John Lennon’s 1965 Phantom V is easily one of the most famous cars to ever wear the Rolls-Royce badge, not only because of its rock star owner, but because of the psychedelic paint job he commissioned. After decades in North America, Lennon’s Phantom is returning to London for a Rolls-Royce exhibit.
That Rolls decided to include the customized car in this exhibit, which is called “The Great Eight Phantoms” and celebrates the model line’s history, speaks volumes. In the 1960s, rock n’ roll was a form of rebellion, and Lennon’s Phantom was more than a little controversial. More recently, Rolls has embraced rock, even inviting British rock stars to customize some of its new cars.
Lennon took delivery of the Phantom V in 1965 and, believe it or not, the car was originally black. He had the rear seat converted into a double bed, and a television, telephone, refrigerator, and “floating” record player were installed. So was a custom sound system that included an external loudspeaker.
But the car didn’t get its iconic look until 1967. Lennon commissioned British coachbuilder JP Fallon to repaint the Phantom, taking inspiration from the designs used on gypsy caravans and canal barges, according to Rolls-Royce. The psychedelic Phantom was unveiled a few days before the release of The Beatles’ smash-hit album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
The Phantom was used by Lennon in the U.K. until 1969, then followed him to the U.S. when he moved there in 1970. Lennon parted ways with the car at some point, and in 1977 it was donated by billionaire Jim Pattison to the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. It’s still part of the museum’s collection, and is being loaned out for the exhibit in London.
“The Great Eight Phantoms” will feature significant cars from the model’s history. Rolls is taking a nostalgic look back as it prepares to launch an all-new Phantom, marking the model’s first full redesign since 2003. As Rolls’ flagship sedan, it’s a very important car for the company.
The exhibit is open to the public, and runs from July 29 to August 2 at the Bonhams auction house showroom on New Bond Street in London.