- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 9, 2004

Dr. Gary Elder of Chevy Chase was not shopping for an antique car when he happened across a 1959 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud II at a Pennsylvania garage. He was admiring the impressive vehicle — which stretches within a hair of 17 feet, 8 inches bumper-to-bumper — when the mechanic told him it was available.

The car was equipped with all the luxuries of the Rolls-Royce marque — and its own colorful history. It had been purchased new in January 1960 by Robert King High, the mayor of Miami, Fla. The luxurious car was painted a silver color and was adorned with distinctly un-British orange-and-red pinstriping.

One story has the mayor’s distinctive ride usually found in front of city hall beneath an awning protecting the car from the brutal Florida sun.

Mr. High died in office in 1967 at the age of 43.

In the early 1980s the car was sold to a Philadelphia physician who until 1998 spent more time bringing it back to the condition it was in when it left the factory in Crewe than he did driving it.

The more Dr. Elder learned more about the history of the car, the more fascinated he became. Before he knew it, he was comfortably ensconced in the Connelly leather driver’s seat, motoring home from Pennsylvania.

“It was in June,” Dr. Elder recalls, “and I ran it fast.” The trip was completed in three hours at highway speeds without a single protest from the car, which showed 55,000 miles on the odometer.

At the end of the 1950s the folks at Rolls-Royce came to the realization that with cars getting heavier and demands on the engine such as power steering and air conditioning, the old tried-and-true six-cylinder engine had been eclipsed. Beneath the hood of Dr. Elder’s 1959 Silver Cloud II is a 380-cubic-inch overhead-valve V-8 tucked beside a pair of S.U. carburetors. The engine breathes air that flows through the 19 vertical vanes in the trademark radiator shell capped by the “Spirit of Ecstasy” sculpture.

The power plant is fed from a 21.5-gallon gasoline tank. Does anyone ever purchase a Rolls-Royce for the fuel economy?

Doubtful. Nevertheless, Dr. Elder occasionally calculates his mileage and reports, “I get 10.5.” “That’s it.”

Of course, that is 10.5 miles per gallon of high-test gasoline.

The handsome car is equipped with power steering, power brakes, power windows as well as an AM radio and air conditioning. “It had a lot bigger trunk,” Dr. Elder explains, “but the air conditioner takes up a lot of space.” Back in the early days of automobile air conditioning, the components were large and were installed in the trunk.

A set of 8.20x15-inch tires supports the car on its 123-inch wheelbase, which helps explain the cushy ride. This prestige automobile can be turned within a 41-foot, 8-inch circle.

“It steers hard and has drum brakes,” he remarks, adding, “the car has 1940s technology.” That technology, however, has been refined and polished to the “N”th degree.

The General Motors Hydramatic transmission has shift gates in order of: Neutral-4th-3rd-2nd- Reverse.

Dr. Elder remains impressed with the quality of the replated chromework. Nobody does leather and wood like the English. Evidence of this is the wooden picnic tables built into the backs of the front seats. All of the leather upholstery is evenly dyed a silver fawn.

Rolls-Royce manufactured the Silver Cloud II model from 1959 to 1962. Dr. Elder says that during that period he believes most of them carried a $15,000 price tag.The principal problem he has encountered with his Rolls-Royce is convincing his wife, Sandy, that the car is not for her exclusive use and enjoyment. He wants his share of the fun as well.

With every part of the now 45-year-old Rolls-Royce performing like new after 58,000 miles, Dr. Elder subscribes to the edict of Henry Royce, who said: “Take the best that exists and make it better.”

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