In January this year, self-made multi-millionaire and real estate developer, Stephen Tebo made international headlines when he acquired the historic Cadillac hearse that transported President Kennedy's body from Dallas Parkland Memorial Hospital to the airport in November 1963. Virually every news item that reported this latest addition to the Tebo Auto Collection also made mention of “a 1965 Rolls-Royce custom made for John Lennon” that resides among the 400 other cars in his collection. When and wherever the Tebo Rolls is put on show, a well known photo of The Beatles in 1969 beside Lennon's genuine Phantom V is proudly displayed.
The juxtaposition of the sign with the impressive white limousine is intended to convince the spectator that this is indeed the same car as the one in the “Ballad of John & Yoko” video. Visitors to the Tebo Auto Collection are left with no doubt that they have seen at close quarters the very car that John Lennon and Yoko Ono travelled everywhere in during the late 1960s.
Leaving aside the fact that we know for sure that the authentic John Lennon white Phantom V, chassis No. 5VD63, has never left England and that it has been in the Klein family at least the last 35 years, let's take a closer look at Tebo's Rolls-Royce.
The most obvious difference between the two Phantoms is the steering. The genuine Lennon/Klein Rolls-Royce is right-hand drive (RHD), whereas the car in Tebo's collection is left-hand drive (LHD) and was built for the American market. (Click on images to enlarge.)
|LHD Tebo Phantom (left), RHD Lennon Phantom (right)|
|Front interior Tebo Phantom (left), Lennon Phantom (right)|
|Interior Tebo (left), Lennon (right)|
|Tebo Phantom V (left), Lennon Phantom V (right)|
|Tebo Phantom V (left), Lennon Phantom V (right)|
One of the rarest features of Lennon's 5VD63 is the white steering wheel. It is probably the only Phantom V which has one, the rest would have been black.
The most important distinctions between Tebo's Rolls-Royce and the original white Rolls owned by the Klein family are not visible without a detailed inspection. These are the manufacturer's ID numbers for the chassis, the engine and the body. The serial numbers for John Lennon's white 1965 Phantom V are: Chassis No. 5VD63; Engine No. D31PV; Body No. V.327/20076. Our research convinces us that the serial numbers for the Phantom V in the Tebo Auto Collection are: Chassis No. 5LVD15; Engine No. D7PV; Body No. 20062. The coachwork of both vehicles was made by Mulliner Park Ward, Design No. 2003.
The Rolls-Royce in the Tebo Auto Collection was completed in June 1964, not 1965 as is always stated. One can only assume that this confusion is intentional, as it is public knowledge that the black Phantom V that John Lennon bought second-hand in 1966 was first delivered to Patrick Barthropp Ltd. in May 1965.
A SHORT HISTORY OF THE TEBO AUTO COLLECTION ROLLS-ROYCE
|Tebo Auto Collection Phantom V with original paint, as shown in Sotheby's 1984 sale catalogue|
As executor of her deceased husband's estate, Yoko decided to auction over 100 items in her possession though Sotheby's in New York on June 23, 1984. (Click on the link to see "For Sale: John and Yoko," Evening Independent (Ann Kolson) 26 June 1984. Go to page 4). The last lot to be sold was her beautiful sable brown Rolls-Royce. An unidentified woman and a phone bidder pushed the auction price past the reserve of $100,000 to $184,250, the proceeds going to Yoko Ono's children's charity, The Spirit Foundation. It must be said that she did nothing to correct news reports before and after the sale that her brown Phantom V was a “1965” model and that it had belonged, not just to her, but to “John and Yoko.” The long distance telephone buyer who outbid all other rivals was a shopping mall developer based in Pensacola, Florida. A long-time Beatles fan with an impressive collection Napoleonic memorabilia, Wallace C. Yost was nothing if not ambitious. At the height of his career he employed over 200 people and owned Mariner Mall shopping centers in Pensacola, Fort Walton Beach, Crestview and Panama City, with a luxurious home in Gulf Breeze.
At some point, perhaps in the late 1980s, Yost ordered his sable brown Rolls-Royce to be re-painted and re-upholstered to resemble John Lennon's famous limo. For a year or two, his imitation Lennon Rolls was put on display in the Mariner Mall as a public attraction until, that is, he went into hiding owing his creditors over $44 million. As FBI agents began a six-year hunt for the absconder, his re-painted Rolls-Royce was acquired by the banks and promptly auctioned off.
In 1997, Wallace Yost was captured and sentenced to 18 months jail. After having passed through several auction houses, his now white Phantom V went under the hammer at a Barrett-Jackson auction in January 1999 for $118,000. The buyer was Stephen Tebo. Though advertised by Barrett-Jackson as coming with all the necessary documentation, in fact there was no actual provenance proving that the car had once belonged to John Lennon, as the catalogue implied. The honest Mr. Tebo had made an honest mistake and found himself the owner of a convincing fake. While it gives us no pleasure whatsoever to debunk Mr. Tebo's claim to be the owner of one of the most famous limousines in rock music history, we believe we have a public duty to do so. John Lennon gave the world so much of himself through his music and his public anti-war demonstrations--for which he paid the ultimate price--that any form of counterfeit activity involving his name and image is simply wrong.
Should Mr. Tebo or anyone else wish to provide proof that any the assertions published in this blog are inaccurate, we would be only too willing to correct our research and publish a sincere apology.