Thursday, 13 October 2011

George's Psychedelic Mini

The Beatles had great taste in cars. The biggest petrolhead was George - his love of F1 and fast cars in general has been very well documented.
All 4 of the Beatles owned Minis which were customised by Harold Radford Coachbuilders. George's Mini started life as a 1966 Mini Cooper S (reg: LGF 695D), but once Radford had finished with it, it became a 'Radford Mini De Ville GT'.  Radford specialised in pimping up Minis with every conceivable extra (including full leather interior, rosewood veneered dash, electric windows, centre armrest and luxurious carpets) and added nice little touches like VW Beetle rear lights, hatchback style boot lids and full length Webasto suroofs. Here's the interior of a De Ville GT to give you a bit of a 'flava':

And here's one of the original Radford Mini De Ville brochures along with the options list:

George's Mini had the sideways rear VW Beetle lights, front fog lamps recessed into the bodywork, and a full length Webasto sunroof (it didn't have the fully opening boot lid as pictured in the brochure above). The interior was trimmed in black leather. Apparently, George's Mini's original colour was metallic black, but it didn't stay that way for long. As 1967 psychedelically ambled up, George decided to get his ride fixed up with a properly cosmic paint job which perfectly captured the zeitgeist.
The car was sprayed bright red and was intricately painted with mystical eastern designs which were taken from the 1966 book 'Tantra Art: its Philosophy and Physics' by Ajit Mookerjee (see Sean's sterling work in digging up the details of this book, along with a lot more, on the amazing Kenwood blog). The finished article was mindblowing.

Here's the motor outside Kinfauns circa summer 1967:

And here are some shots of John in the passenger seat whilst filming the racing scene for Magical Mystery Tour (he's wearing the non-more 1967 embroidered afghan coat from the Pepper launch photos):

George getting in or out of the Mini some time in '67:

I was lucky enough to see the car up close when I visited Goodwood in July 2009. I didn't know it was there, so imagine my drop-jawed surprise and outright glee when I walked into the 'Cartier Style et Luxe' exhibition area and saw George's VERY Mini right in front of my own eyeballs! I couldn't believe my luck. The car has been meticulously kept by Olivia since George passed away and she had agreed for it to be exhibited at Goodwood.  It's nice to know that the car is still owned by the Harrisons. It has apparently been repainted since it was originally done, but it looked exactly the same. Here are some of the many pictures I snapped at Goodwood. Compare to the pics above and you'll see that whoever repainted the car did a fantastic job:

A truly stunning piece of grade 'A' Beatles history, I'm sure you'll agree. What a beautiful car. What an amazing paint job!

In 2009, as part of the Mini's 50th birthday celebrations, BMW presented Olivia Harrison with a modern interpretation of George's Mini. The car was auctioned off, with all proceeds going to the Harrison's Material World charitable foundation. Here it is:

Nice work BMW!

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