April 6, 1996 in Nation/World

Old Beater Ideal For Cruising In Royal Style Rolls-Royce May Have High Price, But It’s Also Got Low Miles And Long History

By The Spokesman-Review
 

James Bech of Spokane is trying to get $140,000 for a used car “in need of complete restoration.”

That’s a high price for a beater, sure, but this lemon is a peach.

For starters, the original owner of the 1935 Rolls-Royce Phantom II was the king of Nepal, a country of about 22 million people tucked between China and India.

Legend has it that 60 servants carried the disassembled Rolls over the Himalayas into the Nepali capital of Katmandu in 1937, and the king, Birendra Bikram Shah Dev, used it sparingly for the next 25 years.

Katmandu didn’t have many roads back then, Bech said, explaining the scant 21,000 miles on the odometer. The distance from the king’s castle to the Parliament building was only three miles.

Bech said Shah Dev later sold the car “for a song” to his brother, Terrance, and another American who were in Nepal in the 1970s with the U.S. Education Foundation.

The pair drove the car in the crown prince’s 1970 wedding procession.

They shipped the Rolls to Spokane in 1973, and it’s been in the Bech family ever since. James Bech said he and his brothers have used it for high school graduations and other family events.

“We’ve had a lot of fun in it,” he said.

The car’s been sitting in a barn near Mount Hope for about a year now, Bech said, and lately he’s been thinking of getting rid of it.

“It’s time to make a profit and let someone else enjoy it,” he said.

He placed an ad for the car in the latest issue of Flying Lady magazine, the publication of the Rolls-Royce owners club.

The ad lists the car’s amenities as “a folding back top, jump seats, an interesting history.”

The trim’s nice, too, Bech said. “All the bright stuff is German nickel, so it never tarnishes.”

The V-6 engine provides plenty of power, he added.

A book entitled “The Treasury of the Automobile” has this to say about the performance of the 1935 Phantom II:

“It is possible to crawl along at four miles per hour in high (gear) when you want to show off, and then tramp on the loud pedal to get up to top speed without any sounds of displeasure from the engine room.”

Derek Ware, a Spokane Rolls-Royce aficionado, said the 1935 Rolls is “truly unique.”

Back in the 1930s, Rolls-Royce manufactured the chassis and engine only, Ware said, and it was up to the owner to have someone build the body onto the frame.

He estimated that there were as few as 300 Phantom II’s built in 1935. “No two of those cars were really alike,” Ware said.

Bech admits $140,000 for a used car is a little pricey, but he’s already received a couple calls off his ad - one from London and one from Spokane.

“It’s just like selling blue sky,” Bech said. “If the buyer is hungry enough, the price doesn’t matter.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Color Photos


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