The 20/25 Horsepower Class

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GPG78  1935 20/25 SHOOTING BRAKE

Owner Douglas Kniff  


GPG 78 started out life with coachwork from Hooper.  It was one of Hoopers standard design catalog item 5951 I’m sure with the usual custom appointments as ordered by the original purchaser.  This particular catalog number indicates it was a 4 door 4 light sedanca de ville or town car as we here in the states would refer to the design.  This certainly would be an attractive limousine today as it was then, had it survived.  The Hooper limousine was delivered originally ordered and delivered to Captain Simon Orde who also was an Earl but did not go by that title during service to the King.  I don’t take it as too much of a surprise that he was an Earl as I doubt the wages of even a Captain would allow the means to acquire a Rolls Royce. What I believe is one of the custom appointments and are still with the car are the five forward looking Marchal lamps.  My good guess is that the Captain probably, as duty would require, would be expecting to do some continental travel.  France prior to the war had an ordinance on automobile lighting requiring two rather than one low dip.  Hence the large lamps today still have high beam, low beam, and low-low beam as required for city driving, along with the additional matching spot lamps for touring the countryside late evenings. Another remnant retained from the Hooper coachwork are the wings.  They have that very Hooper coachwork character, especially the rear wheel spats that are not very fitting for a total makeover into a shooting brake that give the auto a unique art deco carryover look.   Captain Orde was a captain in the Army with offices in London then.  This ended up being the Hooper coachworks undoing.   During WWII, as it happened, the Rolls Royce was in London as one of the bombing raids took place and a portion of a building fell damaging the coachwork beyond use.   For the remainder of the war then, GPG78 sat in idle storage not to be repaired as all production was dedicated to the war effort.  As here in the states, all peacetime production especially coachwork was prohibited.   

When hostilities ceased peacetime automobile use was in huge demand.   GPG78 made for a perfect candidate to be rebodied.   A couple with an estate were put in touch with the Rolls Royce as they had a use for a hunting transport.  This couple with an estate in England , aptly had a title, and their name was Lord and Lady Feather.  Through Windovers the Rolls Royce was purchased and commissioned to have the “shooting brake” coachwork constructed.  

Windovers were established in Huntingdon in 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 .

In this factory were built the bodies for mounting on Rolls-Royce chassis, many going to India as Windovers had a large clientele among Indian Princes.  During the 1939-45 War they concentrated on aircraft component manufacture, after which they turned their attention to motor coach body construction and one of their coaches was selected by the Council of Industrial Design to be exhibited in the Transport Pavilion at the Festival of Britain, 1951.

GPG 78 had hunting coachwork done by Windovers including solid Ash framing with interior and exterior done in Russian Plywood.

Coach building on Rolls-Royce chassis continued after the war until 1956 when the company was taken over by Henley 's Ltd., and all the coach building, private and commercial ended. 

Lord and Lady Feather owned the Rolls Royce until sometime into the early to mid 50’s at which time it was put up and made available.  The new owner Wallace DuPont who was a scion of the chemical fortune purchased the shooting brake for use as an estate wagon on his estate in Delaware .  Upon arrival in the United States the Rolls Royce was repainted the DuPont family color of maroon and rather unfittingly fitted with American truck lamps for turn signals.  With trafficators broken or disconnected she was placed into service.  Wallace DuPont owned the vehicle until his untimely demise.  Wallace was murdered in the early 60’s by thieves for his rare stamp collection.  This ended up being exactly how the thieves were eventually apprehended by trying to peddle some of the rare stolen stamps that led the police almost directly to the culprits.   For the next ten or more years the shooting brake remained tied up in the estate, I believe out of doors much of the time,  until an auto broker from Connecticut found it and purchased the shooting brake relieving the Rolls Royce from its unknown future.