Sunday, September 11, 2016

Rebirth of a Grand Old Rock 'n' Roller

Guest blogger Eric Roberts reports
PART ONE
THE DREAM LIVES ON
Above: EUC 100C as it appeared recently at the 2016 Rolls-Royce Enthusiast's Club
rally at Burghley House. Below: The Beatles second last photo shoot on April 9, 1969.
A fortnight earlier, the white Phantom V had returned from Amsterdam and John and
Yoko's famous honeymoon/bed-in event.
The understated reappearance in late June of EUC 100C, the famous white Rolls-Royce once owned by John Lennon (see previous post) marks the end of a thirty year period out of the limelight and an epic automotive restoration by anyone's standards.

EUC 100C's current owner, Jody Klein, deserves the gratitude of Beatles fans and classic car lovers world-wide for rescuing this historic luxury limousine from the scrap metal yard. Over the last eight years, Rolls-Royce and Bentley Garages in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, have painstakingly attended to every detail of the fifty year-old car. Both physically and in terms of performance, they have managed to preserve an increasingly rare example of the ultimate in Sixties motoring elegance.

Some of the main restoration work carried out by RR&B Garages included rebuilding the engine and gearbox; steering and suspension;  electrical  system;  air  conditioning;  television  and audio system; stripping and repainting throughout; re-trimming the interior  front  and  rear  compartments;  refurbishing  timber  and metal work -- in short, a full ground up restoration.

Particular attention has been paid to the reconstruction of the rear compartment's entertainment console which Lennon had especially installed soon after he bought EUC 100C, around 1966/67. This audiovisual console replaced the more traditional drinks cabinet -- one of many luxurious refinements which came with every Phantom V. However, the two fold down jump seats on either side of the console were retained by Lennon, presumably so that extra  passengers could be accommodated if need be.
Above: Before Lennon bought EUC 100C it would have had
an exquisitely crafted drinks cabinet like this one in the center
of the partition wall between driver and passenger compartments.
Below: Lennon had the "mini bar" removed and replaced with an
8-track stereo tape player, television, telephone, radio, and public
address system. (Still: ITN News, 1985)
Two similar angles of the rear compartment showing the telephone mounted beside
the audiovisual console. In the bottom left of the top photo the handle of one of the two
pull-down jump seats can be seen. Both front and rear bench seats were fitted with
bespoke white cloth covers, faithfully replicated by RR&B Garages.

As previously reported here, the exceptionally fine work carried out by RR&B Garages' small team of luxury car restoration specialists led by Alan Hobbs was appropriately acknowledged last month at the annual Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts' Club concours d'elegance and rally. There is no higher public honor than the RREC's award of best in class for a classic Rolls-Royce such as EUC 100C. Its reception at its first public appearance in several decades must give Jody Klein cause for much personal satisfaction, and reflection.
Should EUC 100C be permanently parked in a private garage hidden away from the world? Or, like Lennon's other Phantom V which resides in the Royal BC Museum in Canada, should the public be given at least some controlled access to one of the most famous limousines in Rock 'n' Roll history?

Meanwhile, unanswered questions remain about EUC 100C's condition and whereabouts between 1970 – 2008. The little that we do know is roughly as follows.
PART TWO
ROMANCE AND RUST

Thanks to the assistance of one of our readers, Paul Whalley, we know that according to Driver Vehicle and Licensing Agency (DVLA) records, EUC 100C's vehicle tax expired on October 1, 1986. It seems that for many years John Lennon's old white Phantom  V  was  existing  in  a  state  of  limbo,  neither  legally drivable nor written off completely. How did such a prestigious, even notorious vehicle come to such a dolorous impasse?

By the mid-1980s, EUC 100C's condition had badly deteriorated. After twenty years of service, apart from normal wear and tear, it is reasonable to speculate that more serious problems lay hidden underneath the body of the car.

Still to this day county councils in the UK spend millions of pounds on gritting motorways with road salt during the winter. It is common knowledge that deicing roads with salt to improve transport safety also increases the incidence of vehicle damage due to rust.

Here is not the place to delve into the complex science and mechanics of the effects of road salt on steel and aluminium components. However, it is useful to know that there are three main categories of road salt corrosion found in motor vehicles; these are functional, structural and cosmetic:


Functional and structural damage occur when corrosion causes loss of operating performance or structural integrity. Examples include perforation of body panels, corrosion of brake linings and deterioration of the frame and bumper support systems. Cosmetic corrosion affects only the appearance of the vehicle. Examples include rust staining of painted body panels and discoloration and pitting of trim metals. Special Report 235, Highway Deicing - Comparing Salt and Calcium  Magnesium  Acetate, Transportation Research Board National Research Council, Washington, D.C., 1991.

Contemporary footage exists of EUC 100C in early December 1969 as it cruises along snow-covered country roads, taking Mr. and Mrs. Lennon from a studio in London to the village of Lavenham, Suffolk. Their purpose was to capture on film the snow-blanketed rural landscape at sunset from a hot air balloon for an art film called Apotheosis2. A BBC television crew accompanied the couple over five days for the making of  24 Hours: The World of John and Yoko. (See video links below.)
John and Yoko on the road to Lavenham in the first week of December, 1969.
Corrosive liquid salt sprays off the tires and up into the countless surfaces and
recesses of the car's hidden substructure. The dangers of spreading salt on snow-
covered roads were not as well understood in the Sixties as they are today. Preventative
measures were not observed.
In contrast to the impressive spectacle of a white Rolls-Royce driving in a white landscape, it is evident from the footage that only one headlight is working. With so much else going on inside and around him, it would not be surprising if Lennon's second Rolls-Royce  was less than perfectly  maintained. After  having made at least two trips to the Continent that we know of, by the end of the Sixties, EUC 100C may have been starting to look a little second hand. Also, given  that the white Rolls-Royce had come to be publicly associated with The Beatles as a whole, the fact that Lennon had wanted to leave the group as early as October 1969, may have contributed to its redundancy in his life with Ono.

So it was that towards the end of 1969 ownership of EUC 100C was transferred from John Lennon to Allen Klein, founder of ABKCO Music and Records and, for a while, business manager of the Beatles' joint enterprise, Apple Records Ltd. Meanwhile, during the last days of the 1960s, Lennon placed an order with Daimler-Benz in Stuttgart for a new Mercedes Pullman 600.
More expensive, more up-to-date and half a foot longer than the Phantom V,
Lennon's new white Mercedes 600 was delivered to his home in Ascot in early
February 1970.
PART THREE
ALLEN KLEIN

According to Allen Klein's driver and body guard, Alf Weaver:

My  job  during  1969  also  now  included  keeping  close  to Klein, but he was only in the UK about one week in every eight. He was mostly based at his glass tower in New York, the ABKCO offices, on Broadway. A bit later in the year, Allen asked me to pick up his new car. Actually, it was John's old car, his Rolls-Royce Phantom V limousine, EUC 100C. Lennon had bought it in 1966 and completely resprayed it (white) and refitted its interior (white shag and white seats). John liked white. Lennon and Klein sealed the deal. $50,000, I think. Good price, John. I picked the car up at Hoopers in Kilburn and ended up driving it for the next decade, on and off. (The First Rock 'n' Roll Bodyguard, Alf Weaver and Robert Ashton. London: Sanctuary Publishing, 2001)

Interestingly, Weaver states unambiguously that Lennon acquired EUC 100C in 1966. This is supported by an ITN news report produced in December 1985. His reference to “Hoopers” is also revealing. Hooper Motor Services specialized in the maintenance, coachwork repair and bespoke conversion of deluxe motor cars for the rich and famous. When Allen Klein bought the white Phantom from Lennon it must have needed expert attention to restore its original aura of exclusivity and indisputable elegance.

The only reference to EUC 100C in Fred Goodman's recent biography of Allen Klein is in connection with the film The Greek Tycoon, produced by Klein in 1978, starring Anthony Quinn and Jacqueline Bisset:

When they needed a Rolls-Royce for a scene, Klein didn't want to rent one and instead insisted on using the white Rolls he'd bought from John Lennon and kept in London. He had his English driver, Alf Weaver, bring it to Greece. (Fred Goodman, Allen Klein: The Man Who Bailed Out The Beatles, Made The Stones and Transformed Rock 'n' Roll, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, NY, 2015: 247.)

Goodman's book tells us next to nothing about Allen Klein's activities in England after The Beatles disbanded, but we can assume  that EUC 100C rarely left its garage throughout  the 1970s. At this point in our investigation, exactly why Klein suddenly decided to sell his white Phantom V remains a mystery.

On the 19th of December 1985, Christie's London held their first Rock and Pop Memorabilia auction. The proceeds, at least in part, were to go to the Samaritans. By far the most expensive item in the auction catalogue was Klein's white Rolls-Royce. On the day, however, the bidding was not as brisk as anticipated and the Phantom V was passed on unsold. The following year EUC 100C was deregistered and taken off the road.


Klein's white Rolls-Royce outside Christies' busy London sales room in Old Brompton
Road, South Kensington in December 1985.
We don't know exactly where EUC 100C was and what happened to it over the course of the following two decades. There is some suggestion that for a while the car was sent to a garage in Wales for repairs and restoration. Lance McCormack of “Romance of Rust” fame is rumoured to have done some work on EUC 100C during the mid-nineties. Then, towards  the  end  of  the  1990s, Klein's  white  Phantom V received  a  full  body  respray  before being  placed in storage in a garage somewhere in the Luton area.

Fortunately, the next port of call was Rolls-Royce and Bentley Garages in Bromsgrove in 2008. Eight years later, under the direction of Allen Klein's son, Jody, EUC 100C has been reborn. Those who have seen it first hand say that it not only looks like a brand new car, it drives like one as well.

The restoration of EUC 100C is a testament to the vision and determination of Jody Klein, and a triumph for Alan Hobbs and RR&B's team of dedicated mechanics. May it long be a source of inspiration and wonder for car enthusiasts all around the world.

John Lennon's White 1965 Rolls-Royce Phantom V:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_9NdeIattY

John  and  Yoko: Apotheosis  filming  report - The  One  Show:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYgpwLEn8y0

John Lennon & Yoko Ono 24 Hours "The World of John & Yoko" Part 2/2
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kznlrFLpebE

Alan Hobbs at the wheel of EUC 100C on a victory lap having just won first prize for
best in its class at the 2016 Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts' Club Annual Rally at Burghley.
(Photo courtesy Thomas Barry)

1 comment:

fred bloggs said...

brilliant i wish i had known it was on show i would have gone and seen it hopefully next time keep up the great work