Radford has released the internal codename for its first new car in more than half a century. It’s been given the working title ‘Project 62’, although that name should change by the time the finished car is unveiled later this year.
The Project 62 will be a reimagined version of the 1969 Lotus Type 62 racer, which Radford says will be built on Lotus underpinnings. Production will be limited to (you guessed it) 62 units, and Radford has already started taking orders for the car.
However, other than its internal codename and a shadowy teaser image, we know precious few details about Radford’s new offering.
It’ll be a mid-engined, two-seat sports car, which the company says will be “sleek, elegant and cosseting, but not at the expense of driver enjoyment.” The silhouette in the company’s teaser image certainly shares elements of the Type 62’s design, with the same bulging front wheel arches and a similarly square rear deck.
The fact that Radford also specified its new car will be mid-engined suggests it’ll be powered by a petrol engine rather than an electric motor, although it’s as-yet unknown whether the Project 62 will use the new underpinnings from the recently confirmed Lotus Emira, or if it’ll be based on the outgoing Elise, Exige or Evora.
Radford has also said that every Project 62 buyer will be invited to an exclusive track day with Jenson Button (one of the new company’s three investors), who will show them how to get the most out of their car.
Like the Radfords of yesteryear, we expect this new model will feature a lavishly trimmed interior and a bold paint finish. There’s also potential for the firm to revive some of the quirky additions it fitted to its coachbuilt Rolls-Royces and Bentleys of the 1950s.
Jenson Button 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.”
Ant Anstead, a key member of the reborn Radford brand’s team, said: “The opportunity to buy a Radford hasn’t been around for many years, and when Radford was last a force to be reckoned with, the clientele that bought the cars was distinguished to say the least.
“Radford has always been a special, exclusive and well-respected luxury brand. And now we are bringing the spirit of Radford back with the Project 62 – which completely embodies the historic attributes of the brand – it is coachbuilt, luxurious and exclusive.”
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.”
Now check out our insider story on the UK’s other leading coachbuilder, David Brown Automotive…