Jenson Button And Ant Anstead Have Big Plans For Radford

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We talk to the Formula One champion and Wheeler Dealer Star about the new Radford revival and plans for the future.

The art of coach-built cars felt lost for many decades but has seen a resurgence lately with companies likeZagato carrying the torch, and even the likes of Bentley and Rolls-Royce reviving such bespoke traditions, albeit for eight-figure price tags. So how does an upstart company stand out with so much competition already existing in this space? Having a Formula 1 world champion and Wheeler Dealer star at the helm certainly couldn't hurt.

F1 legend Jenson Button and TV personality Ant Anstead are bringing back a legendary UK brand called Radford, a company known for building bespoke Aston Martins, Bentleys, and Minis; the company even played a hand in developing the Ford GT40. The first new car, known as the Lotus Type 62-2 By Radford, will reach customer hands later this year.

CarBuzz had an exclusive chance to speak with Button and Anstead to learn the secrets of reviving such an iconic brand.

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First and foremost, we wanted to know why Anstead and Button chose Radford as the brand they wanted to revive, and why Lotus was the right brand to start with as a partner. "We wanted our first car to have a base that was fantastic, with years of development," Button explained. "I know the platform very well from the Elise through to the Evora. To start with something so light, we didn't have to throw hundreds of horsepower at it. We could make it more old-school, and a more mechanical car you could feel a part of."

The Type 62-2 borrows the Toyota-derived 3.5-liter supercharged V6 from the Lotus Evora but adds extensive modifications to produce 430 horsepower in Classic trim, 500 hp in the Gold Leaf, and 600 hp in the top-dog John Player Special model. If that sounds a bit lacking compared to today's modern supercars, just remember the Type 62-2 only weighs 2,204 pounds dry. That's lighter than a Mazda MX-5 Miata.

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Radford will only build 62 examples of the 62-2, starting at $444,000 for the well-optioned entry-level car. Anstead told CarBuzz the company hasn't struggled to find buyers at that price. "The 12 JPS models sold out in just seven days and we only have a few cars left," Anstead said. "About half the cars are staying in the US, 40 percent are Europe, and the rest will go to other countries."

Anstead and Button believe their customers are looking for a more connected, raw feel than what is offered in today's modern sports cars. "We don't need to be stating how quick it goes around the Nurburgring, it's the Radford experience that means so much to us," Button explained. "Whenever you are around the Type 62-2, it makes you smile."

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The duo's enthusiasm for driving seems to transfer to the customer base, who are heavily choosing the manual transmission option. "We thought people would want the dual-clutch, but 99 percent of clients wanted the manual," Button revealed. "I love that people are going with the manual. It shows people are looking for that 'drive-the-car' experience that's lacking with a lot of brands."

Anstead and Button are passionate about their customers being engaged with the car. "Every client that buys a car has the opportunity to come to a track day with me," said Button, referring to time at the 60-acre Radford Racing School facility that opened in Chandler, Arizona around 18 months ago.

It's not just the manual transmission, the entire Type 62-2 cabin is an ode to simplicity, as Lotus Founder Colin Chapman would have wanted. "There's a rawness that's lost in many supercars today," Anstead explained. "We have analog clocks made by Bremont, while other cars mostly have screens."

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Anstead then went off-camera to grab a pair of the beautifully-crafted black-dial Bremont watches that come in the car, mounted on a metal leaf stand. We marveled at the craftsmanship for a few seconds before asking how customizable this element of the car could be. For example, could an owner get a copy of their favorite Bremont watch on the dash?

"Yes, we have a watch partnership with Bremont," Anstead answered. "The gauges that exist in the car are inspired by some vintage rally timers because of the race pedigree of motors and Radford and Lotus. But could they come and bring them in? I guess anything is possible. We want to be a coachbuilder."

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Beyond the clocks, owners can customize any element of the car (for a cost). If a client says "here's a piece of my mom's rain coat," as an example, Radford can incorporate it into the seat.

Button's meticulous attention to details such as the switches has resulted in a cabin that perfectly blends the past and the present. Though the interior is minimal, it still features modern technology like Bluetooth and a digital gauge cluster. The 62-2 even bears the distinction of offering cameras rather than regular wing mirrors, a feature we've not seen on any road-legal car sold in the US due to prohibitive legislation.

So, what's next for Radford? Anstead tells us, "the next Radford is already developed. We haven't announced it yet. It's coming, and it's not a sports car. The [production] numbers are slightly higher than the Lotus. We also had an extended conversation with a luxury OEM about producing a one-off."

Perhaps the next model could be a luxury grand tourer? A Bentley, maybe?

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One thing is for sure, Anstead and Button remain open to the idea of an all-electric model. Button confirmed his love of electric cars such as the Honda e (a car we don't get here in the US) and reminded us he currently has his first EV (a Lotus Evija) on order. "Radford's partnership with electric will be sooner than you think," Anstead confirmed.

You can catch Anstead and Button along with Type 62-2 designer Mark Stubbs in a brand-new feature-length documentary called Radford Returns, airing on Discovery Plus, this Saturday January 22. Radford Returns shows how the historic nameplate was brought back to life, culminating in the first footage of the John Player Special Type 62-2 being driven on track at the Lotus test track, by Jenson Button.

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