1954 Dodge Royal Pace Car Is an Indy 500-Spec Gem With All the Cool Details

The auto world is generally divided into two main categories, at least when looked at from a certain angle. On the one hand we have cars any civilian can use, and on the other the race cars, the best engineering examples a company was able to produce. Somewhere in between, if you look very carefully, you can find pace cars.
1954 Dodge Royal Pace Car 16 photos
Photo: Mecum
1954 Dodge Royal Pace Car1954 Dodge Royal Pace Car1954 Dodge Royal Pace Car1954 Dodge Royal Pace Car1954 Dodge Royal Pace Car1954 Dodge Royal Pace Car1954 Dodge Royal Pace Car1954 Dodge Royal Pace Car1954 Dodge Royal Pace Car1954 Dodge Royal Pace Car1954 Dodge Royal Pace Car1954 Dodge Royal Pace Car1954 Dodge Royal Pace Car1954 Dodge Royal Pace Car1954 Dodge Royal Pace Car
Pace cars go by different names, with the most common other designation for them being safety cars. Regardless of what name one uses, this kind of vehicle is described as one meant to limit the speed of racers on the track (aka pace them) in case dangerous events unfold on the tarmac.

The concept was first used all the way back in 1911, during the first ever running of the Indianapolis 500 race. Just like it happens today, the race was not without incidents, and since race organizers couldn't simply send people on the track to warn drivers of dangers, cars were used instead. In this particular event, a Stoddard-Dayton was deployed for this purpose.

From that point onward, all racing events across the world, big or small, used pace cars for their purposes. In fact, this type of vehicle became so important for enthusiasts that carmakers were forced at one point to produce special edition safety cars to sell to the general public.

All of America's big automobile producers have done it over the years, and so did some foreign ones. Off the top of my head, I can serve you as examples the Chevrolet Corvette, the Chevy Camaro, and of course the Ford Mustang.

There were other names that took on the role over the years, even if they were not as visible as the stars mentioned above. Among them is the Dodge Royal, which in 1954 paced for the first time the Indy 500.

1954 Dodge Royal Pace Car
Photo: Mecum
The Royal may not mean all that much to today's public, as it was only in production between 1954 and 1959, at first more as a top trim level for the Dodge cars of the era than a standalone model.

Although it was designed in the style of the era and packed a Hemi engine under the hood, it didn't exactly become a trendsetter. It's presence though at Indianapolis in its first year on the market prompted the release of a special edition version.

The convertible iteration of the Royal was chosen for the task, and in all just 701 examples were made that year, out of a total production run of about 65,000 vehicles. Coming across one today is for collectors what finding gold is for prospectors.

And gold we found, in the form of one of those 701 examples made. It's in almost pristine condition, despite the over 52,000 miles (83,000 km) shown on the odometer, and it's selling during an auction taking place early next month.

We don't have the history of this vehicle, other than a piece of fugitive information saying it has been part of the Ray Skillman Collection from Indiana. But we do know the car is rare and, in the best of condition, it can fetch as much as $80,000 during a sale.

This particular example has the same underpinnings as all other Pace Car edition Royals, meaning the standard chassis holds a convertible body and a 241ci Hemi engine with a four-barrel carburetor and automatic transmission in tow.

1954 Dodge Royal Pace Car
Photo: Mecum
The special bits about this ride come in the form of the extra fittings it flaunts. Visible with the naked eye at the rear is the Continental kit. Then we've got the paint job, a special shade of yellow placed over a black interior that seems to have survived the passing of time in remarkable condition. The cabin is surrounded by tinted glass, and a push-button AM radio sits on the dashboard as a throwback to times long gone.

Putting the car in contact with the ground are chrome Kelsey-Hayes wheels of undisclosed dimensions, wire by design and wearing whitewall tires over their rims.

The thing that catches the eye the most about this car is the exterior décor, coming as all the proper decals and insignia. Although by today's standards they all look obsolete, they do add a touch of well-deserved old-school flavor to the Royal.

Not only are we informed by means of black letters that this is an official Dodge pace car, but we also have the writing to attest it's one made in honor of the vehicle used during the Indianapolis race on May 31, 1954.

Auction house Mecum is the one tasked with finding a new owner for the 1954 Dodge Royal Pace Car, and it'll try to do so early next month, during its Fall Special sale taking place in… Indianapolis.

There is no estimate as to how much the car is likely to get, but as usual we'll come back on this story as soon as new details surface.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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