Vauxhall Wensum

The Wensum was a Vauxhall 30-98 OE-type made between 1923 and 1927. As with most up-market cars bodies were made to order, mostly the elegant 4-seat open 3-door Velox tourer. Handsome and well-proportioned, although more dramatic the nautical-looking boat-tailed Wensum had no doors, no hood, flared wings, polished wood panelling and V windscreen. It cost £150 more than the plain Velox. Coachbuilders Mulliner and Grosvenor also catalogued 2-seaters. Designer Laurence Pomeroy’s departure from Vauxhall had been a profound loss not only to Luton but also the entire British motor industry. He had been figuring out an overhead camshaft 30-98 since 1919 with all the flair and inventiveness of a British Ferdinand Porsche. Pomeroy’s prescient approach to engineering led him to America in 1919 where he did pioneering work on developing aluminium applications in cars. His successor at Vauxhall C E King developed Pomoroy’s work with a pushrod engine for the D-type 25HP and the E-type 30-98 in 1923 making it the fastest catalogued car in Britain. Almost all were sold as fast tourers.

The new engine had much the same lower half as before, with a redesigned block and overhead valves so large they needed rockers on offset pedestals. Their seats extended to the edge of the combustion spaces. Double valve springs and substantial four-bolt Duralumin connecting rods were necessary for an engine that revved freely to 3400rpm – almost unheard of. The result was greater refinement but not, at first, a great deal more speed although in racing trim and with a high axle ratio 30-98s were guaranteed for 100mph. Later cars had a balanced crank and good hydraulic brakes. Wensum pictured at Windsor last year had a slightly taller windscreen than early ones and a whimsical Vauxhall bonnet mascot. Instruments were laid out flat and the colour scheme original-looking with black flowing wings which, according to a sales catalogue (when a Wensum was £1300 “complete”) reproduced in Nick Portway’s splendid Vauxhall The Finest of Sporting Cars 30-98, “offer little resistance to the wind and are fully effective in keeping the body clean.” Portway’s books are exemplars; essential for any student of the Vintage era. See‎ .

BODY: Velox fast tourer 1423kg (3136lb). Wensum sports 4 seater, complete car 1473kg (3248lb) chassis 1245kg (2744lb)
ENGINE 4 cylinders, in-line, front, 98mm x 140mm; 4224cc; compr: 5.2:1; 83.5kW (112bhp) @ 3400rpm; 19.8kW (26.5bhp)/l; rated horse power 23.8. Later cars 89.5kW (120bhp) @ 3500rpm
ENGINE STRUCTURE pushrod overhead valves; chain driven camshaft; detachable cast iron cylinder head; cast iron block; 5-bearing crankshaft; Zenith 48RA carburettor, pressurised fuel feed until 1923 then Autovac; Watford magneto ignition; water-cooled, honeycomb radiator, cast alloy fan.
TRANSMISSION rear wheel drive; Vauxhall multi-plate clutch; 4-speed gearbox; ENV spiral bevel final drive; ratio 3.3:1.
CHASSIS DETAILS pressed steel chassis, engine sub-frame channel pressed steel section; half-elliptic suspension all round; Hartford friction dampers; 4 wheel brakes from 1923, hydraulic in front from 1926; worm and wheel steering; 54.5l(12gal) fuel tank; 820x120 beaded edge tyres, centre-lock Rudge wheels to 1925 then 32x4.5SS rims.
PERFORMANCE maximum speed 144.5kph (90mph), 160kph (100mph) guaranteed when stripped for racing; 44.9kph (28mph) @ 1000rpm; acceleration 0-60mph, 17 secs; 19kg/kW (14kg/bhp); fuel consumption 15.7l/100km (18mpg).
PRICE chassis 1923 £1020, later £950
The 1930-1932 T and T80 was a derivative of the 1928-1929 R-type with taller radiator, and chrome flutes. The sole Vauxhall at the beginning of 1930 the stylish Hurlingham echoing the Wensum was also a rakish 2-seater with a V-shaped windscreen and small dickey seat. It was capable of 70mph but Motor Sport was uncertain. “Third gear enables an excellent average to be put up as it gives excellent acceleration and one gets into the habit of spending a good deal of time in this gear on anything like a twisty road.” But 55mph remained about the maximum and the steering was too low geared. Testers contrasted the Hurlingham’s gentlemanly behaviour with what it called the roughness of this old school Vauxhall. Production of the 20/60 T-type probably did not continue much after 1930 but the expensive (£750 for a 1931 saloon) Silent 80 (T80) sold for a further season.