1921 Vauxhall 30-98 E-type Tourer

  • 1921 Vauxhall 30-98 E-type
  • Mann Egerton four-seater tourer bodywork
  • Long-term ownership by 30-98 specialist Arthur Archer
  • Eligible for the Flying Scotsman and 1000 Mile Trial

With its handsome Mann Egerton coachwork, strong performance and rorty exhaust note, this Vauxhall 30-98 offers truly exhilarating vintage motoring. Built in 1921, chassis number E312 was fitted with engine number E420 and registered BJ 7138, but little is known of its very early history.

In the mid-1930s, however, Arthur Archer’s father bought garage premises in Great Dunmow, Essex, and in the corner was this 30-98. Story has it that the car had been left there by a customer who still owed the business £7 10s.

A photograph in the history file shows a young Archer – who would become a renowned 30-98 specialist – posing in the then-complete Vauxhall during the 1940s. It was subsequently dismantled and its body was fitted to chassis number OE250, which was also owned by Archer at that time. An entry in the 1973 30-98 Register records that E312 was ‘dismantled awaiting rebuild… generally original.’

Archer retained the 30-98 until 1991, when it was acquired by Rex Broughton as a rolling chassis and subsequently restored. The original body had been reunited with the car during the mid-1980s, and it also retains its original engine. The rebuild was completed in time for Broughton to take part in the 30-98 Register’s Vauxhall Centenary Rally in 2003.

Finished in blue and black with a red interior, this Vauxhall 30-98 remains in superb condition and is far more sporting to drive than you might expect from a four-seater tourer with the earlier sidevalve engine. It offers an eye-opening turn of speed and cruises happily on fast roads, to the accompaniment of a pleasingly gruff exhaust note, and stops smartly via the hand-operated lever working on rear drums.

There is no play through the chunky steering wheel and such is the torque on offer that it will pull away on top gear almost from a standstill.

Now being offered for sale via The Classic Motor Hub, this Vauxhall 30-98 is a desirable alternative to a Bentley 3 Litre and would be the perfect choice for events such as the Flying Scotsman and 1000 Mile Trial.

Model history

In 1980, Denis Jenkinson – never a man to bestow unwarranted praise – wrote the following in Motor Sport magazine: ‘The Vauxhall 30-98 represents vintage motoring at its best and there is a very genuine enthusiasm among the owners.’ He added that it was ‘one of the nicest vintage sports/tourers ever made.’

Prior to the General Motors takeover in 1925, Vauxhall was a grandee manufacturer of prestige motor cars, and the origins of the 30-98 can be traced back to the ‘competition special’ that the factory built in 1913 for Joe Higginson. Such was that car’s success in hillclimbing – then an influential and well-publicised form of motor racing – that a very small production run followed, but only 13 cars were completed before war intervened.

Those earliest pre-war 30-98s cost £900 for the chassis alone, which was almost as much as Rolls-Royce charged for a Silver Ghost. Vauxhall had already built up a proud sporting heritage, though, and in stripped form the 30-98 was said to be good for 100mph.

The model reappeared in 1919, although celebrated engineer Laurence Pomeroy left Vauxhall that year and the car’s ongoing development was left to Clarence King. Initially offered in E-type form with a 90bhp, monobloc, 4525cc, sidevalve engine developed from the unit that had been used in the fabled ‘Prince Henry’ model, it was updated into the OE-type in 1923 via the use of a 112bhp, 4225cc, overhead-valve engine with detachable cylinder head.

Production continued until 1927 and totalled some 600 cars, the overwhelming majority of which were fitted with open bodywork. Semi-elliptic springs were fitted, and front brakes were available from late 1923 onwards. Drive was transmitted via a four-speed gearbox and a transmission brake was fitted. Towards the end of production in 1927, hydraulic actuation was adopted for the brakes and a closer-ratio gearbox employed.

Even though the Luton-based company didn’t have a competition programme to rival the likes of Bentley and Sunbeam during the 1920s, the Vauxhall 30-98 nonetheless built a reputation as an extremely well-engineered machine with impressive performance.

As Denis Jenkinson concluded, it ‘became the epitome of the vintage touring car and many were tuned and developed into very fast sports/racing cars’.

Cart -