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An American Journey – Part Four: The Rolls-Royce Foundation

After our visit to the AACA Library and Research Center in Hershey, we moved on the following day to the Rolls-Royce Foundation in Mechanicsburg – not far away.

We were there to continue our research for a project, but we were also treated to a superb grand tour of the RRF’s facilities and an explanation of what they do to spread the message of the history of Rolls-Royce to specialist historians, to young students of all kinds and to ordinary members of the public. We are indebted to Charlotte Infantino and Sarah Holibaugh for all their patient help with our research and for taking time to show us round on a very busy day.

A Phantom III, donated to the RRF

The RRF receives many donations from all over North America. This beautiful Phantom III chassis number 3AZ154, is a Gurney Nutting Sedanca de Ville, design 146, originally for the Hon. Marcus Samuel, registrtaion DLC10. It has been donated by the widow of the gentleman who was restoring it.

The RRF tries to keep as many of its donations as possible, but it naturally needs income to fund its work. So it has an agreement with all its donors that it can sell selected items when financial imperatives, and lack of space, dictate. The Phantom III was about to be marketed for sale.

A closer look at the elegant Gurney Nutting body


Steering wheels and columns

Donations are not restricted to complete cars. The main storage area is a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of parts from Rolls-Royces and Bentleys of all ages and models.

A Bentley S2 engine and transmission


A Schochkopf Card

The RRF holds many vital documents that enable it to identify the history of cars and to help with correct restoration. This is an example of a Schoellkopf Card – created many years ago to identify all known information on each Springfield chassis number.


A 1929 Depot Sheet

Another fascinating example of the RRF’s archive is this Depot Sheet. Issued from Derby, it gives information on a technical problem and how it can be resolved – in this case a 20 HP starter motor drive failure. Of particular fascination here are the famous Rolls-Royce initials used to abbreviate the names of key people in the business, and the signature in blue crayon of Arthur W Soutter, Chief Engineer of Rolls-Royce of America.


The demonstration ‘chassis’ of a prototype 2003 Goodwood Phantom

Donations or loans don’t just come from Rolls-Royce and Bentley owners. This is thought to be the only remaining aluminium unibody from a limited number used by Rolls-Royce Goodwood to promote the new Phantom VII before its launch. It still belongs to Rolls-Royce of America, but is on long-term loan to the RRF to help to bring the story of advanced Rolls-Royce design and construction thoroughly up to date.


Rolls-Royce 25/30

This donation is a very rare beast. It is a 1936 25/30 2-Door Saloon by the coachbuilder Woolley.

The car arrived at the RRF complete but with some work to be done. Impressively, the RRF has used this car as an exercise for a group of enthusiastic volunteers who are learning about powertrain and coachwork restoration as the rebuild progresses under expert supervision.

Another view of the Woolley coachwork

According to Bernard King, J.S. & A. Woolley Ltd of Nottingham was a high-quality maker that built eleven bodies for Rolls-Royce chassis, mainly for local customers. This 25/30 was originally delivered to Frederick Charles William Newman, an accomplished cricketer and right-handed batsman for Surrey.

The engine block, stripped for rebuilding

Although running when it arrived, the engine was making some very slight noises that were of concern to the engine expert at the RRF. Fortunately, a stripdown revealed the problem and serious damage was avoided.


Silver Wraith II

This more formal long-wheelbase version of the Silver Shadow, with its typical smaller rear window and Everflex-covered roof, is an example of the work done by the RRF to help young people to develop automotive repair and restoration skills. This car was loaned to a local college where the students carried out the respray to Rolls-Royce standards – as can be seen in this picture. The RRF is committed to supporting local technical colleges in this way and very often has vehicles on loan for just this purpose.


1929 Springfield Phantom I

This beautiful Phantom 1, with the initial S of its chassis number S210FP indicating that it was built in Rolls-Royce’s factory in Springfield Massachusetts, is a Brewster limousine with the drum-shaped headlamps characteristic of Rolls-Royces built in America. It is one of over a dozen Rolls-Royces and Bentleys in the main showroom – and any member of the public can have a free tour by appointment. We saw a family being taken round by one of the ever-enthusiastic RRF team, and observed the surprise and joy on their faces when they were allowed to sit in any of the cars and to experience, if only for a few minutes, what it feels like to be at the wheel of a Rolls-Royce or Bentley.

From the Rolls-Royce Foundation we moved on to the Hershey Fall Meet.  More about this in Part 5.

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