Dashboard confidential
A Silver Ghost of a chance to be better

By Dave Sweetman, columnist

Having been blessed with the world's most interesting job (usually) I am constantly reminded how lucky I am. While I consider myself just another delivery boy on 18 wheels, I have met movie, TV and sports celebrities, as well as my favorites, working people just like you and me. It is always different, but the common thread is someone's love for cool cars.

The other day I was asked about my absolute favorite encounter. Even though there have been many, the ultimate experience was about more than just a car … crossing paths with one of Hollywood's biggest stars.

I have been fortunate to have toured the world-famous 1907 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost on six different occasions, with one tour being six months long.

The Silver Ghost is billed as the world's most valuable motorcar at $40 million. The car is one of a kind but, even more importantly, it was driven and rallied by Charles Rolls himself and is owned by Rolls-Royce headquarters in England.

My job was to take the car to many of the dealers around the country as a fundraiser for Paul Newman's camp for children with serious diseases, "The Hole in the Wall Camp." I was fortunate to be able to drive the car at many of the events and host question-and-answer periods with guests, as I am very familiar with the history.

Mr. Newman made appearances at some of the events and was very cordial and friendly. I had several great conversations with him and learned a lot over the six-month tour.

For many years, my boss and owner of Horseless Carriage, Frank Malatesta, has sponsored a group of disabled children in northern New Jersey to help with their care and provide something extra in their lives. One young man, Tony, had an electric wheelchair that was constantly on the fritz. A motor went bad; a servo went out. It was always something and always expensive to fix.

Roll forward a bit to the last night of the fundraiser tour and Mr. Newman, the staff and crew, and I were saying goodbyes. I asked if, in his contacts, there were any wheelchair companies he could recommend, as I explained about Tony's chair being a problem. We exchanged phone numbers and I departed. The Silver Ghost onboard was headed back to England. But first I made a stop at our office in Paterson, N.J.

The next morning our guys were gearing up for a busy day. Frank was directing trucks and drivers, as usual, when a delivery truck pulled up and the driver folded out his lift gate. Out rolled a new shiny electric wheel chair and a bill marked paid in full. My boss asked me what I knew about it, and I smiled but said nothing. He kept bugging me, so I called Mr. Newman on the phone and handed it to Frank. They talked and visited as if they were old friends, comparing notes on helping others less fortunate. I am quite sure Frank learned a thing or two, as well. Several of our other drivers listened in and were amazed.

Thinking back to several of the Silver Ghost tour stops, I clearly recall Mr. Newman stating how important it is for "those of us of privilege to help those who are not so privileged." In the class settings of a Rolls-Royce motorcar event, surrounded by the affluent and well-heeled, his words made a difference and the guests opened their hearts and wallets. What I found after the tour was over was a truly kind and generous man who used his stature in life to better those in need around him. For my humbled self to witness this firsthand was a major blessing and one that I shall never forget.

As we near the holiday seasons this year, perhaps we can all follow Paul Newman's lead and try just a bit harder to help those who could use it.

Happy holidays and merry Christmas to all. LL