Currently reading: New Coventry coachbuilder aims to build UK's most exclusive cars
HPL Prototypes launches Allesley offshoot to expand business with low-volume bespoke projects

A new British coachbuilder, Allesley has been founded in a bid to capitalise on increasing demand for multimillion-pound, highly personalised cars.

Based near Coventry, Allesley aims to “revive the art” for the 21st century, coming hot on the heels of several manufacturers’ internal coachbuilding programmes.

Rolls-Royce, for example, recently produced the Boat Tail and Drop Tail, while Bentley has made the Bacalar and Batur.

Allesley has been spun out of HPL Prototypes, whose 95 staff conduct top-secret development work for several esteemed manufacturers including Aston Martin, Bentley, Lotus, JLR and McLaren.

Named after the village in which HPL is based, Allesley’s projects will all be made in line with auction house Bonhams’ definition of ‘special coachbuilding’, according to CEO Paul Abercrombie. 

HPL Prototypes building – front

Each car will be designed and produced completely independently of a major manufacturer, using a chassis supplied by the client.

The new bodies won’t be sold separately and the platform used will be subject to restrictions on the extent of chassis modifications. Moreover, each car will have a strictly limited production run.

“There’s no [credible independent] coachbuilder in the UK at the moment,” Abercrombie told Autocar.

“There are OEMs that are good at coachbuilding and have their own programmes, but as an independent coachbuilder there aren’t any others.”

Allesley Paul Abercrombie (left) and Chris Devane

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He added: “We will only work on a certain grade of vehicle.

If somebody brought in a Mazda, for instance: there’s nothing wrong with Mazda, but if somebody brought in a Mazda and said ‘could you fit a coachbuilt body to it?’, we wouldn’t.”

Allesley’s first project will be a “very large, superluxury SUV” commissioned by its chief financial backer – whose identity Abercrombie wouldn’t be drawn on.

It will be powered by a combustion engine, owing to the current dominance of this powertrain type in the luxury market. 

Allesley model

Nonetheless, Allesley is open to working on electric cars as their availability in the high-end sector improves, and Abercrombie noted that the skateboard-style architecture of many EVs enables much more “radical” redesigns.

“The skateboard platform in electric vehicles was one of the reasons why we set about doing this, because it actually makes the process a lot easier,” he said.

“Obviously you have a skateboard and you have a top hat – the body that goes on top of the car.

So it gives clients the ability to be a lot more radical with their designs.

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But, of course, it depends on the donor car. This is a very client-led business.”

A new brand with heritage appeal 

Allesley model

Allesley might look and sound like a brand brought back from the annals of history, but it’s actually brand new.

CEO Paul Abercrombie’s intention was “that [Allesley] felt like it had been around for a long time in terms of legacy and had all of the heritage built into the brand that we could call upon”.

The nature of parent company HPL’s work is a tightly guarded secret, but it’s an established low-volume manufacturer, with all the expertise and infrastructure required for the coachbuilding spin-off.

That it has already forged close ties with storied makers will help Allesley to negotiate the challenge of using other firms’ intellectual properties for its coachbuilt cars.

Abercrombie added that producing cars so radical that they become solely Allesley-badged products “isn’t in the short-term [plan] at all, but it’s very much the direction that we may end up going in”.

For now, Allesley’s ambition is to provide low-volume production facilities for major manufacturers, with a goal of making 30 cars over the next five years.

Charlie Martin

Charlie Martin Autocar
Title: Editorial Assistant, Autocar

As a reporter, Charlie plays a key role in setting the news agenda for the automotive industry. He joined Autocar in July 2022 after a nine-month stint as an apprentice with sister publication, What Car?. He's previously contributed to The Intercooler, and placed second in Hagerty’s 2019 Young Writer competition with a MG Metro 6R4 feature

He is the proud owner of a Fiat Panda 100HP, and hopes to one day add a lightweight sports car like a Caterham Seven or a Lotus Elise S1 to his collection.

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Car Fan 7 December 2023
HPL have a habit and reputation in the industry of not paying thier suppliers. The idea of handing over money to a company set up by them and expecting an actual car in return seems a rather risky proposition.
Tom Chet 6 December 2023

Will they only build cars with a body separate from the chassis (like coachbuilders of old) or will they also do monocoque designs?  It sounds like only the former if the customer has to provide the chassis.

Funny to think that a multi-million pound commission could potentially have a Ford Transit frame (if you want a new one) or a recycled Land Cruiser or Discovery underneath.

scrap 6 December 2023

It just seems so pointless.

The traditional coachbuilders existed before mass production truly started, and then continued as a way to provide custom bodies not available elsewhere.

Now we are asked to see a 'super luxury SUV' transformed into a much more expensive and distinctive... SUV. Essentially more of the same, just because someone can. What is the point?

Buy a Gordon Murray car and you have my respect. Truly he is making something unavailable anywhere else, and the stratospheric price tag is the consequence. A Singer or a Pagani does similar.

Above all, a car is for driving, not admiring. I don't find much to admire here.