While the name of Ferrari will bring to mind the melodious howl of a V-12 engine encapsulated by red bodywork that will certainly turn heads, the name Rolls-Royce will turn heads in a very different manner. With model names such as Cloud, Shadow, Ghost, and Phantom, it is clear that these cars do not introduce themselves with a cacophonous exhaust note. They emphasize their entrance with poise and grace.
Rolls-Royce is known for its exceptional quality and luxury that has persisted since its inception in 1904. Like many of the luxury manufacturers of the early days Rolls-Royce sold the chassis and had an exceptional coach builder produce the body. By 1921 the automobile market in the United States was booming and Rolls-Royce created a factory in Springfield, Massachusetts to meet demand in the post-war boom. As with the European cars, the coachwork was subcontracted out to companies such as Brewster on Long Island, NY. This lasted until the Great Depression changed everything and the American manufacturing ceased in 1931.
In Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, is the Rolls-Royce Foundation that is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the heritage of Rolls-Royce and Bentley automobiles. An extensive library holds books, technical manuals, handbooks, sales literature and periodicals, as well as historic documents that document individual chassis. These resources are available to researchers and enthusiasts of the brands. The location also has a modest collection of these cars and provides tours free of charge, Monday through Friday, 10:00 am to 3:00 pm.
I arrived in the morning and received a tour, not only of the collection on display, but was able to browse the restoration garage area as well.
On the display floor were these beauties:
When I was given access to the garage area I found these interesting cars:
This one in particular interested me because it was one manufactured in Springfield, Massachusetts.
I knew a Mr. Vernon Bearse who had gone to Springfield College to study physical education and was lucky enough to have gotten a job with the Rolls-Royce company where he was to put on the first 500 miles on every new car. That way the owner would have a new car that was already broken in. Mr. Bearse would never exceed 35 mph, so that the engine would be all seated in by the time 500 miles were on the odometer. He must have been quite the catch with the girls since he could drive them about in a Rolls-Royce car while he went to college.
This next Rolls-Royce model was a shock to see, but it had an interesting story behind it. This, as you can see, was a pickup truck:
The deal was that during WW II everything was rationed in England (and later in the US), including gasoline. Luxury vehicles got the least amount of gasoline while utility vehicles got a much larger share. So even though the owner of a Rolls-Royce could likely afford plenty of petrol, they were only allowed to purchase just so much. So this enterprising owner converted his sedan into a beautiful pickup truck that would meet with the definition of a utility vehicle and was able to procure, legally, a more generous allotment of fuel for it.
Finally I was taken to the area where there are kept a substantial supply of spare parts and chassis for many generations of Rolls-Royce cars along with some Bentley parts. Much of the inventory was donated by owners or heirs of former owners that had been searching for a suitable home for these unique parts and pieces.
The foundation was established in 2004 and is remarkable for its collection and resources that it has acquired in less than a decade. If you have a Rolls-Royce or Bentley and wish to know more about it – this is the place to go to.