The ex-E L Meeson, R J Munday, Bunny Tubbs, John Rowley, Brooklands Gold Star winning 1925 Vauxhall 30/98 OE Wensum Registration no. NM 6006 Chassis no. OE 207 Engine no. OE 209
This is a most handsome 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 which 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 in 1913 at the behest of car dealer and motor sport competitor, Joseph Higginson. 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 15 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, 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. A total of 313 OEs had been completed when production ceased in 1928. The Vauxhall 30-98 was one of the first true sports cars to be offered for sale by a British manufacturer and formed the initialcornerstone of the Vintage Sports Car Club (the VSCC).
This Wensum bodied 30-98 was owned originally by E L Meeson who raced it extensively at Brooklands in the mid 1920s, while its next owner, R J Munday, won a'Gold Star' at the Surrey track when the car achieved an average speed of 114mph for two laps. This 30-98 went on to compete in many races at Brooklands and has a distinguished and continuous history.
The 'Wensum' bodied 30-98s, were so called after the River Wensum in Norfolk where the famous Vauxhall racing driver, Major A Hancock, kept boats. He had this style of body, resembling a boat, built for his 30-98 and it was then offered as an option by the Vauxhall factory. It is believed only 14 such examples were originally manufactured.
'OE 207' was advertised for sale in 1937 as the 'ex-R J Munday Wensum'. The asking price was £69. During WW2 the Vauxhall, at that time owned by Bunny Tubbs, became trapped in Southern France and was allegedly used as a fast courier by the Resistance. After the war, it was refurbished by Daniel Richmond and then passed via one R H Cardew to long-time owner John Rowley, the well-known Vauxhall 30-98 enthusiast. John Rowley restored the car and at the same time replaced the chassis frame with another original Vauxhall 30-98 frame before passing it on to his daughter, Brenda, who sold it to the present owner some 15 years ago. The car was half way though a long-term restoration with specialist 30-98 restorer Julian Ghosh at the time and Julian's letter detailing the work carried out is on file (perusal recommended).
The present owner then completed the car's refurbishment in conjunction with marque specialist Arthur Archer to as near original specification as possible, though the paint colour, 'French Racing Blue', was chosen to commemorate its alleged activities in France during the war. The original racing engine had been removed in 1937 to be fitted to the 'Munday Special' and was replaced with the present unit, which has just been thoroughly rebuilt in the owner's aero engine workshops and is now in perfect running order.
The engine incorporates a counter-balanced steelcrankshaft together with a modern Borg & Beck clutch conversion to ease driving in modern road conditions. In common with most 30-98s, the brakes are barely adequate in modern road conditions so the pressed steel drums have been replaced by finned cast-iron 'XK120' drums. The original drums and clutch, the latter marked with the car's serial number '207', accompany the car.
The body has been rebuilt as the old one was in poor condition. The wings, scuttle, bonnet and cooling vent (marked 'OE 207') are original to the car. Its original colour is believed to have been Primrose then Racing Green (with Munday). As with all competition 30-98s 207 is fitted with a pressurised fuel tank and an engine driven air pump, the standard 30-98 being fitted with an Autovac.
The radiator was replaced in 2001, as the old one was too cracked and fragile to use (original included in sale). The original badge was refitted to the radiator. The wheels are 820x120 beaded edge at the front and well-base at the rear, an arrangement that improves both the handling and steering. Two further well-base wheels accompany the car. A well made hood and full length tonneau cover provide ample protection from inclement weather. Accompanying documentation includes assorted correspondence, sundry restoration invoices and Swansea V5. The car is currently taxed.
Finished in French Racing Blue with contrasting maroon leather upholstery, 'NM 6006' represents a wonderful opportunity to acquire a most handsome example of what is considered by many knowledgeable enthusiasts to be the finest British sporting car of the Vintage period.