Lotus is quite well known, however Radford probably much less so… In the 1930s, Harold Radford & Co. was a Rolls-Royce and Bentley dealer in South Kensington, one of London’s most exclusive areas. By Dimitri Urbain
Limousines for adventurers
In 1948, a coachbuilding division was added to the company, offering conversions to very exclusive customers. The Bentley Countryman was a kind of SUV ancestor, allowing provincial customers to drive a car that was still prestigious but suitable for more rural use. The rear hatch, increased boot capacity, seats that could be converted into beds, shelves in the backs of the front seats, rear armrests that could be converted into a cocktail bar were just a few extras available. Not to mention an electric shaver, hot and cold water supply, a cooler and even a tea kettle!
The Mini revolution
Introduced in 1959, the Mini was a massive success in Great Britain. As a first new car for many or as a second car for more affluent customers. In 1963, Radford had a brilliant idea: turning the Mini into a luxury car, called the “Mini de Ville”. This was the start of a new Premium trend in the small car category. The programme included a unique paintwork, single or two-tone, a special grille with fog lamps, alloy wheels, improved soundproofing, electric windows (sliding at the time!), a sunroof, leather interior and thick carpeting, a full set of instruments, a wooden steering wheel to prevent perspiration, a radio with two speakers and a fan to defrost the rear window. More than 60 extras were available.
Many customers had them painted in the same colours as their Rolls or Bentleys, and gave them to their wives (or mistresses!). Among the customers there was also a whole range of rich playboys and stars, such as Peter Sellers and Paul McCartney. At the same time, Radford also worked for Aston Martin and developed six sublime “break de chasse” based on the DB5. The name disappeared from the H.R. Owen group in the early 1970s.
Very recently, the name was bought and relaunched by Jenson Button, car designer Mark Stubbs, TV presenter Ant Anstead and a business lawyer, Roger Behle. A first car will be marketed under the brand this year, based on ‘Lotus technology’. A partnership with Lotus Engineering was signed a few days ago.
Born in the same year, the two brands have a very British image… For Mark Stubbs, the first modern Radford will be completely new and unique, an evocation of the mythical Lotus 62. The bodywork will be sleek and aerodynamic, the interior very luxurious and comfortable, while the driving experience will also be very enjoyable. Jenson Button says, “The driving experience will be very pure, very Lotus but with all the refinement of Radford”. We’ll tell you more about this new project as soon as we have more information.