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Car Tales: Glide To Paradise, The Bentley S1 Empress Saloon

‘It is a long way from World War I’s aerial battlefields over northern France to the leafy glades that shelter the Hollywood Hills.
But it is only a small jump for Hooper & Co, the esteemed and now historic British coachbuilding company.
1955 Bentley S1 Empress Saloon for sale
‘From 1805 – when it was founded as Adams and Hooper – until 1959, this highest-end coachbuilding firm supplied the very finest bodywork, first to elegant horse-drawn carriages and then, with the dawning of the twentieth century, to motor bodies.

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‘And when married to the right motor-car it could have sensational results. The Bentley S1 (originally simply ‘Bentley S’) was a luxury car produced by Bentley Motors Limited from 1955 until 1959. The S1 was derived from Rolls-Royce’s complete redesign of its standard production car after World War II, the Silver Cloud. Each was its maker’s last standard production car with an independent chassis.
1955 Bentley S1 Empress Saloon side view
‘At the moment at Beverly Hills Car Club we have a right-hand drive 1955 Bentley S1 Empress Saloon, with Coachwork by Hooper & Co, available in silver over black with a grey interior.
‘The Saloon comes equipped with an automatic transmission, wood trim, rear picnic trays, suicide doors, steel wheels, Bentley hub caps, whitewall tires, and a spare tire. This Bentley S1 Empress is an excellent opportunity to jump into the ownership of this beautiful British classic that is mechanically sound.
‘From the off, Hooper specialized in the very top tier of the market, building the most luxurious bodies possible – stately, elegant carriages – without consideration of cost.
‘From 1830 indeed, the Hooper company had a royal warrant in Britain, supplying meticulously customized carriages to King William IV, Queen Victoria and King Edward VII.
‘And on March 28 1900 it delivered its first motorized car to Queen Victoria: a Hooper body on a Daimler chassis. The car’s color scheme set a precedent: chocolate brown with red lines, this became a livery for the royal family.
1955 Bentley S1 Empress Saloon rear view
‘And those aerial combat references? Well, from 1914-1918, the period of the Great War (surely a contradiction in terms: what could be so great about a war???), Hooper & Co. immersed themselves in the UK war effort, shifting from cars to the manufacture of Sopwith Camels, the British First World War single-seat biplane fighter aircraft that was introduced on the Western Front in 1917: for the remainder of the war Hooper & Co. turned out three Sopwith Camels a day.
‘With peace, the firm returned to coachbuilding. They weathered the Great Depression of the 1930s far better than most coachbuilders, even building a second factory in Acton, West London. In the peak year of 1936, more than 300 bodies were built. Despite the financial Depression of the 1930s, Hooper & Co. only went from strength to strength: headquartered in Acton in west London: work was so ready that the company even opened a second factory there.
‘In 1940 Hooper was acquired by The Daimler Company, becoming part of the BSA industrial group. Eighteen years later Hooper’s management decided to end its production of coachbuilt bodies: Rolls-Royce, a principal customer, announced that it would cease its production of separate-chassis cars to use monocoque construction exclusively.
‘By then, of course, the 1955 Bentley S1 Empress Saloon we have here at Beverly Hills Car Club had been produced and sold to its first owner.
‘Bentley S1s simply glided along roads, such a supreme but humble drive that the car perfectly fits the old adage that it is a modest man who owns a Bentley. Unsurprisingly it was the car of choice for the now sadly departed Queen Elizabeth II: her Bentley Limousine transported her to all appropriate official engagements. And James Bond drove a Bentley 4 and a half, with an Amherst Villiers supercharger.
‘The Bentley S1, the manufacturer’s successor to the Bentley R-Type, was introduced in 1955 with an extended chassis; similarly the luggage compartment was expanded, and the car had electrically controlled rear shock absorbers.
‘Bentley had won the 24 hours of Le Mans four years straight between 1927 and 1930, thereby cementing its reputation as a true racing marque. So it was no surprise that the company put into practice what it had learned at such prestigious competitions. Powering the Bentley S1 was a Rolls-Royce 4887cc F-head six. It was capable of a top speed of 103 mph; 0-60 mph was 13.1 seconds.
‘Finished in the ultimate color combination of silver over black with a grey interior – as in the car we are selling right now at Beverly Hills Car Club – there was no finer motoring example of restrained elegance.
‘The 1955 Bentley S1 Empress Saloon, with Coachwork by Hooper & Co.
‘Such a beautiful car.
-Alex Manos, Owner
1955 Bentley S1 Empress Saloon buyer Alex Manos

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