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Elegance and Style

The Coach Builders

 

           

From 1904 to 1939
Rolls-Royce produced chassis only and it
was left to the specialist coachbuilders to construct
coachwork to the individual requirements of the
customers. Below is a list of the major companies and
many of the smaller ones

Gurney Nutting Ltd

While many old established coach building houses which survived into the era of the motorcar could trace their roots to the industrial revolution of the late eighteenth century, and earlier, by no means all of them did. The mood of post- armistice optimism which made 1919 a boom year for the motor industry persuaded several already established companies (some of which had no direct links with the industry) into motor manufacture and its associated activities.

Among those who saw their future in the bespoke motorcar was J. Gurney Nutting, a Croydon builder and joiner, but unlike most of the newcomers his company prospered.

 

No small credit for this must be taken by his talented stylist and designer A. E. 'Mac' McNeil, and within a decade the company had established a reputation quite equal to that of firms which had already been in business for over a century.

Initially the works were located in Oval Road, Croydon, but
when fire destroyed the premises in 1923 the company - at that time titled J. Gurney Nutting & Company Ltd - moved to premises in Elystan Street, Chelsea. Two years later the first Rolls-Royce body was built, and it was not long before the company was supplying coachwork to the Duke of York, Prince George, and other members of the Royal Family. A Weymann fabric saloon on a new Phantom Rolls-Royce for Edward, Prince of Wales
(later to become King Edward VIII )
followed, and by the early thirties the company held the Royal Warrant.

In 1931 the company secured the contract for the streamlined all-enveloping body of Sir Malcolm Campbell's Land Speed Record car, 'Bluebird'.

By 1945, Gurney Nutting was a sick man nearing the end of his life, but he was anxious to ensure in those days left to him that not only should his company recommence production of bespoke coachwork, but that it should do under the aegis of a suitable parent. He had lost McNeil to De Havilland aircraft upon the outbreak of war and although the designer had returned to the motor industry on the cessation of hostilities, his services had been secured by Jack Barclay for James Young Ltd.

Following his death in 1946 the company was renamed Gurney Nutting Ltd, and the premises were mainly employed in the refurbishment of Barclay-owned Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars which had been laid up for the duration of the war.  Following the removal of Jack Barclay (Service) Ltd to Merton and the demolition of Lacland Place, Gurney Nutting Ltd. were also accommodated there and production of bodies recommenced on a limited scale. After McNeil had been appointed Chief Designer to both companies, this activity proceeded in close collaboration with James Young Ltd.  Timbers were cut in the latters Bromley wood mill and transported to Merton for assembly and wings were
manufactured both at Bromley and Merton.

Other activities during this period included the construction of a number of composite bodies for long-distance passenger coaches and a batch of delivery vans for The Evening Standard.

 

Post-war Gurney Nutting production was never on a large scale, however, and with the introduction of Rolls-Royce factory bodywork and later the integral construction of both bodies and chassis, the demand for coachwork of composite construction gradually dwindled. The company did exhibit at the first post-war Earl's Court Motor Show in 1948, but Merton gradually concentrated upon service and repair work and by the time this department was moved back to Danvers Street, Chelsea, all new coach building activity under the Gurney Nutting name had ceased.

 

James Young Ltd

Unlike Gurney Nutting, James Young established his business long before the advent of the motorcar, and initially the coach building company which he acquired in 1863 in London Road, Bromley, was concerned solely with the production of horse drawn carriages.  The firm specialized in a variety of landaus, omnibuses, wagonettes, Victorias, phaetons and governess carts, but it was the Bromley Brougham - built in various sizes and weighing a mere 6 cwt - for which they became famous...to be continued

 

Windovers

Windovers were established in Huntingdon in the 1796 and were the originators and patentees of a great number of designs and improvements in coach building before the motor car. Once the motoring era had arrived it was realized that Huntingdon was too far from the source of clients and chassis, and as a result a factory was acquired in the early  twenties at Collindale near London.

     

Hooper

Hooper more than any other company, founded their considerable reputation on Royal patronage.
Established in 1830 in the Haymarket, London, they held royal warrants from 1830 until they closed after the second world war.

By 1904 Hooper's & Co (Coachbuilders) Ltd, had established showrooms in St James Street in London's West End and their coach building factory at Chelsea was the biggest of its kind in London

Their clients included The Emperor of Japan, The King of Egypt and the Shah of Persia

They exhibited 3 models at the 1959 Motor Show, but these were in the nature of a swan song.  The models were never repeated, and that year Hooper's ceased finally to make coachwork for "royal and distinguished patrons"

 

 

 

Barker

Barker was established in 1710 by an officer in the guards of Queen Anne

His premises were in Chandos Street off London's Strand.  George III gave Barkers many orders and they built more than twenty carriages for Queen Victoria.

Barkers were associated with Rolls-Royce from the beginning. In 1903 C.S.Rolls & Co issued a statement
that "all Rolls-Royce cars will be fitted with Barker's bodies" 

In 1909 barkers moved to Olaf Street, Sheperds Bush, London and opened showrooms in South Audley Street, Mayfair.

With the decline in demand for specialized coachwork and the rise in operating costs, Barkers finally went into liquidation in 1938.  They were then taken over by Hooper's

 

 

H.J.MULLINER

  When Mr. Mulliner founded his carriage building business in eighteenth century Northampton, England, he would have been much influenced by what was one of the most fertile periods in British cultural history.

For his was the century in which men like architect Robert Adams, furniture designer Thomas Chippendale and potter Josiah Wedgwood flourished.

Master craftsmen who, encouraged by wealthy and discerning patronage, added an aesthetic and artistic dimension which elevated the merely functional to something of supreme and lasting worth.

Mr. Mulliner was of a similar kind.

His carriages were superbly built of the finest materials for a clientele that insisted on the best.

Succeeding generations subscribed to the same high ideals and in due course Mr. H J Mulliner was to set up his own coach building company in 1900 and apply Mulliner standard to the new horseless carriage.

The superlative chassis built by Rolls-Royce were those most frequently specified by his distinguished customers.

The same was to be true for the high class coach building concern established by Mr. Park and Mr. Ward in 1919.

In fact, the association between the two coachbuilders and the best car in the world was to develop to the point where first, in 1939, Park Ward and then, twenty years later, H J Mulliner became part of the Rolls-Royce company.

Today, the symbol of Mulliner Park Ward is Mr. Mulliner's carriage.

It is entirely appropriate, because it speaks not only of an impeccable pedigree but also of centuries old skills which, under the aegis of the company that is now Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, are proudly maintained and honored still.

HAND BUILT

At Mulliner Park Ward  hands and eyes are still the most precious resource.
Modern technology has its place, but as an aid to craftsmanship, never a substitute for it.
Thus the track, along which the convertible body shells of the Rolls-Royce and Bentley progressively take shape, has the latest in welding equipment and the most up to date measuring devices which ensure perfect dimensional accuracy.

However, sub-assemblies are still welded by hand.  Microscopic flaws in panel surfaces continue to be sought out by finger-tips sensitive almost to a micron and persuaded back into shape by a deft tap from the panel-beater's hammer. Gaps between doors (loaded with weights to simulate their fully assembled condition) and apertures are still hand filled to thousandths of an inch.

The result is a body constructed to the highest standard, seamless, entirely free of visible panel joins.

During the course of the six month long assembly process, this body will become the medium through which other crafts are displayed.

Crafts like that of the coach painter for example. Over a period of ten days, a perfect finish is produced seemingly fathoms deep, founded upon many layers of primers, fillers and anti-corrosion treatments. The work is crowned by the application of decorative coach lines, every one hand painted with an artist's fiche.

Crafts like that of the coach trimmer. Creator of that uniquely sumptuous interior ambience which comes from the bringing together of fourteen fine blemish free hides (the suppliers have long since learned not to send any other sort),precisely fitted Wilton carpet and rugs of luxurious depth.

 

It is also the coach trimmer who painstakingly arranges, glues and hand sews the wool cloth lining, layers of wadding and fire-resistant covering which constitutes the hood. Each one requires forty man-hours to complete.  

Crafts like that of the cabinet maker. Constructor of interior fittings; an artist in wood.  Mulliner Park Ward are justly proud of the great richness of their choice burr walnut veneers. They are no less proud of the skill with which veneer cross-banding and inlays are combined to produce fascias, door waist rails and other fittings which are so symbolic of the whole motor car.

Finally, the crafts of the engineer and electrician.  Those who endow the car with all major mechanical components during the brief excursion to principal Rolls-Royce Motor Cars factory at Crewe, England which forms a part of the assembly schedule.

 

Such are the skills of hand and eye and the time lavished upon every Rolls-Royce and Bentley motor cars that the rewards of ownership come from much more than the fact that they are exceptionally fine and exclusive, they are also works of art.

A VERY PERSONAL MOTOR CAR

Coachbuilders have long prided themselves on their ability to build cars which exactly match an owner's requirements and so give full expression to his or her taste and personality.

While it is no longer possible for customers to almost design their own cars - the complexities of modern engineering and the far-reaching effects of safety legislation make sure of that - Mulliner Park Ward still fully understand the desire for self-expression and exclusivity.

 

 

Cloud 9 Vintage Coach, Inc.
908 Audelia Rd, Suite 200-144
Richardson, TX 75081

 

 

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