On a recent trip to visit my mother at the family homestead I wandered upstairs to the "car room". The car room started out as my eldest brothers room but when he ventured out into the world my father took over the space as an office and shrine to his love of the automobile. On the walls were framed photos of the cars he had owned over the years, mixed in with assorted automobilia. The book shelves were neatly packed with books on a wide variety of makes and models and further cabinets held other automotive treasures. Over the desk was a hanging lamp that he fashioned from an old steering wheel and just in case the room was ever need for guests, the sofa would fold out into a horribly uncomfortable bed...just so guests don't stay too long. It was his place of study and by default became the library in which I endlessly studied the world of vintage cars. When he passed away I found solace and a connection to him in that room and I am thankful that it has remained mostly unchanged over these many years. As a kid I never realized how lucky I was. I think that is the same for most children, but as I have gotten older and look back I realize that I grew up in a pretty amazing home. The house itself is just your basic suburban stucco box, but the magic that happened within that box is where the great fortune was. Loving supportive family is of course the foundation of it all, but when it came to the car passion I often look back and shake my head at the experiences that I had growing up, just following dad around doing his car stuff.
On this trip to the car room the goal was to dive into one of the file cabinets stuffed in the closet. I thought I had poured through most everything in that room before, reading old Road and Track magazines from cover to cover countless times and perusing the assorted old articles and sales literature...but with this pass through, probably 20 years or more had passed and things I had never seen before emerged into view.
One of the more spectacular cars my father owned at one point was a 1934 Rolls Royce Phantom II Continental. It was a massive classic that he had bought at auction during his travels and had shipped home to California. I remember going with him and my mother to pick it up after it had arrived. It was right hand drive and I took great joy in hopping in the front seat with him and pretending that I was driving...at least I was in the "normal position" to drive and that caused some interesting looks from other drivers at stop lights. My mother had settled herself in the back seat in the true lap of luxury and settled in as if she was the Queen of England. The royal vibe for her was shattered when we pulled the massive Rolls through the drive through at McDonalds. The server at the window was certainly shocked seeing a little kid's head pull up apparently driving such a massive car. Once the french fries and burgers were consumed my mom resumed with the royal wave and proud down the nose stares at passers by. When we made it back to the house my father realized that the car was too long to fit into our garage. Temporary storage was arranged in the next door neighbors garage, where the car miraculously fit, but it was at that moment I think he realized that the car was probably not going to be in the collection for too long.
One of the items that surfaced in the car room file cabinet was a letter that documented the sale of the Rolls, and it was something that brought back a wonderful vivid memory. The letter was from the director at Rolls Royce of Beverly Hills thanking my father for selling the car to them and returning a copy of the owners manual that my father must have requested. I flashed back to the trip we took to bring the car there. My mother followed along in the family Buick and once there we were greeted and escorted inside while a technician drove the Phantom into the service department. I remember the tall gentleman that dealt with us, he spoke with a proper British accent and I thought he was pretty cool. He acknowledged me and offered me a "sweetie" from a shiny dish of candy while he and my father talked business. The dealer had wanted to have his crew check the car out in detail before closing the deal on the purchase which would take a little time. They offered my father a "loaner" to take home while the inspection was performed and I nearly lost my 10 year old mind. I wanted a ride in a new Rolls Royce badly, but since my mother had followed along and we didn't "need" the car to get home, my father declined. I was a bit bummed with that choice but we did make up for it at least in gesture by folding out the giant Rolls Royce sales brochure that featured a nearly life size image of the Rolls dashboard, and for a spell my father held it up over the dash of the Buick on the drive home.
That was the one and only Rolls Royce he ever owned and it made its impression on my fertile young mind. I have often considered buying a used Rolls to experience ownership myself personally. In fact I once took the plunge and left a deposit on a used Silver Shadow with plans to come the next day to take delivery, only to go into work the same evening and being let go as an assistant manager at the sporting good store where I was employed. Even though I had the cash to complete the deal, I felt it was probably unwise to do so. Having a Rolls Royce and no job at the same time just didn't seem prudent. (In hindsight I should have bought it anyway..two days later I landed a killer new position and a fat raise.) Its these experiences through my childhood that have fueled my adult adventures. Im so glad that pops was into old cars instead of collecting postage stamps. When it came to the car guy lottery...I got some pretty good numbers.