Shopping for a Rolls-Royce

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(Continued from the April issue)

LAST month I resumed my shopping spree for a used Rolls-Royce. This time I went up to Great Gidding, near Huntingdon, a town which must surely possess the longest-dwell traffic-lights ever, to drive a car from the stock of Adams & Oliver over the flat, canal-girt countryside that abounds in this part of England.

Mr. Adams turned his back on teaching and got into the used Rolls-Royce business about ten years ago. To lay in a stock of spares at prices lower than prevail at Hythe Road he towed in all the ancient Derby-built models he could find and now has an acre of derelicts, nettles growing out of dumb-iron aprons, bodies rusted, windows smashed—there is even a P.III among them—but yielding a profitable supply of spares for newer cars sold to customers or in for repair.

The better bits from these derelict Rolls-Royces are stored in sheds—scores of lamps, instruments, electrical components, carburetters, hub caps, etc., etc.—very much “used spares,” but a convenient source of bits for the repair work undertaken. The stock at the time of my visit looked a bit sad and shabby, for repair-work has in fact taken precedence over sales. There were lots of the more recent R.-R. models, some Bentleys, an interloping Alvis and an eye-catching late P.II with boat-tail Mulliner touring body, due for restoration. Most of the Rolls are kept at country quarters out in the wilds at Winwick, but Adams & Oliver have another garage at Warboys, where they trade in bread- and-dripping tinware but where I was shown a Twenty with Windover body, the door-handles cunningly split to conceal the locks, and an early 20/25 with Rippon saloon body with concave doors. The car chosen for the trial was a 1938 Series R2 25/30 h.p. Park Ward 4-door saloon. Its odometer read 82,700 miles and it was in fairly shabby condition. That is to say, there were blemishes on the body paintwork, the leather upholstery and interior woodwork were soiled, there was a small tear in the cushion of the driver’s seat, the mirror of one of the recessed companions was tarnished, and the plating on the flimsy bumpers was just about to go. But the glass was clear, the plating on the big R.-R. headlamps and classic radiator sound, the roof-lining clean, and the sunroof functioned. The front doors were rear-hinged and their interior handles were shaky but all four doors closed with a single convincing “clank.” But the car was scruffy, for the central Lucas “King of the Road” fog lamp needed replating, as did the jack-handle of the tools clamped beside the engine, which was dirty, and opposite the A.A. badge a rusty bracket suggested that the original owner may have belonged, also, to the R.A.C. The spare tyre was considerably worn.

This pre-war 25/30, which had a real radiator cap carrying the Spirit of Ecstasy mascot and ventilation doors in its bonnet, had no known history but was supplied to one of J. B. M. Adams’ customers three years ago, and since traded-in on a part-exchange deal. The body with inbuilt boot had rather nice razor-edge lines, the tyres were 6.50 x 19 India Supers at the back, 6.00/6.50 x 19 Dunlop Forts on the front wheels, there were wheel-discs, a Philips radio, swivelling spot-lamp, and the usual R.-R. facia, one hole in which was unfilled, however. A plate on the body implied that Jack Barclay had done the original deal.

The car ran quite well. There was some rumble and vibration from the engine at idling speed, and a little transmission wind-up as the smooth, positive Borg & Beck clutch was engaged Indicated maxima in 2nd and 3rd were 38 and 58 m.p.h.; 60 was a reasonable cruising speed. Cornering was better than on the heavier models, no roll intruding at the stately speeds at which one takes bends in an elderly Rolls-Royce. The suspension was apt to be lively, giving rise to some weaving. The steering, controlled by the usual enormous 3-spoke wheel, had no kick-back or lost motion (three turns, lock-to-lock). At cruising speed oil pressure was 25 lb./sq. in., water temperature 70/75°C. Idling, oil pressure showed 12 lb. The clock was accurate, the single-pane screen wound open after the wipers, driven by a Berkshire motor on a shelf on the n/s. of the engine compartment, had been parked, there were dual anti-dazzle vizors, wing mirrors, and, usual on a Rolls, irritatingly otherwise on most old cars, the bonnet catches were easy to manipulate. There were wind-open 1/4-vents for the rear compartment (the o/s. one a bit soggy), the 90 m.p.h. speedometer had the “30” in months to run, and the turn-indicators had been converted to self-cancelling flashers.

The servo brakes worked quite well but squealed; the handbrake would not stop the car. I rated this one as an average used Rolls-Royce that you can pick up fairly easily—a big car, with that attractive gearbox, adequate brakes, enough but sedate performance and the indefinable glamour, punctuated by a fair number of rattles to mar the silent progression. But, then, you get what you pax for. I was told the price wanted for this 25/30 was “£550-ish.”—W. B.

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