patterns and repaired much of the body's original steel skin.
The car's ownership is unknown prior to 1945 when it was recorded as belonging to John Calvert of Victoria, a tobacco farmer who purchased it on leaving the Army at the end of the war. Calvert drove the 30-98 for the next nine or so years before consigning it to a barn. The car was got running again in 1959 for its sale to Ron Gaudion, who did not get around to commencing its complete 'body off' restoration until 1966. 'E267' was finished in time for Sydney's 1st International Rally, held in 1970, during which it averaged 103.5mph over a four-mile course (an achievement Ron Gaudion later recorded in writing).
After almost 30 years of ownership, Ron Gaudion sold the Vauxhall in 1988 and the car returned to the UK. Issued with the age-related registration 'VM 387', the car then passed via a motor dealer to one John Day. In June 1994 the Vauxhall was purchased by the Hon G H Wilson, who in turn sold it to Quentin Chases in November 2002. The 30-98 was acquired by the current vendor in 2012; prior to his purchase the 30-98 had undergone a photographically documented bare metal re-spray. Renowned Vauxhall historian Nic Portway believes this to be one of the few remaining cars to retain its original Australian coachwork. It is also worthwhile noting that the gryphon mascot is an original and not a replica, unlike those on many other Vauxhalls today. Other noteworthy features include correct instrumentation, full weather equipment, a luggage grid and an original Auster screen.
The previous owner had spent a considerable amount of money on 'E267' during his ownership, benefiting among other things from fully rewired electrics. This is in addition to the circa £42,000 estimated billed by marque specialist Arthur Archer to the Hon G H Wilson for a mechanical overhaul, while a further £9,000 appears to have been spent during the period 1991 to 2003 for various works including a new radiator.
When the car was recently photographed the owner confirms that the car started readily and ran beautifully and describes the car as in 'excellent working order'.
Described by Nic Portway as 'having a nigh-on continuous history and being a well known genuine car,' this highly original example of Vauxhall's definitive sports car of the early Vintage period is offered with a V5C registration document and an extensive history file dating back to Ron Gaudion's ownership in Australia.