I've written about my childhood fascination with Rolls Royce automobiles, which gave me an excellent escape from a bumpy ride through childhood. I had sworn that I would own a Rolls Royce some day, and when I was in my 50s I did it. The car was no show queen, but she was a driver, with right-hand drive. I put a few thousand miles on it and really had some fun, especially touring around central Vermont with my mom.
I chose a sunny early autumn day, picked my mom up at her home in South Royalton, and drove her to East Bethel, Randolph Center, Randolph, and back home again. Lots of folks never even get to see one of these automobiles in the flesh, and we fielded a barrage of questions each time we stopped. On a later occasion, I chauffeured Mom to a restaurant to celebrate her birthday, and another time we drove to Andover, N.H., to visit her sister. One day I saw a lady I know pulling a Weber grill along the sidewalk in Townshend. Because the car had right-hand drive I was able to pull up next to her, holding out a jar of that famous mustard and saying "Would you care for some Grey Poupon?" The laugh we had! That car provided quite a few great memories.
A couple of years after acquiring my first Rolls Royce I had the opportunity to purchase a 1955 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud that had been in a flood. It had once been owned by Peter Wolfe of the J. Geils Band, so there's a good chance that his movie star wife, Faye Dunaway, also rode in the car. I put the car away with vague plans to restore it. As I suspected, and after talking with a couple of Rolls Royce restoration experts, I knew that any work would be expensive. I set a longer range goal to have parts of the work done.
After my mom passed away, my enthusiasm for having a Rolls Royce flagged. It was at that point when the emotional attachment to the cars quietly dissipated like a morning fog burned off by the sun. I stopped acquiring parts, rarely gave the cars any thought and moved on with life. At one point I thought about combining both cars to have just one. The idea was to put the newer Rolls Royce drive train in the 1955 Silver Cloud, a car that was much more desirable to collectors. It began to look like a bigger undertaking than I was willing to embark upon, so I abandoned that plan and focused on my small collection of motorcycles. While looking at some of the storage issues that we were facing at home I decided to simply sell the cars and free up space for other pursuits.
The cars were sold to a very well-known New York dealer in exotic and classic cars, so I know that they will live on in one form or another. He's an interesting guy who does not waste one second of time when he makes a deal. When I got him on his cell phone after he expressed interest in the cars he was actually in Vermont, headed to Londonderry, to check out a half-million-dollar Ferrari. He didn't have time to stop off and look at my two old Rollers, so he did the deal on the phone and the two checks arrived via Fedex over the next two days. I did not pay all that much for the two cars, and I did not get much back, either. My philosophy on owning interesting cars has always been that you own them for the experience. They are not investments by any stretch of fantasy. You pays your money and you has your fun.
Posting on Facebook, my oldest daughter had this to say: "I've seen my dad love and let go of so many vehicles over the years yet I don't think he's ever felt so strongly as he did about these beauties. From jeeps to dirt bikes, a short-lived Volvo and a couple of Harleys to these Rolls Royces, I don't think I've ever met someone who loves cars and driving them as much as my father. I've definitely cursed his crazy purchases as most of these gems have needed a lot of TLC, but it's the hobby and the love for something that much that makes it so special. So today as he lets go of those cars that were at times barely roadworthy, I commend him for not listening to all the commentary from others. I'm glad that I know so much about cars because without him having talked my ear off on long drives, I wouldn't know much. Because of his love for vehicles, I've had the opportunity to drive some pretty cool cars and bikes over the years. I didn't want to learn how to ride a dirt bike but because he thought it would be a good lesson in learning road conditions, I did it and loved it and I like to think that I'm a better driver for it. So thanks Dad for teaching me to appreciate not only cars and how they are made but also for instilling in me a love for the open road and lots of adventure. Someday I'll drive something a little more fun than a farm delivery van!!!"
I got a little choked up after I read my daughter's words. It was important to me that my daughters and my family got something out of these experiences as well, and they did. The best part? I'm not done yet. As long as I hold a valid driver's license I will be immersed in more than one car or motorcycle at any one time. The world is full of interesting things with motors, and I have a very long list of experiences to be had.
Arlo Mudgett's Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m.