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Rolls Royce owned since new by same owner for 82 years!

Guest Texas Old Car Guy

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Guest Texas Old Car Guy

This has to be a record for car ownership! Mr. Allen Swift (Springfield, MA.) received this 1928 Rolls-Royce Picadilly P 1 Roadster from his father, brand new - as a graduation gift in 1928. He drove it up until his death in 2005 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 cosmetic condition. (82 years) ...That's approximately 2000 miles per year...


Edited by Texas Old Car Guy (see edit history)
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Guest Texas Old Car Guy
It's a fascinating story, but the latest email going around has a few of the details wrong. Mr. Swift passed away in 2005 at the age of 102, when he had owned the car for a remarkable 77 years.

Mr. Swift's Gift Goes To Springfield - Hartford Courant

Man Owned and Drove the Same Car Since 1928-Truth! Some Details Inaccurate!


Thanks for correcting some inaccuracies in my original post. Still a remarkable feat to have owned it for 77 years. Now if I am able to live to be 102 I will have owned the same Model A Ford for 74 years but I didn't get it when it was new! Not sure if I will be able to donate $1,000,000 for a museum to take care of it then unless they really increase my Social Security payments! :P



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I met him, and saw the car in Springfield, back in the late 70s when we were working on Art Souter's book "Rolls Royce in America". In fact, we photographed him and the car on the grounds of the American RR factory. He was a character... the car was very nice and it was refreshing to see one that had simply been maintained all its life. It gives credence to the RR advertising of the time which implied that if you bought a new RR in the late 20s, you'd still be driving it in the 50s. Of course that rarely happened, but this is a case that shows it could have. And, while it ran well, it was not quite as perfect as those newspaper articles suggest. Even RRs have little quirks and problems and this one had its share. A tight, unrestored Silver Ghost was quieter and many of the later, small HP cars were much quieter. "Runs like a Swiss Watch" is a reporter, who wouldn't know if it was running on 5 cylinders, talking.

One of the ads read (I think it was in 1928) "The Rolls-Royce you buy today will be parked in a garage where airplanes land on the roof." Not exactly true but it was accompanied by 1920s futuristic artwork and was probably intended to dissipate some of the "sticker-shock" that must have come from visiting a RR dealer.

Edited by JV Puleo (see edit history)
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Yep, I think this has been covered in this forum before, but I grew up in the same town and would see Mr. Swift and his RR over the years, around town and at the shows. Two quick scenes stay with me:

1) One dreary, rainy late fall day in the 80s, I see MR. Swift and his RR literally appearing out of a bank of heavy fog in his neighborhood of English Tudor mansions built around the time his RR was which was also where I would cut through to go to work. It was an almost ghostly/time warp effect - but very cool not in a scary way. He drove this car, apparently even on cold wet late fall mornings, and was very knowledgeable.

2) Now defunct Farmington Valley Model A Club Fall Meet at Sperry Park, for those old timers familliar with CT on the site, mid 70s. Swift pulls in in his magnificant Rolls, just as my dad and I are passing by, with a few other nearby people to comprise an audience. He stands up in the car, looks around at the field of 50s and I would guess a fair number of 60s cars by that time, gestures at them to his traveling companion and in a loud voice he says "My God, I thought they burned them all" Maybe not nice but if you know of the man and his era you get the humor. He would have never understood the 25 year rule in AACA.... ;) Dad and I joke about that to this day.

Edited by Steve_Mack_CT (see edit history)
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There is a glaring error in that article. RR in Springfield wasn't an "assembly plant". They built the whole car there and it was a separate company. A few of the very early Silver Ghosts included some British built parts, such as the hubs and wheels (which RR didn't make in any case). Most of the American cars had Buffalo wire wheels and hubs. The electrical systems were American Bosch, not Lucas. The bodies were all built by American coach builders and, in that area, its quite clear that they were often better finished and more robust than most English-built bodies. It was a matter of pride to the Springfield staff that they should "beat Derby"... i.e. build a better car than the original. Some would say they succeeded, at least in some ways. I've never seen any evidence that the American-built RR was in any way inferior to the British-built cars (and I have worked on both).

Edited by JV Puleo (see edit history)
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According to the Car Collector Chronicles, the had been completely restored when Mr. Swift was in his 80's which would have been back in the '80's.

The "rumor" article mentions the car had over a million miles on it, could it be that the 170K mentioned elsewhere was accumulated after restoration?

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Guest Texas Old Car Guy

Found this article about the car by the restoration shop who restored it in 1988.

Automotive Restorations Inc.

If Mr. Swift died in 2005 that would mean he only drove it for 17 years after the restoration and if the 170,000 miles mentioned earlier was done after the restoration that would mean he put 10,000 miles per year on it - I seriously doubt that a man aged 85 to 102 years of age would put 10,000 miles per year on such a classic automobile at his advanced age. The 170,000 miles surely must have been done over his total 77 years of ownership.


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I don't think any of these reporters can do simple math. If he was 102 in 2005, he was born in 1903 which means he was 25 in 1928.... pretty old to be graduating from High School... college perhaps? I remember him telling me that it was a gift from his father, and somewhere I read it had something to do with foregoing college, or more likely graduate school, to come into the family business. I don't doubt for a minute he owned the car from new, but someone has their wires crossed when it comes to the story.

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Guest Texas Old Car Guy
I don't think any of these reporters can do simple math. If he was 102 in 2005, he was born in 1903 which means he was 25 in 1928.... pretty old to be graduating from High School... college perhaps? I remember him telling me that it was a gift from his father, and somewhere I read it had something to do with foregoing college, or more likely graduate school, to come into the family business. I don't doubt for a minute he owned the car from new, but someone has their wires crossed when it comes to the story.

Found the following post from someone who knew Mr. Swift personally and it does point out that his father did not want him to go to college but rather come into the family business. Can't say why he would have been graduating from high school at age 25. :confused: Maybe he was given the Rolls by his father at age 25 as a reward for not attending college but rather helping run the family business. The following post was on the AACA Forum in 2011 by "Silverghost":

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.~~~


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 !


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~~~


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 !<!-- google_ad_section_end -->

Edited by Texas Old Car Guy (see edit history)
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Fred, thanks for resurfacing this great story. Too bad "Silverghost" does not seem to frequent the forum anymore - I enjoyed his posts. That said, I had not seen the Automotive Restorations article before and that is really interesting. My recollection of the car from the 70s was that it did not look that bad at all, I wonder if following the trends today he may have elected to leave it be. That said, I am not at all surprised he drove it rather than have it delivered, and good for him for having another two decades to enjoy it upon completion! There are literally dozens of articles recounting Mr. Swift and his car circulating the Internet. The family was also involved in the engraving business as well and were well known back when the area was still growing and many local businesses were located within the Hartford city limits.

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The car was still unrestored when I saw it, and I'm a bit sorry to hear it eventually was. I do remember the worn spot on the running board that Silverghost mentioned. It was an early iron-head P-I so it didn't have the fluted wooden running boards the later P-I's had.

On a similar note, in the late 70s there was a gentleman named Asa Briggs who frequented the RI car shows in the 1919 Model T his father had given him as a graduation present from Brown University... not quite the same status as a RR, but Mr. Briggs still had the car and was still driving it. When I met him he was in his 80s. It might well be that there are more of these stories... we just don't know them.

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As I think on this, I had to have seen the car last, in the fog as described above sometime after 1990 as I was going to catch up on some work on a Saturday or Sunday morning, and I worked for an insurer near Swift's neighborhood in that time. Interesting because so many cars end up as garage queens after a professional restoration - nice that he continued to DRIVE it. I do not think he ever went on to build a collection, this was it, but he did keep a modern car as well, not sure at what point he began that practice, but I am sure some of the accounts of a million miles, etc. are well overblown.

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I think that it is a beautiful car and that it is too bad modern RRs are but a shadow of these classics.

Since this one was restored in the 1980s, would I be correct in saying that it is not really a survivor by the strict definition?

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