Owning and driving the same car for 77 years

Can you imagine not just owning, but regularly driving the same cars for 77 years, which when you think about it, is really quite amazing.

The late M. Allen Swift of West Hartford, Connecticut, was born in 1903 and growing up during the budding automobile era, he had a natural interest in cars. At the age of twenty-four he obtained his first automobile – a 1917 Franklin. His second car was a Marmon. He next acquired the automobile which made him famous among Rolls-Royce collectors, the 1928 Rolls Royce Piccadilly Phantom I Roadster (S273 FP) which he owned for 77 years.

The car was a gift from his father on his 26th birthday in return for him staying with the family business, (thereby enabling his two younger brothers to pursue college educations), he was allowed to pick any car he wished, and he chose the Rolls-Royce, because he believed it the best car made. He confirmed this after a visit to the Springfield factory where the American version of Rolls-Royce was manufactured. Swift commented in a 2003 interview:

Someone had advised me to go to the Springfield plant and I did. I went all through it and watched them making the parts. It reinforced my idea that it was well made. I saw all the ways they tested the cars. Every engine was tested. Then when they got the engine finished, they set it up on a concrete block and ran it a specified number of times and a specified number of hours …. Someone would come around periodically with a stethoscope and listen to it and so forth. Then it was completely dismantled and checked and reassembled and put back into the chassis. Then a bench was mounted on the chassis and a test driver drove it 200 miles before it was released.”

Allan drove the soft-top convertible for more than seven decades, and during this time he clocked up more than 170,000 miles (273,588 km) without a breakdown and maintained the car accordingly. In 1988, after 60 years of driving, the Rolls Royce Phantom received a full body restoration and engine rebuild and in 1994 he entered the Rolls Royce history books for having owned a Rolls Royce for longer than any other person in history.

Allen Swifts 1928 Rolls Royce

Although Rolls Royce are now owned by BMW, I always thought they’d only ever been made in England. However, after reading this story, I found out that after World War I, due to the high demand for the ‘Roller” in the US, the British luxury car maker decided to set up a manufacturing plant there. They chose Springfield, Massachusetts as the plant’s location because of the highly skilled workforce that existed in that region. Over the course of the decade of the 1920s more than 3,000 luxury automobiles were produced in the Springfield factory.

In 2005, just two months before his death at the age of 102, Allan Swift donated $1 million US to the Springfield Museums Trust toward the purchase of a building to house a new museum of innovation which is now known as The Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History. This 40,000-square-foot space presents exhibitions that showcase Springfield’s history, and the centrepiece of its gallery on early transportation, is the Springfield Rolls-Royce gifted by M. Allen Swift

The Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History

Just as an aside, if you’re an Indian Motorcycle enthusiast, the Wood Museum also houses one of the world’s finest collections of Indian Motorcycles, which were also manufactured in Springfield from 1901 to 1953, called the Esta Manthos Collection.

The Esta Manthos Indian Motorcycle Collection

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