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The 1937 25/30 with Sports Saloon body by Hooper. (Steve Sherriff)
The 1937 25/30 with Sports Saloon body by Hooper. (Steve Sherriff)

Classic Cars

A Rolls fit for a King Add to ...

If King George VI had glanced out of the state coach and through the plate-glass window of coachbuilder Hooper's showroom on the way home to Buckingham Palace from Westminster Abbey after his coronation on May 12, 1937, there's a chance his eye might have been caught by the dramatic razor-edge styling of Steve Sherriff's Rolls-Royce.

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Sherriff, who's owned the 25/30 Sports Saloon with its body by Hooper for almost two decades now, says his car had just been completed - with its fashionably edgy bodywork finished in Coronation Blue - but had not sold at the time of the coronation. And he has a souvenir program showing the procession passed Hooper's establishment.

"I think the odds are good it was on display in the showroom. But I can't prove it," he says of the car's possible coronation connection.

If it was on display, this classy Rolls would certainly have merited a look by the new King as he passed and will likely draw more than a few from the hoi polloi in the Toronto area this week as it joins other RR and Bentley automobiles taking part in the Rolls-Royce Owners Club's week-long premier North American gathering.

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The event is being staged at the Hilton Suites in Markham, Ont., and will include workshops, tours, a marketplace for rare bits and pieces and a Judging Day at which these grand cars will compete for concours honours (unfortunately not open to the public).

Sherriff, a career prosecutor for 38 years, is currently the "go-to guy for murder in Peel," supervising and trying homicide cases in that region as a general counsel for the Ministry of the Attorney-General.

He grew up in Etobicoke and has enjoyed a "lifelong addiction to cars, particularly old ones" - owning dozens of all descriptions, starting with a 1956 Corvette and including one of every model of Ford Edsel produced. Nine, in case you were wondering.

Why the Edsels? "They were unusual and everybody hated them. My buddies and I found them eccentric, cheap and fast."

His first car though was a brand-new 1965 Mustang, a gift from his parents on graduating high school and entering university, that was "fiendishly" rallied during his student days.

He recently made a return to motor sport as part of the Jagged Edge Motor Sports Team, which ran a 1984 Jaguar XJS in the recent ChumpCar event for $500 beaters at Shannonville Motorsport Park. His own concours award-winning 1988 V-12 XJS served as a much-needed parts donor car, cannibalized to keep the "racer" running.

Family, a succession of old and interesting automobiles and a law career apparently didn't provide enough diversion for Sherriff, who's also been heavily involved in aviation. He's racked up about 4,000 hours in the air - holding an airline transport license and flying charters at one time - all in his "spare" time; he has flown everything from biplanes to a Lear jet.

But his "great adventure" was flying the Atlantic in the mid-1980s in his single-engined Mooney - both ways. "I owned the thing so I had to bring it back."

The 1937 25/30 is actually his second Rolls-Royce. The first, a 1934 20/25, was purchased sight unseen from England with a student pal in 1972.

"We couldn't afford to go and look at the thing so we took a chance," he says. When it arrived on the docks in Montreal they soon realized their gamble hadn't paid off.

The owner had claimed it would run, which it didn't, and hadn't mentioned it had been in a fire. "It was a disaster. And we were unskilled. But we learned a lot and eventually got it operational," Sherriff says. And it sparked an interest in the marque that eventually led to his acquisition of his current car in 1992.

The 1937 25/30 with Sports Saloon body by Hooper, one of the early examples of "razor-edge" styling, was originally owned by Midlands cake baron Henry Hathaway and, like Sherriff's first Rolls, was imported into North America in 1963 by an American student who went on to become a renowned nuclear physicist.

Sherriff purchased it from a dentist who was selling it at the urging of his fourth wife, and after the painful lesson learned from his earlier Rolls-Royce experience, this time made sure what he acquired this time "was a good one."

And, in the years since, he has taken it from just "very nice" to pristine, award-winning show quality.

Huge effort has gone into ensuring it's cosmetically perfect and the minutest details are correct, including such things as a battery that replicates the original, wiring that runs in stainless steel conduit and a tray in the "boot" that contains no less than 44 tools, all of which were missing, and which required more than two years to locate.

"I've basically taken it back to the way it was in the showroom in 1937," he says.

The 25/30 model, built from 1936-38, evolved from the earlier 20/25 "small" Rolls and like the 20/25 was aimed at owner-drivers, unlike the grander Phantoms. Typical of the day, it was sold as a chassis and driveline only, which was then taken to a coachbuilder such as Hooper, to have a body installed.

Its mechanical specs included an inline-six-cylinder, overhead-valve engine enlarged to 4,257 cc with a single carburetor and coil ignition - a spare coil was included to ensure it never faltered, or as RR put it, "failed to proceed."

The transmission had four speeds, suspension was by rigid axles at each end supported by half-elliptic springs and it had four wheel brakes with a unique mechanical servo assist.

Sherriff and his Rolls have been invited to a number of high-calibre concours d'elegance meets in recent years. He's just back from the Eyes on Design show in Detroit to which he was asked to show off the car's razor-edge bodywork.

He plans to continue to improve and show the car - but also to drive it on the tours often included in these events. "It's not a trailer queen. This car runs so well, I'm very confident driving it," he says.

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