1954 Dodge Royal Indy 500 Pace Car Found in a Garage, Red Ram HEMI Still Under the Hood

When it comes to historic Indy 500 pace cars, we often remember the 1964 Ford Mustang, the 1967 Chevrolet Camaro, and the 1978 Corvette. But did you know that Dodge also provided pacemakers for four different editions of the iconic race? This 1954 Dodge Royal was the first to do so.
1954 Dodge Royal Indy 500 Pace Car Edition 8 photos
Photo: Bobs Classic Cars & Parts/YouTube
1954 Dodge Royal Indy 500 Pace Car Edition1954 Dodge Royal Indy 500 Pace Car Edition1954 Dodge Royal Indy 500 Pace Car Edition1954 Dodge Royal Indy 500 Pace Car Edition1954 Dodge Royal Indy 500 Pace Car Edition1954 Dodge Royal Indy 500 Pace Car Edition1954 Dodge Royal Indy 500 Pace Car Edition
While Chrysler paced the Indy 500 as early as 1926, it wasn't until 1954 that pacing duties went to a different Mopar division. It happened in 1954 when a Dodge Royal driven by William C. Newburg led the field during a race won by the great Bill Vukovich.

Dodge went with a convertible version of the Royal and painted it Pace Car Yellow with Jewel Black detailing around the windshield and on the upper doors. The color combo trickled into the cabin for a wild contrast.

But the Indy 500 pace car wasn't just a yellow Royal. Dodge also added a Continental kit behind the trunk and a set of stylish Kelsey-Hayes chrome wire wheels. More importantly, the 241-cubic-inch, Red Ram HEMI V8 got a few major upgrades.

The package included a Carter four-barrel carburetor (instead of the stock two-barrel one) and an Offenhauser intake manifold. And that was enough to raise the V8's output from 150 to a more impressive 200 horsepower.

To capitalize on the huge publicity that it got by pacing the Indy 500, Dodge immediately introduced a Pace Car Edition production model for customers. Only 701 examples were made, a tiny fraction of the Dodge Royal's output of nearly 65,000 units for 1954.

Come 2022 and these pace cars are hard to come by and they cost notably more than the average 1954 Royal. According to Hagerty, a standard Royal in Concours condition will set you back almost $30,000, while a pace car in a similar shape could fetch more than $80,000. And that's mostly because not so many of the 701 cars built in 1954 are still around.

YouTube's "Bobs Classic Cars & Parts" recently documented one of these pace cars. It's a stunningly restored example that looks gorgeous inside and out, but it's also a bit of mystery. That's because it's missing the Indy 500 decals and the Continental kit.

Still, the owner claims it's the real deal and the flag emblems on the front fenders, the wire wheels, and the four-barrel Red Ram V8 are there to confirm it. On the flip side, he also claims this car is one of 72 built, a rather confusing statement.

Is he not aware that Dodge actually made 701 of them? That would be strange because some of these cars have hit the auction block in recent years and that info is all over the place. Or maybe is this specific Royal part of a smaller series sold without Indy 500 graphics?

Whatever the case, this 1954 Royal looks downright stunning in yellow and black. I'd even dare say it's cooler than the Chevrolet Bel Air that paced the 1955 Indy 500 in red and white.

The first Dodge to pace the iconic race, the Royal was followed by a Challenger in 1971. The brand would not return to pace the Indy 500 until 1991 when Carroll Shelby drove a Viper RT/10 ahead of the pack. Another Viper, this time around a GTS, led the field with Bob Lutz behind the wheel in 1996.

But that's enough history for today, check out this cool 1954 Royal Indy 500 pace car in the video below. Hopefully the owner isn't planning on keeping it hidden from public eyes for years to come.

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About the author: Ciprian Florea
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Ask Ciprian about cars and he'll reveal an obsession with classics and an annoyance with modern design cues. Read his articles and you'll understand why his ideal SUV is the 1969 Chevrolet K5 Blazer.
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