- Vauxhall 30-98 direct rival to sporting Bentleys during 1920s
- Fast, durable and lightweight – top speed validated by factory at Brooklands
- Enduring example of early 1900s’ engineering – nearly 200 cars survive today
The Vauxhall 30-98, one of the greatest sports cars of the twentieth century and the first to top 100mph in production form, is marking its centenary in style this May, when almost 50 surviving examples attempt the Waddington Fell hillclimb, site of the car’s first appearance and competition success in 1913.
But armed with a kerb weight 400kgs less than a Bentley 3.0-Litre, a powerful engine and high axle ratio, the 30-98 became renowned as a high-performance car that could swallow long distances with ease. This made it particularly popular with drivers in the colonies, and explains why so many cars still survive in Australia today.
At a time when car manufacturers promoted the performance, durability and handling of their products through competition, Vauxhall had already been successful in hillclimbs, grands prix and endurance trials since the company was formed in 1903 (now celebrating its 110th anniversary, it’s the UK’s oldest surviving car brand).
And the 30-98 represented the zenith of those achievements. On its first outing at the Waddington Fell hill climb in Lancashire, it set fastest time of the day, proving to the car’s designer, Laurence Pomeroy, and Vauxhall’s directors, Percy Kidner and Leslie Walton, that the car had a future, and production started in earnest.
And it was the OE-type that became the first production car to exceed 100mph, partly prompted by a letter to The Autocar’s editor from a Major L.Ropner, complaining that he was unable to buy a road car that could cover a flying mile at more than 100mph!
The British motoring press fell in love with the OE-Type 30-98, and in 1923 The Autocar subjected one to an early road test, recording a maximum speed (with standard Velox body and wind-breaking full windscreen) of 82.57mph – no mean feat at a time when most cars were struggling to top 50mph.
This year, Vauxhall Motors’ own 1926 OE-Type Velox Tourer (OE268) will join around 50 other 30-98s in Lancashire to celebrate the model’s competition debut at Waddington Fell. Working with the Vauxhall 30-98 Register, local authorities have closed the public road which used to form the course, allowing cars from as far afield as Australia and the US to recreate Higginson’s winning run.
Other events which Vauxhall is supporting as part of the 30-98 centenary include:
•Brooklands Double Twelve (June 15-16)
• The 30-98 Centenary Run (July 5) – Tour starting at Brooklands and travelling to Vauxhall’s Luton HQ and then on to Millbrook Proving Ground with up to 100 30-98s
• CarFest North, Oulton Park (August 2-4)
• CarFest South, Laverstoke Park (August 23-25)
• ‘Thirsty Down Under’ Tour (Oct/Nov) – a three-week tour of Victoria and Tasmania for the thriving 30-98 Register based in Australia
Goodwood has yet to confirm entry of the 30-98 in its centenary year at the Festival of Speed.
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