Hooper was founded as Adams and Hooper in 1805, with premises in Haymarket in London GB. By 1904 they had opened their famous showrooms at 54 St. James Street, Piccadilly in London's fashionable west end. The company built top class horse drawn carriages supplying Queen Victoria for 60 years and, later, to her son, Edward VII. At the turn of the 20th century, they moved into motor bodies under the name Hooper & Co., building a mail phaeton on a Daimler chassis for Edward, then Prince of Wales. Hooper was unique in that they held Royal Warrants from approximately 1920 - indelibly associating Hooper coachwork with England's Royal Family by providing bespoke automobiles through nine reigns of Kings & Queens of England. At one time or another, Hooper & Co. have had Royal Warrants granted by virtually every one of the crowned heads of Europe.
Hooper specialized in the very top end of the market, building the most luxurious bodies possible. Hoopers built a reputation for designing cars to meet customers' specific needs and were also innovative in construction methods, being early in the use of resin bonded plywood in body construction, as well as the use of alloy castings to replace conventional ash framing. Their cars were not sporty, but they specialized in stately, 'elegant' carriages. But of course, like with beauty, elegance is in the eye of the beholder.
During World War I the company was kept alive by manufacturing aircrafts. With peace returned, coachbuilding restarted and they managed to survive the depression of the late 1920s and early 1930s. At the time, Hooper even built a second factory in Acton, West London.
1936 was Hooper's best year, turning out over 300 car bodies. In 1938 Hooper took over rival coachbuilder Barker who were in receivership.
With re-armament in the late 1930s another factory was opened in Willesden, London, and during World War II they built fuselage sections for De Havilland Mosquito bombers and Airspeed Oxfords.
During the Second World War, the firm was taken over by B.S.A. (Birmingham Small Arms), who also owned Daimler. As a result, Hooper Daimlers were featured on their Motor Show stands and often had some outrageously styled cars specified by Lady Docker, the wife of the chairman of B.S.A., Sir Bernard Docker.
Unfortunately, with the advent of the unibody, Special Coachbuilding diminished. The firm closed in 1959, but BSA transferred the business to a new entity "Hooper Motor Services Ltd." which acted as a sales and service company. It later was combined with Jack Alpe Limousines of Marylebone High Street, London as Hooper Alpe. For a time they did modifications to Silver Shadow and Silver Spirit body shells: a number of lengthened limousine bodies as well as at least one landaulette. They now mainly act as dealers in imported vehicles, but Hooper-Crailville continues to make replica coachworks for earlier chassis.
Sources: www.rrec.org.uk, www.cartype.com & RM Auctions.
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