502 Issue 2 Benedict Radcliffe

Photography: Arjun Sohal
Video: Ben Sandall
Words: Seth Footring

Benedict Radcliffe is a fucking boss. He rides a Kawasaki Ninja and until
recently bent metal with his bare hands into wire replicas of your dream cars. Professionally he’s an artist, currently teaching some of the staff at Automated Wire Bending (that’s what it’s actually called) how to make his pieces. Down to the smell there is a very serious and industrial feeling to the place.

When we walk into the workshop he’s wearing what’s solidly the best uniform polo shirt we’d ever laid eyes on and some slightly battered 110s. Later on he lets us know that the polo has been designed by Ben Drury, who’s done graphics for Palace as well as The New Order magazine, and he also relaunched KA Fruit Punch. This speaks to his place in London’s creative culture over the last few years. Aside from the wire cars he made The Quaker Street Bowl, which prior to its demolition was one of the better skate spots in London. The contrast between the industrial setting and the cool guy crowd feel is intrinsically part of the Benedict Radcliffe experience.

Cup of tea realness is another good way to describe Benedict and his attitude to making stuff: doing it because he wants to, respecting the work ethic of the people working around him. His art practice is very much blended into the industry around him. There were pieces in their beginnings with a printed outline of a 4x4, lifesize stuck flat to a board in 2D, waiting for wire-based 3D-ification.

Arjun Sohal (AS), Ben Sandall (BS) and Seth Footring (SF) sat down with Benedict Radcliffe (BR) after a tour of the studio/factory and later sipping a beer in a nearby pub. There’s a moment when we discuss the longest frazzle, but then we’ve also been talking about Futura, cars, Massimo Osti and the nature of the art industry and more cars. He’s a fascinating guy, and whilst he’s an enthusiast, refreshingly he is not a full car weirdo.

Ben Sandall: I thought your practice would be smaller and you’d be hand bending every single little thing?

Benedict Radcliffe: That’s what I used to do. I mean, honestly, don’t get me wrong, it is very unusual to have three projects all of a sudden.

Arjun Sohal: Can you tell us about Very Heavy Products?

BR: Very Heavy Products Limited is my company. I suppose the name was a bit tongue in cheek, like, heavy as in heavy. It came from JCB - I did some work for them and they’ve got a division called Heavy Products Division and I just put Very in front of it.

Seth Footring: Are you producing the uniform polo?

BR: I would love to. Ben Drury did that and it’s kind of rough and ready, a bit naïve. This is what everybody in Peterborough wears if you’re in light industry; you wear your logo with your name underneath. You need it so you’re not just a civilian when you got the suppliers.

SF: When your stuff sells at auction, do you get any of that money?

BR: So I sold a car for about £23,000. This German bloke bought 
it, had it in his studio in Berlin, decided to close his company down four years later and put the car on an auction site and got a hundred grand for it. I thought, shit, I’m going to do the same thing. So I made a Ferrari, put it in the same auction. It was a really bad auction; there was no reserve. So instead of it going for a hundred it went for sixteen. It took me about eight months to make. I went with the guys from the workshops and honestly they said that I went white. It was just like, right, we’ve got the Benedict Radcliffe F40 Ferrari and I looked around the room and no one was putting their hand up and 
I was like, shit.

AS: Have brands like Pininfarina or Motor Sport ever approached you?

BR: I would love that to happen. But sometimes they do. Toto Wolff [retired Austrian F1 driver and part owner of Mercedes F1 team] reached out to me. I actually called them up because and I was, like, sorry but has Toto Wolff just got in touch about the new Mercedes supercars? “Oh, yeah, he has.”

BS: Do they tend to be from abroad?

BR:Weirdly enough that was why maybe my Ferrari didn’t sell in London. In America, or Asia, I might be a bit exotic but in London it just wasn’t happening.

SF: Do you treat personal and commissioned work differently?

BR: I think the F40 was such a good thing to do. I spent about six or seven months and then, obviously, the outcome wasn’t brilliant, putting it in an auction, but it was authentic. I suppose what would be really good would be to try and work with a team, which is what I’m trying to do at the moment. I’m trying to train them up and teach them how to do it so that I’m not pulling my hair out at three o’clock in the morning.

AS: So how do people generally find out about you?

BR: Through Instagram. Sliding my dm like “hi dude. I saw your stuff on Instagram. I’ve got this resort in Alaska. I want one of your cars by our lake.” Instagram is quite nuts, quite shit and you can waste a lot of time on it, but at the same time it’s a business tool.

AS: Which cars did you have when you were young?

BR: Basically at seventeen: mum’s Golf Mark 1. Two weeks later: crashed it. Wasn’t allowed to drive for about two years or three years. Then I think got a Citroen Visa. The engine was loose so it would roll around. At uni at twenty-three or twenty-four I was driving a Hilux truck. That was really nice, not going very fast, just up high and comfy.


AS: Thoughts on the Ferrari exhibition last year?
BR: Absolutely wicked, amazing. 
AS: I thought it was bollocks: they missed out so much. Where was the Marinello? The 550? The F50?
BR: Hundred per cent. F50 is a weird one, not quite as iconic as the F40, but still. I liked Sylvester Stallone in his Ferrari overalls standing next to his F40.
AS: You have to choose one: Koenigsegg or AMG?
BR: I’m much more about the AMG, old-school nineties bad-boy Mercedes 500 AM GSEC. Just like rude boy, Dalston Junction 180, 3 series BMW.
AS: UK rude boy: Max Power or Japanese tuning?
BR: The R34 Skyline is one of my favourite cars ever. They’re fucking rude. But that’s another step up, once people start talk-ing about horsepower I can’t really get to that level.
AS: What’s a modern classic from today?
BR: My mum’s Mark 1 Golf that I crashed was cool.
BR: Have we gone a little bit too car crazy here?
BS: I think it’s good to hear that you’re not obsessed with engines.
SF: Do you wear full Ninja leathers on your bike? 
BR: I literally wear what I’m wearing now: jeans, Vans and bomber jacket. Black full-face helmet, never open. The fashion at the moment is to go open face on your Harley and I’ve fallen off a couple of times and falling off with an open-face helmet is madness.
AS: You’re too road for that. You were in 110s earlier, you know what I mean? People in 110s aren’t gonna have a Harley