Throwback Thursday: Lennon’s Psychedelic Rolls Royce 1967

Posted on Updated on

Lennon Rolls Reddit Image One
John With Julian
Image Credit: Reddit

Fifty-six years ago, today…

John Lennon bought a 1964 Mulliner Park Ward Phantom V, finished in [Valentine Black]. Everything was black except for the radiator, even the wheels. Lennon asked for the radiator to be black as well but, Rolls-Royce refused. Originally, the car was customised from Park Ward with black leather upholstery, cocktail cabinet with fine-wood trim, writing table, reading lamps, a seven-piece his-and-hers black-hide luggage set and a Perdio portable television. A refrigeration system was put in the boot and it was one of the first cars in England to have tinted windows. In December 1965, Lennon made a seven-page list of changes […].

Wikipedia Summary
Lennon’s Phantom V

Rolling Stone B&W Image Two
Image Credit: Rolling Stone

“You swine! How dare you do that to a Rolls-Royce!”…so screamed an outraged Englishwoman as John Lennon’s Phantom V cruised past on London’s posh Piccadilly promenade in the Summer of 1967. The ornately decorated limousine, sprayed an electric yellow and bedecked with colorful floral tendrils, Romany scrolls and, zodiac symbols like a hallucinatory gypsy caravan, so offended her sensibilities that she briefly attacked it with an umbrella…or, at least, that’s the way Lennon always told the story.

Much as the length of the Beatles’ mop-tops had done, Lennon’s choice to express himself through his automobile triggered a generational clash, enraging those who felt the tripped-out paintjob had subverted a British icon.

In the 50 years since it outraged the Establishment, Lennon’s Rolls-Royce Phantom V is now embraced as a masterpiece of design and a jewel of the Swinging Sixties.

For all of the paperwork accumulated during the car’s construction, the total price of the vehicle is not recorded. [With] publicity at a premium and Lennon being one of the most famous people on the planet, odds are good that he received some sort of Beatle discount. Ironic considering the significant expenditure, Lennon was unable to drive when he first ordered the Phantom V. He wouldn’t pass his “L-Test” until February 15th, 1965 at age 24, becoming the last Beatle to do so. That same day, the Beatles began work on a new song, Ticket to Ride, a prophetic title considering the number of citations Lennon eventually racked up during his road hours. By all accounts, including his own, he was a horrendous driver, far too myopic to read signs, too distracted to recall routes and too impractical to troubleshoot even the simplest mechanical issue.

Graifer Phantom Image Three
Image Credit: Vadym Graifer’s Photography

Exactly how Lennon decided on the lurid Romany floral/zodiac hybrid is subject to some debate. [Les] Anthony recalls Ringo Starr planting the seed of the idea during a drive in early 1967. However, others say the idea was suggested by Marijke Koger, of the Dutch design collective The Fool, who would also paint Lennon’s piano that summer, after Lennon commissioned a refurbished 1874 gypsy caravan as a present for his young son, Julian.

After spraying the body of the car yellow, local artist Steve Weaver was tasked with painting the red, orange, green & blue art nouveau swirls, floral side panels and Lennon’s astrological symbol, Libra, on the roof. On May 24th, Weaver submitted an invoice for 290 pounds and, the following day [May 25], the car was ready for pickup.

“John Lennon chose an automotive piece as his canvas, using all the symbols of wealth and other messages that go along with the Rolls-Royces of that period. He was certainly getting fed up with conforming at that time. It was a classic artistic statement.”

Giles Taylor
Design Director
Rolls Royce

Reactions were mixed, depending on which side of the generation gap you happened to stand. The Daily Mail reported that the shrieking yellow vehicle elicited jeers from the assembled crowd and Beatles Book Monthly [July 1967] claimed that a local traffic official feared the loud colors would be a dangerous distraction to drivers on the road. Delivered days before the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was issued, its official maiden voyage took place on May 28th, leading a fleet of friends to Epstein’s new country home for a combined album release party and housewarming.

Rolling Stone (The Complete Article)
Jordan Runtagh
July 27, 2017

The Story Behind John Lennon’s Psychedelic Rolls-Royce Phantom V (Vintage News Daily/January 6, 2019)
How John Lennon’s Rolls Royce Limousine Ended Up In This British Columbia Museum (Reader’s Digest Canada/Mike Lane)
John Lennon’s Rolls-Royce (Royal BC Museum/April 30, 2020)

16 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: Lennon’s Psychedelic Rolls Royce 1967

    Kenneth T. said:
    May 25, 2023 at 9:22 PM

    With the kind of money and (uhh) fame as he had… if someone said ‘no’, he should have moved on to another company. After all the Beatles were more popular than a certain (well known and important) religious figure head

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      May 25, 2023 at 9:35 PM

      Heh. Yeah. I remember reading about that remark. Oh, the backlash from the Christians.

      He could have moved on when they nixed the black radiator but, he definitely wanted something to outshine Epstein’s Bentley.

    UK #1s blog said:
    May 25, 2023 at 9:29 PM

    That’s a pretty cool paintjob!

    Badfinger (Max) said:
    May 26, 2023 at 12:17 AM

    What i wouldn’t give for this thing. It would be like driving a tank though…but I wouldn’t mind.

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      May 26, 2023 at 12:46 AM

      There was a snippet in the Rolling Stone piece that said:
      “Tipping the scales at nearly three metric tons, it didn’t roll so much as glide down the blacktop.”

      When I texted you about this, I was thinking that you would do a post on your own about it.

        Badfinger (Max) said:
        May 26, 2023 at 9:35 AM

        I was going to…not on the anniversery but I already have one in draft and I’m working on it ….and I appreciate it.

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      May 26, 2023 at 11:29 AM

      Dude. Read Graham’s comment, below. Graham is an artist I follow that lives in Liverpool.

        Badfinger (Max) said:
        May 26, 2023 at 11:32 AM

        lol her loss! I bet she wished she would have kept it.

          The Hinoeuma responded:
          May 26, 2023 at 12:06 PM

          Possibly…silently…unless she hated him so much, she didn’t care.

          I’m fascinated with Graham being that close in degrees of separation.

          And, if you want some artistic shots of Liverpool, follow him. He is very talented.

            Badfinger (Max) said:
            May 26, 2023 at 4:25 PM

            Well with the money it would be worth now.
            Ok I’ll check him out.

    graham mcquade said:
    May 26, 2023 at 5:20 AM

    I paint with a lady who went to art school with Lennon. She hated him – she thought he was an abnoxious boor – and when he did a small cartoon and gave it to her she ripped it up and binned it. Oh well…

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      May 26, 2023 at 11:36 AM

      My goodness! Lennon is not for everyone. I guess he was a much better musician than artist? And, that is a mere, what, one, two degrees of separation? I’m not sure how “degrees” are calculated, properly. Somebody worked it out with Kevin Bacon. 😄

    doerfpub said:
    June 5, 2023 at 5:59 PM

    Or perhaps a bit too much Lucy in the Sky…. Never a Beatles fan so really don’t know much about them beyond the hatred for Yoko ha.

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      June 5, 2023 at 8:17 PM

      I can only say that I liked early Beatles. A blogger friend of mine is a huge Beatles fan. He & I are a few months apart in age and I get a lot of info from him.

      Once they went all psychedelic, the music, to me, sucked. I didn’t grow up with Beatles music in my house. My dad was an Elvis guy, along with Ricky Nelson, Beach Boys, Buddy Holly, Gene Pitney and, Surf & Drag music. My mom was into the Motown sound. The Beatles was not on my radar as a kid and, at that age, I had no idea Wings was led by a Beatle…no clue.

      In the case of this post, I was more interested in the car than Lennon.

      Everybody hates Yoko. 😄

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.