Last car driven by Elvis Presley goes on display in North Carolina


Dale Earnhardt Jr. takes Elvis Presley's 1973 Stutz Blackhawk III onto the track for a few laps after a news conference at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., Tuesday, March 25, 2014. The car, the last car Presley drove before his death, will be the centerpiece of an exhibit during the AutoFair at the track from April 3-6. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

A black 1973 Stutz Blackhawk III, in which the self-professed King of rock 'n' roll took his final drive in 1977, was on display in North Carolina last weekend.

Elvis was a committed petrolhead who owned more than 200 cars in his lifetime and once famously crooned, "No Room to Rhumba in a Sports Car", but his 230 horsepower V8 Stutz was said to be one of his favourites.

Forming part of the auto show at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday, the Stutz then returned to the Graceland auto museum in Memphis to be exhibited with more than 20 others in the performer's collection.

It is said that Elvis typically drove cars for around six months before trading them in for something newer or giving them away to friends and family but the Stutz remained a firm favourite and long-term workhorse, clocking-up 8,450 miles on the odometer over three years.

Staff at the Graceland museum selected 67-year-old automotive restoration specialist Walt Hollifield of North Carolina for the job of bringing the Stutz back to its former glory.

His small team replaced the tyres with duplicates of the originals and changed the oil and fluids, but left intact the paint job and any dents on the exterior, revealed Hollifield, an avid Presley fan. The car's interior – which features soft red leather and 18-karat gold trim - was not cleaned in order to maintain its time-capsule quality.

"It was very important to us to preserve the integrity of the car the way Elvis had it," Angie Marchese, director of archives at Graceland, said. "To hear the car started up for the first time in 36 years was absolutely amazing."

The work brought some surprises even to those most familiar with the car. Because of a long-missing key and a blown fuse, no one had seen the inside of the boot since Presley's death, Hollifield revealed. After replacing the fuse, his team found a hidden button that popped the trunk open.

"And lo and behold, it's got black, long furry carpet inside," he said. "It is beautiful, absolutely gorgeous."