The hot-hatch has recently made its way back into the limelight with the hugely impressive Toyota Yaris GR (pictured right, credit @Toyota). The embargo now lifted, our social media feeds are littered with pictures of sideways Yaris’s, posing with boxy wheel arches and aggressive aero tweeks. Once a more common phenomenon, the characterful styling and handling of a hot-hatch now sadly comes only once in a blue moon. With the youngest of the Hot Hatch family tree now born, we thought it was fitting to hark back to the Hot Hatch’s routes.
Currently stored with us is this uber cool Mini Cooper S Radford de Ville donned a particularly glamorous two-tone Anthracite metallic grey and blue. Arguably the ‘Granddaddy’ of the hot hatch world, siting proudly at the top of this family’s tree, the Mini Cooper seemed the natural place to start.
Released back in 1959, the Mini quickly proved its popularity in becoming the first British car to sell over 1 million examples. With the standard Mini already offering a fun, sporty, ‘Go-Kart-like’ feel, it didn’t take long for race car builder John Cooper to see it as the perfect platform for his next project. John Cooper increased the power and stiffened the suspension on the standard Mini to create what became known, now recognised worldwide, as the Mini Cooper. Later came the Mini Cooper S variant which was of course up on power than the standard Cooper, and bore some further sporty styling elements.
The Mini was now the “it” car. There was a version to cater for all tastes, styles and classes, but for some it was lacking in exclusivity. Peter Sellers (pictured right), one of the many celebrity owners of the Mini, went to his local HR Owen and asked them to convert his Mini Cooper into something more exclusive with a little more opulence; The everyman’s car made regal, refined and rare – a joyful juxtaposition.
The interior of Sellers’ car sported a fine two-tone leather trim, aluminium dashboard, pearl white instruments, electric windows and even power steering. Even by today’s standards, many of these features would be considered luxurious, especially the incorporation of aluminium.
Not long after Sellers’ creation, coachbuilders ‘Harold Radford Ltd’ caught wind of the idea and decided they wanted to offer similar upgrades to other current Mini owners. Born was the Mini Cooper Radford de Ville.
At first glance, the year of the Mini stored with us may raise confusion. Above I spoke about production of the Mini starting as early as 1959, and the Radford de Ville conversion being offered not long after this, so a production year of 2000 may sound a little late.
You may also be wondering how rare these cars can really be if they were produced from the 1960s all the way up to 2000. Well, following the success of the Radford de Ville conversion, Harold Radford Ltd went into a lull and failed to produce a car for over 10 years, with the company eventually dissolving. It took until 1989 for car designer Chris Humberstone to revive the Harold Radford name. After a few years milling about in F1 with the likes of Mclaren and Benetton, Humberstone decided it was time to bring back the Radford de Ville Mini in all of its glory.
The car stored with us was registered on 14th July 2000, just 3 months before the last ever Classic Mini rolled off the end of the production line. This makes the example stored with us an extremely late, very special example. After only 2000 careful miles, the car was expertly converted to Radford de Ville specification at Classic Mini in Shropshire. Astonishingly, the car has still only done 7500 miles in its lifetime!
The interior details ramain immaculate with hardly any signs of ageing and wear. The leather is wrinkle and crease free and looks as though it’s fresh out of the factory. The luxurious aluminium details bare not a single scratch nor blemish. You could munch your full english right off the rocker cover. It truly is a spectacle to see a Radford Mini in such sublime condition.
With our storage services, we are proud to be able to preserve the pristine condition of the car, and continue to defy the signs of its age.
By Ned Hiley.
A special thanks to Russell Varnals of RS Fabrications, who has entrusted us to look after the Radford Mini for many months to come. Based in Towcester, Northants, RS Fabrications are experts in motorsport and performance fabrication and engineering – www.rsfabrications.com