After spending afternoons with his father’s Bugatti Type 37A at the Prescott Speed Hill Climb, Piers’ young mind was first attracted to a Vauxhall 30/98 at an annual Vintage Sports Car Club (VSCC) meeting. Years later, with a little over £5,000 in his pocket and a desire to buy something unique he finally bought the pile of parts with a determination to finally own his dream car.
Overshadowed by many collectors, the Vauxhall 30/98 was one of the earliest sportscars at a time when Bentley was the main British marquee flying the flag across the continent.
But the 30/989 certainly packed a punch with the model described by legendary journalist Denis Jenkinson as “one of the nicest vintage sports/tourers ever made”.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Piers said: “One thing that really caught my imagination was the fact that these cars were achieving so much in period, such as record attempts at Montlhéry in France, but were relatively little known compared to the contemporary Bentleys of the time.
“My heroes of the VSCC were centred around the founding members almost all of which had a 30/98 Vauxhall.
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The Vauxhall 30/98 scooped the top prize
“I vowed one day to own such a car, to purchase one ‘on the road’ was out of the question.
“However I was fortunate enough to be introduced to a well known 30/98 enthusiast near Worcester who had three complete 30/98s, this car was to be his fourth.
“He kindly looked upon my youthful enthusiasm and agreed to sell me the remains of this car, most of which was in poor condition.”
Starting with just a pile of damaged parts, Piers admitted that it was clear from the outset that almost everything would need to be repaired or replaced.
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The body frame was carefully rebuilt by Randal Stewart with skinning work undertaken by specialist Terry Hall.
Piers added: “Terry ended up repairing the bonnet, skinning the body and making the wings and I was lucky enough to work alongside him.
“When the car returned to me it was many hours of work after working hours usually well into the night to fabricate wing stays, fuel tank straps, dashboard, bulkhead – the list is endless!”
Committed to ensuring the car could be used on modern roads without restraint, the model needed a strong engine.
New parts were kept to original specification for authenticity
The car was fitted with new crankshaft, conrods and pistons with the new parts made to the exact 1921 Vauxhall Motors Specification for authenticity.
The oil pump was also made to the original specification but this was given a higher tolerance to allow the car to run in the modern-day.
The vehicle is still fitted with its original specification front tyres which Piers says need to be around 60 to 70 PSI to “stop then coming off the wheel rim”.
Accuracy was an important part of the build for Piers who wanted to ensure the car remained true to the experience held by previous owners a century ago.
The car had to undergo major upgrades
He described how he was “fastidious” in ensuring that details were correct from the copper pipe coils to the fuel tank air pressure.
After two and a half years in the garage, the moment finally came to switch on the car with countless doubts running through the young restorer’s mind.
He said: “Having never driven a 30/98 for any kind of distance I felt it was going to be a slight Russian Roulette moment when I first drove it, would I love it or hate it? or indeed feel as though I had wasted two and a half years of my life?
“Thankfully the effort paid off and the gearbox, whilst still having to double de clutch, is the best pre-war gearbox I have ever used, it’s smooth and predictable – I could quite simply drive it all day!
“When Vauxhall first sold these cars they marketed them as the ‘SuperExcellent 30/98’ – this phrase in my humble opinion could not be better suited to a car.”
The engine was restored to ensure the model could be used regularly
Piers adds that what makes the car special is a look back to the cars of the era and where the 30/98 stood among them.
At a time when many would still be travelling with Ford Model T’s capable of just 35mph, the 30/98 was capable of double.
Although being “quite physical cars to drive”, Piers adds the car “steers perfect” and can instil confidence in the driver after a bit of perfecting.
Judges of the Historic Motoring Awards described the model as an entry with the “most individual effort and personal story”.
The judges were won over by Piers’ “inconspicuous dedication” as the model topped works entries from Audi and Land Rover.
The car took two and a half years to restore
Piers says he has been “thrilled and very humbled” by the reception his “labour of love” has received by those who have seen the model.
He told Express.co.uk: “I was watching the ceremony online with my mother, father and Bentley, my golden retriever, when the result was announced we all cheered, our home phone then went mad with friends ringing up to congratulate me!
“All in all it was a night I will never forget! I was only sorry that my grandmother who raced a works entered Morgan in the 1938 Le Mans was not here to see it, in her memory however her AA Badge is fitted to the front of the 30/98.
“The award was certainly not targeted, I was so grateful just to be shortlisted, to win though is just mind-blowing.”