So Radford is back and we should all be celebrating? Well, in a way, yes… I know, having just spent some time behind the wheel of the company MD’s MINI De Ville S, it’s an amazing package, and such a wonderful irrelevance that you can’t help but love it.
Back in the Sixties, the Radford Mini was THE car to have – the Beatles each owned one, as did Peter Sellars and Britt Ekland. The Mini was the car that everyone wanted to be seen in, and the Radford was perhaps the ultimate incarnation. If anything encapsulated Sixties London better than a Radford Mini, I’ve yet to see it.
However, as the Sixties wore off, and the Arab money began to dominate the coachbuilt scene into the Seventies, Radford’s star began to wane. The company slipped into obscurity, and many of us thought we’d never see it again.
In 2001, the MINI burst on to the scene, and immediately became something of an ‘it’ car. It was a cool thing – people couldn’t get enough of them, and despite early reliability wobbles, it has gone on to become a huge success for the Cowley factory. It’s a case of history repeating itself, really. What fascinates me about the MINI is that the classic Mini fraternity were originally a bit sniffy about the newer car, but after a period of acclimatisation, it seems to have been accepted into the fold.
Indeed, at this year’s Mini Meet at Stanford Hall, there were positively loads of the things knocking about.
So is it in the fold?
Well, yes, I guess it is. Here at austin-rover.co.uk we’ve always been in favour of the MINI. There is enough Rover DNA in there to keep us all happy, but apart from that, it keeps plenty of people in jobs in the Oxford area – so good luck to it. Not only that, but when BMW was going through the motions of palming off the remains of the Rover Group to a certain John Towers, the German company ended up continously rebutting the Phoenix Consortium’s requests to keep the MINI for itself…
Anyway, back to the Radford. The reason we’re happy to see this car make a re-appearance is that if the thing sells, then it proves that physically small cars can still be appealing to those who want an exclusively expensive car. For too long, we’ve all been lead to believe that the metal acreage of a car is directly proportional to how much we should pay for it. Why can’t we have an expensive small car?
Well, in the case of the Radford-MINI, we can. The car I drove would probably set a new owner back £30,000 – which, to be frank, is a lot of money. But the kind of people who bought Radford Minis in the Sixties, weren’t exactly playing by the same rules as us, were they? And it would seem that Radford is hoping to catch the same buyers today.
And remember that Madonna drives a MINI, as do many other celebrities – and people like that aren’t buying on a budget.
So, to the 99.99 per cent of us who buy on price, practicality or other rational factors, this car is going to cut no ice. However, if you’re looking for a Chelsea runaround, and the Bentley is proving a difficult to park embarassment, then this would be just the ticket.
I hope Radford does well with it – and bearing in mind the expertise behind the company, and its bosses grasp of the company’s rich history, they probably will. My only worry is that they’re a couple of years too late to REALLY cash in…