What’s the longest you’ve owned a car?
No matter what your answer is, it can’t top the late Allen Swift and his 1928 Piccadilly Phantom 1 Roadster.
Swift took ownership of his Rolls-Royce in 1928 and logged at least 170,000 miles on it until his death in 2005. It’s a beautiful car, featuring a two-tone green paint job, a popular selection of his era. The car was either a graduation gift from his father—Allen was 25 at the time—or an outright purchase by Allen himself.
Swift’s car is one of 2,500 Phantoms built in Rolls-Royce’s Springfield plant, which operated during the 1920’s and closed in 1931. Of those 2,500 Phantoms, only 1,200 were Phantom 1s. And of those 1,200, only about 50 had the Piccadilly body styles. According to Henry Hensley, chairman of the Phantom I Society, the Piccadilly body style is one of Rolls-Royce’s rarest productions.
Swift, who managed his family’s precious metals business, used the car for his daily commute in Hartford, Connecticut. According to neighbors, he changed the oil himself and performed other small maintenance projects. Here’s an excerpt from a 2011 Hartford Courant article:
“‘He didn’t believe in getting a lot of new things,’ said Frank Gorman, who became the factory’s general manager in 1999. ‘He didn’t like new things. One day he got mad at me. I suggested he get a new telephone system to replace the old switchboard. He said, ‘It works just fine.’”
Swift did splurge in 1982 by giving the engine an overhaul, and completely replaced the upholstery and exterior paint in 1988. The result is a car that still looks amazing.
Such a story came to Rolls-Royce Motor Cars’ attention, and in 1994 the company recognized Swift with a crystal Spirit of Ecstasy award for duration of ownership.
Upon Swift’s passing in 2005, he left the Springfield Museum his car and a $1 million gift to open a new building dedicated to transportation. The museum, which opened in 2009, has a section donated to the old Piccadilly where it sits, stately as ever, inured to the passage of time.