As a kid...many guys dreamt of owning a Chevelle, Corvette, GTO or Hemi Dodge. But, my dream was to own a Rolls-Royce. Some call it the selfish "Me Generation," but I tend to think of it as a time when just plain "looking successful" was "in". Actually owning a Rolls Royce was an unachievable dream car for most of us.
My first chance to own one came through a very nice gentleman by the name of Chuck Schooley who was the son of Wm. Schooley I, who owned a Cadillac dealership in Downtown, West Palm Beach. I think they were in business dating back to the late 1940's or 50's. He was my very first client in Radio Broadcasting sales/management and in 1968 Chuck was Assistant Manager (later, by nepotism and business skill, owner of Schooley Cadillac). Sensing my nervous, sales ineptness he kindly said, "Write up the contract and come back". I did and he became my first sale and a friend ¬¬for a lifetime.
One day, Schooley called and said a woman whose parents were recently killed in a train wreck had just inherited their estate in Palm Beach. The estate included a Rolls-Royce that didn't run and she wanted to sell it. He didn't want the car, but had recently cosmetically restored it for her parents. Naturally, my interest was piqued and I bolted for the door. I found it ''broken'' (according to her) at a local P.B. Texaco gas station. Even today, NO ONE wants a Rolls-Royce that needs potential expensive repairs! The bad news, it indeed, was looking very bad with radiator overflow all over the car. I asked how long she ran it that way and her answer was, "till it boiled over". The good news, it was just a water pump. Knowing those old Rolls engines were bullet proof, I sought out the lady and was invited to her home on the Ocean block in the center of Palm Beach. I was 25 and not impressed when she answered the door wearing only a negligee. The house was a gorgeous, old "Addison Mizner" style (small mansion) less than one block from the Atlantic Ocean. Despite her attention and tour through the palatial home, I stayed focused and bought the car...for $5,500. It was a Black over Silver 1958 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud. A close friend, Jerry Abrams, a foreign car mechanic in Lake Worth, rebuilt the water-pump for $250 and I found myself driving my very first classic Rolls-Royce. It already had new paint, a professionally re-dyed original leather interior and ran like a Swiss watch. By memory, the leather and wood "smell" alone, knocked you out as soon as you opened the door. It was a dream come true!
I'll never forget arriving... (pick a place)…at only 25, driving one of those big Rolls Royces. You couldn't be missed when that big rectangular grille entered the driveway. Just like the current credit card commercials, the moment was priceless. I might as well have been a major Rock Star, entrepreneur (or today, a duck call manufacturer). However, the scary part of driving those old Clouds is the 2-phase brake system (especially at low speed). So after getting a quote to rebuild, I sold it and went on the search again. My gosh, even the wool oil filter was over $100!
The next time around - a few years later, I discovered in a small classified legal section ad a business liquidation auction in West Palm Beach. Yup, it was another Rolls, but ugly in Smoke Green Metallic with dark green leather interior. This one I almost lost as my winning bid was "ignored" by the auctioneer. I'm sure he thought this "punk kid" bidding couldn't possibly afford it. When overlooked, I made a stink and ended up with yet another car - this time a 1959 Silver Cloud 1. The paint was flat but the leather, wood and motor were low mileage/mint. I did an expensive-at-the-time ($2000) color change to Silver Sand & Sable with new leather (remember when BROWNS were IN?), drove it for a few years, and then sold it to a lawyer in North Palm Beach.
By the early 70's, I decided to graduate to a Silver Cloud III or Silver Shadow. I never could connect on a SC III, until much later in life. However, I was lucky enough to get wind of a great buy on a 1967 Silver Shadow Mulliner-Park Ward Coupe (the pre-curser to a Corniche). It had a rare electric Sunroof, and was located in Ft. Lauderdale. When I got there, it was Exeter Blue (purple, yes purple) with white leather and a white Everflex roof. Cringing at the color, I deliberately made a low ball offer and to my surprise he accepted.
I will never forget this car because the Smiths gas gauge was stuck below 1/4 and on the way home I thought I had run out of gas on I-95 in Boca Raton. I found very quickly that motorists do not pick-up people with long hair and a beard, hitchhiking in a Burgundy Velvet jacket, even if standing next to a Rolls-Royce with the emergency lights flashing. The nearest exit, was 15 miles back South, so I jumped the perimeter road fence, caught my leg on the barbed wire, shredded my leg/pants, and found myself hanging upside down. Then, I hitchhiked my way on the nearest access road to the first gas station, bought a gas can and thumbed my way back. If you thought it was hard to get a ride looking like a hippy in a "stolen?" jacket, try getting a ride while bleeding like a pig, with torn, now completely blood soaked pants, coated in sand...it was a memorable picture. About 50 cars sped past me before a house-painters van with three (laughing) painters gave me a ride. I sat humiliated, in the back, bouncing down the road on top of buckets of paint. At this point, I have white paint on my bloody, shredded slacks, sport jacket and brow. Upon returning/fueling up, I opened the trunk to put the gas can in and discovered the culprit…the battery cable simply was not tightened. The car was never out of gas. Looking back, this car was very rare (being a pre-Corniche coupe AND equipped with a factory sunroof). I sold it about four years later after a total color change to Cobalt Metallic Blue/ Silver Chalice Side Panels and Dark Blue Everflex roof with grey leather. Oh...one other reason....my oldest daughter, at 7 (seen in photo), had "helped" Daddy wax it. Sadly, I did not see her, twice, drop her waxing cloth in the South FL. sugar/shell sand and continue to wax the car.
I will never understand why such a beautiful, handmade car with the finest quality chrome, awesome paint (though admittedly "high button shoes" lacquer) and real wood dash/door caps still, to this day, does not draw a bigger following. Not to mention, a ton more resale dollars. It has to be the cost to repair and "down time" when they are waiting for parts. It's one of those 'damned if you do- damned if you don't' cars. They have to have low-mileage to bring decent money but, if you don't drive them they get cranky and won't run. I actually had a friend, Gregg Hauptner, totally exasperated, donate his 1967 Rolls-Royce (Hooper Bodied) Coupe as a "live reef" and drop it in the Ocean off Palm Beach (see deep-6 photos). Still, all in all (to me) the Cloud Series Rolls Royces are the epitome of the RR "vision" and today, the Most-Under-Valued-Classic-Foreign car to ever come to our shores in America.