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CMM Archive - Rare Barn-find Vauxhall Returns for Happy Reunion

CMM Archive - Rare Barn-find Vauxhall Returns for Happy Reunion

A 1923 VAUXHALL 23/60 made its first long journey after an 18-month mechanical restoration last month to be reunited with three generations of the previous owner’s family at Vauxhall Motors’ Heritage Centre in Luton.

Known as ‘Alice’, the vintage Vauxhall is now thought to be the most original of the c90 surviving 23/60s from a total production of 1,300 made at the famous Kimpton Road factory between 1922 and 1926.

Kay Lorenzato, whose late husband owned the car from the 1950s, was delighted to see it for the first time after its inaugural, post-resto drive from Leicestershire to a recent VBOA (Vauxhall Bedford Owners’ Association) meeting. Her husband, she said, would have been ‘proud to see Alice on the road again’ after he’d shared so many experiences with the car during the 1950s and ‘60s.

And Raymond Lorenzato certainly used the car extensively. A Grimsel Pass sticker on the windscreen and three tickets from a cinema in Lucerne found under the seat during restoration were evidence of just some of the European road trips he made in the ‘50s. The car also competed in various VSCC events, before being pushed into service as the Lorenzatos’ daily transport during the 1960s (including the harsh winter of 1962/63).

Alice was last seen in Luton in 1964 at a 30-98 Register meeting and was on the road for a further three years, before being retired to the family garage with a cracked block. Talking to Vauxhall staff at the VBOA meeting, Kay Lorenzato had fond memories of attending rallies in Alice with her husband in the early ‘60s – including one at Brooklands – and recalled how attached they both were to the car.

Well known restorer and vintage racer, Mark Walker, purchased Alice from Kay at a Bonhams Beaulieu auction and over the last year and a half has undertaken a full mechanical restoration. The block has been repaired and new high-compression pistons fitted, but wherever possible Mark has retained original components, with ‘conservation’ rather than ‘restoration’ being his mantra. And Alice’s appearance – which still shows the scars of a 93-year life – has carefully been preserved, with even the original leather trim being saved during the process.

“In Alice, 60 mph at 2000 rpm is still a comfortable and smooth cruising speed and the car keeps up well with modern traffic,” said Walker. “Higher speeds are certainly possible, but with only rear brakes, probably not advisable! I intend to use the car as family transport and would love to recreate the trip over the Grimsel Pass one day.”

The Vauxhall OD-type 23/60 was a paragon of refinement in its day. Fitted with a harmonic balancer to improve its smooth-running and quietness, the model could be supplied as a five-seat tourer, or even as a seven-seat limousine or laundaulette.

It was well defined from the more sporting 30-98 by its wider chassis and longer wheelbase, allowing it to carry larger bodies. A four-litre, four-cylinder engine producing 60bhp endowed the 23/60 with respectable, 65mph performance, but braking – the bugbear of many fast Vauxhalls produced in the 1920s – was carried over from the earlier D-type, and never inspired driver confidence on early models. However, from the end of ’23, fourwheel brakes were standard, which brought the 23/60 on a par with its main rivals.

The 23/60 was produced from 1922 to 1926, during which time 1297 cars were built.

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From CMM p. 4 of May 2016 issue 326
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