John Lennon Was a Terrible Driver

Murdered 35 years ago today, the Beatle nearly died in an Austin Maxi in 1965.

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Even if you don't know about John Lennon's psychedelic Rolls Royce Phantom V, you can dig it: festooned in the bright paisleys, it wreaked of irony and free love. But that's not the car that ended Lennon's driving career. The last time John Lennon drove a car was a memorable occasion. It was July 1, 1969, just 19 days before Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon and three montsh before the Beatles' last album, Abbey Road, was released. 

Lennon was vacationing in the Scottish Highlands with his divisive (and pregnant) partner in crime, Yoko Ono, her daughter Kyoko, and his son, Julian. They decided to go for a putt along the narrow country lanes in a tiny Austin Maxi hatchback. But Lennon, who grew up in the streets of Liverpool and didn't start driving until he was 24 years old, was easily distracted, and he ended up driving the little Maxi into a ditch. 

All four occupants of the car were taken to a local hospital. Three of them were given stitches for facial lacerations, and Julian, who was just 8 at the time, was treated for shock.

As was his custom, Lennon laughed it off with some mordant wit: “If you’re going to have a car crash," he told reporters, "try to arrange for it to happen in the Highlands.” Then he jotted a postcard to the Beatles publicist Derek Taylor, in which he claimed he was being “held prisner” in “Scotcland.” “Need som mony to git out … a few hundred will do.” He signed it ‘Jack McCripple.'

And that was the last time Lennon got behind the wheel of a car. Recognizing driving as a dangerous weakness, he chose instead to hire chauffers.