The Beatles had great taste in cars but the biggest petrolhead was George – his love of F1 and fast cars in general has been very well documented through the decades. Of all the cars George owned, his psychedelic Mini is probably the most famous (or infamous). It starred in The Beatles’ 1967 film Magical Mystery Tour film and also played a part in a particularly mind-bending Beatles trip when John, George and their respective wives, Cynthia and Patti had their drinks laced with acid by a dentist ‘friend’ of theirs. George ended up driving the four of them back home from London to Surrey at 10 mph while all sorts of crazy hallucinogenic shit was going on (see The Beatles Anthology for more details of that particular story!).
All four of the Beatles owned Minis which were customised by Harold Radford Coachbuilders, who was based in London. 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.
George’s Mini had rear VW Beetle lights fitted sideways, front fog lamps recessed into the bodywork, and a full length Webasto sunroof (George didn’t go for the fully opening boot lid as pictured in the brochure above, although Ringo did). 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. The finished article was mindblowing.
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 Mini right in front of my own eyeballs! I couldn’t believe my luck. The car has been carefully preserved 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.
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’s hoping this great piece of Beatle history is still going strong in another 40-odd years. Goodwood Festival of Speed 2051 anybody?