John Lennon's Rolls-Royce Phantom Has Its Own Caretaker

January 24, 2011

John Lennon's Rolls-Royce Phantom V, by Flickr user edvvc

If you're an auto mechanic, your chances of being personally linked to one of the 20th century's biggest names in music have to be minuscule or non-existent.

But Jim Walters is more than just a technician. He is an auto restorer of great note and co-drove and prepared a 1938 Packard Super Eight for the Motor Challenge of the Millennium, which marked the new century with an 80-day rally around the world.

So where's the link to one of music's most iconic figures?

According to The Globe and Mail, in 1965, John Lennon purchased a Rolls-Royce Phantom V Limousine, which at the time was the transportation mode preferred by the very rich and notable. This particular Phantom carried the Beatles to Buckingham Palace for the ceremony inducting them as Members of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. Lennon later returned his MBE medal to the Queen as a protest to the Vietnam War.

The Phantom, on the other hand, enjoyed the singer songwriter's attention as he retooled the interior with amenities including a bed, TV and a refrigerator. The availability of a radio telephone must have offered unusual freedom considering the communications of the time.

The outside was repainted using yellow, blue and orange arranged in a Romany or Gypsy theme--which Lennon was familiar with because he had bought a caravan that looked similar and used it as a garden fixture. Steve Weaver was the artist.

With the limo's appearance and infrastructure set in stone, the land cruiser (over 18 feet long) made its way to New York after the Beatles broke up. In 1978 Lennon and Yoko Ono donated the car to a museum in exchange for a tax break. In 1985, it resurfaced again at a Sotheby's auction and was expected to bring about $300,000, but amazingly the auto was purchased by Jimmy Pattison, a car dealer and entrepreneur from Vancouver for $2.2 million.

Eventually the Phantom was donated to the province and landed in the Royal British Columbia Museum. In 1993 Jim Walters was engaged by the museum to care for the car, which he found under an unfolded parachute in an underground garage, which was hardly the best of conditions for such a valuable piece of motor vehicle history.

The link between Walters and the Phantom goes beyond the maintenance and restoration work he has done on the Phantom over the years. The insurer goes as far as requiring that Walters be the only person allowed to drive the car.

The Globe and Mail says the proper care of the car includes periodic runs down the road, which is understandable, but how do you accomplish this with such a valuable piece? Mr. Walters thinks that you rent a speedway, sweep and inspect the roadbed for debris and have at it.

"Get all the seals lubricated, Oil pumped through everything," he said.

[The Globe and Mail & Bristol Motors]      
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