If, in the mid-1960s, James Bond had decided to settle down with a wife, two children and a dog, he may have felt obliged to trade-in his Aston Martin DB5 Coupé for a family-sized car. Alternatively, he could've commissioned the legendary British coachbuilders Harold Radford to convert his beloved Grand Tourer into a Shooting Brake.
Family-friendly Aston Martin DB5 Shooting Brake by Harold Radford
The idea to allow pampered pooches to travel in such opulent style was derived by David Brown, the owner of Aston Martin Lagonda (and two dogs). He'd become frustrated with his hounds gnawing at the leather upholstery on the rear seats of his car, and ordered the factory to produce a one-off design with extended roofline and rear hatchback to resolve the problem.
Sir David Brown and family
Unsurprisingly, the unveiling of Brown's custom-built car stimulated demand for more, but the factory was running at full capacity and unable to accommodate production. The solution, for those customers who refused to take no for an answer, was to purchase an Aston Martin DB5 Coupé at the list price of £4,412.00, then add a supplementary £2,000 for its subsequent Shooting Brake conversion - contracted to Harold Radford (Coachbuilders) Ltd. The extraordinary expense resulted in only 12 cars being converted, but their rarity means they now command enormous valuations - with the example pictured below selling for $1.765m at the Sotheby's Monterey auction in August 2019.
1965 Aston Martin DB5 Shooting Brake by Harold Radford (RM Sotheby's)
Radford was a natural choice of partner to complete the conversion work for Aston Martin. Originally established as a retailer of Rolls Royce and Bentley motorcars, they began coachbuilding special bodies for the marques in the late 1940s, developing a niche market for discerning customers who required luxurious vehicles that would be equally at home in town, on Continental tours, or roaming around country estates.
1950 Bentley Mark VI Radford Countryman
In the 1950s, the Harold Radford Countryman used the new "big-boot" standard steel Rolls Royce and Bentley saloons as the donor cars for their conversions. Upgrade options stretched from folding seats that created a six-foot double bed, to rear armrests that slid forwards to reveal a cocktail cabinet and table. The fifty available modifications offered everything - including the kitchen sink (literally). Radford's ingenuity had resulted in the creation of the world's first luxury SUV, decades ahead of its time.
1959 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud I conversion by H.J. Mulliner and Radford
When the swinging sixties arrived, Radford stayed in step with the mood of the day and introduced what became its most well-known work - the Mini de Ville. The humble, but much-loved, British "people's car" was given the Radford treatment, with special paintwork, sliding sunroof, engine upgrades, luxe interior and electric windows - at a time when standard mini side-windows slid one half over the other! Peter Sellers was said to have spent as much on his Mini de Ville as he'd laid out for his Rolls Royce. There followed a long line of rich and famous owners - including all four of The Beatles (read more).
Introducing the Harold Radford "Mini de Ville" (c.1963)
Sadly, in 1966, after a change of ownership, Harold Radford (Coachbuilders) Ltd. found itself unable to meet its liabilities and was placed in voluntary liquidation. A new company was formed the following year in an attempt to continue the business, but in effect, a great chapter in British motoring history had come to a close. However, this was not the end of the story, as the name has recently been revived by a group of auto-industry experts. The fellow Brits have already commenced work on the first car, details of which will be announced soon.
Leading the Radford Revival, Mark Stubbs, Ant Anstead and Jenson Button
All Radford automobiles will be created around the company's motto. "Design, Build, Drive". The "design" is overseen by leading industry designer Mark Stubbs. The "build" is taken care of by Radford's second co-owner TV star, renowned car builder and automotive craftsman Ant Anstead. The "drive" will be handled by co-owner and Formula One World Champion, Jenson Button who will track test and meticulously tune each car to offer a superlative driving experience. Given that Mason & Sons has always championed the revival of historic brands, we are delighted to hear that the Radford journey has recommenced.