Radford, the historic coachbuilding firm being revived by Formula 1 champion Jenson Button, TV mechanic Ant Anstead and designer Mark Stubbs, has partnered with Lotus for its debut model, set to be revealed later this year.
Just 62 examples of the brand’s debut model will be built, a reference to the model that serves as its primary inspiration: Lotus’s 1960s Type 62 racer. A final design for the ‘Project 62’ has yet to be revealed, but a preview image suggests that the overall silhouette of Hethel’s racecar will be retained, and Radford has confirmed it will remain a mid-engined two-seater, albeit with “luxurious appointments befitting a high-end bespoke coachmaker.”
Details remain thin on the ground, but Radford has confirmed the car will be “based on Lotus technology”. It remains to be seen whether the drivetrain from the outgoing Elise, Exige or Evora will be used wholesale.
Each example will be finished in a bespoke specification according to the owner’s tastes, and Radford claims to have allocated “a select few” examples already.
Both Radford (in its original iteration) and Lotus were founded in 1948 and Anstead welcomed the opportunity to unite the two historically British brands: “We are proud of the British heritage of both of these companies and I cannot think of a better partnership to bring back Radford with. I already can’t wait to share the next.”
Speaking recently to Autocar, Jenson Button suggested that the revived Radford outfit is more than a design house and will have tangible engineering impact on the cars despite the involvement of OEM partner companies.
“We’re able to make things with a smaller workforce and the technologies we have in hand,” he said. “Whether it’s making parts or 3D printing, or making tooling for parts – we’re able to make things a lot quicker than back in the day when Radford was first announced to the world.
“It’s very different to coachbuilding 50-60 years ago. We are working hand in hand with an OEM [Lotus], so we’re non-stop in talks and collaboration with the OEM we’re working with on the first car.”
Coachbuilder Radford – famous for its post-war creations – was founded by the eponymous Harold Radford in 1948. The company made its name reworking models from Bentley and Rolls-Royce and later did the same with the Mini, the Radford version of which was owned by all four members of The Beatles. Radford also helped develop a glassfibre body for a prototype version of the Ford GT40.
Radford has been owned by several figures since the 1970s, including renowned luxury car dealer HR Owen. It’s now co-owned by Button, Anstead and Stubbs, among others.
“The time for a revival of proper coachbuilding is right now,” said Anstead. “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.”
Although it has become relatively obscure in recent years, Radford’s coachbuilding attracted the attention of several celebrities in the 20th century. The company made its debut at the London motor show in 1951 with its Bentley Countryman.