November 30, 2005 Back in the London of the Swinging Sixties, the Mini was huge; as a fashion and personal statement by women who had been liberated from centuries of sexual oppression by the pill and as an automobile representing the second coming of the British automotive industry. It is perhaps ironic that the miniskirt hardly rates a second glance these days, and that the hugely successful automotive Mini reprise is now owned by Bayerische Motoren Werke but we digress. Forty years ago, London coachbuilder Harold Radford made the original Mini a celebrity icon with his hand-crafted Radford Mini de Ville offering a rare, opulent, distinctly up-market version of the diminutive machine with unique celebrity status. The original Radford coachbuilt Mini was the ultimate motoring designer label of the Swinging Sixties. All four of the Beatles had Radford coachbuilt Minis, and Peter Sellers bought one as a present for Britt Ekland - the couple famously pictured at Harold Radford’s main London dealer with Sellers at the wheel of the car, driving out of a giant birthday cake. Now Harold Radford Coachbuilders (London) is applying its coachbuilding skills and individual expression to the BMW Mini to create a stunning 265bhp, GBP30,000 version of the Mini Cooper S.
With its burr walnut dashboard, hide interior, opulent trim, and exclusive personal options, coachbuilder Harold Radford elevated the Issigonis creation to celebrity status for star-studded customers.
Today, the Radford fame is rekindled in the new BMW Mini via exclusive coachbuilt conversions, the cars individually created to customer preference, echoing the same Radford craftsmanship and unique luxury status as before.
Marc Eden, Managing Director of Harold Radford Coachbuilders (London) Ltd, explains that his company reflects the contemporary accent on design and styling while encapsulating the classicism and craftsmanship of British coachbuilding:
"Nobody can deny coachbuilder, Harold Radford, his permanent position at the summit of bespoke ‘tailoring’ of Minis in the ’60s and 70s," he said.
"Today, the BMW Mini has generated an explosion in aftermarket accessorising.
But we are showing how coachbuilding and contemporary design skills can answer the demand for individual expression at the highest level, just as discerning Radford coachbuilt Mini owners found 40 years ago", he added.
Echoing the philosophy of coachbuilding, every new Radford coachbuilt Mini is hand-crafted to specific customer preference. And, as choice is limitless, Marc Eden’s company has produced ‘style profiles’, which enable customers to specify a bespoke car that will precisely match their character and mood.
"We enhance the expression in a BMW Mini through coachbuilt individuality, interpreting very precisely what customers want," says Marc Eden. "It’s what Harold Radford did so successfully 40 years ago. In that respect, nothing has changed."
Demonstrating the point, Eden has taken the wraps off an example of a Radford coachbuilt Mini that showcases the company’s skills. Moulded very much for an individualist who is seeking to combine luxury with ultra-performance, the Miniased on a Cooper S, sports an uprated, supercharged engine developing 65% more power – a stunning 265bhp – adjustable, lowered suspension, uprated AP brakes, magnificent Michelin-shod 18" Konig alloy wheels, colour coordinated bodywork, and a sumptuous, fully re-trimmed red/charcoal Alcantara interior with deep pile carpets, additional instrumentation, and more interior refinements.
As an indication of pricing, a Mini coachbuilt by Radford to this specification would cost in the region of £30,000, dependent on factory specification, although Eden remarks that as all cars are tailored exactly to customer preference, no two cars are priced the same.
Although the creation of coachbuilt Minis is a significant aspect of Eden’s business, it is part of a far bigger story, in more ways than one. The company’s ‘haute couture for cars’ skills are applied to a constant throughput of customer vehicles, from relatively minor handcrafting, through bespoke leather interiors and the addition of all manner of luxury interior equipment, to complete stretched limousines with a high luxury specification, all coachbuilt to individual preference.