The company built top class horse drawn carriages for Queen Victoria and later King Edward VII. In the early 1900s Hooper & Co. began to build custom bodies for automobiles, using mostly British chassis, particularly Daimler and Rolls-Royce. The first royal car, a Hooper body on a Daimler chassis, was delivered to Sandringham on 28th March 1900. It was painted chocolate brown with red lines; a livery which continued for the Royal Family well into the 20th century. By 1904 the company had opened its famous showrooms in Piccadilly, which became a popular London attraction with its fine displays of automobiles and carriages.
During the First World War, Hooper & Co. turned to aircraft manufacture, eventually producing Sopwith Camels at the rate of three a day. After the War a new factory was built in Acton in west London. In the peak year of 1936 over 300 car bodies were made in the factory.
In the late 1930s another factory was opened in Park Royal which made fuselage sections for De Havilland Mosquito bombers, Airspeed Oxfords and gliders. In 1940 Hooper & Co. was taken over by B. S. A. (Birmingham Small Arms). With the advent of the unibody, special coachbuilding diminished and the firm closed in 1959, although B. S. A. transferred the business to a new entity named Hooper Motor Services Ltd. which acted as a sales and service company.
Hooper-bodied Bentleys outside the factory in Park Royal
by Mark Matlach