News : New images of the Lennons and their Maxi emerge

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Keith Adams

The Lennons

Here’s proof, if it were ever needed, that one of the finest musical talents the world has ever seen had a great taste in cars – or, at least, he ended up driving one for a family outing in Liverpool on 26 June 1969.

The Liverpool Echo has revealed some fascinating new images of John Lennon with Yoko Ono and children Julian and Kyoko, taken during one of their final visits to Liverpool. The pictures show the family enjoying their trip in an Austin Maxi – surprisingly modest transport for a pop star at at the height of his success.

Lennon owned the car until he crashed it on a holiday in Scotland, writing off the car, injuring himself and Yoko and resulting in losing the custody battle for Kyoko. He had the car crushed and made into a sculpture for his garden.

The pictures have emerged while singer songwriter, Dean Johnson, was compiling his book, The Beatles and Me.  Apparently, the book grew out of a Facebook page set up by Johnson to come up with images of John Lennon.  Enjoy a slideshow of further images of the Lennons in their Maxi and a Vauxhall Victor on the Liverpool Echo’s website.

If you to know more, Dean will be presenting a special theatrical reading of The Beatles and Me, with music and images, as part of the Beatles week at St. Barnabas Church – where Paul McCartney was a choir boy – on Saturday 24 August at 7.30pm

[Source: Liverpool Echo]

Lennon's crashed Maxi


Here’s what Ian Nicholls wrote about the car in April 2006

IT is well known that all four Beatles owned Mini Coopers, but it appears that John Lennon briefly owned an Austin Maxi. The original 1485 cc engined Austin Maxi, complete with its dire cable gearchange, was launched in Portugal in May 1969 to lukewarm reviews.

Sometime between the launch and 29 June 1969, an example was purchased by John Lennon and his new wife Yoko Ono. In this day and age it seems laughable that a member of the world’s biggest musical act would buy a mundane car such as the Austin Maxi – it would be like a member of Coldplay or U2 buying a Rover 25!

We live in an age when Premiership football players have no qualms about buying exotic supercars and flaunting their wealth. However, on the 29 June, John, Yoko, his son Julian and her daughter Kyoko (from her first marriage to Anthony Cox) began a motoring holiday of Scotland.

The Beatles were about to embark on their final batch of recording sessions that would result in the album Abbey Road. However, John Lennon would be absent from these sessions until 7 July 1969. This was because he had a serious car accident in the newly-purchased Austin Maxi on 1 July 1969. The Lennons had visited one of John’s aunts in Durness, Sutherland but disaster struck in or around Golspie that day.

According to one source, John Lennon lost control of the Maxi and drove into a ditch. The occupants were taken to the Lawson Memorial Hospital where John had 17 stitches for a facial wound, Yoko had 14 stitches and Kyoko had four. Julian Lennon suffered from shock. All four were detained in hospital.

The following day Julian’s mother and John’s first wife Cynthia, reportedly angry, travelled up to Scotland to take her son back to London. On 6 July 1969 the Lennons left hospital and flew back to London in a specially chartered helicopter that departed from the front lawn of the Lawson Memorial Hospital. The use of a helicopter was more in keeping with the image of a top rank rock star than an Austin Maxi.

On August 8 1969 the Lennons moved into their new mansion, Tittenhurst Park, in Ascot.

According to many sources Lennon later had his Austin Maxi crushed into a cube and exhibited it on his lawn at Tittenhurst Park, which eventually passed into the ownership of Ringo Starr in 1973 – after the Lennons left Britain on 3 September 1971. In the case of John, it was for good.

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

33 Comments

  1. Shame he crashed it in the holiday in Scotland, writing off the car, injuring himself and Yoko and resulting in losing the custody battle for Kyoko. I read that he had the car crushed and made into a sculpture for his garden. I wonder what happened to it after he moved to the US (Ringo moved into his Surrey home)?

  2. Those images are superb…! I wonder why he chose a Maxi though?! At this time he could have gone for a Range Rover so why not one of those…?!?!?! I suppose he liked the idea of a grown-up Mini. I wonder if a Radford or Wood & Pickett Maxi was ever considered…?!

    • A few years later! It wasn’t his car he sent for it from Liverpool after realising his own mini wasn’t up to the drive to Scotland. The car belonged to Apple.

  3. Wikipedia has further info on the fate of the car:

    After they returned to London, John arranged for the Maxi to be placed on a plinth outside his Tittenhurst home as an homage to their luck, where it stayed for the next few years, during which time Julian took the silver apple from the dash and kept it as a keepsake, though it was auctioned many years later. When John and Yoko finally left the UK for New York, John sold Tittenhurst to Ringo Starr who immediately had the Maxi crushed.

  4. To me the purchase is simple . A normal car who looks twice ? Enabling incognito travel which he liked to do . That’s why he liked New York as he felt he could walk around unnoticed . Although that didn’t quite work out ! But I feel that’s why he owned such a car it was practical for the family and was understated for a star to be noticed in .

  5. IIRC John drove a Chrysler station waggon during the mid-late 1970s in New York.

    Quite a contrast to the canal boat liveried Rolls Royce Phantom & Mercedes 600 he used earlier!

  6. @6 I think you are right – to appear incognito when you are a superstar must be the ultimate luxury.

    It seems totally natural to have a ‘shopping car’ in your fleet and is something a lot must do – for every Phantom there will be a Mini and for every Bentley a Golf. Interestingly the richest people I know drive absolute sheds!

  7. Opposite extremes when talking about the incognito thing; this was the Beatle who had a psychedelic paint job on a Silver Cloud…..so no-one would notice him.

  8. Fantastic stuff.
    We have to remember it was such a different world back then. 3 years prior, Bobby Moore is understood to have arrived at Wembley to play in the world cup final in a Cortina…

    I live only a few miles from Golspie in the Highlands, so I am on a mission now to find out more about this story.

  9. john lennon in a maxi omg.not knocking the maxi. does any bodey rember the dunlop tv ad of a maxi going run the world.

  10. I’ve heard the founder of Ikea still drives a Volvo 240, & at one time an American oil barron used a 20 year old Ford for everyday transport.

  11. Other ‘boring car’ drivers:

    Roger Moore preferred small French cars such as the Renault 5
    Paul Newman drove a Volvo Estate
    Frank Sinatra an XJ40
    Sean Connery and Sylvester Stallone – LR Defenders
    Jurgen Klinsmann drove a VW beetle as everyday transport when at Spurs

    Just because you can afford to be flash you don’t need to me.

    When I am in Belgravia, Mayfair or Knightsbridge you sometimes see a shed amongst the luxury and flash things – to me that’s more stylish than having something flash.

    • Paul Newmans Volvo Estate was fitted with a supercharged 5.0 Ford Mustang engine and 5 speed manual gearbox.

    • I know a lot of stars who lived in the West End in the 1960s had Minis to make parking easier. Ringo Starr had a rear hatch added to his so he could carry his drum kit, & Peter Sellars’s customised one was used in some of his films.

      James Hunt used an Austin A35 van after spending all his Formula 1 prize money & had just his BBC commentry money to live on.

  12. I remember a neighbour which had such a car which was really the worst car he had ever driven. But he never really drove the car because most of the time the car was standing at the workshop.
    Probably was the car of Mr. Lenon built as worse as the car of my neighbour that he crashed it for a sculpture. I think it was the best that he could do with that piece of rubbish!

  13. I love the idea of John Lennon wrestling with the cable gearbox, maybe it was the frustration and anger caused by this which caused the Beatles to break up!

  14. The Maxi was an car from Apple John let the car coming to Liverpool because his Mini Cooper was to small for the holiday luggages

  15. Doesn’t look like a major prang- I’m guessing that they weren’t wearing seatbelts at the time (as was pretty much the custom in those days). There was no requirement for rear seat passengers to wear them either- and they were rarely if ever fitted in the back in any case.

  16. I had one of these, many years ago now, an H reg 1500. The cable chnage is nothing like as bad as made out to be, its not great but worked perfectly well. Most of the rest of the car did TBH, the epitome of a ‘practical classic’

    Hoever these early cars have different outer CVs to the later cars, may even have been one of the first chnages they made, and thats what took mine off the road when one started to fail as they were by 1992 unobtainium, I think to fit later ones would have needed the driveshaft and the upright. It sat in the feild after that till a maxi fanatic spotted it and bought it

  17. I wonder if the Maxi was seen as a logical upgrade to the Mini, for taking a family + luggage on trips to the North of Scotland.

    Kind of a 70s MINI Countryman (the new one but the equivalent back then, if you know what I mean…)

    I remember my student job working in a petrol station. Someone might turn up in a battered Subaru Leone, tatty farming clothes, talk for a while then hand over a gold Coutts card in the name of ‘Lord’ to pay for fuel.
    (At the other end of the extreme were those in base model german execs who grunted and threw their M&S credit card at you)

    @AndrewP – Might explain why Roger Moore was happy driving half a Renault 11 🙂
    Watched The Spy Who Loved Me at the weekend, was surprised to see him, suited up, in a Leyland Sherpa…

    Is it just me, but in my dream Lottery win garage, I’d have a few sports cars, classics but also an anonymous ‘shopping’ car like a Civic or Octavia.

  18. Will M

    The modern equivalent of a Maxi would be an MPV e.g. Scenic, C4 Picasso, Zafira. The thought of a modern rock god driving one of those is just as amusing, but then with children, they are much more practical than supercars or even most luxury saloons!

  19. Fair play to John for owning a Maxi, it was also like him rather avantgarde at the time, being fwd, a hatchback and having a five speed gearbox. It was more in keeping with his image than a Hillman Hunter.

  20. Maxi’s Silver Hammer
    Drive My Car
    Take Out Some Insurance on Me Baby
    I Should Have Known Better
    Slow Down
    Help!
    I’m Down
    Day Tripper
    Don’t Let Me Down
    The Long and Winding Road

    Judging by the above titles, I think he had a real thing for mundane British cars.

  21. I wouldn’t be a Jealous Guy if I saw someone drive past in a Maxi. A Princess on the other hand…

    When he was around Kurt Cobain had an old Volvo. I think he was annoyed when Courtney Love bought a brand new Lexus.

  22. Car snobbery only came into its own once everyone owned a car. Look at street scenes in the 1960’s – maybe five cars outside houses in the whole street!
    I have seen archive footage of Ted Heath, then our Prime Minister, arriving at Downing Street circa 1972 in a plain 2-door Morris Minor. Harold Wilson drove a 1340cc 2-door Ford Consul Classic when he was PM.
    A ceratin Monty Python sketch springs to mind. “Luxury”…

  23. I did read somewhere Harold Wilson had a Rover P5 V8 with the ash tray adapted to hold his pipe, was that during his 2nd term.

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