Sunday, 30 June 2013

Radford's crazy Carabus

Some months ago I received an interesting message from Emilio Seoane from Spain. Emilio owns no less than three Authi Minis, but that was not the reason for getting in touch. He wrote: "Hi Jeroen. I have a Mini-related question for you (not quite a Mini-conversion, but you'll see). Years ago Readers' Digest magazine published an article on the Mini. I think it was in 1969 (maybe June, July or August). When I was a kid I read the Spanish translation (published in Argentina); they mentioned that someone had commisioned a coachbuilder to build a luxury conversion of a bus into a big camper with its own garage... and you guessed it: the car in the garage was a Mini, which would be used as a 'tender' for local trips. Have you ever heard of this particular set of vehicles? Have they survived? Any information? I think Radford (or Crayford?) get mentioned in the article as the coachbuilder in question, but I may be wrong. Somehow I have the idea it was a London-style double-decker bus, but can't say for sure. I would love to hear from your and your thoughts about this matter." Now that was one cool lead. Unfortunately I didn't know anything about it at all. But that was just a matter of time. In fact, I found out more this weekend. Quite a lot more.

The 'Transcontinental Carabus Mk2' was indeed built by Harold Radford Coachbuilders Limited as early as in 1965. It was based on an AEC Reliance bus and came - among many, many more gadgets - with power assisted steering and brakes, a 6-speed synchromesh gearbox, hydraulically operated passenger lift, electric windows with mosquito blinds and sunblinds, double aircraft type seats - fully adjustable and rotating, stereo radio, record player and tape recorder, electric stove with oven and top grille, sink with hot and cold water, a dishwasher, two refrigerators, two toilets, a shower, settees which opened out into two bunks, a roller sun canopy extending over the length of the vehicle, a hydraulic platform high enough to enable one to look over the roof for photography and another platform to raise a Mini, folding from a back door. It came at £25,000 in 1965 and I wonder if Radford ever sold one. (a Mk1 perhaps?). My friends at British Pathe have a lovely little movie about it - in full technicolor (click here). 

Now, the Mini that can be seen with and in the Carabus is painted in the same colour and wears a twin registration number (the bus is FWA 99C; the Mini FWA 98C). There's also a sign on the rear saying 'Disabled driver - no hand signals'. But the really interesting bit is that it is a rare hatchback conversion - I reckon one that was carried out by Radford's too, who had the opening tailgate plus folding rear backseat on offer for £360 in 1966. Not too many survivors are known, and with 1965 as the year of launching the Carabus this one has to be one very early conversion, too. According to the DVLA database the Carabus in question is no longer with us. The Mini, however, can still be found in their files. It is registered as a Morris Cooper S of 1965 which was still on the road in 1985 - in black. Anyone out here who knows where it is now?

The Carabus was based on an AEC Reliance bus and came at a whopping £ 25,000
Jeroen Booij archive
Stop please. The Mini is a coachbuilt Morris Cooper S with rare hatchback conversion
Jeroen Booij archive
Coachbuilt Mini and coachbuilt bus are nicely colour coded. Honolulu Blue I think. 
Picture courtesy British Pathe
This rare Mini was on the road until 1985, and is currently registered as being black
Picture courtesy British Pathe

Hatchback is probably a Radford conversion, too. It has to be one of the earliest
Jeroen Booij archive

4 comments:

  1. Jens Christian30 June 2013 at 22:34

    Now THATS proper camping stylee :)

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  2. Mini is most certainly a Radford,safe and sound in my toy cupboard.I may bring it out to play soon,before I'm dead,Peter

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  3. LOL yes Peter it will take a while to dig that one out

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