Harold Radford & Co Limited of Melton Court, South Kensington, London SW7, (opposite South Kensington tube station and now Lamborghini London) were long-established retailers of Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars who, under G H Radford, developed a bespoke coach building business in the late 1940s named Harold Radford (Coachbuilders) Limited. The coachbuilding business began by making bodies for new Bentleys with amendments to suit the rural lifestyle of the landed gentry. In the Swinging Sixties Radfords became best known for luxury versions of the cult-car, Mini.
A luxurious town car, shooting brake, and Continental tourer in one vehicle. The Countryman car was available from Harold Radford with a full Radford body incorporating what was otherwise a conversion.
After the introduction of the "big boot" model in 1952 standard steel Bentleys and Rolls-Royces, usually new but already registered in their owner's name and driven to avoid extra purchase tax, would be given as much of the total conversion as the customer required. Conversions featured the following:
- Upper rear panel, including rear light (back window), hinges upward to give exceptionally easy entry to boot.
- Front and rear seats fold down together to form a full six foot double bed. Sprung upholstery, with Latex foam, gives comfort of normal bed.
- Tables with mirrors fold down from front seats. Rear armrests slide forward to reveal fitted cocktail cabinets and to form a table for glasses.
- Luggage compartment gives 40 cubic feet of storage space — 4 times capacity of normal coach built saloon.
- Every conceivable item of equipment that can add to the comfort and convenience of passengers has been included.
- Body colours, trimmings and the finish of interior fillets and facias made to customer's choice.
- Equipment includes: electric razor, washbasin with hot and cold water supply, an ice box and an electric kettle, Silver Dawn £5,710, Bentley £5,497.
- A strong mesh dog pen protecting upholstery now (October 1962) brings the number of modifications to fifty.
Mini de Ville and 1100
The motoring correspondent of The Times reported in May 1963 the Mini while a popular second car in many households was no longer strictly the fashion, the Grande Luxe Mini de Ville by Radford had taken over.
On test in London, he reported, it attracted more attention than a Ferrari Berlinetta with its special colour scheme and trim, sliding sun roof, radiator grille with two more recessed lights, special sound insulation and electric windows (this was when normal Mini windows in the doors slid one half over the other).
The car tested by The Times also had white leather upholstery and deep lambswool carpets, tachometer, ammeter, oil gauge, clock, headlamp flasher (vital) and water temperature gauge. Further extras were: a laminated wood steering wheel to maintain firm grip (by soaking up sweat), automatic red caution lights on open doors, a reading light, cigar lighter, twin-speaker radio and an air blower to demist the rear window.
After the 1967 Earls Court Motor Show The Times tried to display in print why a Mini de Ville should be preferred to, say, an Alfa Giulia GTV, Porsche 912 or Lotus Elan +2. They recorded that Captains of Industry ordered them, painted them to match their Rolls and gave them to their wives. Pop Stars and West End playboys presumably invested in them as a status symbol.
The reporter tested "a typical Mini de Ville", a 1275 Mini-Cooper S with an engine performance pack providing up to about 110 m.p.h. Outwardly the only distinction was the magnesium alloy wheels, sunroof and non-standard paint. Inside absolutely everything seemed like a refugee from a Rolls-Royce. There were, in total, 63 extras advised Radford. The tester noted noise levels were typically Mini-Cooper in spite of the sound-deadening materials and that Radfords continued to have a waiting list.
Aston Martin estate cars
Radfords converted a number of Aston Martins to estate cars under contract to Aston Martin.
Stirling Moss "dream car"
As a member of the H R Owen group (itself since October 1959 a member of the Swain group owned by The Provincial Traction Company Limited) from March 1961 the activities of Harold Radford (Coachbuilders) Limited were rolled in with servicing and body repair operations of H R Owen and Swain under the Harold Radford (Coachbuilders) Limited name.
In late 1963 Harold Radford (Coachbuilders), with Swain and H R Owen, was acquired by a City syndicate.
Though it continued to trade Harold Radford (Coachbuilders) Limited was placed in voluntary liquidation in September 1966 because it was unable to meet its liabilities. A new company, Harold Radford Coachbuilders (1967) Limited, was formed in October 1967 to acquire and continue and improve the car conversion business and it took control of the business on 10 October 1967.
- Britain's Efforts In Market For Large Cars. The Times (London, England), Tuesday, Jul 17, 1956; pg. 7; Issue 53585.
- Harold Radford Limited, The Tatler, June 10th 1953
- News in Brief. The Times, Wednesday, May 26, 1954; pg. 10; Issue 52941
- Motors And Motoring. The Times (London, England), Tuesday, Oct 23, 1962; pg. 15; Issue 55529.
- Motors And Motoring. The Times, Tuesday, May 28, 1963; pg. 15; Issue 55712.
- Super-luxury Minis-at a price. The Times, Wednesday, Nov 15, 1967; pg. 15; Issue 57099
- Continued High Car Sales Expected. The Times, Tuesday, Oct 15, 1963; pg. 16; Issue 55832
- The Provincial Traction Company Limited. The Times, Monday, Jul 03, 1961; pg. 21; Issue 55123.
- Industrial Models to be acquired. The Times, Tuesday, Oct 10, 1967; pg. 22; Issue 57068
- The Sydney Morning Herald - Apr 21, 1958 page 5 British Cars Star At New York Show
- New York Times 6 Apr 1958 LUXURY MODELS, TOO; German, French, Italian, British Cars Join US
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