Date Published: 2024/05/06

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Classic Car of the Month: 1949 Silver Dawn Drophead

Vintage Rolls Royce Car parked in front of a hotel

Have you ever seen a gorgeous convertible Rolls-Royce on the auction block and wondered if it was within your budget? The Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn Drophead may be one of the rarest and more popular collector cars that you can add to your garage for less than $100,000.

The Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn: Driving Your Own Luxury Coach During Post-War Peace

At the close of World War II, British automotive manufacturers Bentley and Rolls-Royce needed to switch up their business model previously based on custom coachbuilding for the extremely wealthy into one prepared for a recovering European economy. They looked toward building a premium vehicle that would appeal to a wider audience--one that you might want to drive yourself.

Rolls-Royce eyed the booming economy of North America and targeted business owners who loved to show off their success. Thus, the smaller two-door coupe with hand-stitched leather seating for four was born and they called it the Silver Dawn.

The back seat was no longer spacious enough for the entire family, but careful attention was paid to the forward cabin and catered to the new commuter class with heat, audio systems, and other amenities. The Silver Dawn was only sold in North America from 1949 to 1953 and the Crewe factory produced just 760 vehicles in that time.

The first Silver Dawn sold for around $4,800, which was more than twice the average annual salary in 1949.

The Rare Drophead Design: Embracing North America's Love for Open-Air Cruising

While the Silver Dawn was offered to customers as a single-body design, Rolls-Royce was always willing to cater to their more bespoke clientele. As such, over the four-year production, less than 30 vehicles were created as a cabriolet or convertible called a Drophead. Each of these special order chassis were sent to a coachbuilder for their final fitments from upholstery to the dash and custom paintwork.

Now, the up-and-coming media mogul could take their family of four for a drive along the Chemin du Roy while enjoying fresh air and sunshine. Some rides sported a power-retracting rag top.

The loss of the upright cab and roof turned the somewhat ordinary boxy vehicle into one that embraced its heritage of the Roaring 20s: long, low, sleek, and sexy.

Explore the Specs of this Popular Collector Car

The Silver Dawn was easily identified as a Rolls-Royce thanks to its iconic pillared chrome grille topped by the familiar flying Spirit of Ecstasy. But from there its body design blended a bit of timeless elegance and sporting spirit with sculpted front fenders and a set of spats for the rear. How did it drive? Let's check out its spec sheet.

  • Engine: 4,257 cc inline six-cylinder with inlet-over-exhaust design.
  • Carburettor: Stromberg Type AAV 26
  • Exhaust: Single tailpipe
  • Transmission: Four-speed manual available as left-hand or right-hand drive.
  • 0 to 97 km/h: 15.2 seconds
  • Top Speed: 151.3 km/h
  • Brakes: Hydraulic front and mechanical rear drums
  • Suspension: Front coil spring and rear leaf
  • Horsepower: 150_

From 1952 forward, the buyer could request an automatic transmission.

What is the Value of a Silver Dawn Drophead?

Since so few of these unique convertibles were made, assigning a generic value to the model is difficult. Hagerty states that one in good condition will retail somewhere around $30,000. However, they also list its top sale as $695,000. The average price at auction for the saloon body is around $60,000.

In collector car markets, the original Silver Dawn is not particularly coveted as it was built as a working-class vehicle, unlike many other Rolls-Royce vehicles before the war that were handcrafted from the ground up. However, the drophead version creates a rare niche for an otherwise plebian luxury ride.

Are the Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn and the Bentley Mark VI the same car?

Both the Mark VI and the Silver Dawn are constructed on the same steel frame and use a similar grille. The Bentley Mark VI hit the market in 1946 and Rolls-Royce used the frame and concept for the Silver Dawn starting in 1949. The Silver Dawn was only sold as an export while the Bentley could be found in showrooms across the UK. The Mark VI also offered a limited number of dropheads, and those are about as rare worldwide as the Rolls-Royce version.

Is your investment in your classic car protected?

As a collector car enthusiast, every restoration project represents your hard work and plenty of cash. When you add something rare and wonderful like the Silver Dawn Drophead to your collection, make sure it is fully protected against fire, theft, and accidents with collector car insurance from Orbit Insurance Services. Contact an Orbit insurance broker for a free quote today!