The Railton marque, first seen in Britain in the 1930s, was revived in 1989 with a pair of Towns-designed tourers based on the XJ-S convertible.
However, it failed on the market with only two built and today remains one of several independent attempts at redesigning the XJ-S.
Railton F28/F29: beauty in the eye of the beholder
The new Railton Motor Company, based at Wixford in Warwickshire, was formed in 1989 with the aim of recapturing some of the glamour of the original Anglo-American coachbuilt Railtons, which had been absent from the market for almost 40 years.
The rebirth of Railton in 1989 was overseen by William Towns, who penned this pair of cars and showed them in prototype form at that year’s Earl’s Court Motorfair. The pairing was launched in 1991, as products of the new Railton Motor Company in collaboration with businessman John Ranson. Based on the running gear of the V12-engined Jaguar XJ-S but completely reclothed with a sleek and minimalist body, it was priced from £105,000 and was aimed directly at Aston Martin and Bristol.
For fans of the work of the great William Towns, his work for Railton was an agreeable evolution of what he’d completed before. Since becoming freelance after leaving Aston Martin, he had become very adept at re-clothing existing manufacturers’ cars with more striking styling. And this was certainly the case with the Railton F28 Fairmile and F29 Claremont.
The car from Towns’ back catalogue that this was most similar to was also Jaguar-based. While not a million miles away in principle from the 1974 E-type-based Guyson E12, these latter-day Railtons were re-clothed in aluminium rather than fibreglass, in keeping with cars’ upmarket ambitions.
What was the difference between the F28 and F29?
Two models were offered: the F28 Fairmile (above) was the sportier of the two, with wider wheels and tyres, while the slightly more sedate F29 Claremont went with 1930s-style rear wheel spats.
Essentially, though, both cars shared the same bodywork, with newly-fashioned front and rear wings and bumpers complementing the re-skinned doors, bonnet and bootlid. The Claremont ended up with a high-profile owner, though – William Towns. He reportedly owned the car until his untimely death in 1993.
Incidentally, the names Fairmile and Claremont were revivals of names previously seen on the drophead coupés of the original Railton Cars company in the 1930s. Indeed, Fairmile is also the name of the country estate in Cobham, Surrey that was the home of the marque’s founder, Noel Macklin, and served as the company’s base from 1933 until 1940. Continuing this theme, Claremont is the name of another estate in nearby Esher.
What happened to them?
The obscure nature of the brand combined with the early-1990s global recession did for Railton, along with many other similar ventures. It is not known how many customers were found for these cars, although the most likely amount is one of each according to several accounts. Within five years, the company had folded, and plans for a barnstorming Lister-engined derivative were never realised.
The Fairmont has been offered on the market a couple of times, first by Brightwells in 2006, and then most recently by Silverstone Auctions in 2019, when it sold for a cool £67,500. The gallery below contains a full set of images of the car taken by Alan Kenny for Silverstone Auctions.
Gallery: Railton F29 Claremont