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Lot 456: Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III Drophead Coupe

Exceptional Motorcars - Session III, Bonhams & Butterfields (19 August 2011)

A gifted singer and dancer, Sammy Davis Jr. was a true 'car guy' who got great pleasure from the string of luxury and high performance automobiles, a noted client of famed custom car icon George Barris, his commissions included the purchase of a 'Barrister' Corvette, and his Lincoln and Stutz Blackhawk were revised by Barris. In his later life in lifestyle publications he's frequently shown with an array of automobiles around him, one regularly seen shows him with a De Lorean. Despite having tragically lost an eye in a car accident in the 1950s, his passion for the automobile never waned. By the early 1960s Sammy Davis was arguably at the height of his success, he had just appeared in the first Rat Pack movie Ocean's 11 with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, and off the stage he had recently married the beautiful Swedish actress Mai Britt and was living in the Hollywood Hills. He would soon return to the stage in the Golden Boy, but in 1963 it was this 'golden' Rolls-Royce that was his latest prize. The epitome of Hollywood luxury automobiles, Davis Jr. was one of only 23 people who would ever order a left hand drive example of one of these supremely elegant convertibles. Rolls-Royce's own records offered with the car, confirm Sammy Davis to have bought the car in April 1963, their order notes it to have originally been in period Sand livery with a beige interior. Tinted 'sundym' glass, electric front windows and a companion, containing notebook, compact and cigarette case in the rear armrest, are all listed as requirements for this special order. To get a glimpse of what the car looked like new, one need go no further than to look at a contemporary magazine article in the December 1964 issue Ebony magazine, a copy of the article being on file. In that issue Sammy Davis Jr. and Mai Britt were their cover feature, and in an extensive article the center spread shows the couple pictured outside their home with this Convertible, proudly proclaimed as his '$20,000 plus Rolls-Royce'. Tracking the dates back it is clear that this shoot must have occurred earlier that year as by the end of the year the car had moved on, and they were living in New York to be near his Broadway Show. Rather confusingly the photograph used in the Ebony article was accidentally reversed making all of his cars appear to be right hand drive versions when in fact they were all factory left hand drive from new. Note the Corvette, General Motors never built a Corvette in right hand drive! All the same, there is the car, very much as it is today, sitting outside his Evanview Drive home in the Hollywood Hills. From Davis Jr. the car passed to noted Rolls-Royce dealer John J. Schaler III of Indianapolis and promptly bounced back to another L.A. owner, Robert Wells. Beyond this the car's history isn't charted, until it resurfaced in the 1990s when it was sold publicly in a Scottsdale, Arizona auction. It is noted then to have received a complete restoration, which had included bare metal respray to maroon paint, engine rebuild, transmission rebuild, new brakes, all chrome re-plated and a new interior, in short  the works! After this the car moved to Germany and has returned to the U.S. last year. Within the last few years the car has received a high quality repaint and brought back to its original Sand color scheme, which has recently been refreshed and shows extremely well with a high quality finish. Its interior, presents beautifully and all of its wood veneers have been re-lacquered. Shod with period correct white wall tires, and with a single red coachline along its swage, the combination is exceptionally fine. It also places it back in time as it was when new. These exclusive derivatives of Rolls-Royce seldom appear on the market at all, to find one in such fine order and with the added cache of its original celebrity ownership offers a wonderful opportunity. Its present owner has recently driven the car several hundred miles and reports it to be in fine driving order.

Lot Details
Auction Exceptional Motorcars - Session III
Bonhams & Butterfields, Quail Lodge, Carmel, California
TypeCar
Lot Number456
Estimate$475000-$550000
Outcome NOT SOLD
Hammer Price-
Hammer Price (inc premium)-
Year1963
Condition rating
Registration number
Mileage-
Chassis numberLSDW 87
Engine number
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors