Throwback Thursday: Lennon’s Psychedelic Rolls Royce 1967
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 […].
Lennon’s Phantom V
“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.
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.”
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)
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)
This entry was posted in History, Unusual and tagged 1964, 1965, 1967, angry old woman, automobile, bad driver, beatle discount, beatles book montly, brian epstein, british columbia, british icon, dutch design, electric yellow, generation gap, giles taylor, gypsy caravan, john lennon, julian lennon, L-Test, limousine, marijke koger, mop-tops, mulliner, mulliner park ward, old woman, park ward, perdio, phantom v, psychedelic rolls royce, reader's digest, reddit, ringo starr, rolling stone, rolling stone magazine, rolls royce, royal bc museum, sgt. pepper, shrieking yellow, steve weaver, swinging sixties, the fool, ticket to ride, umbrella, vadym graifer, valentine black, wikipedia, youtube.