The Ex Humphrey Milling
1942 Vauxhall 30-98
The legendary Vauxhall 30-98 is considered by most authorities 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 a cross-country journey.
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. Fairly described as a gentleman’s fast touring car, the 30-98, so named probably because it produced 30bhp at 1000rpm and a theoretical 98bhp at 3000rpm, quickly made its mark in competition – the quintessential 1920s pastime of speed hill-climbs and sprints.
Designed by the great Laurence Pomeroy, whose tenure as Vauxhall’s Chief Engineer saw the (then) London-based concern produce some of the truly outstanding designs of the Edwardian period, commencing with the Prince Henry in 1910. Pomeroy’s 30-98 was powered by a 4.5-litre, four-cylinder, side-valve engine mounted in a conventional but lightweight chassis; the ride was superlative with 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 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.
This stunning example we have the pleasure of offering for sale is considered within 30-98 circles as being one of the finest examples left in existence. Chassis Number OE88 with Engine Number OE87, was first registered FL 3544, the registration it carries to this day, on the 13th of March 1924.
The identity of the first owner is not known to date but a letter from Vauxhall Motors Ltd., dated the 28th of October 1927 to the then owner Messers H.S. Robinson and Co. 44-47 Railway Arches, Pilgrim St., Newcastle on Tyne, acknowledges them as the new owner. The letter which is from the Manager of the Service Department reads as follows: “We have pleasure in sending herewith, free of charge, an instruction booklet. In good touring trim we think your car should be capable of a speed of 80-85 mph.”
In 1950, after 23 years of ownership OE88 passed to its third owner Mr. D. A. V. Aldrdge. Denis Aldridge, a Scottish hotel manager who a few years later became the manager of the famed Gleneagles Hotel in 1955. OE88 was considered one of the fastest 30-98 in its day, and Aldridge, along with a couple of other Scottish 30-98 owners, became well known in VSCC circles for driving their cars south of the border, winning races and hillclimbs, before returning to Scotland with the silverware. As a result, OE88 and the other 30-98’s involved are known as the ‘Scottish Raiders’ cars.
Like to all of us with catching the bug for motorsport comes the inevitable desire for more performance. In 1952, OE88 was entrusted respected Glasgow based specialist Herbert Niven. He completely rebuilt and developed the engine. The top end of the original engine OE87 was put onto the bottom end of OE 301’s engine and it has remained like that to this day. The details of the modifications as detailed by Mr. Aldridge include raising the compression, fitting the cylinder head from the Meeson car and a counterbalanced crankshaft. 30lbs was taken off the flywheel, a scintilla magneto was fitted, along with two SU Carburettors and two SU electric fuel pumps. A Hardy-Spicer prop shaft was fitted as well as a Bentley front axle with Lockheed hydraulic brakes and Alfin drums at the rear. The engine was fitted with a Bugatti Style ‘Bunch of Bananas’ exhaust manifolds and straight through exhaust pipe. The chassis was also stiffened by an additional cross member between the dumb irons and stiffening at the steering box to Melville pattern.
Clearly well known with in the 30-98 community, the fabulous history file contains numerous period correspondence between Mr. Aldridge and the 30-98 owners. After considering entering OE88 into Sotheby’s September 1968 London Auction he decided against it, concerned that he would not receive enough money having had it valued £2,500 some three years previously.
He eventually got his £2,500 a few months later when Mr. Humphrey Milling of Staffordshire visited Gleneagles on a golfing trip. He must have seen OE88 and a conversation was struck up, with him wanting the car for some competition use. After some haggling he purchased the car in November 1968 for the aforementioned £2,500 and on the 29th of November 1968 drove north with fellow 30-98 enthusiast and aficionado John Rowley to collect the car. He would go onto to cherish the car for the next 42 years until his death in 2010.
During his 42 years as custodian of OE88 he was clearly an extremely fastidious owner and an excellent keeper of records as the extensive history file holds a great many of invoices dating right back to 1968. During his ownership a number of mechanical works were carried out including a fully rebuilding the braking system to hydraulic specification. From letters on file it looks like the Bentley front axle was removed and returned to Mr. Aldridge with a correct Vauxhall front axle AF OE 202 taking its place.
OE88 can be seen in Nick Portway’s fabulous 30-98 book and in photos on file, competing in the 1975 VSCC Lakeland Trial. In 1978 the decision was made to completely restore the car which included a bare metal respray in Masons Blue-Grey, a full re-trim of the interior trim along with a new double Wigan hood, hood bag and tonneau cover. Internationally respected 30-98 specialists Templeton Engineering were tasked with the mechanical side of the restoration and continued to look after the car for Mr. Milling from the late 70s until 2010.
Upon Mr. Millings passing, his beloved 30-98 was passed to his widow before being acquired in 2011 by avid Irish collector Shane Houlihan and subsequently onto Tom Callanan the same year. In Mr. Callanan’s ownership he used the car on a number of rallies and events, including the Gordon Bennett, the 2014 Flying Scotsman and winning the 2012 Wolseley Car Club of Ireland’s East Cork outright.
The current owner, well known and regarded within the Bugatti world, has continued to enjoy the car, winning an award for preservation at the Knokke concours in Belgium in 2018 as well as showing thecae at the prestigious Chantilly Concours d’Elegance.
With only 5 previous owners from new, OE88 as you see it today represents a rare opportunity to acquire such an original, well known and highly regarded example of the much revered 30-98. Still remarkable retaining its original coachwork, and with the car last painted and trimmed in 1978 it carries the wonderful feel and patina that only comes from time and originality and can never truly be replicated.
Constantly maintained and used throughout its life, with any recent maintenance carried out by Derek Hitchman, OE88 optimises everything so many of us love about the 30-98. For anyone who is not lucky enough to have driven one of these fabulous cars, it is difficult to explain what a treat they are to drive.
Still wonderfully original, it retains all of the character you would expect from a car with such a rich and positive history as this. Accompanied by a highly impressive history file full of period correspondence both from Vauxhall Motors and past owners dating back to 1927, as well as rare Auster and side screens. It is time for someone else to take on the mantle and continue to use OE88 as she has become accustomed and find out for yourself why so many of us think this is the finest British Sportscar of the Vintage Era.