When word got around that West Palm Beach hairdresser Greg Hauptner was planning to get rid of the Rolls-Royce he bought nine years ago, people told him just what he could do with it. One housewife offered her Buick and her body if he'd give the car to her. Someone else wanted him to sell his wheels and donate the proceeds to starving children. And a prison inmate wanted Hauptner to trade in the auto to pay his bail.

But Hauptner, 39, stuck to his original plan: Dressed in an Yves Saint Laurent dinner jacket and sipping Spanish champagne to celebrate, he watched as his 1967 Silver Shadow (worth $25,000-$30,000) rolled off a barge and sank 80 feet to the bottom of the Atlantic. Why did he do it? "The ashtrays were full," jokes Hauptner.

The real reason Hauptner deep-sixed his Shadow a mile off the Palm Beach shoreline was to call attention to the need for new reefs where fish could thrive off Florida's coast. (Natural erosion has worn down many of them.) After the 496-ton freighter Mercedes Iran aground in the backyard of Palm Beach socialite Mollie Wilmot last March, nearby Broward County bought the vessel for $223,000 and sank it to form an artificial reef. "Palm Beach lost a Mercedes," reasoned Hauptner, "but it will gain a Rolls-Royce."

Hauptner, who now drives a 1985 Chevy station wagon, won't suffer from the publicity his decision has brought to his Great American Hair Experience, where he says he has coiffed such luminaries as Farrah Fawcett and Loni Anderson. But he won't get an insurance rebate. "We don't cover rust and corrosion," kids his agent.

As for those who might want a sunken souvenir, forget it. The $4,000 front grill, the $500 hubcaps and other details have been permanently welded and engraved with an ID number. What's more, tamperers might swim right into Hauptner, an avid diver. "I have to go down and visit my car," he says. Wouldn't it have been easier to leave it in the garage?