Motor City

26 July 2014

Lot 146

1953 Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn Drophead Coupe by Park Ward

To be auctioned on Saturday, July 26, 2014

Sold for $352,000

  • Chassis no. LSLE43
  • Engine no. S-46-E
  • Body no. D.77
History is important to us, and all lots offered are fully researched. All corresponding information and accessories, from certificates to tool kits, stays with the lots we sell. All of this is held at our library on site, under the Access the Knowledge banner, so please visit us there or contact us before the auction if you require further information.


Body Style 322. Est. 128 bhp, 4,566 cc F-head inline six-cylinder automatic transmission, independent front suspension with helical springs and hydraulic dampers, semi-elliptic rear springs with hydraulic dampers, and hydraulic front and mechanical rear brakes with mechanical servo assist. Wheelbase: 120 in.

  • Built for pharmaceutical baron Eli Lilly Jr.
  • One of a dozen built in this coachbuilt body style
  • An original U.S.-delivery example
  • Rare “big” engine and automatic transmission


With its standardized, all-steel factory body and mechanicals being largely shared with the Bentley Mark VI, the Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn pointed clearly at the future of “The Best Car in the World.” Yet, the Works was also very careful to notice that a market remained open for individually commissioned, bespoke automobiles on the same chassis, and so the Silver Dawn could be had without bodywork. In addition, the factory actually catalogued two different styles of drophead coupes on the chassis, with both being produced by the respected firm of Park Ward, of Willesden.

Cars with body style 322 featured the “dipped” fenders, which were a signature of early post-war Park Ward designs. These fenders curved to envelope the front fenders, faded down into the sides of the body, and then expanded again to cover the rear wheels with a “spat.” The well-proportioned design, with its neatly folding convertible top, could accommodate four adults, yet it also had the sporty pretensions of an open roadster. Only a dozen Silver Dawns were built to this style, of which only six were delivered to the United States.

This Rolls-Royce is on a desirable later Silver Dawn chassis, number LSLE43, which by this point was utilizing the larger, more powerful 128-horsepower engine. It is recorded as having been built for Eli Lilly Jr., of the Eli Lilly Company in Indianapolis, Indiana. Mr. Lilly, the grandson of the founder and namesake of the pharmaceutical giant, was serving the company as chairman of the board when he took delivery of this Rolls-Royce. Off of the road and out of the boardroom, he was also an active philanthropist who founded the massive Lilly Endowment, which continues to benefit many charitable causes in the Hoosier State. He was a passionate archaeologist who worked to preserve historic landmark buildings, and he was one of the United States’ foremost collectors of Chinese art.

Several generations of Lilly family members were customers in good standing of the Rolls-Royce factory, and Eli Jr. was no exception. Copies of the build specifications for the car, supplied by the Rolls-Royce Foundation and on file, detail numerous special features. The car was outfitted with an automatic transmission, high-frequency horns, a medium-wave radio, sealed beam headlamps, and wide whitewall tires, and it also came with “blinker” turn signals, to be fitted in the United States.

The Silver Dawn left England for the United States on March 20, 1953, via the SS American Banker. On September 18, 1953, it was delivered to distributor S.H. Arnolt in Chicago, from whom it was sent to Auto Imports Company, of Indianapolis, Mr. Lilly’s dealer of choice. The pleased customer presumably took actual delivery of the car while vacationing in Palm Beach, Florida, as it was then sent on to Foreign Motors there.

Following Mr. Lilly’s care, the Rolls-Royce was purchased by Sexton W. Phelps, of New York City and Connecticut, then Charles D. Lane, of St. Louis, Missouri, and later Paul Rizzo, of East Meadow, New York. It was acquired by the current owner several years ago from the estate of Sam Garrett, a well-known Pebble Beach, California, businessman who had made a fortune by developing the small brush used to apply mascara. Mr. Garrett assembled a small, select, and carefully chosen automobile collection, which included this Silver Dawn, among several other fine Rolls-Royces.

This car is subtly finished in black and red and comes with a corresponding two-tone leather interior. It shows great patina throughout and appears as a wonderful driver. Typical of Park Ward bodies, it is filled with fine details throughout, including beautiful inlaid wood trim that decorates the interior. With its powerful “big” engine and automatic transmission, it would be an excellent, easy-to-use tour car for Rolls-Royce Owners’ Club rallies and events.

Factory-bodied Silver Dawns can be readily found, but seldom is one of the coachbuilt variants made available. This is one of those wonderful opportunities, which is made even more important by its fascinating history and desirable specifications.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alain Squindo


Detroit, Michigan

Alain Squindo joined RM Auctions in 2007, after graduating from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., with a degree in History. R... read more

Alex Classick

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United Kingdom

Alex Classick joined RM Europe in 2011 as a car specialist, after graduating from Nottingham University with a degree in Business Mana... read more

Alexander Weaver

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California, USA

Alexander Weaver joined RM Auctions in 2011 as a car specialist, after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born into ... read more

Annette Abaci

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Germany

With post-secondary degrees in Economic Science and Mechanical Engineering, Annette Abaci initially worked part-time at Mercedes-Benz ... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

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United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a senior car specialist, after more than a decade in the collector car hobby... read more

Dan Warrener

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Ontario, Canada

Possessing a degree in Economics from Brandon University, Dan Warrener spent the initial stages of his career working around the globe... read more

Don Rose

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United States

Don Rose joined RM Auctions in 2006, after many years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputatio... read more

Donnie Gould

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Florida, USA

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

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Ontario, Canada

Gord joined RM Auctions in 1998, initially responsible for the transportation and logistics of the company’s auction and restora... read more

Ian Kelleher

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New York, United States

Ian Kelleher began his automotive career immediately following his graduation from Oberlin College, with a B.A. in Politica... read more

Jack Boxstrom

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Ontario, Canada

Jack Boxstrom joined RM Auctions in late-1996 to assist with the recently acquired, and subsequently record-breaking, auction in Monte... read more

Max Girardo

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United Kingdom

Max Girardo started his career in the vintage automobile industry in 1998, joining Brooks Auctioneers (now Bonhams) as a car specialis... read more

Mike Fairbairn

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Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Auctions, Mike Fairbairn has a longstanding interest in the classic car industry. Graduati... read more

Peter Wallman

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United Kingdom

Peter Wallman joined RM Europe in 2007, following nearly two decades in the international advertising industry, read more

Rob Myers

rmyers@rmauctions.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As chairman and founder of the RM Group of Companies, Rob Myers’s entire career has been devoted to the classic car industry. Ro... read more

Shelby Myers

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California, USA

Shelby Myers literally grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to w... read more

Vinnie Mandzak

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California, USA

Vinnie Mandzak joined RM Auctions’ California office in 2012 as a car specialist, following more than 30 years’ experience... read more