Jensen Button’s Radford signs partnership with Lotus

Radford has enlisted the help of Lotus for its first car. The reborn coachbuilding company has confirmed that its new project will be “built on Lotus technology,” with the finished car due to be fully revealed later this year.

Radford has confirmed precious few details about its first car, with this shadowy teaser image being the only indication we have of its styling. It’s certain to be a low-slung sports car, though, which the coachbuilder has confirmed will only be built in limited numbers.

The silhouette also points towards the car being a mid-engined model. It’s unknown whether the car will utilise the new underpinnings for the recently confirmed Lotus Emira, or if Radford’s first model will be based on the outgoing Elise, Exige or Evora.

Like the Radford’s of old, we expect this new model will feature a lavishly re-trimmed interior, a couple of minor styling revisions and a bold paint finish. There’s also potential that the firm could revive some of the quirky additions it fitted to its coachbuilt Rolls-Royces and Bentleys of the 1950s.

Jenson Button, one of Radford’s three new co-owners, said: “We’re already hard at work developing this car and the driving experience will be different and very special. It’s going to be truly analogue and thoroughly engaging, but with all the refinements that you would expect from a Radford.

“It will drive like nothing else. There is a purity to driving that is lost in many cars of today. I will ensure we create a driver’s car, a trait that is embedded within the DNA of all Lotus cars.”

Radford: a history

Back in the late 1940s, the Radford coachbuilding company (founded by Harold Radford), specialised in creating bespoke bodies and interiors for Rolls-Royces and Bentleys, with modifications to suit the needs of the rural landed gentry.

Radford’s revisions included foldable tables, dog pens, cocktail cabinets, bespoke colour schemes and redesigned front and rear seats, which could fold flat to form a double bed. The company even offered a host of add-ons such as an electric shaver, an ice box, a kettle and a built-in sink with hot and cold running water.

The company made its debut at the 1951 London Motor Show with the Bentley Countryman, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that Radford really got into its stride with its coachbuilt version of the original Mini, which was bought by all four members of the Beatles, and Eric Clapton.

The Radford Grande Luxe Mini de Ville featured a host of extras normally reserved for the most expensive luxury cars of the day, such as a full-length sliding sunroof, a new radiator grille, electric windows, a wooden steering wheel and a re-upholstered interior with deep-pile carpets and a brace of extra dashboard clocks.

The company faded into obscurity throughout the 1970s, but the business was reborn earlier this year thanks to fresh investment from former Formula One World Champion Jenson Button, motoring broadcaster Ant Anstead, and designer Mark Stubbs.

In March, Jenson Button said: “To be able to help revive this iconic name is such a special and unique opportunity. The Radford brand carries such prestige and magnetism for anyone with an appreciation of cars.

“The work that Harold Radford and his team were responsible for in the mid 1900s is simply incredible, so I jumped at the chance to join Ant and Mark in their quest to put the Radford name back in lights. The journey has very much begun, and news of our first car will follow shortly so watch this space.”

Anstead followed, saying: “The time for a revival of proper coachbuilding is right now. People want something unique, something different and something tailor-made. That’s where Radford comes in – our cars will offer the ultimate in global luxury and personalisation, blending British heart and soul, state-of-the-art technology with traditional craftsmanship.

“Jenson, Mark and I are proud to be reviving Radford and humbled to be custodians of this legendary company. Future partnerships that we already have in place are a testament to what Radford is capable of achieving. It feels like fate that a designer, a builder and a driver have all united at this perfect time. It’s really exciting.”

Luke Wilkinson

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