John Lennon's historic Rolls-Royce now on display at Royal BC Museum
VICTORIA -- It's a big day at the Royal BC Museum as it welcomed back a classic car of epic proportions.
Museum staff could be seen buffing and polishing up John Lennon's iconic 1965 Rolls-Royce, readying it for display in the museum's main lobby.
The art-on-wheels is fresh from getting a major tune up at Camosun College's automotive department, where maintenance of the limousine was undertaken by specialty technicians in view of students.
Lennon ordered the Rolls-Royce Phantom V Touring Limousine in December 1964 and it was delivered to him in June 1965. Its original colour was 'Valentine Black'.
The car came with several features when it was first ordered, including an 8-track tape audio system, a record player and an electric telephone.
The vehicle's tinted windows were also an experiment of the day; it was one of the first times it was used, according to a museum curator.
The car then received its current paint job around the same time as the release of the Beatles album, Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967. He commissioned the exterior of the car to be painted by artist Steve Weaver who created the bright, Romany-inspired floral design in a similar fashion to Lennon's Gypsy Caravan.
That same year, Lennon also converted the backseat into a bed and had a television installed.
The Rolls-Royce would go on to be used by the legendary band on several occasions, including taking the Beatles to Buckingham Palace.
Later, in 1970 the car travelled with John Lennon and Yoko Ono to New York City, but due to tax problems, it was later donated to the Cooper-Hewitt Museum of Design.
It languished there until it went up for auction in 1985 and was bought by B.C. billionaire businessman, Jim Pattison, at a price tag of nearly $2.3-million.
At the time, it was the most expensive car in the world. Pattison displayed the limousine at his Ripley's Believe it or Not museums before bringing it to British Columbia for Expo '86 in Vancouver. The theme of the world fair was transportation.
After that, Pattison donated the piece of history to the province of B.C. where it has remained ever since.
Paul Ferguson, the history department collections manager at the Royal BC Museum, commented on the deep connection people seem to have with the Rolls-Royce.
"Why does the car resonate with people?" said Ferguson. "We can listen to the music, the music is great, but for many people this is as close as you can get to John Lennon. And, when people come here who knew the music well, it provides an avenue for people to speak – to speak to their family, to speak to people who didn't even know about the Beatles."
He describes the piece of art-on-wheels as a "magical object" that requires lots of care.
"The paint itself is ordinary house latex paint and so we are always careful when we move the vehicle," he said.
"We don't move it when it's raining. Today was a fine, fine day to bring the car here and a fine day for everybody to come and visit."
The Rolls-Royce is now valued at nearly $7-million, another reason it is treated carefully.
If you want to get close to Lennon yourself, the car will be on display in the lobby of the museum until the end of February.