1921 Vauxhall 30/98E Velox Tourer
Chassis Number : E385 Horsepower : 90 Displacement : 4-cylinder, 2.99 L Wheelbase : 116"
The story of the development of this great Edwardian cum vintage sports car is often repeated and will only be mentioned briefly. As the result of encouragement by Joseph Higginson (inventor of the Autovac) to Vauxhall chairman L. H. Pomeroy in 1913, a series of motors were made to propel the great Prince Henry model’s light chassis to success in a variety of competitions.
Before World War I, the 30/98 chassis was already making a name for itself climbing up the Shelsley Walsh in 55.2 seconds with four passengers aboard! After the war, the first version, the E-type, went into catalog production. It was the first stock British car to guarantee 100mph in stripped form. Over 200 of these were made until 1923, when the engine was reduced in size and converted to pushrod overhead valves (the OE-type), of which over 300 were made. The Achilles’ heel of the more vintage E-type was rectified in 1923 when front-wheel brakes were added to the OE version.
E-type engines gave about 90 bhp at 2,800 rpm and pulled a high 3:1 axle ratio with a top speed of approximately 85 miles per hour when wearing the well-designed, light, all-aluminum body . Despite all of these significant performance advantages, Vauxhalls never did enter big-time racing, but it is noteworthy that in 1953, a restored 30/98 covered 107 miles in one hour on the rough track at Montlhéry. This performance justified the maker’s boast “a sporting car which has never known a superior.”
Sometime in 1988, I got a call from Dave Brownell, vintage automotive expert, sleuth, author, and a great friend. He told me of a Vauxhall available in Canada, but there were very few specifics. I contacted the attorney who represented the estate of Hugh Hansard, senior partner in Montreal’s largest law firm and former president of the Canadian Bar Association. I was told that Mr. Hansard had been dead for many years and that the car had been laid up for about two decades, put away in excellent condition.
The representatives of the estate were unable to tell me exactly what model number their car represented, although they did give a fair description of its condition. I directed them to the serial number plate and learned, in fact, that this was the desirable E-type 30/98. At that time Vauxhall made lesser cars, with unimpressive performance, which had little value then and even now. The 30/98, however, was the leading British sports car prior to the advent of the 3-liter Bentleys and the choice of the wealthy, young sportsmen.
My interest was particularly piqued as the condition was described. Original upholstery throughout. The body was all aluminum with tatty paint on the wings. Everything seemed to be intact, according to the representative. However, it was in a very tight shed where it had been put up decades ago, and pictures were almost impossible to take. It was simply a matter of trust!
Previously, I had a letter from a family relative, Welsford MacArthur. He reported to me “I enclose a picture of it, a photocopy of what appears to be part of a Christmas card sent out in 1957. The driver is the son of one of the co-owners. (They inherited the car from their father.) The co-owners, as I call them, are twins, the only children of Mr. Hansard.” Scant other information available indicated that the barn was on Mr. Hansard’s vacation property in Quebec, where he would drive it during his holiday, occasionally taking it into parades. This is all we know.
My research at the time indicated that there were only 34 E-types still in existence of the 275 E-types which were built. This is in contrast to 133 OE-types from a series of 312. To many people, me in particular, the less refined more Edwardian E-type was the preferable car because it stood alone as the great British competitor, whereas the 3-liter Bentley soon supervened the OE in just about every way.
You can’t imagine the excitement waiting for the car to arrive, a mystery on the basis of one cramped front snapshot, with Dave George there excitedly waiting for the delivery truck . We were absolutely delighted. The car was indeed a totally intact 30/98, virtually untouched, with the aluminum body in excellent condition, though the black fenders had spots of paint loss. Our immediate decision was that this car should be preserved. We did remove the seat covers, which revealed excellent intact leather on the seats and door panels. The dash was complete and fascinating to look at. The huge gas tank pressure air pump on the passenger side somehow gave the whole fascia plate a vintage airplane feel.
Today the car is exhibited in a dirt-covered hill climb diorama. The caked mud under the fenders has not been removed, and its condition, to say the least, suggests it needs a good washing. We have had to do very little to this car to make it in top shape.