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Hammer Price (inc. buyers premium) Not Sold
1923 Vauxhall OD 23-60 Kington Tourer
Probably the best available; ground-up restoration of a well-known and highly original example; powerful 4-litre touring car; most impressive!
At the turn of the last century, Vauxhall’s reputation as a builder of cars for the top echelons of society was well understood, the Vauxhall being considered somewhat more sporting in nature than its competitors. Indeed, Vauxhall are often credited with producing Britain’s first sportscar – the Prince Henry, or C-type model.
The Prince Henry’s spiritual successor, the 30-98 made its debut as early as 1913, although very few left the factory before war broke out. Vauxhall’s popular 25hp model became the transport of choice for staff officers during the War and when hostilities ceased, Vauxhall soon introduced their new models, the D-type 23-60 which was an updated 25hp and the E-type which was a mildly revamped pre-war 30-98 model.
Both shared many features, the D-type having a longer and heavier chassis than the overtly sporting E-type, the former proving particularly popular with outside coachbuilders who often fitted formal closed coachwork rather than the elegant open offerings from the factory.
The D-type 23-60 used a four-cylinder monobloc 3,969cc fixed head engine, producing about 60bhp at 2,000rpm, driving through a four-speed gearbox. It was good for over 60mph with factory open coachwork. Front brakes were initially considered sissy and retardation on the 23-60 was supplied by the two rear brakes and a transmission brake. However front-wheel brakes were offered as an option and from 1924 onwards they became standard which no doubt saved a few cars from ending their days in a ditch.
As early as 1922, the D-type 23-60 had been given overhead valves, the 30-98 having to wait until early 1923 to be similarly upgraded. They were known from then on as the OD and OE respectively. More bhp was on offer but it came at the expense of some of the extraordinary flexibility of the earlier cars due to a shorter stroke, although they were still strong performers by any measure.
Prices were generally slightly below those of the comparable Rolls Royce, although Vauxhall began to drop their prices in response to the recession of the early 1920s. The 23-60 was in production from 1922 and was eventually dropped by General Motors shortly after their takeover of Vauxhall in 1925. Around 1,300 examples were produced with fewer than 10% thought to survive today.
Nothing is known of the very early history of this car, the buff logbook that accompanies it showing its owners from the early 1950s onwards. Anthony Broome bought the car in 1955, for £112, through an advert in Motorsport and took it back to Nottingham where it was used as his everyday transport.
A letter from Mr Broome refers to "many happy hours and some heart-stopping moments" – the Vauxhall not having four-wheel brakes at that time. Mr Broome also mentions "a lot of complaints that the passage of the car reduced TV pictures to a snow storm", which, these days, can only be seen as improving the viewing experience.
Sold on to D Smeeton, also in Nottingham, in 1957, the car was then laid up 1960 and remained unused for the next 27 years. It was purchased in highly original condition in 1987 by well-known VSCC member John Brydon, who got the car back on the road loaning it on occasion to fellow VSCC member, Ron Birkett.
It was then sold to a local gentleman in 2011 and was by then, decidedly tired. He decided to strip the car to its bare chassis and embark on a thorough restoration. There are bills and correspondence to show the extent and the expense of the work.
The car was gone through mechanically and any faults rectified. This included the fitting of an NOS cylinder head – where did he find that? The engine breathes through a bronze Zenith carburettor and a coil conversion has been fitted to improve engine performance and tractability.
At some time it had been fitted with a Delage front axle with man-sized brake drums and all components of the axle and steering were repaired or replaced as required. Soft brake linings were fitted which work well and do away with those 'heart-stopping moments'. The wheels were rebuilt by Richards Brothers of Cardiff and fitted with new 5.25x600 Blockley tyres.
The radiator was rebuilt at a cost of £3,500 and the CAV headlamps restored by Genius of The Lamp, the quality of whose work is legendary. The car also has complementary CAV side-lamps and the ‘front of house’ is finished off with a period-correct and very splendid Griffin mascot.
Brightwells sold it for him five years ago into a well-known Vintage motoring family, but now the kids have grown up it isn't getting the use it was, hence its inclusion in our British Icons sale.
Little work was needed to keep it ship-shape and Bristol fashion, although the front and rear sidelight wiring has been embellished with a flashing indicator circuit.
The Vauxhall comes with 10 old MOTs and some tax discs dating back to 1959, bills, correspondence and notes from Vauxhall specialist Arthur Archer. There are also photographs and letters from 1955, a copy of the original instruction book, an old buff logbook, and a (non-transferable) VSCC buff form.
Much care and attention was taken with the restoration of the body, the original metalwork being carefully preserved while a new wooden frame was constructed to the original pattern. The floorboards, running boards and wings are all original. Not a ha’porth of tar has been saved anywhere, as can be seen in the quality of the replacement hood, tonneau covers (front and rear) and the impressive hide upholstery.
A local vintage Vauxhall specialist has described XN 9955 as "a peach of a car" and who could disagree? It has been lovingly brought back to the superb condition you see today, retaining all of its original components and body and should give its fortunate new custodian immense pleasure for many years to come.
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