When Paul McCartney was teenager, his plans for his future financial security were very simple:
“If you’d asked me for my fantasies when I was 16 years old, standing at a bus stop waiting to go to Garston on the 86 bus, I’d have said, ‘guitar, car and a house’, in that order. That was it – the entire thing. I thought about £75,000 would cover it.”
As with any young man dreaming of the future, the fact that a car was on the list is not surprising. In fact, he would go on to earn significantly more than £75,000, and be the owner of some of the most desirable automobiles on the market, as would the other members of The Beatles. All of them invested in their first cars before they had really hit the big time … with one exception. Out of financial necessity, those first cars were relatively modest … with one exception.
Ringo Starr was the first future Beatle to buy a car, in 1959, although at this time, he hadn’t yet obtained his driver’s licence, and drove the car without the legally-required insurance. He bought a Standard Vanguard for £75 from fellow drummer, Johnny Hutchinson, of The Big Three, the one that stood in at the 1960 Larry Parnes audition when Tommy Moore was late, and the drummer that Brian Epstein initially approached to replace Pete Best in The Beatles (Epstein eventually signed The Big Three). According to Ringo:
“It wouldn’t go into second gear – and every time it stopped I had a puncture – but I loved that car. I used to like to tell everyone it was hand-painted, which it was; it wasn’t sprayed, it was hand-painted black and white.”
As a sad sidenote, this was the same type of car driven by the off-duty policeman that collided with, and killed, Julia Lennon one year earlier in Menlove Avenue.
George Harrison did things in a more conventional way. He began to take driving lessons at the beginning of 1962, and passed the test first time. At the end of March, he was drinking with friends, including Ringo – at that time still with Rory Storm and The Hurricanes – and told them excitedly that he had just passed his driving test, and had found a car to buy. The most likely scenario is that George had spoken to Brian Epstein, the proud owner of a Ford Zodiac, and he had referred George to his friend, Terry Doran, who worked at a Ford dealership, Hawthorne Motors, in Warrington, east of Liverpool. George needed a ride to Warrington to collect his secondhand two-door blue Ford Anglia 105E Deluxe, and Ringo offered to take him.
Terry Doran later became an associate of The Beatles, setting up a dealership with Epstein, and supplying the band with many of their cars, becoming CEO of Apple Publishing, and later still, the personal assistant of George Harrison, alternating between Los Angeles and Friar Park, where he managed the estate. It has been suggested that he was ‘The man from the motor trade’ mentioned in ‘She’s Leaving Home’, but Paul has denied this.
On the 27 March, a day without engagements for The Beatles, George and Ringo, by now the owner of a Ford Zodiac, set off for Warrington. After collecting the car, youthful bravado got the better of them, and they raced each other back to Liverpool. At one point, a slow car held them up, but George managed to execute a dangerous overtaking manoeuvre, and pull away. Ringo wasn’t so lucky, and when a dog ran into the road, the driver in front of him hit the brakes and Ringo collided with him. As he still had no licence or insurance he was left to foot the repair bill of £67/3/3d (below), a tidy sum in those days! It appears from the date on the repair bill that Ringo’s car lay inactive for some time, probably because The Hurricanes almost immediately left to tour American military bases in France before appearing at a club in Marbella, Spain, before returning to play a summer season at Butlin’s Holiday Camp, Skegness, on the east coast of England. Added to that, it was while he was at Skegness that he received the offer to join the Beatles.
Sometime shortly after Ringo completed the classic Beatles’ line-up, Paul McCartney purchased his first car, a modest Ford Consul Classic 109E, in ‘Goodwood Green’ (main photo in this post). This was a larger stablemate of George’s Anglia, and shared the unusual inward-sloping rear window. At the beginning of the following year, McCartney received two speeding fines, and upon being stopped once again on 14th June close to midnight in Seabank Road, Wallasey, on the other side of the Mersey, he was summoned to answer charges. The newspaper reported his court appearance thus:
“James Paul McCartney, 21-year-old musician of 20 Forthlin Road, Allerton, Liverpool, was fined £25 and disqualified from driving at Wallasey for 12 months after he had admitted exceeding the speed limit along Seabank Road. McCartney who had two previous convictions for speeding this year was told by Alderman W.O. Hanford presiding: “It is time you were taught a lesson.” McCartney was also fined £3 on each of two summonses for failing to produce his driving licence and his certificate of insurance within five days of being asked to do so by a police officer. He admitted all three summonses. Inspector L.E. Harrison, prosecuting, said that at 11.45 p.m. on June 14, McCartney’s car was paced for two tenths of a mile at between 50 and 55 miles per hour. When advised of his speech (I think that should read “rights”) and asked for an explanation by Constable Stephen Goodhall, McCartney made no reply. He was unable to produce his driving documents at that time. The documents were not produced until the beginning of July. When asked why he had not produced them before, McCartney said he had been on tour.”
As I hinted earlier, the exception to this youthful spell of car-buying was John Lennon. Although he had occasionally illegally taken the wheel of Neil Aspinall’s Comer van in the early days – with terrible results according to Aspinall – around Christmas 1964 he decided that it was time he learned to drive formally, and he took a series of lessons with a Weybridge driving school, close to Kenwood, his house on the exclusive St. George’s Hill estate. The minimum driving age in the UK is 17, and Lennon was 24 at this time. His instructor, Paul Willson, remembered:
“We were often followed around Weybridge by enthusiastic fans in cars, and whenever we did a practice reverse or three-point turn, they would follow us and do the same.”
After just seven lessons, he applied for his driving test. Watched by around 200 girls at the test centre in Queens Road, he passed first time on 15th February 1965. Success meant that he could afford any car he wanted. Although he had bought Cynthia a Mini Cooper in 1964, he was unindated with offers from local dealers of luxury cars when it came to buying his own first car. Agencies of Maseratis, Aston Martins, Jaguars, and many others, brought them to his door. He eventually settled on a sky blue Ferrari 330 GT 2+2 Coupé (below), with a blue interior, one of only 500 of the model built. After a crash a short time after passing his test, he rarely drove himself, relying on his chauffer, Les Anthony. The Ferrari only covered around 20,000 miles in the three years that Lennon owned it. It cost Lennon £6,500, and was auctioned in 2013 with an estimated price of up to £220,000. By the time the seller acquired it, the car had been painted red and lost its original number plate. It is now restored to its original colour scheme, and has the original registration plate: DUL 4C.
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