Announced today, 2009 Formula One World Champion Jenson Button will help revive Radford, the famed British coachbuilding outfit, and he’s not alone. Button has teamed up with Ant Anstead and Mark Stubbs to form an automotive triumvirate aiming to ride the new wave in popularity of high-level aftermarket modification.
On a video call, the gentlemen made it clear they were each bringing something unique to the business and the serendipity of all three coming together only amplified the energy in revitalizing the brand.
Anstead, best known in the space as the host of For the Love of Cars and Master Mechanic is also an accomplished car builder. Stubbs is an experienced automotive designer, and if it wasn’t already apparent, Button has a reputation for being handy behind the wheel. Between the trio’s talents, nationality and the popularity of the (tastefully designed) custom car market, they’re starting with a solid foundation.
The original Radford outfit, founded by Harold Radford in 1948 saw its heyday back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, modifying cars for the likes of John Lenon, Steve McQueen and Peter Sellers. Radford showed no prejudice in the types of cars he set to improve, as anything from a Rolls-Royce to the original Mini were seen as a blank canvas. Anstead, Button and Stubbs want to rekindle that same ethos.
“It’s the perfect time for the Radford brand to be rekindled. Harold Radford’s creations were the ultimate in personalised, tailored transport and with the renaissance of the art of coachbuilding now is the time to bring Radford back in contemporary form,” said Stubbs. “We intend to create designs that will be true to the Radford legacy and go on to create a new heritage for this storied brand.” Stubbs continued “In the long time that we’ve been planning this, one question we will keep asking ourselves is “what would Harold do if he were here today”.
“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,” said Button. “My whole career has been racing, Formula One, developing cars (every year it’s a brand new car).” Button continued, “the difference now is I have freedom. In Formula One you’re a lot more limited but with the OEMs we’re working with we have the freedom because we are our own entity. I can basically do what I want, within reason! But, my job now is to make sure the cars drive beautifully from the moment you get in them.”
“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,” said Button. “My whole career has been racing, Formula One, developing cars (every year it’s a brand new car). The difference now is I have freedom. In Formula One you’re a lot more limited but with the OEMs we’re working with we have the freedom because we are our own entity.”Button continued, “I can basically do what I want, within reason! But, my job now is to make sure the cars drive beautifully from the moment you get in them”
On the call, Anstead mentioned they already “partnered with a few OEMs,” for the first round of builds. He was incredibly coy on which OEMs they’ve been working with but if the Radford Instagram page has any clues, Ford, Mini and Aston Martin would be good bets. With that said, Anstead was also quick to point out, “We won’t be restoring any cars, they’ll all be brand new builds.”
The world of coachbuilding — the industry of improving factory-built cars through design and engineering and turning them into made-to-order bespoke vehicles — is a very crowded space at the moment. Names like Singer, Himalaya and Icon have established themselves as serious players in this game for years now. Even manufacturers like Aston and Jaguar will build you upgraded versions of their old cars. But those are all focused on upgrading vintage cars. When Harold Radford founded his company in ‘48, he wasn’t trying to improve the Model T, he was working with contemporary machinery.
To the new Radford team’s credit, very few operations are tapping into the new car market. Vintage cars have an immediate romantic appeal in 2021 by presenting a connection to the past, making it almost too easy. If Radford can pull off redesigning and modifying modern cars, they’ll have more in common with the first generation of coach builders, making their own history. And if they can make something like the 2021 BMW M3 easier on the eyes, I’m all for it.