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When most folks think of writer Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) they think of boating. (Because, fishing). Or perhaps they think of flying around the world to shoot things. (And he did survive two plane crashes in Africa). Not many folks think of the adventurous author and journalist as a car guy. But he was.

In his fiction, Hemingway called out many car brands, even Bugatti. And he loved roadtrips. He drove a Ford Model A across the U.S., a Lancia B10 around Europe after WWII, and a Chrysler convertible in Cuba. Hemingway also got drunk, went for a drive with his wife, and crashed his car. Twice. With two different wives (numbers three and four).

Despite these incidents, Hemingway served as a brand ambassador for Buick. I feel like he attracted some young, hip Buick buyers in the 1950s who are…still driving Buicks today. But what was Ernest Hemingway’s first car? Is there any way it was a long-lost 1929 Rolls Royce Phantom II with a custom mini bar and gun rack?

Green 1929 Rolls Royce coupe parked in front of trees.
1929 Rolls Royce Phantom II | R. M. Sotheby’s

First of all, Ernest Hemingway grew up in a time when cars were much less common. In his fiction he writes about a teenager borrowing his affluent family’s only car for a date, and about taking trains so far into the countryside or mountains that he could hop off and go camping or skiing. He writes that when he and his wife Hadley (number one) moved to Paris to live off her small trust fund they could not afford a car. When the Fitzgeralds (yes those Fitzgeralds) showed up with one it was a major flex. Apparently Zelda had impulsively sliced the roof off so Ernie and Scott had to dodge rainstorms while on drunken roadtrips.

Fast forward five years and Hemingway had upgraded his life. He had published one book, written a second, cheated on Hadley, and then remarried the much richer Pauline Pfeiffer (number two, married May 1927). Historians know that Pauline’s ultra-wealthy Uncle Gus bought the couple at least one car. When they first landed in Key West to drive across the U.S., a fully loaded Ford Model A was waiting for them. But is there any chance he bought the Paris-based Mr. and Mrs. Hemingways a car in Europe first?

An intriguing Rolls-Royce popped up on R.M. Sotheby’s site. The Phantom II was shipped form England to Paris as just a frame with an engine (very common for luxury cars in those days). High-end coach builder C.T. Weymann then finished it with a unique coupe body. He had invented a wood-framed building technique that didn’t creak thanks to metal joints. Rich Parisians hired him to build out cars such as Bugattis.

The brown leather interior of an antique Rolls Royce from 1929.
1929 Rolls Royce Phantom II | R. M. Sotheby’s

The 1929 Rolls-Royce coupe by Weymann had a small, two-seat interior. But its rear trunk had a “rumble seat” that could flip up for more passengers to perch on while cruising from one cafe to another. It had a woodsy color scheme with a Kelly Green exterior and brown leather interior. And it had some very interesting accessories.

Behind the two passengers was a high shelf with a lip for carrying rifles and shotguns. The body of the car also had special compartments for golf equipment and hunting equipment. Directly behind the passengers was a mini bar with a leather-topped compartment in the space behind the seats. Reports (though not on Sotheby’s) call this setup a mini bar, and I suspect the compartment was an early cooler for ice.

Charles T. Weymann showed off the car at an auto show before delivering it to its buyer. Unfortunately he didn’t keep records of who had ordered it. But he did keep a photo and on that photo he wrote “Hemingway.” Is this absurd ride truly Ernest Hemingway’s first car? Maybe, maybe not. Who cares, it certainly makes for a good story.

Next, read about the wild 700-horsepower replica of Hemingway’s beloved fishing boat, or see what’s become of the Chrysler convertible he had to abandon during the Cuban revolution in the video below: