Sunday, June 24, 2012

Finding John Lennon's Lost Rolls-Royce

“We can confirm that the White Rolls Royce is owned by the Klein family and is undergoing a full restoration.

--From an email from Valerie Collin, ABKCO Music & Records, New York, 21 June 2012

Guest blogger and relentless researcher Eric Roberts provides the anxiously awaited update on the search for John Lennon's white Rolls Royce!

After almost two years of searching for an answer to the  question, “Who owns John Lennon's white Rolls Royce?, the single sentence above from Valerie Collin puts an end to any further speculation.

Finally, we can confidently state that Lennon's lost 1965 Phantom V Rolls-Royce, chassis No. 5VD63, is in the safe keeping of Jody Klein, son of former Beatles manager, the late Allen Klein. What is more, we are reliably informed that this icon of late 1960s music culture is currently being fully restored back to its original perfection. After having disappeared from the media spotlight in late 1985, once its restoration is complete, the happy prospect that Lennon's second Rolls-Royce may finally become accessible to the public now seems a distinct possibility. The first and more famous of his two '65 Phantom fives--the one covered in colorful hand-painted gypsy arabesques--has been a star attraction at the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, Canada since 1993. Similarly, if the white Rolls-Royce was to be put on show any where in the world today, there can be little doubt that it would also attract large crowds of admirers. Although it lacks the fabulous eccentricity of Lennon's so-called “psychedelic” limousine, 5VD63 is closely associated with John and Yoko's political activism during the late 1960s. Indeed, it could be construed as one of their most public art works--a symbol of renewal in the aftermath of flower power and the “Summer of Love.

To have come this far in our quest to trace the history of 5VD63, registration No. EUC 100C, and track down its current ownership and whereabouts, is a testament to the power of blogging. Collaboration is the very essence of the research blog, and the timely assistance of readers who possess otherwise unobtainable pieces of the puzzle one is attempting to solve, is an integral part of the process.

A number of readers of this blog have been generous enough to contribute their insights into the matter of the missing Rolls-Royce and are entitled to a share of the credit in the final solution to the mystery. Author and feature writer for the London Telegraph, Mick Brown, told us about his meetings with Phil Spector in 2003, putting paid to the notion that Spector's white Rolls once belonged to his friend, John Lennon, as claimed by Alan White. Mick was also good enough to ask former Apple executive and music publicist, Tony King, for his recollections of the white Rolls-Royce and what became of it. King recalled that it was left behind at Tittenhurst Park in the early 1970s in the care of Ringo Starr when John and Yoko relocated to New York. 

Leading us deeper into the labyrinth, in January 2011 we received several short emails from someone claiming (a) to know where the white Rolls-Royce currently is, and (b) to be responsible for its on-going restoration. This person, who must remain anonymous for professional reasons, was adamant that EUC 100C had never left the United Kingdom. A little further detective work revealed exactly where the authentic white Rolls-Royce is currently garaged. However, we were still completely in the dark as to the name of the current owner. Well, not quite.

A few weeks prior to receiving advice from our informant in the UK, an email arrived from Stephen Tebo, owner of the world renowned Tebo Auto Collection in Colorado, USA. The message simply stated: I purchased the car on January 24, 1999 at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale, Arizona. It was lot #694. Hope this helps. Now, unfortunately, the beautiful white Phantom V in Tebo's collection is left-hand drive (LHD). Perhaps it did have some association with John Lennon, but it was definitely not 5VD63. This was confirmed by an article in the New York Times (see the earlier entry “Clues and Contradictions” on this blog) which reported on the results of the auction to which Stephen Tebo referred. The article contained a footnote stating that the white LHD Phantom V bought by Tebo was not the same Rolls-Royce (EUC 100C) associated with the Beatles during the late 1960s. The NY Times informed its readers that the current (1999) owner of John Lennon's white Rolls-Royce was in fact Allen Klein. At this point, we were getting tantalizingly close to the answer we were seeking, but at the same time we were frustratingly unable to confirm if 5VD63 has remained the property of the Klein family to this day. 

Then, a month ago, we received a quick succession of emails from a Rolls-Royce owner-enthusiast who, besides having a lifetime of acquired knowledge about all things Rolls-Royce, was also a Liverpudlian with an exceptional grasp of the details of John Lennon's life. He informed us:

5VD63 is a Phantom V seven seat limousine. Its engine number is D31PV. The coachbuilder is HJ Mulliner Park Ward and the body number is V327/20076. The HJ Mulliner Park Ward design number is 2003. As you note, the first owner was Patrick Barthropp Ltd. (UK), the car being delivered in May 1965.

Our helpful expert adviser confirmed that in the same year that Lennon purchased 5VD63 (1966) it had appeared prominently in the film Georgy Girl (see the earlier “Ballad of EUC 100C” entry in this blog). He then went on to tell us that he had referred the matter of the car's current ownership and location to an international authority who is very well known and respected in the RR world and stands among the 
Rolls-Royce Gods” such as Martin Bennett in Australia who authored the Bible on the RR Phantoms.

The immediate reply from the expert's expert stated that he (Lennon) bought 5VD63 second hand (was black, then white). Car still owned by music producer Jody Klein. Currently in restoration.

So there we had it. To be absolutely certain, we wrote to Jody Klein in New York and, as we have seen, his assistant gave us the confirmation we needed.

We now call on any owners of white Rolls-Royces--we know of two in Pensacola, Florida, and one in Longmont, Colorado--who continue to perpetrate the cruel hoax on the unsuspecting public that they are the owners of John Lennon's famous Phantom V, 5VD63 to put an end to the charade. One of the three vehicles we refer to is not even a Phantom V, but is actually a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III. All three are LHD and so are fraudulently being exhibited as John Lennon's white Rolls.

Click on image to enlarge
In our next blog, we will contrast the histories of the two identical 1965 Rolls-Royces that John Lennon owned and consider their different private and social functions.


Unknown said...

My son and I saw a white rolls royce at Panera Bread today in Pensacola. We met the owner, and he swears it was owned by John Lennon. The car was white with gold and brass trim and handles. It was definitely right hand drive. We took pictures if you are interested in seeing them.

Unknown said...

Question: why did Lennon have the air vents enlarged on his RR? Was it simply a matter of aesthetics or was there some function?

Sam Umland said...

In reply to Donovan Castleberry's query: We suspect he had the air vents enlarged to allow for more outside air. Believe it or not, Rolls at this time did not come with air conditioners as standard equipment, and therefore depended solely on outside air for cooling the interior. He had them enlarged to allow for more air flow.

Unknown said...

Thank you Mr.Umland. I suspected as much.

Unknown said...

Thank you Mr.Umland. I suspected as much.

Unknown said...

Hi great blog


ATTENTION: if there is anyone that is able to identify john lennon's real rolls its my DAD, he acutully worked on the cars itself and without a doubt can reconise it a mile off it was painted in a specific colour that he remembers to this day at the same time he was having a MINI built at the same place he was working when he was there.... and worked on it. he has done a write up about the rolls and his time on the car.. what I can tell you is the work that he did on these cars literally changed his life in so many ways. !!! LIKE I SAID if there is any one who can identify these cars the ROLLS and the MINI its my dad end of.... when i get the email from my dad I shall post it here.. funny thing is I remember being told this story of the rolls and my dads work when I was a small lad...No doubt my dad will be able to answer alot of questions on both cars he knows so much about them. down too the paint colour that he remembers to this day and more.!!!

Unknown said...

Back gain Message from my Dad (graham)

And lets see if he can get any pictures

It was around 1967- 68 these to cars came in to our work shop to be striped of there fitting's repaired and prepared for the spray shop, both cars the Rolls Royce and the Mini were of similar colour to start with, both of the cars were sprayed an unusual white to go with the White Album at that time.

I am possibly the last remaining person that worked on these two cars. I was 16 years old at that time and I always get a funny look of disbelief if I talk about those two cars even to this day...

I may be able to find some old photos of the pair of cars when they were finished. I also remember the chauffeur come body guard that they had was a bloody giant.

There mini was so cool at that time, it inspired me to build one myself, so I spent two years building my own project mini.

From Graham H

ps it would be great to find these to historic cars again

pps my dad also painted Mr Lennon's house in St George's Hills spooky that.

Eric Roberts said...

We now know that the two distinctive chrome grilles at the front of EUC 100C were added sometime before March 1969. They were not part of the ventilation system as suggested by someone at the Rolls Royce Enthusiasts CLub in the UK. The grilles concealed a pair of loud speakers connected to a Tanoy system which Lennon could operate from the back seat. This same feature was also installed in his first Rolls (FJB 111C) a few years earlier, except the speakers were hidden inside the front wheel arches.

Unknown said...

Hi to you all

I can give more details of how John Lennon bought this car as I sold it to him in late 1968 when I worked for a car dealershipthat was associated with Patrick Barthrop .


Steve Easton

my contact details are