Parked in front of a Century 21 real estate office in Upper Montclair, N.J., the regal automobile drew glances from people in passing cars and on foot.
Even if only a few of them recognized this imposing two-tone blue sedan as a Rolls-Royce, they could readily confirm that the tall man in a dark blue pinstripe suit and trench coat standing next to the driver's door was its owner. Filling the window of each rear door was a sign with a photo of the man, David Michael Leedy, and his wife, Donna. Both are real estate agents working from this office.
Mr. Leedy has owned this 1975 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow since 2009. He sometimes uses it in his work, chauffeuring clients to see listings and parking the car at open houses, a tactic that he said helped attract attention and potential buyers. His other vehicle, a Chrysler minivan, uses less gas, but the Rolls offers more panache.
"It helps me stand out in a crowded market," he said.
Mr. Leedy's recent listings include an assortment of colonials, raised Cape Cods and two-family homes in Bloomfield, Clifton and Belleville, middle-class northern Jersey towns straddling the Passaic River and Garden State Parkway. On a gray winter's day, the area appeared ready for the freshening effect of spring; the same might be said of Mr. Leedy's Rolls-Royce, a point he made several times.
"It's far from perfect," he said, his apologetic tone hinting that one might reasonably expect any Rolls, even one that is 38 years old, to be kept pristine.
The paint has lost a bit of its luster, and there are a few scuffs and dings on the body. But two hallmarks of the brand -- the Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament and the upright grille, a monument of polished stainless-steel -- still gleam.
The Silver Shadow arrived for 1966 as a replacement for the tall, outdated Silver Cloud, a model many Americans would recognize from a 1980s TV commercial for Grey Poupon mustard. A unibody chassis and modern four-wheel independent suspension -- with hydraulic ride leveling licensed from Citroën -- gave the 4,700-pound Silver Shadow a supple ride with fairly agile handling.
Some 30,000 Silver Shadows were built over a 15-year period. At about 210 inches long on a 120-inch wheelbase, it was trimmer than Detroit's leviathan luxury cars of the period, yet it offered a voluminous cabin and trunk. True to the British penchant for understatement, Rolls-Royce cited the engine output only as "adequate." (It was, in fact, about 190 horsepower.)
Mr. Leedy bought his Rolls for $10,000 from a dealer in used luxury cars in Queens. The Silver Shadow sold for about $40,000 when new -- the equivalent of about $171,000 today -- some four times the price of America's most popular luxury car that year, the Cadillac Coupe de Ville. Knowing that his trusted local mechanic had Rolls-Royce expertise helped Mr. Leedy to feel confident about buying the car.
"He told me the best way to keep this car running well is drive it often, so that's what I do," he said.
Most of the car's wear and tear occurred before Mr. Leedy bought it, but a small dent in the front passenger door was acquired when the Rolls would not start one day and brushed the door frame while being towed out of Mr. Leedy's garage.
"Getting minor scrapes doesn't bother me," he said. "If it was a perfect car when I got that dent, I would have had another heart attack."
Mr. Leedy, who is 47, had his heart attack 10 years ago, the culmination, he said, of a high-stress job and a smoking habit, both of which he quit on his doctor's advice. He left a 23-year career at United Parcel Service, where he'd started as a phone center representative and rose to a senior account manager.
"I had the United Nations and Madison Square Garden as clients," he said.
Years of working on a freelance news video crew on weekends added to the pressure. Among the events he covered was the arson at the Happy Land Social Club in the Bronx in 1990 that killed 87 patrons. Had the stars lined up differently, he said, he would have pursued a full-time career in broadcast journalism.
Instead, Mr. Leedy started selling real estate near his home in Bloomfield, where he'd moved from Brooklyn with his family in 1995. He has two daughters, 14 and 15, and a son, 16.
While recuperating from his heart attack, Mr. Leedy read a book that he said changed his life, "Success Through Positive Mental Attitude" by Napoleon Hill. The book inspired him to seek investment properties and to buy the Rolls-Royce. He even hung a photo of a Rolls over his bed.
Mr. Leedy said his interest in the British luxury brand -- an infatuation, really -- started when he was 10. He had seen one of the aristocratic sedans on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where his father, a psychiatrist who died in 2004, had a practice.
"I told my father, 'Someday I'll have one of those,' " he said. "I even envisioned getting paid to drive a Rolls."
As a boy, he also went to New York several times to watch as his father, Dr. Jack J. Leedy, was interviewed on "The Joe Franklin Show," which was broadcast on WOR-TV until 1993. Dr. Leedy was a pioneer of poetry therapy and a founder of the National Association for Poetry Therapy.
"He helped a lot of people," Mr. Leedy said of his father.
As you step into the richly trimmed cabin of Mr. Leedy's Silver Shadow, you are welcomed by polished wood, thick blue carpeting and plush, if well-worn, blue leather upholstery. The seats appeared pillow-soft, yet felt as if they'd be supportive for a long-distance drive.
Mr. Leedy pointed out the car's various controls, an eclectic assortment of knobs, switches, buttons and levers mounted to metal bases on the wood dashboard. The odd locations for some features are reminders that this model was designed nearly a half-century ago. The stereo, for example, is installed in two parts -- a radio placed face-up in the console between the front seats and an eight-track tape player mounted more conventionally in the center of the dashboard. Mr. Leedy said the tape player was the only feature in the car that did not work.
He started the big V-8 engine, and the single tailpipe issued a gruff bellow reminiscent of older American cars. With the windows up on a cold January day, a slight rumble could be heard as the car idled. A small muffler leak, perhaps.
The noise seemed not to bother Mr. Leedy. While stopped at a traffic light, with the "tick, tick, tick" of the clock loud enough to be mistaken for a turn signal, he quoted the headline of a famous Rolls-Royce print advertisement from 1958: "At 60 miles an hour, the loudest sound in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock."
Mr. Leedy's 1975 model was standing still, however, and the advertising line, which quoted a report from a British car magazine, didn't mention that the clock in the Rolls might well have been the loudest timepiece in any car.
Cruising placidly through a neighborhood of grand homes, the Rolls seemed to be in its element. An occasional thump from behind prompted an apology.
"The left rear shock broke the other day," Mr. Leedy said.
He had not yet received an estimate to replace it. The conversation briefly turned to the complex suspension system that gave the car its composed ride.
Despite the broken shock, the Silver Shadow glided over small bumps and manhole covers. It felt neither floaty, like American luxury sedans of that time, nor overly firm, like some older German models. Aside from a brake failure -- fortunately, with no harmful results -- the Rolls has had few problems. On the drive back to his office, though, Mr. Leedy guessed that a rattle in the front passenger door was a result of the dent from the garage mishap.
"That probably knocked the door out of alignment," he said. "I guess this car's a bit like me -- it could use a little work under the bonnet."
David Michael Leedy
Location: Bloomfield, N.J.
Occupation: Real estate agent
Vehicle: 1975 Rolls-Royce
Year acquired: 2009
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.