We didn't get to 100mph and the car wasn't 100 years old. I might have felt a bit of a fraud if the journey hadn't been such hard work and, well, fun.
The Vauxhall 30/98 might be celebrating its centenary this year, but Vauxhall engineer Laurence Pomeroy's first "E-type" version was a very different car to the 1926 OE model I drove away from the Geneva Motor Show earlier this month.
Using a development of the existing Prince Henry chassis, the E-type 30/98 was developed for Joseph Higginson, a car dealer and motor sport enthusiast, who set fastest time of the day at Waddington Pike, Aston Clinton and Shelsley Walsh hill climbs. Just a baker's dozen examples were built before the First World War, and a total of 274 before it was replaced by the OE model in 1922.
While no two 30/98s were the same, the E-type was a quick, if fairly old-fashioned, motor car. Its 4.5-litre, side-valve engine gave it at least an 80mph capability, but stopping it was more problematic. It was a hugely influential model, however, setting the tone for rivals including Bentley, Sunbeam, Talbot and Alvis.
Post-war models got electric lighting and starting, and coachbuilders started to make a variety of special bodies.
While Pomeroy had always imagined an overhead-valve version of the 30/98, it was another sporting motorist, Major L Ropner, who allegedly inspired the OE model. He wrote to the editor of The Autocar moaning that he couldn't buy a road car capable of 100mph over a mile, and Vauxhall picked up the gauntlet. It built a polished aluminium two seater, which in March 1923 was driven by test driver Matt Park on a 100mph flying lap at Brooklands before delivery.
The 30/98 got the 4.2-litre 115bhp engine it deserved and the press and well-heeled public loved it. It took a while for the car to gain hydraulic brakes, however, and eventually a balanced crankshaft. In 1923 a chassis would cost you £1,020 and a body to go on top another £150.
Vauxhall's own OE version was built in 1926, a year before the end of production.
When you drive the 30/98 the first thing to remember is that you climb in from the passenger side to avoid the painful embarrassment of the gear lever or, worse, the brake lever disappearing up your trouser leg. You sit close to the wooden 'artillery' steering wheel, but you can get a good purchase on it and the driving position is comfortable. A recent new set of tyres has, apparently, improved the steering weight - from near-impossible to merely hard work, it seems.
Although this is a relatively quick car, it doesn't respond like one. You need to heed the original handbook, which counselled owners to start in first or second gear at 250rpm and try to reach top gear with the minimum variation in engine speed. In other words, you have to have change gear early.
Trying to hang on to gears - as you might do with a modern four-cylinder engine - just results in graunched gear changes. The secret to a peaceful and brisk life in a 30/98 is to grasp this quickly. Oh and the "unicorn" brakes, which don't really exist. The lever, however, has a ratchet, which can be partly pulled and that helps, weirdly, with down changes.