Two Cars

I received an email copy of a newspaper article from Springfield, Mass.  It contained this picture:


Accompanying the picture was the story of a man named Allen Swift of Springfield, Mass.   Sadly, he passed away in 2010, at the age of 102.

What was newsworthy about Mr. Swift, in addition to his rather lengthy life was the fact that he took special care to insure that his prize possession was well taken care of.

His prize possession was a 1928 Rolls Royce Phantom 1.

What was neat about this car was the fact that it was a gift from his father, for his High School Graduation.   His father was one of the mechanics that actually built the car in a Rolls Royce plant that was in Springfield, Mass for almost a decade.

After Swift’s death, the car was donated to the Springfield museums, and as they were preparing to put it on display they realized something.

This car represented the longest single person ownership of any vehicle in history.   This car had one owner for 82 years;   Mr. Swift.   To top it off it was in perfect condition, worked like a charm, and only had 170,000 miles on it.  

That’s just a hair over two thousand miles a year.   He called it his prize possession because it was made as a gift by someone he loved incredibly.  He would drive that car and remember his dad and smile.

As they continued to research Swift and his car, they discovered something else….   This new record for ownership, replaced what was thought to be the longest ever; Robert Maxwell’s 1950 Ford Tudor (similar to the one pictured below).   Although, I have had difficulty verifying the details on the particulars of this story, it has become a very real and heartbreaking one for me.


From what I have been able to learn about Maxwel,l he owned his car for 60 years before passing away.    Sadly Maxwell’s story was not Swift’s.

Maxwell and his wife Ruth got into an argument over the purchase of this car.   He wanted it badly and she thought it frivolous.

Being that it was the 1960’s, women were expected to act in certain ways and arguing with their husbands was not one of those ways.   Robert wasn’t one to demand obedience and usually he would not ever dream of arguing with his wife.   But he wanted this car badly.   Finally, after having enough arguing, he said enough was enough and told her that “come hell or high water” he was keeping the car and there was no further discussion to be had.

He put his proverbial foot down.

Through tears his wife acquiesced, but the hurt on her face was very real.   Instantly he tried to make up for it.    He decided to take her for a picnic at a local lake, were they could relax and swim, just the two of them and their kids, and take their mind off their fight.

So together they drove to the lake.     Unfortunately, Ruth drowned while swimming that afternoon.

Robert was crushed.   He had treated her so badly, and he would forever regret it.

Ultimately every time he looked at that car, he was reminded of the argument.

He tried to drive it, but would hate himself in the process.

After just a month, he decided to lock up the car in his barn, and he never drove it again.    Every now and then, he would head out to the barn, dust it, start it, or just look at it.    But there it sat, with 250 miles on the odometer, for 60 years, as a sign of a selfish act that cost him more than he could have ever predicted.   He too called it his prize possession, but for different reasons.   His was a reminder.   His was about regret.

When he died his sons, knowing the story, gave it away to a museum, where it sits today, with a little plaque telling the story.

Two stories, about two men,  who kept a possession for a life time….

One was a reminder of love and a father…the other a reminder of regret and sadness.

We have a choice in our day to day lives.   We can live a life that celebrates joy and life, and in the end, celebrate.

Or we can focus on selfishness and ourselves, and spent a lifetime regretting it.

Somewhere along the way, we have to make a choice about how we chose to live our lives.

Are we going to be people who chose to put ourselves first, and live in the shadow of regret, or are we those who celebrate what others have to offer.  

The decision is ours.

(Note:   I have seen Swift’s car referenced as a “Phantom 1” and a “Piccadilly Roadster”.   Not being an antique car nut, I have no idea if these are the same thing or two different models.   More on his story was published in the Hartford Courant at this link)
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