A couple of months ago, while sipping a latte near my favorite window at Lincoln Avenue Espresso, I looked out to find a vintage Rolls Royce gliding to a stop directly in front of the door. “Now that’s something you don’t see every day in Yakima,” I thought. Curiosity got the better of me, and I accosted the owner, Brian Anderson, with a string of questions. He graciously gave me a peek inside his 1953 Silver Wraith limousine (it’s fit for a queen) and mentioned that he had a few other old cars at home parked in his garage.
Time passed and I would occasionally see him drive up to the coffee shop in other shiny vehicles, both old and new. I finally got up my nerve to ask if he’d agree to let me write an article about his collection for Yakima Magazine, knowing that it would interest the many readers who also suffer from that incurable ailment known as “car lust.”
My own husband gave in to this affliction years ago, when he bought and sold a string of British sports cars that spent more time in the shop than on the road. That said, he loved every inch of these sporty foreign speedsters. (I’m convinced one of the saddest events of his adult life was when he sold his British racing green Triumph TR3.) Although he currently doesn’t own a vintage sports car, he still succumbs to secretly reading the Hemmings Classic Car magazine online when he thinks I’m not looking.
After several coffee shop conversations with Anderson, he finally agreed to an interview and a tour of his automobile collection. When I arrived at his country home in Gleed, he ushered me into his spotless four-car garage. He may not own a huge variety like talk show host Jay Leno, but there’s an interesting story behind each of his classic cars.
Anderson grew up in Yakima, graduating from West Valley High School in 1964. It somehow seems appropriate that a man with a passion for cool cars would have worked as a teenager at the old Country Drive-In on Nob Hill Boulevard for his dad, who owned the outdoor movie theater. In fact, the money he earned from that job allowed him to buy his first car, a 1958 Chevrolet Impala.
The pride of his current collection is the Rolls Royce, which he bought last year, for an undisclosed amount. “Since I was 12 years old, I’ve always wanted a Rolls,” Anderson remembered. “It took me a while to get it.”
With only 11 Silver Wraiths built by Rolls Royce in 1953, the exquisite limousine was originally ordered for the CEO of Lloyds of London, and was subsequently owned by the lord mayor of London. The interior features steering on the right-hand side, wood paneling, a divider between the front and back seats, cup holders and even two crystal decanters in the rear window ledge for backseat cocktails. They’re etched with the Rolls Royce logo.
“The car needed some work, but I just love it,” he said. The car has also won many trophies at car shows.
The next vintage car in his garage had me singing Prince’s Little Red Corvette. There it was in all of its flaming red glory, the fantasy car of every high school boy from the ’60s to the ’80s. Anderson bought the 1964 Vette in 1971 for $1,810, and admits he enjoyed working on it himself, but now leaves the heavy lifting to a mechanic. He claims this high-powered car has clocked 137 mph on the Moxee Highway. “But that was a long time ago,” he quipped.
Next down the line is a shiny 1934 Ford Deluxe four door. The car had been moldering in an old chicken coop before Anderson got the tip. He paid $6,000 for it in 2002, and at the time it looked like a piece of junk ready for the scrap pile. But to Anderson, the model had some historic significance: outlaws “Bonnie and Clyde” were shot to death while attempting to escape the law in a similar Ford Deluxe. “I always wanted a street rod, but wanted one bigger than a coupe,” he explained. He had the Ford painted a candy apple red and restored inside and out to the tune of $100,000. “The inner workings are immaculate. I drive it a lot and take it to car shows in Moxee, Bickleton and Tacoma, all over the state.”
Not completely satisfied with one Corvette, a 1981 jet black Stingray, featuring a 330 horsepower engine and less than 2,000 road miles, eventually became available. He bought his second Corvette in 1991 for $8,500, and today it sits waiting for a fast and furious spin. According to corvette-info.tripod.com, the 1981 Corvette was the first to use a computer on all production models. “I had to put in a new engine,” Anderson said. And like the 1964 model, this car has speed and can reach 130-140 mph.
Before Anderson bought the Rolls Royce he dreamed of, he succumbed to the next best thing: a 1950 snow white Bentley Mark VI, made in England by the same company. Purchased in 2010 for $27,000, it has required a great deal of work. When asked why he wanted a Bentley, Anderson said, “It was the nearest thing to a Rolls at the time! I’ve used both the Rolls and Bentley for friends’ weddings.”
Anderson keeps his relatively small vintage car collection in immaculate condition, spending hours polishing each of them by hand. He also owns a motorhome, a truck with large trailer to transport his vintage cars, a new SUV and a boat, while his wife, Irene, drives a 2009 Cadillac. Not ready to retire, he helps run the family business, a large mobile home park in West Valley.
A visit to the office where he displays his many car show trophies ended my tour and interview. Before I drove away in my not-so-perfect Volvo, he left me with one interesting anecdote about the car that got away. Chuckling, Anderson admitted to owning a “tricked-out” Chevy van in the ‘70s, the perfect “love mobile” in which to take a date to the drive-in. And to remind him of those good times, he owns what might be the only surviving Country Drive-In speakers, just waiting for the outdoor movie to begin.