Radford and Lotus, a new partnership

At the end of the 1940s, Radford offered to transform Bentley saloons into… mini SUVs or woodies more suited to country use.

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

Radford’s success came with the Mini, transformed into a luxury car for the city… Many stars succumbed to its charms, like Peter Sellers.

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!

Among the most popular transformations, the rear hatch made the Mini much more practical!

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.

Inside, high quality leather and carpeting, revised instrumentation… enough to think you were driving an Aston rather than a Mini!

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.

One of the six Radford “break de chasse”, based on the Aston Martin DB5. This turned one of the most beautiful coupes ever into an elegant and practical estate car!

The rebirth

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.

These four boys in the wind are the new owners of the Radford’s label. At the right, the ex-F1 driver, Jenson Button.

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.

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