News : Lennon’s Maxi journey story now online

The full story of John Lennon’s fateful Austin Maxi-bound journey to Scotland is now online. James Walshe, the Deputy Editor of Practical Classics magazine, pieced together the family holiday in June 1969, when John, Yoko and their two children ended up crashing their car and, in the process, changed the course of musical history.

Driving an Austin Maxi, James heads from Liverpool to Durness, in the north west extremity of Scotland. It’s a 500-mile trip, which is remarkable considering John Lennon was a far-from experienced driver at the time and was unwilling to drive either his Ferrari or Rolls-Royce all that way. James retraces the Lennon family’s movements in their car and, in the process, he meets a number of people along the way – one of whom lived in the Highland village of Tongue, and was there on the day when the Lennons turned up their Maxi. The villager recalled events and provided James with a number of previously unpublished pictures.

Unsurprisingly, this feature proved to be an award winner for James and PC magazine when it was originally published. Now online, the story features some new images that weren’t used in the original magazine article – and it’s timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Lennons’ fateful holiday.

How did the Lennons’ accident change the course of musical history? Well, as the article concludes, ‘Driving an Austin Maxi into a Scottish ditch had prompted an end to many things for John Lennon. The accident gave him the perfect excuse to leave The Beatles. It marked his final visit to his beloved Scotland. Bags were packed and the most famous couple on Earth left Britain for New York City, never to return.’

On the story, James says, ‘it was a genuinely emotional experience recreating this trip. I was inspired by images of the Lennons and their car that I’d seen online, and ended making the pilgrimage myself. It was amazing meeting people who had been there on the day it happened, and unearthing images that had never been seen in public before.’

Keith Adams


  1. So basically the Maxi had nothing to do with the accident. An inexperienced and incompetent driver on unfamiliar roads in an unfamiliar car, with possibly wrongly inflated tyres (which will play havoc with handling with hydrolastic/hydrogas on even modern radials, I speak from experience*) who may/may not have been drugged up as well, panicked and then blamed his tools after the event.
    I’ve never driven a Maxi but I will say the hydrolastic on the ADO17 does have one weird characteristic on certain roads – with the wrong combination of bumps the thing turns into a 1500kg floating carpet in which you feel you’ve no connection to the wheels – it’s disconcerting to say the least. But it doesn’t sound as if anything like this was involved, just an under experienced driver who just happened to be famous.

    *ADO17 tyre pressures are 30/24psi for II/III cars and 2psi lower for early ones. Do not be tempted to raise them (for handling or MPG reasons) because the car will bounce around like a sparrow on amphetamines, the tyres are part of the damping in the suspension.

  2. The Lennon song “Power to the people” was not as assumed a call for the masses to rise up, but actually a protest against the lack of power from the 1500 E series engine 🙂

  3. Apparently John missed performing on Here Comes The Sun because of the accident.

    The other 3 managed by George multi-tracking on guitar & then state of the art Moog synthesizer.

    • Nine months later The Beatles would be history and there were signs of discontent in the band, with Lennon doing his own thing most of the time in 1969 and Mc Cartney becoming restless. Also they seemed to be very much of their time by 1969 and couldn’t compete with, or maybe didn’t want, to with the harder rock sounds that were being made popular by bands like Led Zeppelin. Let It Be, their last album, while quite good, has songs like Across The Universe, which seem to be more suited to 1967 than 1970, and the band were right to quit while they did.

  4. John’s Maxi later became an ornament in his garden for a couple of years until it was scrapped when he moved to New York. Also another thing, the robustness of the Maxi probably saved John and Yoko from serious injury as he’d probably come off worse in something like a Ford Escort.

  5. Great write up. Thank you. This John Lennon Maxi accident story and the fatal Mini 1275 GT one involving Marc Bolan of T-Rex always bemuses me because both musicians had access to big car alternatives to the cars they chose that day. Lennon had a white Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman (W100) at his disposal complete with purple crushed velour interior. The most expensive car on sale at the time I believe. He also had his famous Rolls Royce Phantom V (originally black then painted in lurid colours by artists The Fool).

    Glam rocker Marc Bolan (although he had no driver licence) had a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow, RR Phantom V and RR Corniche convertible in his collection.

    Any of these big cars would have proved a more comfortable road trip and fared better in both the accidents that ensued.

    Note: Marc Bolan immortalised his love for Rolls Royce in the T-Rex song ‘Children of the Revolution’ in 1972.

  6. Ringo Starr only had one car crushed, his Mercedes SE Coupe (W111) after he wrote it off spectacularly. The Maxi wasn’t cubed. It did get taken away, might have been repaired (it still had a value) but has long gone now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.