SOME INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT JOHN LENNONíS
ROLLS-ROYCE PHANTOM V. CHASSIS 5VD73

Introduction:

Every so often, within local circles of Beatle collectors, some excellent information is brought to my attention. When Alan Chrisman held his 2nd Beatle Convention in tandem with the National Museum of Science and Technology's showcasing of Lennon's Rolls-Royce Phantom V here in Ottawa during 1996, he asked the museumís curator to send him a personal fax detailing the history of Johnís car. The fax, unfortunately, was received on one of those old waxy fax sheets and some of the information (a small middle part) was lost in the transmission. After reviewing the data on the fax sheet that Alan handed to me, I realized that there was more than enough information to do a very good write-up on the car but one important piece of information was missing: namely, what year did John dispose of the Rolls and to whom? Knowing that "Beatlology" magazine recently did an excellent review on the car, I thought Iíd indulge upon the good nature of two excellent Beatle researchers, Steve Clifford and Andrew Croft. Both Steve and Andrew gracefully responded back by e-mail and are credited here for providing me with that date. So, thank you Steve and Andrew (and keep up the excellent work on your "Beatlology Magazine!"). Special thanks also goes out to Alan Chrisman for providing me with the fax transmission for my research. Special thanks is also in order for the meticulous research that Adam Bloomfield did in the U.K. to help provide us with new information and documentation in our March 2009 update. Thank you Adam! - John Whelan, Chief Researcher for the Ottawa Beatles Site


-------------------------------


 

Beautiful car, isnít it? This car was manufactured in 1965 by the Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited, Crewe, Cheshire. The car was fitted with a limousine body by Mulltner Park Ward and finished in Valentines Black.

When completed, the Phantom V was then delivered to John Lennon on June 3, 1965 with the license plate number being FJB111C. A guarantee was issued to John Lennon on 10 June 1965. The car measured 19 feet long and weighed three tons.

On December 21, 1965, John ordered a Sterno Radio Telephone and the number WEYBRIDGE 46676 assigned to it.

In 1966, the car had the rear seat modified to convert to a double bed. A custom interior/exterior sound system was installed along with a "loud hailer." Other features that John Lennon had installed at this time were: Sony television; telephone and a portable refrigerator. On January 7, the car went in for a mileage check and the odometer had recorded 6,673 miles and on March 28, that same year, the car clocked in at 11,181 miles. Later, on February 4, in 1967, the odometer would record 29,283 miles clocked on the Rolls-Royce. Interestingly enough, John had his chauffeur and car sent over to Spain in 1966, while he was filming "How I Won the War". It was reported that his Rolls-Royce Phantom V was painted with a matt black overall, which included the radiator and chrome trim.

But John eventually became restless with the "matt black overall" on the car and so in April of 1967, he took it upon himself to visit J.P. Fallon Limited, a coachworks company located in Chertsey, Surrey. He had in mind the possibility of having his car painted "psychedelic". This was based on an idea by Marijke Koger ("The Fool" who was a member of Dutch team of gypsy artists). After discussing the idea, J.P. Fallon Limited commissioned Steve Weaver's pattern of scroll and flowers for the Phantom V. The cost for having the work done came in at £2,000 (or about $4,200 Cdn) and the car was painted by the original gypsies who made the gypsy wagon that was in Lennon's garden (see Adam Bloomfield's e-mail below.)

Johnís newly painted psychedelic car drew some public outrage when a old woman, in Londonís downtown, attacked the car using her umbrella and yelling: "You swine, you swine! How dare you do this to a Rolls-Royce." Obviously, the Rolls-Royce is passionately regarded in England as one of the many symbols of British dignity!

The Beatles used the Rolls exclusively in their heyday from 1966 to 1969.

In 1970, John Lennon and Yoko Ono had the Phantom V shipped to the United States. The car was loaned out to several rock stars such as the Rolling Stones, the Moody Blues, and Bob Dylan. When the car was available, the Lennonís seldom used it and so consideration was given to sell it to an American buyer -- but a deal never materialized. As a result, the car was put into storage in New York City.

Then in December, 1977, John and Yoko had serious problems with the United States Internal Revenue. The couple arranged to have a deal worked out where they would donate the car to the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York City, a part of the Smithsonian Institute, for a $225,000 tax credit.

From October 3, 1978 to January 7, 1979, the car was put on public display at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum and then returned to storage at Silver Hill, Maryland. There, the car would remain in storage and kept from public viewing for a while. The reason for this was because the museum could not afford the insurance coverage for public viewing on a full-time basis.

On June 29, 1985, the Cooper-Hewitt Museum decided to auction the car off through Sothebyís. Before the auction began, The Rolls-Royce Phantom V was estimated by Sotheby's to fetch between $200,000 to $300,000 (U.S.). When the car was sold, it pulled in a surprising $2,299,000 (U.S.) and was purchased by Mr. Jim Pattisonís Ripley International Inc., of South Carolina for exhibition at Ripleyís "Believe It Or Not" museum. The purchase of the Phantom V through Sothebyís resulted it being listed as the most expensive car in the world and installed with the South Carolina license plates LENNON.

The Phantom V was then loaned to Expo Ď86 in Vancouver (Chairman: Mr. Jim Pattison) for exhibition. The American title was transferred from Ripley International Inc. to Jim Pattison Industries Ltd., in Canada (Mr. Jim Pattison is a well-known British Columbia business man.)

In 1987, Mr. Pattison presented the car as a gift to Her Majesty in Right of the Province of British Columbia and displayed in the Transportation Museum of British Columbia at Cloverdale (near Vancouver).

Then, in 1993, the car was transferred from the Transportation Museum and sent to the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, British Columbia. Here the car would be kept for secure storage, displayed only for fund-raising and occasional use. The car was serviced and maintained by Bristol Motors of Victoria.


PAINT LONGEVITY ON LENNON'S ROLLS-ROYCE...

In order to protect the paint work on John Lennon's famous Rolls-Royce  Phantom V, the Royal Royal British Columbia Museum requested that the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) do a paint analysis on the car. Here are the test results as reported from the CCI:

"Samples were mounted as cross sections to determine the structure of the paint layers. Paint chips were also analysed using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction, X-ray microanalysis, and polarized light microscopy. The analysis revealed that both cellulose nitrate and an oil-modified alkyd resin media had been used and that the surface of the paint had been coated with an oil-modified alkyd resin varnish. A colourful array of pigments was identified, including chrome yellow, titanium white, ultramarine blue, and toluidine red.

"Based on the materials identified, cleaning and waxing the car was recommended; the analysis showed there was nothing in the paint that would be harmed by water or by the application of a protective wax coating. To minimize damage to the varnish and painted surface, it was also recommended that the car not be exposed to direct sunlight for long periods as this could cause deterioration of both the cellulose nitrate and the alkyd resin."

However, over the years the car has had some paint cracking on the original top coat. Restoration work was applied. Click on this link to see the before and after results: http://www.bristolmotors.com/rolls.html


Photos: Annmarie Wilhelm

From 9 March 1996 to 15 September 1996, John Lennonís Rolls-Royce Phantom V was displayed at the National Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa, with as passenger a sculpture of John by Joanne Sullivan.

"During the making of Sergeant Pepper John decided to have the Rolls-Royce painted. Colour and design were of the utmost priority and he employed a firm of barge and caravan designers to do it for him. The idea came to him when he bought an old gypsy caravan for the garden."
-- Cynthia Lennon, from her book, "A Twist of Lennon", page 142.

- Researched by John Whelan,
February 13, 2000

Additional material, April 28, 2001, from promotional flyers issued by the Ottawa Museum of Science and Technology in 1996 and with one final update entered to this page on March 24, 2003, culled from the Canadian Conservation Institute at: http://www.cci-icc.gc.ca/whats-new/news21/lennon_e.shtml

On June 19 2008, we received the following message:

To: northern_reflection@msn.com
From: adam.b(at)suppressed
Subject: Lennon's Rolls Royce

Dear Mr Whelan.

I have just read with interest your feature on the psychedelic Rolls Royce of John Lennon and thought you may be interested in some more recent additional information I have relating to the concept, design and production of its paint work. Inevitably the reality differs somewhat from the myth that surrounds the identity of the artist who created the design. I researched the history to establish the provenance of the original design proof that I was given following the death of my father-in-law and to establish the actual events. The internet, The UK Public Records Office and The Royal British Columbia Museum were all very helpful in leading me to the actual events.

The inspiration for the design came from Marijke Koger, one of the design collective 'The Fool' who were responsible for numerous seminal pieces of the period and were very influential in the psychedelic art movement. Marjke emailed me about the design; ďI was staying at John's house in 68 [she miss-states the date] to paint his piano and he had a painted gypsy wagon in is garden. I suggested to him that he paint the Rolls like the gypsy wagon, which he thought was a great idea so he contacted the genuine gypsies who made the wagon and they actually did the painting on the Rolls.Ē 

Marijke Koger was apparently unaware of who actually painted the Rolls Royce as it was local artist Steve Weaver who created the design for John to realised his vision. He clearly liked Weaver's design, as this was then painted on John's Rolls Royce by Weaver at the JP Falon, Coachbuilders works. Weaver was paid £290 for his artwork.

Steve Weaver is now deceased so he can't tell his own story. However his daughter remembers the time and she confirmed that the design painting I have is the original that was prepared for Lennon by her father. Weaver's daughter was interested in my father-in-law's connection to her father, and revealed that he ďhad a younger man help him with the carĒ. It is quite possible that this was my father-in-law, also an accomplished artist who was working in the area at that time.

I met with Weaver's daughter who was delighted to see the design again and provided me with documents to support the story and authenticate the design. They consist of: a signed authentication by the artistís daughter; a photographic copy of Weaverís £290 invoice for work and materials dated May 24th 1967; a photographic copy of an application to the Patent Office to register the design, dated 19th June 1967 signed by the artist; an email from Marijke Koger commenting on the origins of the work.

I have attached a photograph of the artwork and a couple of the other pieces for your interest.  It measures 24" x 36" (600mm x 900mm) and is in 'as-found' condition as you can see. Please feel free to contact me if you'd like to use any of this on your website or if you'd like any more background info.

Kind regards
Adam Bloomfield

On January 12, 2011, we received the following message:

John Lennon's custom painted Rolls Royce (RBCM 992.64.1) is now on display in the lobby of the Royal British Columbia Museum until June 2011.   

In the last year new material has come to light.  Using www.britishpathe.com I am now convinced it did take the Beatles to Buckingham Palace to receive their MBEs, when it was still its original colour, Valentine's Black.  There is also now good footage of the Caravan painted (possibly by Steve Weaver, but certainly at J.P. Fallon's coach building firm, where the car was painted later) that was the inspiration for painting the Rolls.  The caravan was delivered the month following Sergeant Pepper's and the logo for that album is clearly visible on the back of the Caravan.  Also located are films of the car after being painted, including interior shots of the television.

Caravan
http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=44818  

The car when new.
http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=44725

Original car colour was Valentine's black. http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=41111.  In stills mode, in 1 second slices at 00:46 you can clearly read the license plate FJBIIIC which is this car.  

Dr. Lorne Hammond, Curator of History


Related link of interest:  Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts Club

1st update was done April 28, 2001;
2nd update was done March 24, 2003;
3rd update was done June 6, 2003;
4th update was done March 14, 2009;
5th update was done January 14, 2011.