March 2013

John Lennon’s Rolls-Royce at Pointe-à-Callière!

For immediate release

Montréal, March 27, 2013 – John Lennon’s legendary Rolls-Royce Phantom V is on display at Pointe-à-Callière as part of The Beatles in Montréal exhibition, from March 29, 2013 to March 30, 2014. On loan from the Royal BC Museum in Victoria, this beautiful Brit has had quite a journey, to say the least, since it was delivered to its famous owner on June 3, 1965.

A simply fabulous Rolls
Manufactured in 1965 by Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited, in Crewe, Cheshire, the Phantom V was fitted with a limousine body, finished in matte black, measured 19 feet long, and weighed three tons. John Lennon purchased it when he was just 24 years old! Over the years, Lennon had several modifications made to the Rolls: the rear seat was converted into a double bed, and a television, refrigerator, telephone, and sound system were added.

Growing tired of the Rolls’ all-too-classic paint job, John Lennon sought to update its appearance, looking to more daring—and even psychedelic—stylistic influences… Shortly after The Beatles had made the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album, Lennon and the J. P. Fallon design firm found their inspiration in a gypsy wagon, painted in a flowery style, that Lennon had recently acquired. Artist Steve Weaver was commissioned to complete the work based on the wagon’s design. The roof of the car was painted with Lennon’s zodiac sign, Libra. The newly painted Rolls-Royce was delivered to Lennon in May 1967. But the venerable car’s radical transformation did not meet with unanimous approval. In fact, one day, in downtown London, an old woman attacked the car with her umbrella, yelling: “You swine, how dare you do this to a Rolls-Royce?” Proof that the English have a great deal of respect for this symbol of British dignity.

A short film from 1967 will give exhibition visitors a glimpse of the Rolls, with its new paint job, driving along a country road, and will show the various transformations made to the car.

Visiting Her Majesty the Queen
The Beatles used the car exclusively during their heyday. In fact, they took the Rolls to get to Buckingham Palace on October 26, 1965 to attend the royal ceremony at which they received the medals making them Members of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. Another scene in the film takes a brief look at their visit, and especially at the frenzy—if not outright hysteria—of young Britons, extending more than 8 km around the palace.

On loan to the rich and famous
In 1970, John Lennon and Yoko Ono shipped the Rolls to the United States where it was rented out to such artists as The Rolling Stones, The Moody Blues, and Bob Dylan. Lennon and Yoko Ono tried to sell it but no buyer was found. As a result, the car was put into storage in New York and, in 1977, when John and Yoko were having problems with the Internal Revenue Service in the U.S., they negotiated a $225,000 tax credit in exchange for donating the Rolls-Royce to the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York City.

After having been on display at the museum for a few months, the Rolls went back into storage in Maryland, as the museum could not afford the insurance coverage required for exhibiting the car.

On the auction block
On June 29, 1985, the Cooper-Hewitt Museum decided to put the car up for auction. Sotheby’s estimated the car would sell for between $200,000 and $300,000 USD. This turned out to be a gross underestimation, as the Rolls was purchased by Jim Pattison of Ripley International Inc. for the tidy sum of $2,299,000 USD, with the intention of exhibiting the car at Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum.

In 1986, Jim Pattison was named chairman of Expo 86 in Vancouver. He loaned the famous Rolls to Expo for exhibition during the event. Ownership of the car was then transferred from Ripley International Inc. to Jim Pattison Industries Ltd., Canada (Mr. Pattison is a well-known British Columbia businessman).

In 1987, Mr. Pattison donated the car to the province of British Columbia. The Rolls-Royce was exhibited at the British Columbia Transportation Museum in Cloverdale, near Vancouver. In 1993, the magnificent vehicle was sent to the Royal BC Museum in Victoria.

The Rolls’ journey from Victoria, British Columbia to the Museum
For the past 20 years, just one person—Mr. Jim Walters—has serviced, cared for, and driven the Rolls. The mechanic and owner of Bristol Motors, located in Victoria and specializing in the restoration of high-end automobiles, Jim Walters supervised the Rolls’ journey to Pointe-à-Callière at the beginning of March. It was transported by truck, and Walters, along with Museum staff, were on hand for its arrival. Sitting behind the wheel of the beautiful car, Mr. Walters safely manoeuvred it into its display space in the exhibition room. The famous Rolls has been given permission to take a single drive outdoors during its stay in Montréal.

Pointe-à-Callière is proud to play host to this spectacular machine and to present it to visitors from Montréal and elsewhere. It is a unique occasion for the public to relive or learn about an exciting era. Through this partnership with the Royal BC Museum, Pointe-à-Callière is able to offer Beatles fans and recent history buffs an invaluable opportunity to immerse themselves in the 1960s and its effervescent music scene.