The policy of rationalisation begun in the late 1930s continued at Rolls-Royce after WW2; more components were bought in rather than manufactured in house and for the first time there was factory bodywork, which was better suited to the owner driver than to a chauffeur. This 'standard steel' body was available at first only on the Mark VI Bentley, the equivalent Rolls-Royce - the Silver Dawn - not appearing until 1949. Codenamed 'Ascot', the Silver Dawn was produced alongside the Mark VI and the coachbuilt Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith, albeit in far fewer numbers. A separate chassis was retained, the same basic design being built in three different wheelbase lengths, while other notable features were independent front suspension and hydraulic front brakes.
The range featured a new 4,257cc six-cylinder engine (enlarged to 4,566cc in 1951) with inlet-over-exhaust valve gear, which had been under development since the mid-1930s. The company used belt drive for the water pump and dynamo for the first time on this engine, which employed a Zenith Stromberg carburettor in Rolls-Royce configuration. The latter was preferred to the Mark VI's twin SUs as it offered smoother running and a cold start facility, which was not available on the SU-equipped Bentley until 1952.
A welcome improvement to the standard bodywork arrived in mid-1952 in the shape of an enlarged boot together with associated changes to the rear wings and suspension. This design was introduced on the 'E' series Silver Dawn and was retained until the final 'J' series. The new model was almost identical to the Mark VI up to the rear doors; however the larger boot with its greater luggage capacity gave it arguably a more attractive and balanced profile. Only 760 Silver Dawns were built and this model is considered by many to be one of the most attractive 'standard steel' models from either Rolls-Royce or Bentley. The first Rolls-Royce to be offered with factory bodywork, the Silver Dawn is recognised as a landmark model in the marque's history and is fast becoming sought after as the enthusiasts' choice.
Chassis number 'SPG85' was completed in June of 1954 to the order of the Duke of Primo de Rivera, the Spanish ambassador to the UK. Later in its life, in the 1980s, the car formed part of the Furuki Collection in Japan before returning to London in 2003 and being acquired by a British collector. He purchased it in London and sent it Frank Dale & Stepsons' workshops to be evaluated. Over a period of several weeks the brakes, front suspension and steering were overhauled and the car thoroughly serviced and prepared. It has since been correctly maintained, covering a further 4,000 miles since the significant works were carried out in 2003.
Following James Crickmay's more recent acquisition, the Silver Dawn has again been reviewed and prepared, to ensure continued enjoyment. The coachwork presents beautifully and the interior has a nice patina, commensurate with a car of this age. Checked, prepared and tested by Frank Dale & Stepsons immediately prior to sale, the car is offered with sundry invoices, a UK V5C registration document and fresh MoT certificate.
James firmly believed that the factory-bodied Silver Dawn and R-Type models were tremendous value when compared to their coachbuilt cousins, and this was a car he enjoyed using largely during the winter and spring time.