John Lennon's legendary 1965 Rolls-Royce Phantom V limousine, custom painted in a psychedelic scheme that manages to be both shocking and beautiful over half a century later, is being brought back to the UK for the first time in 40 years. Rolls-Royce is repatriating the iconic ride on the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, one of the greatest albums of all time.
The John Lennon Phantom V will travel to London from its home of the last four decades at a museum in Canada to join "The Great Eight Phantoms" – A Rolls-Royce Exhibition at Bonhams that will help launch the new eighth generation Phantom later this year. Other iconic cars on display from July 29– Aug. 2 will include Phantoms owned by Fred Astaire and Field Marshal Montgomery,
Lennon originally took delivery of the Phantom V on June 3, 1965, painted Valentine Black. He would later say that the car was part of his lifelong dream of being an eccentric millionaire. Customizations included a rear seat that converted to a double bed, a television, telephone, refrigerator, "floating" record player and a custom sound system including an external public address system.
In April 1967 as the Beatles were finishing recording Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, an album that would change popular music forever, Lennon asked Surrey coachbuilders JP Fallon, to give the Phantom a new bespoke paint job. Finished a few days days before the release of Sgt. Pepper’s it mimicked the style of the album's now iconic cover art.
And in fact the psychedelic effect is not as pronounced if you examine the paint scheme carefully. The swirls and flourishes are far from random, however and are in fact floral Romany scroll designs as used on gypsy caravans and canal barges, with a zodiac symbol on the roof. The idea of a Rolls-Royce painted to resemble a gypsy caravan perfectly suited Lennon's personality.
The Phantom V was used regularly by Lennon until 1969; he also owned a less conspicuous all-white Phantom V. While it was still painted black he used it to collect his MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire), an award given by the Queen for outstanding service to the community. After it's wild makeover he returned to Buckingham Palace to return the award in protest against the Vietnam War.
In 1970 the car was shipped to the USA when Lennon moved there and was used to ferry other rock stars around including 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, where it has resided ever since. Welcome home, old girl....