Launched in April 1955 the Bentley SI and the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud were virtually identical with the exception of the grille and badging details. Both of these models were recipients of Managing Director Arthur Sedgreaves' new production and manufacturing techniques, which produced the Standard Steel Saloon.
The Standard Steel Saloon fulfilled the company's commercial requirements, but not necessarily those of all its customers. For those preferring something more elegant or more exclusive, England's coachbuilders were still offering bespoke coachwork. Those who could afford such cars were limited only by their imagination, particularly regarding interior furnishings and custom touches.
About 3,100 Bentley S1s were built on the shorter wheelbase but only 35 on the longer wheelbase after 1957. Less than half of those long wheelbase examples went to such custom coachbuilders as Hooper & Co., H.J. Mulliner, Park Ward and James Young, among others.
The Empress Line is a later variation of Hooper's "New Look" theme, created by chief designer Osmond Rivers. He originally designed this type of body style on the Daimler "Empress" and over the years it became almost common to talk about "Empress Line" as regard to this special design, also when applied to other cars than Daimlers. Hooper themselves never mentioned the term "Empress" when they applied similar coachworks onto non-Daimler chassis.
Hooper made custom 'Empress' bodies for seven Bentley S1s in its history, including the long wheelbase example. The stunning, sweeping coachwork is all aluminum and, as a result, the entire car is lighter than a standard S1, despite the long wheelbase chassis.
The black Bentley S1, chassis LALB29, in this gallery is the last car ever bodied by Hooper before the company went out of business.
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