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Ex-Peter Sellers Radford Mini de Ville is a super Cooper

by Gavin Braithwaite-Smith
9 January 2023 3 min read
Ex-Peter Sellers Radford Mini de Ville is a super Cooper
Photos: J.D. Classics

In 1963, Peter Sellers spent £2600 – the equivalent of £43,500 in today’s money – on a bespoke Mini Cooper. It was the first time a Mini had been given an opulent and luxurious makeover, with Sellers saying to Hooper Motor Services: “Anything you boys can think of you have my full permission to do.”

The result was a Mini with a mahogany dashboard, reclining leather seats, electric windows, wood-spoked steering wheel, transistor radio with twin speakers, deep purple paintwork, front spotlights and hand-painted wicker-effect panels. It even featured redesigned front wings to house a pair of Bentley headlights. It was, if you like, the Aston Martin Cygnet of the 1960s.

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Other posh Minis would follow, with Harold Radford the first to capitalise on the growing interest in high-end versions of BMC’s people’s car. The Mini de Ville was announced by Radford in April 1963 and was available in three levels of specification: De Luxe, Bel Air and Grande Luxe.

In an interview with Giles Chapman, Radford boasted that he came up with the idea for the super-luxury Mini Cooper. “I had the idea that there were an awful lot of Rolls-Royce and Bentley owners who wanted a small runabout car different to the normal Mini, so I decided to produce what was essentially a mini-Rolls, that being a Mini that matched a man’s Rolls-Royce in every detail – paint, trim, electric windows, stereo – everything he wanted. This caught on, and we were soon doing four or five a week. It came to be known as the Radford Mini.”

While Radford was undoubtedly the most famous purveyor of posh Minis, this fails to recognise the influence of Hooper motor Services and Sellers. Indeed, Sellers had approached Hooper to produce a second Mini for use in the 1964 film A Shot In The Dark, but the company refused. Hooper’s loss was Radford’s gain.

Nothing was off-limits; if you had the cash, Radford could make a splash. Buyers with deep pockets could choose from every imaginable extra, with the Cooper-based Grande Luxe boasting the likes of Webasto sunroof, full instrumentation, electric windows with opening quarterlights, Marchal parking lights from a Citroën, cowled headlights from a Riley and a two-tone horn.

Mini Radford A Shot In The Dark
Photo: BMW

Naturally, every Radford Mini was finished and retrimmed to the highest standard, before being painted in a colour chosen by the buyer. The mid-range Bel Air featured a wicker-style finish on the side of the car, as showcased by Sellers and co. in A Shot In The Dark. There was even a hatchback conversion.

Other Radford conversions followed, including the Mini de Ville GT, which arrived in October 1965. Highlights included double coachlines, an optional one-piece rear door, optional VW Beetle rear lights and a completely revised dashboard and centre console. Here’s Sellers doing his bit for the Radford PR machine by driving one out of a giant wedding cake for his new wife Britt Ekland. It’s a pity the sides weren’t covered in wicker, man.

Britt Ekland's Mini
Photo: BMW

Sellers owned three Radford Minis, including the 1964 Cooper S de Ville that’s up for sale with JD Classics. Billed as “the world’s first hot hatch”, thanks to Radford’s hatchback conversion, the car features a long list of options and looks resplendent in its two-tone finish. It’s an ex-Radford demonstrator and press car, so you’re buying into a bit of Radford history.

JD Classics tells Hagerty that the ex-Sellers Mini’s provenance has been verified following a request to the DVLA to confirm ownership details. Given its history, the car comes with a box-file of press cuttings of original reviews and news stories, and has just undergone a recommissioning after being kept by a private car collector, in Geneva.

The company has listed the car as ‘POA’, but as was always the case with Radford Minis, if you have to ask the price…

Read more

The curious case of car-addicted Peter Sellers and a Mercedes 450 SLC
The Austin that Peter Sellers couldn’t bear to be parted from is up for auction
Button and Anstead rev up Radford with Project 62 mid-engined sports car

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Comments

  • Bill Tomlinson says:

    I had a 1964 1071cc cooper s. Paid £265 for it in 1969. In 1972 I bought an MGB and received £225
    part ex. If only I had kept the mini.

  • Pete Flanagan says:

    Be great to see provenance for this car. This is actually quite a late Radford Hatch (“Countryman”) conversion having started doing them in steel using the original bootlid in 1965. This later hatch design would have been done to a three year old car at the time (around 1967) and as yet I’ve seen no evidence linking it to Peter Sellers, even the comprehensive contemporary press failed to mention him. I’ve yet to find any link to any Radford Mini being owned by Peter Sellers but always happy to learn!

  • Kevin McDermott says:

    I bought a Radford de Ville which the seller(a pro photographer) claimed was formerly owned by P Sellers. It was black with green leather interior and full sunroof.
    It also had a full rear hatch, very heavy to raise and lower. No gas strut aid then !
    I think the reg was SMU 515F. I still have the door plate chrome plate which came adrift. It had a Downton engine fitted.
    I stopped it for a cooper s with a member of the Mini Cooper register years ago.
    I remember the sellers name was Peter Barling

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