First published in 1880 as The Coach Builders’, Harness Makers’ and Saddlers’ Art Journal this periodical underwent a number of title changes to reflect the growing interest in the motor car and by 1901 was featuring illustrations of motor vehicles alongside those of the more traditional horse-drawn carriage such as the two colour plates shown here of a Gentleman’s Driving Phaeton and a Panhard Phaeton Motor Car.
Introduced in the 18th century and named after a character in Greek mythology, the four-wheeled horse-drawn Phaeton was a light carriage with open sides in front of the seat. The Highflyer, an extreme form made popular by George IV when he was Prince of Wales could be viewed as the sports car of its day, the horse-drawn equivalent of a Jaguar E-Type or Aston Martin DB4. Young men drove their Phaetons with great dash at high speeds with their groom or 'tiger' perched up on the seat behind them.
The Panhard Phaeton motor car clearly shows the influence of the horse-drawn vehicle of the same name with similar sized wheels, bodywork and rear seat. It is just one of the many body types that owed its origin to earlier carriage styles including the Brougham, Cabriolet, Dogcart, Landaulet, Victoria, Vis-à-vis and Wagonette to name a few.
Coach building follows a long tradition tracing back over 2,000 years to the chariots of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. There was little change in the design of wheeled vehicles until the invention of the motor car but with engineers concentrating on improving its reliability the bodywork was produced by traditional coachbuilders using long established horse-drawn carriage body styles.
Widely regarded as one of the best bespoke coachbuilders, Hooper & Co. (Coachbuilders) Ltd. were founded as Adams and Hooper in 1805 in London’s Haymarket and obtained the first of its Royal Warrants by 1830. Coachbuilder to Queen Victoria and later her son King Edward VII, Hooper & Co branched out into building coachwork on car chassis and quickly gained a reputation for quality of workmanship and elegance of line.
Following World War I, during which the firm manufactured airplanes such as the Sopwith Camel, Hooper produced luxury car bodies on mainly Daimler, Rolls-Royce and Bentley chassis. This swatch book, which dates from the 1930s, illustrates not only the styles available but also provides samples of the various leathers and fabrics you could choose for the interior of your car. In later years Hooper’s became famous for their extravagant coachwork on the Daimlers commissioned by Sir Bernard and Lady Docker.
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