Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Living like Lennon

The former home of John Lennon and his first car come to the market


After passing their driving test, most young people start with a clapped out Mini or a bashed up Beetle. John Lennon, though, began as he meant to go on and bought a Ferrari.


When The Beatles singer-songwriter passed his test in February 1965, it made the headlines in Britain and within hours, a queue of motor dealers had congregated outside the security gates to his home, Kenwood in St George’s Hill, Surrey.


John Lennon pictured shortly after passing his driving test
John Lennon pictured shortly after passing his driving test
The ex-John Lennon Ferrari 330 GT 2+2, registration "DUL 4C"
The ex-John Lennon Ferrari 330 GT 2+2, registration “DUL 4C”
The front of the car
The front of the car
The restored interior of the vehicle
The restored interior of the vehicle


25-year old Lennon is said to have strolled out to inspect the selection, which numbered Maseratis, Aston Martins and a Jaguar E-Type. He plumped for a £2,000 4-litre V12 Ferrari 330 GT 2+2 in Azzuro blue with a blue interior and covered some 20,000 miles during the three years that he drove it.


The famous John Lennon Rolls-Royce Phantom V limousine
The famous John Lennon Rolls-Royce Phantom V limousine

Shortly after, Lennon purchased a Mini for every day use and his most famous car, a Rolls-Royce Phantom V limousine. This vehicle was subsequently hand painted by gypsies in a psychedelic style and featured a rear seat that converted to a double bed as well as a loud hailer. In 1977, whilst he and Yoko Ono were in the midst of a dispute with the United States Internal Revenue, the Rolls-Royce was donated to the Smithsonian Institute’s Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York City in exchange for a $225,000 tax credit. It was sold in 1985 for an astonishing $2,299,000 to Ripley’s Believe It or Not! publisher, Jim Pattison.


Lennon’s first car was last marketed at £100,000 in 2011 and at the time the television chef and motoring enthusiast James Martin tried it out. He was plainly not impressed as, in an article for the Daily Mail, he commented:


“So, while it looks fine from the side, from the front it looks it like it’s wearing those pointy-rimmed sunglasses your nan wore… It’s not a good vintage”.


“… He can only have been blinded by the prancing-horse badge on the front. I know the feeling. You can see there are nice things about this car: the polished Borrani wire wheels, the chrome vents on the side, the front grille… the shiny bits, basically”.


“… It’s not a bad place to sit. But I’d be just as happy  sitting in the driveway listening to Love Me Do as I would driving the car. So, what you have here is a £100,000 conservatory”.


The owner plainly felt quite differently and prior to the February 2011 auction at the Grand Palais in Paris, Leonora Oldfield, a Bonhams spokeswoman, stated:


“The vendor unfortunately decided at the last minute that he could not bear to part with it”.


Now, Lennon’s Ferrari 330 GT is again for sale and will be auctioned on the Tapestry Lawn at Goodwood House, near Chichester on 12th July 2013 as part of the annual Bonhams auction that coincides with the Goodwood Festival of Speed. A guide price of £180,000 to £220,000 has been set for the Ferrari.


Kenwood, the very house where Lennon purchased the Ferrari, is also currently on the market. Inflation has been equally generous to it. Having bought the Tudor revival property for just £20,000 in July 1964, it was most recently put up for sale at a price of £15,000,000 in August 2012.


John Lennon's former home, Kenwood, near Weybridge in Surrey, is currently for sale for £13,750,000
John Lennon’s former home, Kenwood, near Weybridge in Surrey, is currently for sale for £13,750,000
The reception rooms at Kenwood are now neutrally decorated
The reception rooms at Kenwood are now neutrally decorated
And the house features a large modern kitchen
And the house features a large modern kitchen
Bedrooms are, equally, neutrally styled
Bedrooms are, equally, neutrally styled
An impressive leisure complex including an indoor swimming pool has been built
An impressive leisure complex including an indoor swimming pool has been built


Built in 1913 and originally known as The Brown House, Kenwood was renamed by Kenneth Wood, the founder of the famous food mixer manufacturing company. John Lennon bought the house on the advice of The Beatles’ accountants, Dr Walter Strach and James Isherwood, and is said to have simply considered it as a “stop-over on the way to something better”. Nonetheless, he spent twice the original purchase price on renovations and reduced it in size from 22 rooms to 17. He employed interior designer Kenneth Partridge to remodel the interior, built an outdoor swimming pool and landscaped the 1.5 acre gardens. A heavy sliding wooden door was installed at the entrance to keep out fans.


Whilst allowing his then-wife Cynthia to make further alterations, Lennon is said to have “claimed the attic as his own” and installed his musical equipment there. He had three full Scalextric sets there and naturally also, the house also became the location of many drug-fuelled parties with the likes of Michael Nesmith, Bob Dylan and Peter Cook.


Lennon owned Kenwood until December 1968, when he and Cynthia decided to divorce. Since he had no need for it and his ex-wife “could not afford to maintain it on her own”, the couple sold the house for a reputed £40,000 to songwriter Bill Martin (whom recently completed The Steeple Times “What’s on your mantelpiece?” interview). After Mr Martin sold up and moved to Belgravia, Kenwood passed to various others and was sold for £5,800,000 in January 2007. Knight Frank, agents for the current owners, reduced the asking price to £13,750,000 in 2013.


The eventual purchaser will find little trace of the psychedelic tastes of Kenwood’s former owner. Instead, the 8,500 square foot house is now neutrally decorated and features an indoor pool complex, vaulted games room and cinema room.


Lennon co-wrote Can’t buy me love… with Paul McCartney just before moving into Kenwood in 1964. Now, perhaps, someone will fall in love with both the house and car and reunite them.


For details about the ex-John Lennon Ferrari 330 GT 2+2, contact James Knight of Bonhams on +44 (0) 20 7447 7440 or email: [email protected]


For more information about Kenwood, Wood Lane, St George’s Hill, Surrey, KT13 0JU contact Tim Garbett of Knight Frank on: +44 (0) 1372 464496 or email him at: [email protected]


The Steeple Times
The Steeple Times
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