Peter Gariepy

Car driven by its owner for 83 years

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How long have you owned a car???

Mr. Allen Swift (Springfield, MA.) received this 1928 Rolls-Royce Picadilly P1 Roadster from his father, brand new – as a graduation gift in 1928. He drove it up until his death last year…..at the age of 102 !!!

He was the oldest living owner of a car from new. Just thought you’d like to see it. He donated it to a Springfield museum after his death.

It has 170,000 miles on it, still runs like a Swiss watch, dead silent at any speed, and is in perfect condition. (82 years)

http://bitsandpieces.us/2010/08/10/car-driven-by-its-owner-for-83-years/

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Benefits of AACA Membership.

Peter:

Dad & I both knew Allen Swift as we own similar USA Springfield Mass-built Rolls~Royce autos and belonged to the RROC & Silver Ghost Association He was a fine & interesting fellow indeed.

Allen actually passed-away in 2005 !

We were first introduced to Allen Swift and his Springfield Rolls~Royce Piccadilly Roadster by our mutual Rolls~Royce friend~~~

the late automotive historian John W. DeCampi who wrote the fantastic book "Rolls~Royce in America" .

This is THE book to have to learn all about the true 100% all American Rolls~Royce !

At his High School Graduation Allen was given several choices by his Father.~~~

BUT~~~

Going to the university was not one of them !

Allen was needed to run several of his family's business operations. They were in the high quality ink, and ink stamp pad business along with a number of other business interests.

Allen's father had severe health issues~

As a result his father did not wish him to go to University.

Allen was offered a trip to Europe, Cash, or ANY car of his choice as a high school graduation gift if he would come to work for the family business interests.

Allen picked this great Springfield Piccadilly Roadster R~R as his graduation gift.

He liked the fact that it was built near where his family lived.

He did in fact drive it every day to work at the family factory~~~

Rain, Snow, or Shine !

For years until his passing Allen & his great Roadster were regular fixtures in his Mass. town.

Like my Father~~~ Allen drove his old Classic every day until only a few months before he passed-away at almost 103 y/o ! My father drove all his cars until six weeks before he passed-away this Summer at almost 92 .

Allen in later years loved to attend the many Rolls~Royce Owner's Club shows & Concours events ; along with his roadster.

He allowed us many an oportunity to inspect & photograph this great auto from top to bottom for research in our own Springfield R~R restorations.

Like my father who was almost 92 Allen also drove this great Classic until his final few months of life at almost 103 !

Allen was as sharp as a tack !

Rolls~Royce of America Inc. made several up-grades to Allen's roadster up to 1931 when they closed-up opertions.

A true Survivor in all respects if there ever was one. Not a 65% survivor like AACA preservation judging rules~~~

But 100% with the only exception being the tires & tubes !

The car is almost in perfect condition with the only exception being the driver's side gray ribbed runningboard rubber is worn through it's heavy burlap backing and down to the wood running-board uderneath in a 8 " circle where Allen stepped inside the car for many years !

Everything else is perfect !

The car spent it's entire life in Allen's large heated home garage !

Allen often fussed over the car~~~

He did most of his very own service work in his own home garge service pit.

Allen often stated that he turned down hundreds of high dollar offers to buy his great one-owner car over the years.

Allen Swift is in the Guiness Book of Records as being the oldest original owner & driver of any auto & and owning an auto and using it every day since new longer than anyone has ever !

He was still driving this car himself at almost 103 y/o !

When he, through his estate after his passing, finally donated the roadster to the new Springfield Mass Industrial Heritage Museum he also donated over a million $$$ dollars to help buy a new museum building to house this car & their other local Springfield Industrial heritage & local interest collections .

Many museums wanted his car~~~

The Rolls~Royce Owner's Club & Foundation Museum was one of them !

BUT~~~

Allen wanted to keep it close to it's lifetime home & it's birthplace !

Allen often told us that when he bought his Sprigfield Mass- USA -Built Phantom I he was told that it was built to last his lifetime~~~

" A rolls~Royce is built to last a lifetime~~~

Not just a decade like other autos !"

It would be the only car he would ever need to own~~~he was also told by the R~R Springfield Sales folks.

How true that statement was indeed !

Allen actually saw

his car being built in person at the R~R Springfield factory to his special custom order in 1928 !

Arthur Souter who worked for Rolls~Royce of America Inc. gave him a personal factory tour while his chassis was being built.

Arthur Souter, chief service & customer service rep for Springfield later wrote the great book "The American Rolls~Royce" about his life & work with the company. Rolls~Royce of America Inc.

Allen only sady lasted almost 103 years himself~~~

BUT~~~

His car is still going strong today !

His car was built new in 1928 and in fact today drives like a brand new car !

Allen & his Father paid $16000.00 for this Piccadilly Roadster in 1928 money~~~

That's right ~~~$ 16 Thousand Dollars !

An astounding amount of money then for the time~~~

Try to figure this amount in today's money ?

I think however Allen & his Father got their money's worth~~~

This Springfield Rolls~Royce sure did live up to it's advertised reputation and lasted for Allen's very long lifetime~~~

It still lives on today at the Springfield Museum in our great old friend's memory !

When I think of Allen & his Great Piccadilly Roadster I get a big smile on my face !

The very last time WE both saw Allen & the Roadster was at a Gettysburg PA Rolls~Royce Owner's Club Show & Meet.

Allen drove this car there & back home himself from Springfield Mass. !

He was just about to turn 100 y/o at this time ! He only looked to be about 80 !

Allen often said that he made the best choice of his life in taking this roadster as his graduation gift !

Dad & I agree !

I hope the Springfield Museum keeps our friend Allen's baby in running condition & actually take this great Classic auto to a few car shows from time to time~~~

I know that is exactly what Allen would have wanted !

If these is a heaven Allen & my Father Arthur are sitting together now talking about the great Classic Autos just like they often always liked to do here on earth !

~~~And they Especially liked to talk about Springfield Rolls~Royce cars designed & built entirely in the USA by Rolls~Royce Of America Inc.

That is the one Classic Auto that my Father & Allen both loved the best !

WE have many photos of Allen & his Piccadilly Roadster !

Edited by Silverghost (see edit history)

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That's a record that will never be broken but Frank Hartnell is a close second. Frank bought his new 29 Model A Ford roadster when he was 17 and it was in constant use till he died at about 97 a few years ago although he had to restore it a few times. That roadster is on a turntable in the AACA Museum entrance,I believe, since it was donated upon Frank's passing.

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He did in fact drive it every day to work at the family factory~~~

Rain, Snow, or Shine !

I dunno, Hard to imagine that car in the snow for ummm 83 years without it eventually killing one of 'em, and 2K miles a year?? Methinks he had to have some other cars.

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I do not believe Mr. Swift only drove this one car however he did drive it regularly. One slight correction to Peter and Brad's great accounts of the man and the car. The Swift family was actually from West Hartford, CT just outside of Hartford which is approximatly 30 minutes from Springfield where the car was built. I believe he resided in the family home which was a perfect setting for the car - an area of 100 year old English tudor mansions.

He did drive the car extensively (I grew up there and saw it around town once in a while) although by the 70s I believe mainly for shows and tours. I distinctly remember one late November afternoon, on one of those grey days with a sleet/rain combination, I saw the car literally coming out of the mist and the whole scene looked like something out of a ghost story - one of those unexpected things you never forget. I have no idea why he was out and about in such weather, but he was well known for using the car.

I am sure he was written up in RROC over the years, I wonder of AACA ever covered this story, or others of extremely long term ownership from new?

Edited by Steve_Mack_CT
added question (see edit history)

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I never actually said that Allen lived in Springfield Mass. He did however live in the area close to the Springfield R~R factory as was stated in Steve'later posting.

He lived in this area his entire life and wanted the Piccadilly Roadster to stay in the area !

I know it's very hard to believe that he used this car as his daily driver in the Snow & rain~~~

But he actually did !

Steve's account also confirms this fact.

This IS the auto he drove everyday to the family business !

You have to remember that the factory office was very close to where he lived.

Allen & his family did in fact own other great Classic autos.

He also owned a more modern auto that he called his"Shoping Center Parking Lot Car ?" He hated to use this modern car~~~and actually drove it only when necessary !

In many ways Allen was still living in the late 1920s lifestyle.

His very large home, and the way it was decorated , along with the way he dressed was a great example of this fact.

This Roadster simply fit Allen's lifstyle !

You really have to understand the quality of materials and machining craftsmanship that went into these great Rolls~Royce autos built at Sprringfield's Rolls~Royce of America Inc.

Most folks have no idea how well they were actually built !

It was built like the Space Shuttle or a military jet fighter !

Everything was built by hand to exacting standards, and the finished chassis was tested on a dyno at speed for an entire day!

Then the chassis, engine, rear, and transmission was completely pulled-apart and inspected !

This was done to each and every car chassis !

No money was spared to build what was considered by many to be the "Best Car in the World" at this time period !

This is why the great R~R autos cost $16 Thousand while a custom coach Packard cost $3500. and a Ford Model "T" under $300. during the "T"s last years of production.

Edited by Silverghost (see edit history)

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That's a record that will never be broken but Frank Hartnell is a close second. Frank bought his new 29 Model A Ford roadster when he was 17 and it was in constant use till he died at about 97 a few years ago although he had to restore it a few times. That roadster is on a turntable in the AACA Museum entrance,I believe, since it was donated upon Frank's passing.

I don't know about "That's a record that will never be broken" part. I have had my 1931 Dodge coupe since I was 13 years old and I am not selling it and I am NOT dead, yet!

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Brad, well said about Mr. Swift. I kind of followed his story as he was a living example of a bygone era in town. I believe the family business interests were right over the line in the city of Hartford. "Old Money" people tended to buy the best and expected it to last, and he certainly did that! I would also guess that at some point he slowed driving down a bit, as he would have been well into his 70s in the 70s when I first began to notice the car around town. He was well known to some of the more seasoned collectors in my area! :)

We are lucky in that quite a few of these American RR cars have remained in the area; I know of at least two members of our local region with examples of them. I reallize that Springfield RR cars must have sold nationally, but always understood them to be particularly popular in Boston, Hartford and Metro NY areas. I must confess I have not yet been up to Springfield to see the new facility or the car, I will have to add that to the winter "to do" list as I hope it also includes memorabilia from the years of ownership.

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Rolls~Royce of America Inc. of Springfield Mass only built 2944 cars in total over a ten year period of time.

1703 Silver Ghosts

&

1241 New Phantoms (Phantom I )

The New Phantom I was basically a Silver Ghost with a new 7.8 Liter overhead valve engine. Almost everything else was the same as the Springfield Ghost .

The power and torque of this engine can be best described as steam-like.

You can easily go from a dead stop to 80 mph in high gear !

Of all the cars built only 50 were of the Piccadilly Roadster body style.

They were built by at least four custom coachbuilders~~~

Brewster, Rolls~Royce Custom Coachworks, Merrimac,& Murphy.

AND~~~

All were basically be-spoke or custom built coachwork !

They did build some catalog styles~~~

BUT~~~

No two were exactly alike.

Allen's unique Piaccdilly Roadster had an unusual extra large back rumble seat door on it's right side.

The car had 24K gold leaf pinstriping and Allen's 24K gold initials on it's doors !

It was two-tone Brewster green .

Allen's Roadster is Springfield R~R # S273 FP

My Father knew Allen & his fine Piccadilly roadster for 50+ years !

Edited by Silverghost (see edit history)

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I don't know about "That's a record that will never be broken" part. I have had my 1931 Dodge coupe since I was 13 years old and I am not selling it and I am NOT dead, yet!

That's very nice,John,but the record is for an original owner who kept the car in continuous use till he died at a very old age. By the way, did you know that Bruno Hauptmann's car (of Lindberg baby's kidnapping fame) was a 31 Dodge coupe?

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That's very nice,John,but the record is for an original owner who kept the car in continuous use till he died at a very old age. By the way, did you know that Bruno Hauptmann's car (of Lindberg baby's kidnapping fame) was a 31 Dodge coupe?

Oh...continuous use. I guess that's not me. I DO continually use it to hold stuff. Does that count as "using" it?

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