“The Old Girl”
The club was gifted the world’s second oldest Rolls-Royce car which is on display at the Riverside Museum in Glasgow.
The car, made in 1905, is the only survivor of six three-cylinder vehicles made by Henry Royce, as he was forging his partnership with C S Rolls. It was owned by the Dick family in Kilmarnock for more than 60 years before it was gifted to the Royal Scottish Automobile Club in 1974. The gift stipulated the car must stay in Scotland and be displayed there.
The antique automobile was previously on show at the headquarters of the Royal Scottish Automobile Club in Glasgow’s Blythswood Square and then motor museum at Doune in Perthshire, which closed in 1998. For most the time since then the car has been in Essex where restoration was to take place once the money could be found to carry out the work. While in England it was used by Rolls-Royce as part of its centenary celebrations. It also had a complete engine overhaul so it can actually be driven on the roads.
The car has now been loaned to Glasgow Museums for an initial period of three years by the “Old Girl” trustees, who are in charge of the Rolls-Royce’s interests and the terms of the will which gave it to them.
The museum took the car into quarantine for six months and monitored it for a further six months to make sure it was not affected by moths. Seat pads were frozen to eliminate any moth larvae which could feed on animal textiles such as leather. The fine leather of the car’s interior has been refurbished, blending with the colour and texture of the original. As well as the inside of the car, it had a mechanical restoration, with the underside of the vehicle being cleaned and excess oil and dirt removed.
The three-cylinder Rolls-Royce was built 109 years ago as a demonstration car and was initially sold to a gentleman in Yorkshire. It was then bought by a lady in Dumfriesshire whose chauffeur did not like driving it. In 1908, the car was bought by the Dick family in Kilmarnock, who paid about £900 for it.
The current value of the Rolls-Royce is not known but the world’s oldest sold at auction in 2007 for £3.5m.
The vintage motor remained with the Dick family where it became a treasured possession until it was gifted to the RSAC in 1974 by Adam McGregor Dick. The terms of his bequest said the trustees must preserve the “Old Girl” and put her on public display in Scotland.
Mike Gascoigne, chairman of the trustees, said the car was important for three reasons. “Firstly she is one of the few Rolls-Royce’s that have spent most of their life in Scotland. “Secondly she is the second oldest Rolls-Royce in existence. “And thirdly she is a running car. The engine still works.”
The Rolls-Royce is on loan to Glasgow Museums for three years initially but Mr Gascoigne said he hoped it would be allowed to stay at the Riverside Museum “as long as possible”.
It is believed the car was destined for the scrapyard after World War Two. Although it is now a priceless antique, the car was pressed into service during the war and afterwards its owner thought it was so battered he should scrap it. But his son Adam hid it from him so he could not do it.
Beth Stoddard, who is a relative of the Dick family, said the car was “treasured” by Adam McGregor Dick. She said that whenever she went to visit she would inevitably be invited to sit in the car. “They didn’t have a family so this was their baby,” she said. “This was their girl.”
Sandy Pollen, who was part of the East Ayrshire Car Club, remembered collecting Adam Dick to take the car to a show in Ayr in 1970. On the way to the show Mr Pollen was “dumfounded” when the car’s owner asked him if he wanted to drive. Mr Pollen said that Mr Dick was fiercely proud of his car and valued it as equal to one of Scotland’s most famous relics. “I always remember Adam saying that Rolls-Royce had asked if they could buy the car back off him. “He said ‘Yes, if you give me the Stone of Destiny’.”