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SNAPSHOT 240: The James Gardiner Vauxhall OE 30-98

Taken at an event seemingly focused on earlier motoring, the venue can be stated with greater confidence – the sign over the distant doorway reads ‘Foden Service Dept.’ The steam waggon behind is a Foden, surely additional confirmation this must be the Foden works in Sandbach, Cheshire. The home of the owner and driver of the 30-98, Major James Gardiner, was only a 15 miles or so north; Tanner’s Pool, Lymm, in Cheshire. This 30-98 Vauxhall would have been little more than 25 years old at the date when photograph was taken.

The word ‘redoubtable’ was commonly used to describe the Major, and he certainly was a military man of the old school, as well as a committed old car enthusiast. He owned the Vauxhall for 11 years, having bought it in 1946 from Kenneth Neve, later to be a distinguished President of the VSCC. James Gardiner likewise was vintage car aristocracy as he was Chairman of the Veteran Car Club’s North-West Section in that period and for many years subsequently. He was usually accompanied by Dunphy, his former batman, and it could be Dunphy who is busy under the bonnet here while the major patiently waits. A bachelor, the major also owned and extensively rallied the 1902 twin-cylinder 10hp Wolseley, new to the pioneer motorist and writer W Worby Beaumont: this fine veteran car Gardiner left to the VCC in his Will.

The Vauxhall was a first rate example, an OE model of 1925, chassis no OE223 and unique in its coachwork, a touring car with disappearing hood, built by H E Griffin & Co of Hayward’s Heath in Sussex. From 1902, this small firm with premises in Mill Green Road had built bodies for horse-drawn and motor vehicles, and became a general garage offering a wide range of services, including ‘renovations, coach-painting and upholstery’. One of the last of the ‘low-radiator’ 30-98s, it has the heftier balanced crankshaft introduced at chassis OE200, along with the other chassis-strengthening improvements.

Unlovely when erected, the hood folded away completely into lidded storage lockers either side and behind the rear seat. It is said that this was the only open 30-98 which had both the gear-lever (right-hand gate, of course) and handbrake lever within the bodywork. After passing through the hands of other keen owners, in 1966 it found a new home near Christchurch in New Zealand where it remains today.

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