Imagine buying most of a car. You get the wheels and axles, seats, steering wheel, engine, transmission, a frame, maybe a radio, kind of everything except the body. All the car parts, no body. Amazingly, this is how it was done by Rolls-Royce in the early years.
“One took his or her ‘RR’ to a ‘coachworks company’, and unique bodies were designed, created and installed,” explains Mickey Hayes, owner of this stunning pale yellow 1928 Rolls-Royce – originally with its 20 horsepower. For comparison sake, my 1998 Chevy 2500 truck boasts 255 horsepower, and the Toyota Corolla, the best-selling automobile in 2022, offers 139 horsepower.
“Some coachworks companies had a catalog of body styles, and some offered ‘one-off’ designs working with the owner’s vision,” he continues. “Our car [owned with wife Sarah] was re-bodied in 1934 by Southern Motors in London from its original squarish limousine-looking body to this ‘three position convertible coupe’ style.”
In the 1970s, when “How Deep is Your Love?” by the Bee Gees was the number one song of the decade, Hayes began owning classic Rolls-Royce and Mercedes-Benz automobiles. But it would be 1997 before he found this gem. “It was fun to own, very special and beautiful, but operationally it was a driving challenge with just 20 horsepower, a 6-cylinder engine and balky transmission needing to be double-clutched between each of the three gears.” There were some oil drips and mechanical irregularities, not to mention top speed was 40 miles per hour. Hayes sold the vehicle in 2005 when he moved to a home with a smaller garage.
But, hey, Hayes’ love for this exquisite Rolls-Royce ran deep. In early 2022, he confirmed with a company in Port Richey, Fla., that they could convert an old Rolls-Royce to modern systems and drive lines. Problem was: He no longer owned the car. “Sarah and I decided to find it, and the same family to whom I sold it still had it! Remarkable! They only put around 200 miles on it in 17 years.”
The ’28 Forge Yellow Rolls-Royce changed hands again and was shipped directly to the Florida company for a total modernization overhaul. “It took just over a year, and they did a fabulous job,” Hayes is thrilled to report. “Every mechanical and electrical system is brand new – 350 ci, V8 engine, transmission, wheels, suspension, brakes, wiring. The new 350-cubic-inch General Motors V8 engine develops right at 300 horsepower and is mated to a new GM automatic transmission. It even has air conditioning!”
The car can now go much more than 40 miles per hour, but Mickey and Sarah plan to park it all football season for tailgating. That, Hokie fans, is tailgating in Style with a capital S.
Rolls-Royce spends years and engages numerous colour (British spelling) experts to formulate its signature colors. Forge Yellow was developed across four years of studying colours in fire, lava and sparks generated when forging precious metals. It is described as both daring and invigorating with subtle yet fiery undertones of orange and red. It was analyzed for durability, as well as its appeal with leather, thread and fabric colours inside a Rolls-Royce. Only then could it be proficiently blended and professionally applied to the exterior body where the Spirit of Ecstasy mascot graces every bonnet (hood).
Text by Joanne M. Anderson
Photos by Tom and Christy Wallace