The rationalization policy initiated in the late 1930s persisted at Rolls-Royce following World War II. Instead of in-house manufacturing, more components were outsourced, and a significant shift occurred with the introduction of factory bodywork, tailored for owner-drivers rather than chauffeurs. Crafted by the Pressed Steel Fisher Company in Cowley, the ‘standard steel’ body debuted initially on the MkVI Bentley, with the Rolls-Royce equivalent, the Silver Dawn, making its appearance in 1949. The model retained a separate chassis, maintaining a consistent basic design across three varying wheelbase lengths. Key features included independent front suspension and hydraulic front brakes.
Powering the range was a novel 4,257cc six-cylinder engine, later expanded to 4,566cc in 1951, featuring inlet-over-exhaust valve gear. This engine, under development since the mid-1930s, introduced belt drive for the water pump and dynamo. Notably, it incorporated a Zenith Stromberg carburetor in the Rolls-Royce configuration, preferred over the MkVI’s twin SUs for its smoother running and a cold start facility, unavailable on the SU-equipped Bentley until 1952.
A significant enhancement to the standard bodywork was introduced in mid-1952 with an enlarged trunk, accompanied by corresponding adjustments to the rear wings and suspension. This design debuted on the ‘E’ series Silver Dawn and endured until the final ‘J’ series. As the first Rolls-Royce model with factory bodywork, the Silver Dawn stands as a pivotal milestone in the marque’s history, increasingly sought after by enthusiasts.
Due to England’s post-war financial crisis necessitating hard currency, the Silver Dawn remained an export-only model until 1953, resulting in the majority of production being left-hand drive. Of the 760 units manufactured, around 60 received custom bodies, contributing to the model’s exclusivity and allure among collectors.