Jenson Button: 'My hands-on challenge to make Radford 62-2 a driver's car'

Road Cars

F1 drivers have developed and promoted road cars before, but few have bought their own company and actually built one – Jenson Button explains why he's bucking the trend

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 07: Jenson Button drives the Lotus 18 of the late Stirling Moss as part of a tribute before practice for the F1 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone on August 07, 2020 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

After departing F1, Button has now set his sights on producing his own sports car with Radford

Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

Ayrton Senna and the Honda NSX; Michael Schumacher and the Ferrari Enzo; Sebastian Vettel and the, er, Infiniti FX Vettel Edition…

Formula 1 drivers have long been used as both test pilots and promotional tools by car companies, both to help develop vehicles and shift more units but few professional drivers have actually produced their own road car.

Jenson Button has done exactly this though, developing and producing his own sports car as part of the reborn Radford coachbuilding company, a joint venture with TV presenter Ant Anstead, car designer Mark Stubbs and lawyer Roger Behle.

The high-end sports car market doesn’t lack for competition, but Button likes to keep busy since leaving F1. In addition to media commitments, he’s started not one, but two race teams taking part in Extreme E and British GT. He explains why he had to leave the void left by grand prix racing.

“I needed something to really sink my teeth into, a new challenge” Jenson Button

“I had a long, fantastic career F1 but it was time to get out,” he told Motor Sport. “It does consume you for a while and it was a real breath of fresh air to have more freedom.

“But then it was like ‘Well, hang on. I’m enjoying what I’m doing with Sky and other things, but need something to really sink my teeth into, a new challenge.”

Perhaps in a bid to get Button off the sofa, it was his wife, Brittny Ward, who suggested a plan of action.

“My missus actually said ‘Isn’t Ant doing something really cool?’ So I gave him a call and Mark was also on the line.

“We started discussing ideas about where it’s going to go. I jumped on board as quickly as possible, because I loved the idea of being involved in the design and development of the car.”

Radford lead

Based on the Lotus 62 sports car, Button says the reimagining “feels like a big go-kart”


Button has been friends with Anstead for a while, but didn’t know Stubbs personally. He was familiar enough with his creations in the automotive world though – including work with Bentley Bugatti and Aston Martin – helping to sway Button on his decision.

“I knew where he’d worked, what he’s done in the past. I think the exciting thing is that he’s basically able to do what he wants, within reason, with the car.

“When you’re working with a big manufacturer, that’s not normally the case. So [we have] a lot more freedom, and I think that’s why we’re able come up with a car that’s stunning, and really make it our own.”

Button’s primary role in the company is to develop the handling of each Radford model, starting with the first project: the Type 62-2. It’s two-seater coupe road car, powered by a 3.5-litre supercharged V6 engine: a reimagining of the Lotus 62 racer that’s based on the Lotus Exige chassis.

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But Button is also enthused about the ability to fully customise each of the 62 cars being produced — as well as the models to come.

“The whole thing whole thing about exclusivity, co-creation with clients is that connection, it should feel very connected to the brand,” he says. “We co-create with customers what they want. It can be completely individual. The colours on the cars, the materials used inside – if they want a different induction system or a different rear wing, they can have it. It’s everything.”

Button himself has made more than a few purchases in the hypercar and sports car market. He has owned a McLaren P1 and Porsche Carrera GT, but found himself wanting a higher level of customisation than might be afforded by even the most boutique of car manufacturers.

“The tricky thing is with big brands is that they have limited edition runs of cars, which is great, but it’s quite limited on what you’re going to do with those cars, how you can make your own. You can add a stripe here and there and you can do some things, but we’re coming at it in a very different view.

“We had a client here yesterday, at one of our events, and they said, ‘It’s just nice to feel like we’re part of this team building these.’ People are becoming part of Radford by purchasing a car and making it their own.”

Button Radford

Button has been intensively testing the 62

Radford / Newspress

Harold Radford started his eponymous coachbuilding company in 1948. Customising everything from Minis to Rolls Royces, the luxury modifier has ’60s celebrity clients such John Lennon and Peter Sellers. The company went into liquidation 1966, with the trademark bought by Stubbs a few years ago.

As production cars offer greater customisation options, Radford’s new custodians see increasing demand for even more exclusivity — and cachet. The company has bought the rights to the classic Lotus John Player Special and Gold Leaf liveries in America, which are used to differentiate each version of the Type 62-2

The ‘Classic’ version has a 430bhp V6, is manual, comes without a spoiler, has 17in front and 18in rear wheels), whereas the ‘Gold Leaf’ edition packs a 500bhp V6, DCT, twin ducktail spoilers, 18/19in centre-lock wheels and motor sport traction control.

A JPS version (600bhp, DCT, complete aero kit and carbon wheels and brakes), is set to be released soon.

Each one promises to connect the driver with the road, thanks to Button’s work. The 2009 F1 champion told Motor Sport recently that as teenager he coveted the sensitive handling of Hethel cars, particularly the generation of Elise which sat in the garage of his local Lotus dealer in Bristol. It’s a hankering Button’s still not lost – he was famed for his smooth touch behind the wheel, after all.

“The most important thing is the car handles, does what you want, you’re connected to it, you’re connected to the road with it,” he says. “And for me, not having power steering [on the Type 62] was really important.

“There are a lot of power steering systems out there that do work mostly hydraulic electric systems, but electric power steering, I just don’t like them. So not having power steering was the way forward.

“It’s not a seriously heavy car and it doesn’t do anything aggressive. I love a car that’s gradual, not snappy.

“We’ve done a lot of testing just with the naked chassis. In my years of racing and F1, developing cars was my strength. In a difficult car, I wouldn’t be as quick around a lap as Fernando Alonso or Lewis Hamilton. But when I develop a car that works for me, I will be faster.”

Radford green

Standard 62 still packs 430bhp


However, the 62 isn’t just the reserve of F1 champions – it’s pliable for the less cultured right foot also.

“The handling has been really key to making sure that this car is fun, obviously aggressive in certain ways, but drivable for everyone,” Button tells us. “It’s not just the racing drivers car. It just feels like a big go kart and that’s exactly what I wanted. The whole point of this car – and every Radford – is that it makes you smile. Then we’ve done our job right, whether that’s looking at it, sitting in it or driving it. That’s the key for me.”

“This thing is bloody quick as well. You need a bit of everything, it needs to look beautiful – but if it doesn’t drive as well as it looks, what’s the point?

“It is powerful and it sounds good. I know that we’re all going in the way of EV, and I totally understand that. But while we still can, it’s nice to have a screaming combustion engine and this thing just sounds wonderful.

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“When you’re cruising around town, it’s calm, but I think people will be surprised at how loud is to when you’re full throttle. It’s a lovely, lovely sound.”

Looking to the future, Button and co already have the next models mapped out.

“We already have one car manufacturer that’s signed up for our next car, which is very exciting, and a second one that is almost over the line. So the next few years are kind of planned out already. The second car will be very different to the first car.

“When you look at the orders coming in for the 62 though, it’s like, ‘Maybe we should have made more!’”

Radford team

Button and team check out an original 62

Radford / Newspress

Whilst Button is now travelling at a marginally slower pace than he did in his F1 career, this new type of challenge is something he’s relishing.

“This is definitely different to F1, a smaller team. We’re all working, we’re all hands-on, building and developing Radford cars.

“Seeing the passion from the whole team, and the belief in what we’re trying to achieve, it’s really, really special. There’s a great group of people here and they work so hard. I’ve probably put the least amount of work in and I’ve put in quite a lot.

“These guys have worked 24/7 to get this car ready for the launch. It’s a real breath of fresh air to work with people that are as passionate as you are.”