Rare Rides: The 1990 Bentley Hooper Empress II - a Turbo R by Any Other Name

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the 1990 bentley hooper empress ii a turbo r by any other name

Back in June, Rare Rides profiled a different blue British beauty in the form of the Aston Martin Lagonda. Down in the comments section, TTAC reader Heino requested coverage of a Hooper-bodied Bentley.

Frankly, I forgot about the request in short order. But it sprang back to mind as soon as I saw the awkward visage of what would become today’s Rare Ride: a Bentley Hooper Empress II. Ready for a history lesson?

Hooper was a luxury coachbuilder based in London, in business for over 150 years. Starting out with carriages in 1805, it made the move to automobiles with the rest of the coachbuilders as the motorcar became prevalent. Sought out by the very upper echelon of society, Hooper-bodied vehicles satisfied customers looking for luxurious, stately vehicles, which gave no consideration to silly fripperies like cost. Kings and shahs turned to Hooper for their regal Rare Rides (and weren’t disappointed).

The ever-consolidating nature of the auto industry found Hooper under Daimler ownership in 1940, part of the BSA industrial conglomerate. Its most important customer in the 1950s became Lady Docker, wife of BSA’s chairman. These “Docker Daimlers” were the company’s showpieces until 1955. After that year, production figures subsided, and by 1959 the company saw limited production of just over 100 Daimler SP250 coupes. Before the end of 1959, BSA rebranded Hooper as a sales and service entity. The company existed in this form until 1970, when it became a Rolls-Royce distributor. Radio silence ensued.

Then in 1988 came one last revival of the storied Hooper name, this time applied to special coachbuilt bodies made from existing Bentley and Rolls-Royce vehicles. Hooper offered four total models between 1988 and 1990: a limousine, a two-door Silver Spirit, a two-door Turbo R, and our subject today, the Empress II.

Based on a heavily modified Bentley Turbo R, the Empress II was incredibly expensive. The listing actually includes the original price sheet, and it packs a punch.

The Empress II cost £500,000, or roughly $825,000 in 1990. That’s over $1,500,000 in today’s money. Strong British currency rates in the early 1990s were painful for overseas buyers. The original owner was keen on a left-hand drive US-specification vehicle in Japan, obviously for reasons of individuality and prestige.

An extensive amount of bodywork turned the rather large Turbo R sedan into this rather large coupe.

The volume of the rear fenders was necessarily increased on the coupe, and the C-pillar sweeps down to a shrunken rear window.

Nobody would mistake the front end of the Empress II for an entirely plebeian Turbo R. Behind the grille lies the standard 6.75-liter turbo V8.

The interior here does disappoint a bit; it’s all standard Turbo R fare — with the exception of one special feature.

A pass-through cocktail cabinet, thus allowing front and rear passengers to drink expensive cognac at will. Most excellent.

The listing states only six Empress II examples were produced in total, with this one making its way to San Diego via the original owner in Japan. It’s for sale with 12,500 unspecified units on the odometer, most likely kilometers. The asking price? Just $175,000, or 11 percent of the inflation-adjusted purchase figure. Quite a win for depreciation.

[Images: Craigslist]

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2 of 32 comments
  • Olddavid Olddavid on Aug 14, 2017

    Considering they had the car for eight months, the coachwork is decidedly mundane. The Continental fresh from the factory is a much better looking car. I would still like to roll the dice and buy a used one. I've seen decent ones with sub-30k mileage and current servicing as low as $30,000. Then I wake up and realize I can buy three of my usuals and a dirt bike for that much money. Ah,the life of a barely middle class retiree.

  • Libraryguy22 Libraryguy22 on Oct 28, 2017

    Hooper were actually doing 'conversions' (mostly interior and trim mods) of Rolls Royce and Bentley cars from the early eighties on and were rolling out two door and limousine conversions by 85. Their last car was produced in 94, I believe. The Empress is not the best example of their work, but the 2 door conversions of the Turbo R are another matter altogether, especially if you like the original.

  • Wolfwagen I see my comment was deleted (BTW nice way to censor) so i will say it again:GTFO here with the pseudo "wealth distribution" BS. A crime is a crime is a crime.Its a slippery slope, what happens next, Jail a rich guy when he kills a pedestrian and let the poor guy who kills a pedestrian walk? What about if the poor guy is a crappy driver and has the record to prove it then what?Or we could go crazy and just institute the death penalty across the board for every driving infraction. That will make people better drivers or stop driving altogether which will make the greenies happy (damm it I just gave them an idea - SOB!!!)
  • Wolfwagen No. Bring back the J80 with an inline six and reduced electronics (i.e. no giant touch screen) and they will probably sell like hotcakes
  • David S. " test vehicles sometimes make sudden stops when uncertain about how to navigate traffic."??? Test vehicles are programmed by humans, HUMANS sometimes make sudden stops when uncertain about how to navigate traffic, Duh!!
  • Frank The last guy was doing fine, this is a sales emergency that they're hoping Tim can fix. They want to hang onto the crazy margins from the covid era, which now in the face of abundant inventory, insane interest rates and inflation are a long distant wet dream. Its time to start offering value again, cash on the hood and 0% financing. Move the metal!
  • Gimmeamanual The new Wrangler isn't that new, it's still a JL and so is limited to what the platform can handle as far as addressing on-road handling. One thing Jeep should have done is increase the length of the front lower control arms by using the ones THEY ALREADY SELL with the Mopar lift. That 1/4" makes a big difference.