Bio: John Lennon

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John Lennon was born in Liverpool on October 9th 1940. His father was a merchant seaman and spent much of John’s early life away from home. When John was five his father left for New Zealand. John decided to stay with his mother, Julia, but she struggled to look after him and John was mostly brought up by his aunt Mimi and her husband who lived locally.

John learned to play the mouth organ and banjo at an early age but soon developed a reputation as something of a troublemaker.

In 1956 John’s mother purchased her son his first guitar and that year John formed The Quarrymen. At The Quarrymen’s second live performance (in July 1957) Lennon met Paul McCartney and invited him to join the band. McCartney’s 14 year old friend, George Harrison, came on board in March 1958. Lennon’s friend, Stuart Sutcliffe, later joined as bassist.

During the summer of 1958 Julia Lennon was fatally hit by a car which had a traumatic affect on 17 year old John. He subsequently failed his O-level examinations and despite being accepted into the Liverpool College of Art, was thrown out before his final year. While there he met Cynthia Powell whom he would marry in 1962.

By August 1960 The Quarrymen had re-branded themselves as The Beatles and in January 1962 they appointed Brian Epstein as their manager. Three months later Sutcliffe left the band and The Beatles signed to EMI’s Parlaphone label after ending their one-year Polydor contract early. In August 1962 Ringo Starr was appointed drummer and The Beatles line-up was complete.

The Beatles had their first UK number one with Please Please Me in January 1963. The Please Please Me album was released in March 1963 and initiated a run of eleven UK number one albums.

Unprecedented commercial success and massive media exposure followed.

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After a successful 1964 world tour all the band members began to spend some of their new found wealth.

In July 1964 Lennon purchased the Kenwood estate in Surrey and his first Rolls Royce: a used two tone maroon and black Cloud. As he could not drive, Lennon employed ex-Welsh guardsman Les Anthony as his full-time chauffeur.

Lennon also purchased a Mini Cooper for Cynthia and towards the end of 1965 placed orders for two highly individual motor cars.

The first was a Mini Cooper S Radford De Ville (LGF 696D) delivered in February 1966. Lennon requested the car be finished in black with a black leather interior, black wheels and black bumpers. It was also specified with a full-length Webasto sunroof.

The second car was a Rolls Royce Phantom V ordered with every factory option.

The Rolls would take six months to complete by which time Lennon had passed his driving test. Lennon got his driving licence on February 15th 1965, an event which made the national press. The next day a number of dealers reputedly travelled to Lennon’s Surrey estate with a selection of high end motor cars for his consideration. Lennon selected a Ferrari 330 GT Series 1 painted blue with a blue interior (DUL 4C) to which he later added a Webasto sunroof.

Lennon took delivery of his Valentine Black Rolls Royce Phantom V (FJB 111C) in June 1965. It was configured with one-way Triplex Deeplight passenger glass, black upholstery, a cocktail cabinet, seven piece luggage set, a Perdio portable television and a refrigeration cabinet in the trunk.

In addition to the Radford Mini, his Ferrari and new Rolls, in 1965 Lennon also acquired the first of several Mercedes-Benz he would own. The blue on grey 230 SL (GGP 196C) was delivered in August 1965.

In December of that year the black Phantom V was sent for servicing and further customisation. Lennon submitted a seven-page list of alterations to include a modified rear seat that converted into a double bed, oversize ashtrays added to the armrests, a Philips Auto-Mignon AG21292 record player with floating suspension that prevented the needle from skipping, a Philips tape player in a specially built cabinet, a Sterno Radio Telephone, a Sony TV 9-306B television, a public address system and black wheel trims. Additionally, the horn was modified to play Lili Marlene.

The Beatles sixth album, Rubber Soul (released December 1965), was hailed by critics as a major step forward in the complexity of the band’s music.

Increasingly innovative recordings followed and The Beatles seventh album, Revolver, released in August 1966 (a week before the band’s final tour) redefined what was expected from popular music.

During the autumn of 1966 Lennon was driven to Spain in his Phantom V where he spent six weeks filming the black comedy, How I won the War. Afterwards the Phantom needed a mechanical and cosmetic overhaul.

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In early 1967 George Harrison’s Radford Mini had been repainted red with psychedelic images inspired by the book Tantra Art. Lennon wanted something equally far out for his Phantom and in April 1967 sent the car to JP Fallon Coachworks in Chertsey. JP Fallon repainted the Rolls yellow to which local artist Steve Weaver added colourful floral tendrils, Romany scrolls, zodiac symbols and Lennon’s astrological sign, Libra. The spectacular machine was finished in late May and The Beatles began to use it as their main transport.

The Rolls was delivered a few days before The Beatles’ innovative 1967 concept album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which is widely considered the most important and influential rock-and-roll album ever recorded.

However, in August 1967 the band were thrown into disarray after the death of their manager, Brian Epstein, following an accidental barbiturate overdose.

Two months later (in October 1967) Lennon visited the London Motor Show where he purchased the first right-hand drive Iso Fidia (which was the second Fidia off the production line).

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From 1968 Lennon’s taste began to shift dramatically. He bought a used all-white Rolls Royce Phantom V (EUC 100C) which became his primary mode of transport. The Rolls reflected Lennon’s changing mood towards minimalism as further demonstrated by his white suits, new Georgian house (Tittenhurst Park) and the artwork for the critically acclaimed White Album.

In August 1968 Cynthia Lennon divorced her husband after she discovered the Japanese artist, Yoko Ono, who had pursued Lennon for many months, was pregnant.

The presence of Ono at recording sessions contravened The Beatles policy regarding wives and girlfriends in the studio and led to a steady decline in his relationship with other members of the band.

Lennon and Ono married in March 1969. Together they formed the Plastic Ono Band and famously held the two-week long anti-war demonstration Beds-In for Peace.

In the summer of 1969 Lennon, who was not a good driver and had poor eyesight, crashed an Austin Maxi into a ditch while on holiday in the Scottish Highlands. He needed 17 stitches.

Towards the end of the year Lennon placed an order for a Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman which at the time was the most expensive car in the world. The white Mercedes (BPH 600H) was delivered in February 1970. It featured black velvet upholstery, front and rear Becker Grand Prix radios and a Philips Mignon EP in-car record player.

As a result of their differences, The Beatles disbanded in 1970 following the release of Let it Be.

Lennon continued his career as a solo artist and Ono’s collaborator.

In September 1971 they moved to New York City and the recently acquired Pullman was sold to George Harrison. Lennon’s criticism of the Vietnam War resulted in a three-year attempt by the Nixon administration to deport him.

While in the US Lennon acquired a green Chrysler Town and Country Station Wagon that allowed him to get around unnoticed.

By 1975 Lennon had almost completely disengaged from the music business to focus on family life. His Chrysler was replaced in 1979 by a Mercedes 300 TD Estate.

Lennon returned to music in 1980 with the Ono collaboration Double Fantasy. However, three weeks after the album’s release, John Lennon was shot and killed at the entrance to his Manhattan apartment by a mentally ill fan of The Beatles. He was 40 years old.

Text copyright: Supercar Nostalgia
Photo copyright: unattributed

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