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Frank Gray

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Discarded Rolls can’t find home

If you've ever wanted to own a Rolls-Royce on the cheap, well, you missed your chance, and maybe that's a good thing.

A month or so ago, we wrote about an auction that was going to be held at the impound lot of a local towing company, something that happens periodically.

The story was that when cars are towed from private property, the company that towed the car immediately starts trying to track down the owner or anyone with an interest in the car.

It's a complicated and sometimes expensive process.

But if no owner comes forward, the car can be auctioned.

It just so happened that among the 18-year-old Cadillacs, 22-year-old Lincolns and aging Buicks was a 1976 Rolls-Royce, a long-wheelbase model, the kind of car Britain's royal family drives, the kind of car with big back seats with little fold-down tables and cabinets to hold bottles of champagne and glasses.

In other words, close to 40 years ago, someone with a lot of money plunked down a fortune for this car, and now it was in an impound lot for sale for less than some people pay for a good bicycle.

I wondered what sort of crowd would show up for a chance to take the car home.

As the clock ticked down for the start of the auction at 9:30 a.m. Friday, employees of Blue Eagle Towing waited to see who would show.

Finally, just before 9:30, a guy in a white work van and wearing a shirt with the name of a drywall company on it pulled into the lot.

He, it turned out, would be the sole bidder.

It turns out that practically no one ever shows up at these auctions, in part because people seem to know they will be bidding on cars whose owners weren't even willing to come pick them up, cars with body damage, flat tires, cars with no key.

Unbelievably, that's exactly the sort of car this magnificent Rolls-Royce turned out to be. Oh, it had its big back seat with leather upholstery and polished wood all around.

But its tires were flat, or at least low. It was difficult to tell because weeds were grown up around them.

The paint was cracked in places, perhaps where the body had been repaired with something called Bondo. The black vinyl top was turning white in spots.

The Rolls-Royce hood ornament, something called the Spirit of Ecstasy, was in place, and one would think that it alone would be worth something.

Well, those hood ornaments are worth something, but not that much. You can buy one online for less than $100 if you've got a hankering to mount one on the hood of your Volkswagen.

Most amazing, though, was the car's license plate. It had expired sometime in 2006. The car, the story goes, had sat abandoned in the parking lot of a nearby apartment complex for nearly eight years before the manager called to have it towed away.

Oh, and the one guy who showed up for the auction? He had no interest in the Rolls. He was looking for Hondas, something that would last. Unfortunately, there were no Hondas in the auction.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, fax at 461-8893, or email at You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.