Coach Builders - H.J. Mulliner

The correct name of this company was H.J. Mulliner & Co and the coachbuilder is exactly as old as this century. In the last century there were one company named Mulliners of Northampton and another one, situated in Liverpool, which traded under the name A.G. Mulliner. Both had foreseen future changes in time and joined in creating a new company. This was founded as Mulliner London Ltd. and its business was to include coach-building for the new motor cars. Just this part of the company was taken over by Henry Jervis Mulliner. In 1900 he established the business with the name H.J. Mulliner & Co. in London's Mayfair, where a new factory building had been erected in Brooke Street. Thus he was near his clients, members of the noble society in the capital of the British Empire, who were able to order a motorized vehicle. When this was delivered from the manufacturer, it came in the form of chassis cum engine, which lacked not only coachwork and interior but often tires too. The latter were rarely included in the list price. In strict accordance to the clients orders the motor car received custom built coachwork which fulfilled any wish that had been demanded. It cannot be denied that at this time the English automobile industry still was in its infancy. The United Kingdom had blocked the coming into being of a broad scale motor car production by absurd legislative restrictions. Automobiles whose standard justified to be called as such had to be imported from the Continent at the beginning of the century. If the solid and well constructed motor cars, which were offered by Rolls-Royce from 1904 onward, are counted amongst the first competitive products by English manufacturers, there is no argument against this statement.

H.J. Mulliner erected bodies for motor cars for almost all renowned manufacturers and early contacts with Rolls-Royce were logical. That the work was esteemed as being of special standard is documented by the fact that H.J. Mulliner built the Two-Seater Balloon Car on the Rolls-Royce Type 70 Ghost for Charles S. Rolls. The Rolls-Royce Type 70 Ghost was a 70 H.P. derivate of the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost and fitted with a more powerful overhead camshaft engine. The coachwork was tailored to offer space for C.S. Rolls' balloon to be stowed behind the seat bench. Growing success and increasing workload forced to enlarge the premises. Additional room was occupied in London's Chiswick and the fashionable Mayfair saw the installation of elegant exhibition rooms in Grafton Street. H.J. Mulliner however remained as the leading personality in his company only until short before the start of the Great War. He retired having sold his company to the old-established coachbuilding company John Croall & Son Ltd. in Edinburgh. The new owners didn't change the well-known name and even kept a sort of family connection, when they installed F. Piesse, H.J. Mulliner's brother in law, as director. After the end of hostilities H.J. Mulliner due to their precise quality work was esteemed as belonging to that small elite group of coachbuilders which also included Barker, whose history dated back to the reign of Queen Anne and Hooper, the Royal coachbuilder. This shouldn't be misunderstood however as if the standard of other coachbuilders had to be considered as second class throughout. One example might be, that Arthur Mulliner of Northampton, who quite often is confused with the London-based company due to the similar name, provided numerous Rolls-Royce with coachwork, whose owners were very satisfied.

The majority of bodies was erected following methods which had little changed since the era of the horse drawn coaches. A wooden frame served as skeleton which was paneled with aluminum. Aluminum was preferred to steel not so much because it was less prone to corrosion but because it was easier hammered into the desired form and it was less heavy. This process demanded precise technique, which only well trained craftsmen could ensure, if the body shouldn't get over and remain rattle free. After the Weymann-patent of the twenties offered an alternative, H.J. Mulliner started to produce Weymann-bodies. Weymann's method was to clad waterproof cloth, sometimes in combination with lacquered leather, over the wooden frame which had been bolstered and acted as a skeleton. Such a body was by far less heavy than metal-planked one and less susceptible to rattle noise. Its lifetime however was restricted one and shortened by an alarming rate once humidity had been allowed to enter into the structure. As a result only very few Weymann bodies have survived to this day.

After the end of WWII it was no easy task for H.J.Mulliner to adjust themselves to the altered conditions of the post-war period. Almost without exception the whole motor car industry had changed over to build complete automobiles with mass produced pressed steel bodies. One notable exception with a considerable production figure were Daimler, which belonged to BSA, the same trust under whose roof the coachbuilder Hooper was to be found, who themselves had taken over their old rival Barker shortly before WWII. The second exception was the great name Rolls-Royce, at this time offering the Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith as chassis with engine. They also delivered the new Bentley Mark VI fitted with a standard body, but it was available as running-chassis to order.

With a workforce of some 250 employees, mainly skilled professionals from all those branches which were basic for coachbuilding, H.J. Mulliner built individual bodies, which varied from cabriolets of sportive design to massive seven-seating limousines. Quite remarkable was the test of the armor plating of the Rolls-Royce Phantom IV, which had been built for H.E. General Franco. On the way back from the shooting range where different armored plates had been attacked with all sorts of guns the Rolls-Royce entered into a police controlled area. Controls had been set up because visit of members of the Royal Family to a town nearby was planned. The mighty Rolls-Royce Phantom IV was saluted at and passed through without any check at all. There is little doubt that the police would have felt alarmed had they controlled the car and found it filled with all sort of guns... A great success for H.J. Mulliner was the body for the sport version of the Bentley R. A lightweight two door fastback saloon was created in close liaison with Rolls-Royce for the Bentley R Continental. This model was claimed to be the fastest four-seater production sports car in the world; not least an effect of the light body. The styling was so attractive, that H.J. Mulliner clothed almost all Bentley Continental.

When the following Bentley S series was diversified by adding a Continental version for fast transport on the Continental highways, only minor alterations touched up the design. Without enthusiasm Rolls-Royce found that for the Bentley S Continental H.J. Mulliner had created a light four door saloon, which had been christened "Flying Spur". The "Flying Spur" was an idea of director Johnstone. He ascended from the Scottish clan whose coat of arms showed a flying spur on the helmet. Rolls-Royce's resistance against a four door saloon didn't remain for long. Several years later the coach built Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III became available with Flying Spur design and the term "Spur" was revived in 1980 for the new model generation when the long wheelbase Rolls-Royce Silver Spur became stable mate to the mainstream model Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit. When in 1994 the first ever turbo-powered Rolls-Royce offered the experience of moving in a way reminding of flying at zero-level the name of the motor car was Rolls-Royce Flying Spur. Despite all efforts it became clear to H.J. Mulliner's management that survival under changed economic conditions would only be possible in conjunction with a strong partner. In 1959 this lead to the company's being taken over by Rolls-Royce. After a short time as separate subsidiary Rolls-Royce merged H.J. Mulliner and Park Ward into one company. From 1961 the new coach building division H.J. Mulliner, Park Ward used the old factory in Chiswick before this was given up in 1968.