Rolls-Royces and Bentleys stop at Netul Landing on a worldwide tour to celebrate the carmaker's 100th anniversary"They all have the last say, these old ladies."
They're a bit out of style perhaps, and don't move like they used to. But the "ladies" who visited Fort Clatsop National Memorial Wednesday still turned plenty of heads.
A dozen vintage Rolls-Royce and Bentley automobiles rolled into the Netul Landing parking area, the final destination of a three-week, coast-to-coast tour along the Lewis and Clark Trail.
"It's been a wonderful trip. The cars have behaved beautifully," said Peter Price of Devon, England, who joined the tour with his wife, Jan, in their 1933 Rolls-Royce Sports Saloon.
Price was one of several British residents who shipped their cars to the states to take part in the trek, which is the last and longest stretch of a world-wide Rolls-Royce tour commemorating the famous carmaker's 100th anniversary. The trip began in Charlottesville, Va., and after Fort Clatsop, most of the cars, almost all of them of pre-World War II vintage, headed south for a Rolls and Bentley gathering in Monterey, Calif.
The owners happily shared the histories of their vehicles as other Fort Clatsop visitors snapped photos of the cars' elegant interiors, massive headlamps and signature swept-wing radiator ornaments.
Price said his elegant Rolls was purchased new by his stepfather, who drove it for 25 years before his death in 1959. His mother sold it, but the family kept tabs on the old family car for years, until Price bought in back eight years ago.
Aside from regular repairs and a new paint job, the car has never been restored, and features the same leather and wood in its handsome interior. One concession to progress was the installation of a modern overdrive, which allows the antique auto to cruise along at a steady 55 mph, Price said.
Astoria's cool climate was a welcome relief to the drivers and their cars, which labored through 105-degree days in South Dakota. "That's when this started having conniption fits," Richard Jaegers said of his 1938 Bentley.
Jaegers, of Brecksville, Ohio, has owned his car for 11 or 12 years - "Ten of those in restoration," he said. The car was a "pile of junk" when he bought it, and he and his family have devoted their energy to a complete bumper-to-bumper overhaul. The Lewis and Clark tour is the first big trip the car has made.
Bentleys are considered part of the Rolls family - Rolls-Royce bought the Bentley company after it went bankrupt in 1931. Before World War II, both companies provided buyers with just the chassis - the new owner then had the coach custom-made by one of a handful of specialty builders.
Restoring and maintaining a Rolls or Bentley comes with special challenges - "In the United States you would use four bolts - the British use 24," Jaegers said - but he's drawn to the car's uniquely Old World touches, like the extra space in the roof to accommodate top hats, or the lead weights in the front bumper that must be precisely measured to ensure a smooth ride.
"It's just the rarity of the car that attracted me," he said.