By on August 19, 2010

Seventy seven years. That’s how long Allen Swift owned this 1928 Rolls-Royce P1 Roadster, a graduation gift he received in the same year. When he passed away at the age of 102,  what may well be the world’s longest car ownership relationship ended (Guinness doesn’t keep this particular record). But Rolls-Royce does, and in their meticulous record books, he was undoubtedly the longest owner. RR bestowed him with a crystal Spirit of Ecstasy award in 1994.  The Rolls, built in Springfield, Massachusetts, had 170,000 miles on the clock, and Mr. Swift drove it right up to the year of his death  (2005). It reputedly “runs like a Swiss watch”, and is still cosmetically perfect. It now resides in the Springfield History Museum, as per an arrangement Mr. Swift made with them in when he was 99.

At least one Curbside Classic owner might be able to best Mr. Swift’s long run. This 1950 Ford was bought by its owner in 1964, when he was fourteen. If he lives to at least 92, he’ll have Mr. Swift beat. How about you; what’s the longest you’ve owned a car?

Hat tip to Ray Charlton; via christiancarguy.com

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63 Comments on “Till Death Do Us Part...”


  • avatar
    stationwagon

    Wow, that car looks huge!

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      I thought the same thing. It’s almost as tall as many SUVs, but infinitely better looking.

      And remember, Rolls Royces…”don’t break down, they fail to proceed.” Or maybe that’s Duesenbergs. Either way it’s a great line.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    I’ve owned my ’69 XR-7 since 1981 (I bought it from the 1st owner)…

    btw, by the time old dude hit 102, I bet that RR was a bitch and a half to park!

  • avatar
    iNeon

    I’ve had a neon since 1997– he sits in the driveway now. I drive it around on occasion, or move/wash it. Howls like a banshee and is going bald, but I can’t bear to part with it.

    Kitsch in the making. A purple 1990s sport coupe with rainbow-flecked upholstery? Fantastic. All the cool kids will be driving them.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    That’s a beautiful car.

    My record so far is only 12 years – an 85 Lebaron GTS I parted with in 2000. I prefer long ownership, but not a lifetime. Unfortunately, I’ve had some dog cars that only went 1-3 years.

    I wonder how Mr. Swift serviced that car as it aged. You don’t just go to AutoZone and ask for spark plugs for a ’28 Rolls.

  • avatar

    I tend to change cars quite often so my record is five years for the wife’s Nissan Quest.

  • avatar
    jacksonbart

    10 years 1 month for a 2001 Nissan Maxima which was purchased new and is now at 108,000 miles and counting and then it would be a 1989 Pontiac Grand Prix for 7 years and 79,000 plus miles (sold) and then a 2006 Corvette 38,000+ miles and counting.

  • avatar
    jmo

    “his 1928 Rolls-Royce P1 Roadster, a graduation gift he received in the same year.”

    And he lived to be 102? Some guys have all the luck :-)

  • avatar
    V572625694

    Ten years with a two-door Audi 4000S in “sapphire,” (a bluish silver) bought new in 1984. First car I had with alloy wheels, a factory “stereo,” or that anyone else ever admired or envied.

  • avatar
    TokyoPlumber

    Mr. Swift must have had quite the relationship with his Rolls-Royce to have owned it for almost eight decades.

    I change my cars like Michelangelo changed his underwear (ie, every few years or so). Thus far my record is a 2002 Corolla that I bought new in late 2001 and sold in late 2007.

    If I could lay my hands on an uber-cheap Morris Minor Traveller or Volvo Amazon Station Wagon I might be inclined to change my ways.

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    Frank Hartmaier at age 17 living in Limerick Township, Montgomery County Pennsylvania bought a new Model A Ford on May 16 1929, SN A1533466. He died on Jan. 27 2009 at age 97. 79 years 8 months of ownership. The car has the orginal engine being rebuilt 4 times in over 400,000 miles. Frank had his own airplane and was still flying a few months before his death.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    “The Rolls, built in Springfield, Massachusetts”

    They built Rollers in Massachusetts?

  • avatar
    twotone

    I keep my cars longer than I keep my wives.

    Twotone

    • 0 avatar
      1996MEdition

      +1 – Still have both cars after the D that I had going into the M. 14 & 13 yrs so far. She managed to total 2 of hers in that time period…..go figure.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    And FWIW, I usually wind up replacing a set of wheels after 6-7 years at the most. By that time either the car is worn out or technology has advanced sufficiently (ABS, air bags, etc.) that I want the new tech. There have only been 1 or 2 vehicles that I would have even considered hanging onto for nostalgic value if I had the wherewithal.

  • avatar
    beken

    The first new car I bought with my own money and after graduating from college. I have a very early build 1985 Pontiac Fiero SE 2M6 with manual transmission. I still have it and still drive it. It qualified and I acquired collector plates on it this year and hope to own it as long as I can drive. Not sure I’ll make it to 100 years old though.

  • avatar
    1169hp

    Fourteen years and counting!!

    I bought my 1996 Mustang GT new in Dec 1996. Still have it and drive it every day. It’s got 117,000 miles and some change on the odometer. I have no plans to unload it, as it runs fine except for some squeaks here and there.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    1994 Toyota Camry LE Coupe in red.

    Paid for half of it thanks to an eccentric collection of motley jobs (camp counselor, bookstore manager, marketing guy at the Canadian Consulate).

    Finally sold it in 2006 with 239k miles on it. The transmission shifted like it was new (30k tranny changes helped) and the car returned 27 mpg in mixed driving.

    If it had been a four door I would have kept it. My wife didn’t want to scrunch to the kiddies in the child seats, and I was too busy driving other vehicles at that point in my life.

    I still think about the what-if’s of keeping it. But I sold it for $2500 and bought a 2001 Honda Insight for $4000 a few years later with 95k fewer miles. Drove a long list of other models between those two cars. The economics of being a keeper of that car simply didn’t make financial sense.

    The Insight… will be driven into the ground with the ashes recycled every decade or so.

  • avatar
    OldWingGuy

    Three weeks ago I finally got rid of my ’74 Dodge 3/4 ton. Had it since ’77. So about 33 years. Still ran well, but you couldn’t put anything on the floor, or it would fall through.
    I still have my ’79 Gold Wing. Bought it brand new, so 31 years, going on 32. Still in great shape.

  • avatar
    KTS

    I still have the first car I ever bought, a red 1948 MG TC. I think I got it in 1959. I was a copyboy at the L.A. Times, and the Night City Editor, Glen Binford had a silver TC, with turn signals. He used to take it skiing on Mt. Baldy. I don’t think I’d like to drive a TC on ice, particularly not the black ice you’d encounter on some of the northwest facing curves on the road to the peak, which I think is around 9,000 feet. My TC is in need of restoration. I always seem to have either the time or the money, but never both.

  • avatar
    Syke

    Best I can do was my first car: 1937 Buick Special (second owner), bought for me by my dad as a graduation gift in 1969, I sold it in 1987. Now, I know I’ll be more impressive with my 1969 Triumph Bonneville (also second owner), bought in 1993 and it’ll be with me until the day I die – hopefully no sooner than twenty years from now. Also on the same track: My 1995 Triumph Trident, 103k on the clock as of last week, and I’ll be buried with it. All other cars and motorcycles are transitory.

  • avatar
    Anonymous Coward

    My father has a ’67 Chevrolet pick up that he bought new in November of ’66 when he was 21. Less than 70k miles to date. All the records, including the original factory order slip.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Not amazingly long by this standard, but I have had my ’74 Triumph Spitfire for 15 years. Bought it on my 26th birthday, my “quarter life crisis-mobile”. I plan to be buried in it, but I am unlikle y to make it to 106 or so. At this point, with other toys in the toybox, I put around 1000 miles a year on. Indicated 77K on it when I bought it, just turned 97K last month. :-)

    And despite the stereotype, it is utterly reliable.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Contrary to the stereotypes, British vehicles ARE reliable. I’ll happily put my Bonneville up against any ’69-75 CB750 Honda out there. Admittedly, I do more fettling than the Honda owner, but then I know my bike a lot better than he does. You’re probably in the same situation.

  • avatar
    majo8

    I usually switch cars every 2-3 years or so, but two have exceeded that lifelong interval:

    93 Probe — 10 years, 199,000 miles. Still had the original rear brakes.

    67 Cougar XR7 — bought it 5 years ago, and at the rate I’m restoring it, I’ll have owned it for 10 years by the time it’s ready to roll again.

    Not a car, but I’ve owned my 83 Honda Nighthawk 550 for 20 years.

  • avatar
    shiney2

    I offer Allen Swift my utmost respect. He must have loved and treasured his fine car.

  • avatar
    Windy

    The Year I was Born (1948) My DAd bought A CJ 2A Jeep (with Decoy box) and when it was about 10 or 11 years old a friend of his said it would be easy to rebuild and Dad let him take it apart. Then The Friend is Transferred to the UK. leaving the jeep in piles and boxes all over the Garage. when I was 14 my dad Gave the piles and boxes to me on the condition that if I got it through inspection it was mine!

    I taught myself about machines on that jeep and with the help of books and a retired Navy PT boat engineer that lived near by I did just that and got my drivers license in it on my 16th birthday.

    I still drive it on nice days and it is all original and in about 90% (score)condition Now as My dad and I have the same first and last name I could cheat and say I have Owned it 62 years but Title passed to me when I got it inspected in late 1963 So I can put hand on my heart and say I have owned it 47 years

    Cheers
    Windy

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      That is too cool. I would have loved to learn how to work on cars that way. As it is I’m 22 and only know basic things, breaks, air filters, spark plugs. My brother always said he knew things about cars and I would ask him to show me and he never knew what he was talking about.

      Right now I feel that there is something missing because I can’t maintain my own car and I hope to learn some day. However, with all the computers and the need for diagnostic machines and specialized tools and without a good driveway in which to do my own maintenance, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to learn.

  • avatar
    eastcoastcar

    I love stories like this one. Thanks very much. I guess by the time I’m his age, as car size continues to decrease, I will have to unzip my car from my body to get out of it for a picture to be taken.

  • avatar
    segar925

    I still own my first car, a 1964 Corvette Coupe that I bought in March 1973 when I was a junior in high school for $700. Although I contemplated selling it several times in the last 37+ years, I’m glad I never did.

  • avatar
    redseca2

    Since buying my first car right after high school in 1971, I have owned 4 cars:
    1965 MGB
    1963 Jaguar XKE
    1972 Peugeot 504
    1962 Mercedes Benz 220 SEb Coupe

    I let the MBZS go a couple of years ago and now subsist stuck in the center of San Francisco with only motorcycles and taxi cabs.

  • avatar
    mikey

    A 1966 Pontiac Parisienne 2dr coupe 283 with a two speed powerglide. I bought it off of the original owner in April 1973. I purchased a brand new, crated 283 from GM in 1976. In 1978, I had new quarters and fenders shipped up from the U.S. at an obscene cost.For an extra $1000,I could of done a “frame off”. I didn’t, Big mistake! In 83 I sold it to a Canadian Pontiac collector,rotten frame and all.

    Its always been a dream of mine to see,just how long I can keep a car. So, on Jan 6th 2009,as part of my GM retiree buy out package, I took delivery of a 09 Impala LTZ Black on Black with leather interior. Its sweet,and I love it. I’m 56,and God willing it will outlast me.

  • avatar
    S3v3n6NYC

    I have a 1994 Mitsubishi Might Max truck that I have owned since new. 16+ years with nary a complaint. Great around town and for picking up the random odds and ends. Not much use to sell it since its paid for and new trucks are just getting way to large and you never know when you need to pick some thing up.

  • avatar
    texan01

    so far it’s 9 years, and 170,000 miles for my 95 Explorer, though my brother-in-law bought it brand new in 1995. Second longest was for my ’76 Chevelle which I drove for 8 years, but I had been driving it since I was 8, and came home from the hospital in it when I was born.

    Then I had a string of 1-2 year cars that were fun but a headache to keep going. Shortest term was the 2000 Contour that I had for 13 months, and 10,000 miles.

  • avatar
    SilverCoupe

    My dad kept his silver ’64 Riviera for 31 years, from purchase new until ’95, when we got him a new silver Monte Carlo with air bags, anti-lock, and all, considering that his driving skills had not exactly improved with old age. One of my co-workers is still driving that Monte Carlo. My mom had a silver ’70 Toronado for about fifteen years; when we sold it, it had all of 30,000 miles on it.

    I have always been in the seven to ten year club myself, as I do eventually get bored with them. I had my silver ’89 Supra Turbo for over ten years, and I have had my current car, a silver ’00 TT, for ten years now. No plans to sell it just yet.

  • avatar
    esldude

    I purchased a ’69 Firebird from the original owner in 1976. I still have it in fine running condition. So 34 years and counting. My second car as the first was totaled by a runaway semi-truck.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    My Impulse. I bought it dissasembled 6 years ago, put it back together and gave me very good service for 4 years. Now it’s parked, having a well deserved rest. I don’t want to sell it, but I’m afraid it will have to go

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    I can understand why Mr. Swift didn’t want to part with that beauty.

    The longest I have ever owned a car is 9 years. I have found that the value of the car and cost of body work are the limiting factors. It is way too easy to total a nine year old car.

  • avatar
    210delray

    My record is a 1980 Volvo 240 coupe that I purchased used in 1982 and sold in 2003 — 21 years.

    I’m working on a new record: my ’98 Nissan Frontier was purchased slightly used that year and just passed the 12th year of ownership on
    August 14.

  • avatar
    Windy

    No The Jeep CJ 2A from 1948 is NOT my every day car with the Wind shield up 45MPH is the max comfortable speed on the road (But with it folded down flat and a bit of a tailwind I have seen it get to 62mph but the poor 4 cyl flathead is thrashing so hard in that case even as a teenager I refrained from doing that very often)

    My every day car is my 2004 MINI Cooper S (the first New car I have bought since a 1977 99 EMS) and this MINI is the most fun car I have ever owned also the best car no new car problems at all burns less than a quart of oil by the time the computer tells me to change its oil normally about every 15,000 miles or so… only thing I have had to do to it was new summer tires at about 33,000 oh and windshield wipers every fall cars really are better these days… but there is very little I would attempt to work on in a modern car… the 48 Jeep I can take fully apart and fully rebuild engine transmission the works I guess that is progress but we have lost the connection to our machines the we had when most of us could fix just about anything on most simple cars

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    The longest (and only aside from my current) is a 1995 Mercury Mystique I inherited from my grandfather in 2005. Technically I still own it, but it’s not my daily (or at all since I need to fix the brake lines and sell it) driver anymore. So, what, 5 years? My wife had her (and then our) ’93 Escort from ’97 until ’05 when we switched to the Mystique and parked it.

    My current ride, a 2005 Saab 9-5, has only been under my command for 9 months. I’m hoping to replace it with an NG 9-5 in the next few years… I love the car, but it’s not cool enough to keep until I die!

    In other news, this gave me pause:

    …crystal Spirit of Ecstasy…

    Wow. Could they have put any more drug references in there? Crystal meth, alcohol, and ecstasy. Sounds like a hell of a night out.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I had an ’88 BMW 325 from 1994 to 2007. My father bought it new with my encouragement. I had 8 cars in the 8 years before it. I kept the BMW for so long because I really enjoyed driving it. I finally let it go because I was moving back to California and it never liked crummy California gas.

  • avatar
    big_gms

    I owned a 1990 Buick LeSabre from September 1995-February 2005, so almost 9 and a half years is the longest for me. I also had a 1991 LeSabre, owned from February 2002-September 2008, so a little over 6 and a half years there. I’d still have them both if rust hadn’t started to claim them. One of my 2 current vehicles is a 1995 Chevy C1500 Siverado, which I’ve owned since September 2003, and I have no plans to part with it any time soon.

  • avatar
    Garak

    I’ve never owned a car for more than 18 months. After that, they usually go to the scrapyard.

  • avatar
    TR4

    30 years and counting on the ’50 Chevrolet pick up I bought in 1980. Wifey has me beat by four years though, still has her ’76 Mustang purchased new.

    • 0 avatar
      1996MEdition

      76 Mustang? I thought those rusted away after 3yrs…..what dismal years for the ponies. Cool that she still has one though….I always had a thing for that body style but everything else was just anemic about the car.

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    I have a 1963 Bentley S3 that’s been in my family since 1969.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    That is too cool. I wish I had known somebody who could have helped me learn to work on cars myself. As it is I’m 22 and only know basic things. This bothers me because I’d like to know how my car works and how to fix it, but I’ve grown up in the era of evermore onboard computers and buried parts that require maintenance.

    I feel as if I’m missing something that I can’t do my own maintenance. It could make for a “fun” hobby.I know enough to be dangerous, but not enough to be helpful.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Tank, you’ve previously professed your love for your Grand Prix. Get the W-body chassis manual and dive in. Start with basic maintenance things and keep going. Maybe you’ll be able in 30 years to talk about the day you bought it while fondly patting the fender and holding a grandkid’s hand.

  • avatar
    Buckwheat

    29 years and counting for my ’69 Cutlass W-31; came very close to selling it 15 yrs ago, but I got stubborn on the price (we were $500 apart). I had a frame-on resto done in 1984 and when it came time to settle up with the body shop, the shop owner told me not to worry about it- my grandmother had already paid the bill as my HS graduation present. Thanks Granny!

  • avatar
    JMII

    2000 VW Passat GLS 1.8T – bought NEW in Nov of ’09 so we are going on 11 years now. No sludge or coil pack issues, but tons of other stupid (and expensive) little things have gone wrong with it. It just turned 84K miles this AM in fact. Its garage kept and my wife drove it sparingly for 8 years.

    I’m in the process of painting all the chipped interior door trim and replacing the stock stereo system. It could use new shocks, the headliner has to be replaced, the ABS computer is dead, the dash LCD is unreadable, the A/C sputters at times and there is a horrible squeaking coming from the fan during start up… but it keeps going and getting 30 mpg. I’m hoping to get another 2 years out of it, but I’m driving it 40 miles a day now.

    Shortest ownership – 1996 Iszuz Rodeo = about 6 months. Most ill handling, gas sucking, worthless thing I have ever purchased. Made four payments then swapped it for a Mitsubishi Eclipse GS-T… which ironically was traded for the above mentioned Passat.

  • avatar
    vegasgti

    An ’86 Honda Accord Lxi H/B, 15.3 years & 215K miles. I bought it new. The most reliable ride I’ve ever had! I bought my first car in ’61!

    My current ride is an ’07 Civic EX, a genuine POS! I want to replace it with a 2010/2011 GTI.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Bought my first car, 65 Mustang, in 1980. Kept it til 1992, when my brother sideswiped a telephone pole with it…not too long after I’d given it a new paint job and front suspension (sigh). you can pick your friends….


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