As you know John Lennon and I never drop names, but he did make a prediction in 1979 that in 2020 the world would be having “Strange days indeed, most peculiar Mama”. And he was right.
When positive is negative,wearing masks into banks is compulsory, Hamo comes second in a race, Holden has become a dirty word because the American owners have done over their Australian dealers and the two major codes of professional football are played only in Queensland, Lenno (as the old bloke and I used to call him) was a good predictor for a fellow who didn’t like cars all that much. (Persons who don’t like cars are usually a brick short of a lorry load, a sandwich short of a picnic, one card shy of a full deck, a few snags short of a barbie, a couple of chips short of a happy meal — in other words, not very intelligent or of questionable mental capacity.)
We were in the Gentleman’s Library at the Pierre (2 East 61st Street at 5th Avenue, New York) 41 years ago (I was 10, Mick had just turned 60), Lenno was downing a few brandy alexanders (his favourite cocktail) while the old bloke and I stuck to the Never See It Comings (house-made pineapple vodka aged for three weeks — $26 a cocktail glass full and at least three weeks of no memory).
He did say a few other things that night that I wrote down to ponder.
He told us: “They’re starving back in China so finish what you’ve got” (clearly a reference to the world-famous Huanan seafood market in Wuhan where corona got its start this year); and “There’s Nazis in the bathroom, just below the stairs” (clearly a reference to something he’d noticed at the same time he saw the UFO over New York — “And I ain’t too surprised,” he remarked). I’ll have what he’s having.
In fact, Lenno was such a waste of time car guy (good at the singing caper though) that he bought a 1965 Rolls Royce Phantom V and gave it a psychedelic paint scheme. (Seventeen readers and one friend, if you want to tart up your Roller but not waste your money on stuffing up the paint job, remember WART member Shane Fowler from Shane’s Signs who can wrap it so when you change your mind and want to go back to Salamanca Blue it takes about a minute.)
Talking of the Weekend Australian Racing Team most of us — well, Phil Alexander, Fowler and I — were in rain and snow-soaked Wakefield Park on Sunday for another round of the MX-5 Cup (which, like Hamo, Tim Herring will win again). Because of COVID you couldn't have come even if I had The Australian pens that don’t work and small Australian T-shirts and copies of this great publication, which we won’t because the boss thinks I was selling them for $10 a copy. (Well, I autographed them.)
OK, somehow we were talking about Lenno. So, when he first moved to New York his favoured drive was a green 1972 Chrysler Town and Country station wagon. It was in such crook condition even James Freeman would knock it back for the Shitbox Rally, which gently travels from Alice Springs to the Gold Coast via the Gulf of Carpentaria in May next year. Mick and I are in.
One of his staff said if Lenno and Yoko didn’t want to die early they should buy a new car. Interestingly, Lenno had a thing for Mercs. But not a lot of luck on the resale. His 1965 Merc 230 SL sold at auction for $225k vs an estimate of $700k to $4m. Such is the lack of price of fame. He sold the Town and Country and imported a fully specced 1979 Mercedes-Benz Turbodiesel Estate Wagon that wouldn’t pull the crust off a custard but cost him around $140k.
Look, you know the story; the Merc was the last car he would own but it did shuttle him and his musical equipment to and from the music studio where he was recording his last album, Double Fantasy, which — despite Yoko singing a few tunes — won the 1981 Grammy Award for best album.
A year later he was shot and Yoko kept the Merc under the carport for another six years. Worldwide Auctions put it up alongside Paul McCartney’s Mini, expecting more than $700k, but I remember it bringing only $70k. I have to say it was in really terrible condition with a bad respray, terrible temporary fixes in the engine and awful floor coverings.
Moving right along, because I’m not sure how we got here, can I tell you about Dave Gooding’s online auction that’s happening now? Have a squiz at the 1959 Porsche-Diesel Junior 108K. It’s a tractor. But, in single family ownership for more than 55 years, it has the all-important early fender configuration and could be yours for a lazy $30k.
I remember Mick’s girlfriend left him for a tractor salesman. She sent him a John Deere letter.
Don’t want the Porker? How about a Fezzer? A 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB Long Nose with only 8k on the clock ($5m). This was one of the last two-cam 275 GTBs built, a five-owner with a loving history and a long nose.
Then there’s a 2008 Spyker C8 Laviolette ($400K), which is one of only 58 Laviolettes built. It has less than 50km on the clock, an aluminium spaceframe chassis, 4.2-litre Audi V8, manual gearbox, and alloy bodywork brimming with exotic details that pay tribute to the company’s aviation heritage, and decorated internally and externally in a style that only Gucci lovers could like. The biggest surprise of the auction is the Luigi Chinetti Motors North American Racing Team sign. Estimate: $15k. Current bid: $30k.