Retired military officer Jess Landers has an affection for classic Rolls Royce automobiles. He recently purchased his most unique one to date, a 1987 Rolls Royce Silver Spur. Why is it unique? This is an armored vehicle that the late Princess Diana road in during a visit to the United States. He will be showing it off outside of Bodega Burgers on California Street on July 27 from 9 to 11 a.m. for anyone interested in seeing the historic vehicle. El Defensor Chieftain visited his home to get a sneak peak at the car while also learning about Jess’s journey to settling down in Socorro.
Question: How did you come about purchasing this car?
Answer: I saw it advertised online. I’ve always liked Rolls Royce’s as you can see by walking into my garage. This one was really special. The U.S. Embassy first used it for the princess when she came here so I bid on it and won with a 45 thousand dollar final bid. I got lucky because another person bid 47 thousand but backed off so the owner called me up asking if I still wanted it. I said ‘sure why not’.
Q: Have you had a chance to drive it around much?
A: A little bit. It’s a very heavy car. My large truck rides smoother than this armored vehicle. The suspension doesn’t take bumps very well due to the added weight.
Q: What is your draw towards Rolls Royce in particular?
A: It’s a very unique style of car. A very expensive car but to me they’re worth it. I got my first one around 2008 because I finally had enough money (laughs). I realized I’m getting old here so I should spend my money or somebody else will.
Q: Why do you spend so much money on cars that often spend time covered in your garage?
A: Well I have some friends and on special occasions its nice to take them out on the town. It makes you feel good.
Q: One can’t help but notice walking into your living room that you have a collection of various swords hanging on the walls as well as a vintage pinball, juke box and slot machine. Have you always been a collector?
A: It takes me back to my early days in life. Believe it or not I did a lot of dancing in my time. The swords I’ve collected from all over the world such as India, Japan, Spain, Iran and England. Every place you go there’s a flea market (laughs).
Q: How did you get to the point where you could afford luxury items?
A: I graduated high school in Fresno, California and joined the air force where I served for 26 years. I was involved in the Korean War, Vietnam War and the Cold War. When I retired I was working on helicopters in Albuquerque.
Q: Is there a moment during your service that sticks out in your memory?
A: There was a time when we were stationed in Spain. There was an uprising because at the time it was rich in oil production. We were sent in to fly out American and British people during the revolution. Some of those people had been on the road for weeks, some with little babies and that was a tough thing to see. I also remember evacuating people from Libya when (Muammar) Gaddafi was bombing buildings and having to rescue people. Those are what I remember most. Seeing these terrible dictators do unspeakable things. Helping when tyrants were committing horrific crimes.
Q: What brought you to Socorro?
A: I was a mechanic during my time in the service so I got a job as an electrician at the VLA in June of 1987 and purchased this property here. I retired there after 15 years before getting into owning private businesses here in town. I’ve been fortunate that all of my different businesses have been successful.
Q: Was this all you running things?
A: No I did it with my late wife Yvonne. She passed away four years ago. I met her when I was stationed in England. We were married in less than five months and together for 50 years. The last two years of her life were miserable. She got COPD and suffered a lot. When we got married that was the happiest day of my life. When she died it was the saddest day of my life.
Q: What has been the biggest difference between going from a structured work environment as opposed to running your own companies?
A: In the military as the years go by you move up in rank and learn how to supervise. I have 32 employees that work for me here in town. Plus I’m somewhat smart enough I suppose so I guess I’ve done alright.
Q: A few random questions. What is your favorite movie?
A: I guess I would say “The Longest Day” about the invasion of Normandy. It reminds us soldiers of how bad things can get out there. I drag it out every few months and it makes me think of all of the death I’ve seen in my life. Useless, senseless death because a politician made a decision. War is a terrible thing.
Q: What is your favorite artist or type of music?
A: That would have to be Gene Watson. He did my favorite song ever Farewell Party. I’ve always liked country music. We also used to play I Want to go Home by Johnny Cash in the bars in Vietnam because that was how we felt.
Q: If there was somewhere other than Socorro you could live, where would it be?
A: Good weather is important to me and I think the best weather I’ve experienced is San Diego. It’s a beautiful place but at this point there’s so many darn people there it wouldn’t be worth my time. I’m not gonna move anyways.
Q: If there was something that you could change about Socorro County, what would it be?
A: The economics need improvement. We have so many empty commercial buildings, just look at the Smith’s shutting down. Plenty of small businesses have gone away and there are reasons for that, in particular Wal-Mart coming in. I don’t have the answers, but if we could change things to help business owners develop economic ability to thrive that alone would help with the amount of people unemployed here.
On the back of Jess Landers’ business card reads “If it wasn’t for our men and women in uniform you would be speaking in German or Japanese today”. We thank you for your service. If you are free this Saturday morning swing by to see the Princess Diana automobile. Just be careful opening the doors because they are heavy.