The Mini Cooper entered into popular culture in the 1960s with well-publicised purchases by film and music stars, The Beatles, Peter Sellers Steve McQueen to name a few. They spent vast amounts of money with coach builders like Harold Radford and Hooper’s to have their cars customised and some had engine performance improved to take the extra weight added by companies such as Broadspeed or Downton engineering.
The motoring correspondent of The Times reported in May 1963 the mini while a popular second car in many households was no longer strictly the fashion, the Grande Luxe Mini de Ville by Radford had taken over. On test in London, he reported, it attracted more attention than a Ferrari Berlinetta with its special colour scheme and trim, sliding sun roof, radiator grille with two more recessed lights, special sound insulation and electric windows (this was when normal Mini windows in the doors slid one half over the other).
The car tested by The Times also had white leather upholstery and deep lambswool carpets, tachometer, ammeter, oil gauge, clock, headlamp flasher (vital) and water temperature gauge. Further extras were: a laminated wood steering wheel to maintain firm grip (by soaking up sweat), automatic red caution lights on open doors, a reading light, cigar lighter, twin-speaker radio and an air blower to demist the rear window.
After the 1967 Earls Court Motor Show The Times tried to display in print why a Mini de Ville should be preferred to, say, an Alfa Giulia GTV or a Lotus Elan +2. They recorded that Captains of Industry ordered them, painted them to match their Rolls and gave them to their wives. Pop Stars and West End playboys presumably invested in them as a status symbol.
The tester noted noise levels were typically Mini-Cooper in spite of the sound-deadening materials and that Radford’s continued to have a waiting list.
After the demise of Harold Radford’s in the late 60’s the rich and famous turned to other popular coach builders such as Wood & Pickett for their special versions.
Wood & Pickett
In 1947, Bill Wood and Les Pickett left their jobs at London’s top-notch coachbuilders Hooper & Co to start their own business. The company grew and Wood & Pickett relocated to Abbey Road, Park Royal, London.
It wasn’t until the 1960s, however, that the company was established as Wood & Pickett Ltd, and became well-known within the general motoring community as a result of their decision to specialise in meeting the increasing demand for highly-luxurious Minis that had sprung up in the wake of Radford’s 1963 Mini de Ville.
Wood and Pickett developed their own uprated Mini model, known as the Margrave, featuring a distinctive leather & walnut fascia panel, leather or Dralon seating and front and rear nudge bars, to which customers were invited to add from a long list of individually-priced options.
The Mini remained the main focus of Wood & Pickett’s attention throughout the 1970s, although as the decade progressed they also became well known for their many Range Rover-based models and would later assist BL in creating the influential “In Vogue” special edition. Towards the end of the Seventies, the company moved to larger premises in Victoria Road, South Ruislip, and in 1980 they added the upmarket Rover SD1 Prestige to their repertoire.
In 1986 the company was purchased by Henlys, one of BL’s major franchised dealership chains, and relocated to St Albans in Hertfordshire. Under Henlys’ ownership, greater emphasis was placed on the highly-profitable Range Rover conversions, with many commissions being taken from Middle Eastern customers in particular, until Henlys sold the company to entrepreneur Mike Bush in 1989.
Operating from new premises at Epsom, Surrey, Wood and Pickett continued to undertake bespoke conversions during the 1990s. Later that decade the company was acquired by its current “custodian” Mike Standring. After a short time based in West Sussex, Wood & Pickett relocated to its current and permanent home in Leatherhead.
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