By on August 11, 2017

Image: 1990 Bentley Hooper Empress II, via Craigslist

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.

Image: 1990 Bentley Hooper Empress II, via Craigslist

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.

Image: 1990 Bentley Hooper Empress II, via Craigslist

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.

Image: 1990 Bentley Hooper Empress II, via Craigslist

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.

Image: 1990 Bentley Hooper Empress II, via Craigslist

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

Image: 1990 Bentley Hooper Empress II, via Craigslist

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

Image: 1990 Bentley Hooper Empress II, via Craigslist

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.

Image: 1990 Bentley Hooper Empress II, via Craigslist

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

Image: 1990 Bentley Hooper Empress II, via Craigslist

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

Image: 1990 Bentley Hooper Empress II, via Craigslist

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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32 Comments on “Rare Rides: The 1990 Bentley Hooper Empress II – a Turbo R by Any Other Name...”

  • avatar

    I get the bespoke coachwork and all, but the front end looks…downmarket and odd for a car of that stature. Also, the wheel/tire combo reminds me of an Oldsmobile design from about the same era.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    A Bentlet. Must be extra special.

    The form implies that the full price was 1.5 million pounds.

  • avatar

    Perfect for the collector who already has a bustleback Seville and Continental.

  • avatar

    I’ve never heard of the Hooper until now and I don’t get the point of it, although I like the Ford Sierra headlights.

  • avatar

    It looks like one could get quite a few dead hookers into that trunk. Most cars that I’ve owned had smaller hoods.

  • avatar

    I didn’t realize that Bentley was the maker of the 6000 SUX. 8.2mpg, a British tradition.

  • avatar

    ‘Sexy Beast’ is one of the best movies of all time.

    This is the car Teddy should have driven (or have been driven in) instead of that 911.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      @DW: Great comment. Ben Kingsley as a homicidal maniac spitting curses at everyone he sees. Ray Winstone, Amanda Redmond and Ian McShane. Just a great movie.

  • avatar


  • avatar

    Anyone else seeing a lot of Saab 900 hatchback in that profile?

  • avatar

    Anyone else notice the paperwork is for a black car with a parchment interior, not the blue-on-blue one pictured? What else are they hiding?

    • 0 avatar

      That was the donor vehicle though.

      • 0 avatar

        So the coachworks replaced the entire interior? I can accept that. Would be nice if they included the “specification sheet enclosed” showing the restyling, though…

    • 0 avatar

      I didn’t remember until you mentioned it. there’s no way RR would have built a black/parchment unit before shuffling it off to Hooper for that roof. You know, for them to tear out the parchment seats, the dash and all fittings, removal of everything else and then paint a bare chassis blue. We therefore have to assume the new owner made the decision to change the color before any substantive work was done on sheet metal modifications.

      I love the look of this car, even if I see giganto-size Saab overtones, A GM rear window of the Monte Carlo variety and a tidied up Toronado rear profile. A magnificent bolide. And as the Brits might have said, a bit rorty with a turbo while not showing off in a vulgar and overt manner.

      Still, excepting a turbo and 500 cc because of the original V8, this is my favorite two door Bentley, available 27 years earlier. Made for a movie to begin with, but about the most solid looking vehicle imaginable:

      Now that’s coachwork.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    If I had infinite funds, which I don’t, I would enjoy owning this car.

    I would further enjoy owning it after it had been lowered an inch or two and removed the whatever is under the hood turbo motor and replaced with a proper LS7. Not sure if the original 700R that is most likely in there now would stay or not…Oh and fitted with a much more attractive set of wheels and tires.

  • avatar

    I read a lot on here where people would exclaim ZOMG THIS CAR IS FUGLY, which I usually tell myself “whatever”.

    But this thing is legitimately fugly. Not only that, it looks poorly built, like a couple of guys took a Turbo R and welded junkyard finds onto it in their spare time.

  • avatar

    Looks like a rather late redux of a Rolls Camargue (1975) to my eyes. Some Yakuza got ripped back in 90. The Century too bland for their tats.

    Weren’t the Germans shocked by the low body rigidity when they bought out RR?

  • avatar

    This car is proof in the metal that money cannot buy good taste. Though at least it isn’t in some horrifying color combination.

  • avatar

    In my opinion Bentley products this era were bland and ugly, but this takes the cake. It may be special, rare and hand-buillt, but the exterior work looks shoddy at best. From a design perspective I see nothing ahesthetically pleasing about it.

    The standard Turbo R, as boring as it was, is miles ahead of this thing in the looks department.

  • avatar

    The proportions are just not right. Reminds me of one of those kit cars from the 1970s that was built on a Beetle chassis but supposed to look like an MG-TD, or one of those Ferrari kits built on a Fiero chassis – the cheapness of the materials and the slightly off proportions just don’t can’t pull off the deception.

  • avatar

    Looks like a 70s era Lincoln, but not as classy.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

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