It’s 50 years since the Summer of Love, when going to San Francisco with flowers in your hair was the rage, and The Beatles produced the iconic album, Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. There was no bigger band in the world at the time and John Lennon and Paul McCartney were the driving force.
So, it’s fitting that Rolls-Royce is to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that landmark album by bringing the colourful Rolls-Royce Phantom V, owned by John Lennon, back home to London for the British public to see.
The car is currently owned by the Royal British Columbia Museum in Canada. ‘The John Lennon Phantom V’ will travel from Canada to London to join ‘The Great Eight Phantoms’ – A Rolls-Royce Exhibition, at Bonhams on New Bond Street, an area visited regularly by Lennon in the late 1960s in this very car.
Members of the public will be able to see ‘The John Lennon Phantom V’ at Bonhams from 29 July to the 2 August.
‘The John Lennon Phantom V’
John Lennon took delivery of his Rolls-Royce Phantom V in Valentine Black on 3 July 1965. He would later say that he always wanted to be an eccentric millionaire, and the Phantom would become an important step towards that dream.
Lennon had the Phantom V customised in true rock-star style. The rear seat was converted to a double bed, a television, telephone and refrigerator were installed, along with a ‘floating’ record player and a custom sound system (which included an external loud hailer).
Then, in April 1967, just as the recording of Sgt Pepper’s was finishing, Lennon asked Surrey coachbuilders, JP Fallon, to give the Phantom a new paint job. The freshly-painted Phantom was unveiled days before the worldwide release of Sgt Pepper’s on 1 June and it seemed part of the overall concept of the album.
The new colour scheme is often described as ‘psychedelic’ and certainly the colours, particularly the dominant yellow, reflected the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. But look carefully and you will see it is no random swirl, but a floral Romany scroll design, as used on gypsy caravans and canal barges, with a zodiac symbol on the roof.
The Phantom V was used regularly by Lennon until 1969 (Lennon also owned a slightly less conspicuous all-white Phantom V). Having used it, pre-paint change, to collect his MBE with his bandmates in 1965, he then used it again in 1969 to return his MBE to the Palace, in protest against, among other things, the Vietnam War.
The car was shipped to the USA in 1970 when Lennon moved there and was loaned out to ferry other rock stars around such as The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and The Moody Blues. In 1977, after a period in storage, it was donated by billionaire Jim Pattison to the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.