Whatever happened to Grace Kelly's Rolls-Royce?

Billie Owens

Talk about a swell ride. Aimee Shultz had one on her wedding day. The Bloomfield bride was taken to her nuptials with groom James Pfeiffer in a Rolls-Royce.

Not just any old Rolls, mind you, but the very one that on a fine spring day in 1956 carried Grace Kelly to her betrothed, Prince Ranier III, for a fairy-tale wedding in Monaco.

Aimee's parents, Don and Jackie, enlisted the service of longtime family friend, William Pinch, to chauffeur their daughter to the First Congregational Church in Bloomfield a few weeks ago.

His vehicle is pedigreed.

Before the Rolls took the Hollywood glamour queen to become a princess, it carried the king of Sweden.

That country's consul general was the first owner, John Hjelme-Lundberg. The car was delivered brand new to the eminent envoy in 1954, a year after it started being hand-assembled. It takes that long to craft the car.

Hjelme-Lundberg was Prince Ranier's friend, and that's why he was chosen to chauffeur Grace Kelly in his car on her special day.

It's still a beautiful car, and "I have fun with it," said Pinch, a  67-year-old mineralogist who lives in Pittsford.

It's black and burgundy, with the classic big, gleaming Rolls grill, and headlamps that are substantial and round.

Pinch had to pay 90 bucks apiece to replace the incandescent bulbs, said to be the last still around. He didn't want to take the chance of them being sold — there are 14 other vintage Rolls out there somewhere in the world that use the same bulbs.

A recent oil change set Pinch back about $750.

The grand old car has custom Firestone whitewall tires that are enormous. A silver lady perches atop the silver grill.

The car weighs three tons, and it looks like it weighs three tons. Effortlessly with the touch of a button, Pinch starts the engine, and it purrs. Like a sleek, exotic snow leopard made of metal.

The interior is tan, and like a true antique, its leather seats are cracked with age. Of course, there will be no repairs because most collectors like everything authentic.

There are lots of nice touches. The inside roof over the back seat is extra high, to accommodate the King of Sweden's top hat. The beveled privacy glass between the front and back seats is thick, pure Waterford crystal.

The right back seat has radio controls and the left back seat has a spiffy little valet box replete with a leather notepad. There's a footrest on the floorboard that can be lifted up to put your tootsies on and two fold-out seats at the ready on the other side.

There's also burl wood in the interior and the requisite beverage bar in a cabinet behind the front seat. Tipple anyone?

Unlike most of these English cars, the one Pinch acquired has the steering wheel on the left side, American (and Swedish) style.

The moment Pinch saw the car, he was smitten. It was in the middle of a dealership's showroom in Palm Desert, Calif.  —  and he simply had to have it. It was surrounded by lesser peers, in this case Rolls-Royce Corniches.

Pinch was dressed in jeans and asked to drive it.

"I looked like a bum," he said. "They didn't want to move the cars to get it out for me."

But he when he returned in a suit, accompanied by another gent in a suit, he was granted the opportunity to drive the luxury sedan.

His acquaintance had attended one of Pinch's lectures on mineralogy, and Pinch knew he was knowledgeable about quality cars. The guy had 30 Rolls-Royces and 30 Bentleys.

Pinch asked him to check out the car to see if it was a good buy.

"He said the car was clean and in excellent condition and if I didn't buy it, he would," Pinch recalled.

It was shipped in an enclosed van to Rochester in 1980.

"I threatened to sell it, but my son went ballistic," Pinch said. You live for your kids, you know, so I said, 'OK I won't sell it.' "

Billie Owens can be reached at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 320, or at

bowens@mpnewspapers.com.