Rolls-Royce cachet: Adlai Pennington got a real bargain when he purchased this classic

C&W Antiques Oct 2020

If you pulled into almost any parking lot of almost any size 50 years ago with a Rolls-Royce like this 1978 Silver Shadow II, it is entirely likely that you would have the car with the greatest prestige and the most expensive of them all.

What if you encountered a Cadillac owner, you may ask? The GM flagship in the 1970s could be had for about $10,000. According to the big insurer of classic cars, the Hagerty Insurance Company, a Rolls would cost you more than six times that amount. Or, somewhere north of $280,000 in today’s dollars.

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So, when classic car collector Adlai Pennington made this vehicle number 25 in his very eclectic collection of cars that he keeps in just the condition he finds them, he was able to say that he had an exceptional example of a classic from five decades ago.

Readers may recall that I’ve featured a couple of other Adlai’s cars that he keeps in his garage/warehouse/mancave on his property tucked away in a wooded area along a nearby stream.

Recalling how his collection is arranged bumper to bumper and door handle to door handle, I asked him if there was space for this new addition. “Oh yes,” he assured, “there’s room for this one, too.”

He went on to say through his affable smile, “I’m thinking about holding a one-man car show someday. It will require some doing since most of my cars haven’t been started in a very long time and some of them will require towing, but I’ve got what is needed to do that, too.”

I hope he is serious because such an event would reveal a car collection like no other – all of his cars are one-of-kind, and he should expect offers from other enthusiasts who would like to take some of them off his hands.

His response to such a suggestion will leave any would-be buyers disappointed: “I’m a buyer, not a seller.”  Even though he doesn’t drive many of them very much, he gets a lot of enjoyment from having them, all while learning their histories and imagining what their original owners were like and what were their plans for how they would use them.

It wouldn’t take too much guess work for this Rolls- Royce, as whoever first purchased it did so for its stunning luxury for the era, as well as cachet that would certainly turn heads.

Adlai’s acquisition of the car occurred unexpectedly at an auction that took place during the world-renowned Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance event. “I was there to watch with no intention of buying anything,” he says. “When this Rolls took the stage, the auctioneer declared that its owner had spent $60,000 restoring it to top condition inside and out and under the hood. So, he announced, ‘We’ll start the bidding there.’

“No hands went up, so ‘What about $50,000,’ and still, no hands, and that went on until the asking price for the no-reserve auction entry reached $10,000. Then there were two bidders at that price, and they raised the price another $500, and when the guy with the gavel asked for $11,000 both of them dropped out. So, I raised my hand, the hammer fell, and I had bought it!”

Hagerty puts the value on the mid-1970s Rolls-Royce vehicles today (depending on their condition) around the mid-$20,000 range, so Adlai did really well in his spontaneous purchase. Really nice ones that have been restored and mechanical issues solved like this one are worth even more.

After the auction was over, the owner, apparently depressed it didn’t sell for a lot more, approached him and offered to buy it back for $25,000. Not being sure of why he would want to do that, it really didn’t matter.

Adlai, as we learned earlier, isn’t a seller.

We’ll let you know if and when that one-man car show ever gets scheduled. You won’t want to miss it.


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