By Sam Fiorani
Thirty years ago, the music world was shattered by the sudden death of John Lennon. When he and The Beatles emerged in the early 1960s, they upended the soundtrack of our lives for the good. They took us on a long and winding road on which we met walruses and blue Meanies, Eleanor Rigby and Sgt. Pepper, Michelle and Jude. When the band broke up, each member went his own way, but the great music continued.
Originally known as "the smart one" of The Beatles, Lennon released his first solo album before the group split up in 1970, and he continued to make music for another decade. For five years after the end of the band, Lennon recorded music with his wife Yoko Ono. But in 1975, he took a break from the music industry to be with his family and raise his second son, Sean.
Before Sean was born, Lennon and Ono lived in New York City. In order to have a "normal" life, this former Beatle and his wife needed a way to get around their adopted hometown incognito. John simply told Yoko to drive my car, rather than get a ticket to ride on the subway... or a yellow submarine.
You might think a forward-thinking artist such as John Lennon would drive some earth-friendly little car. But in 1972, there was a much stronger focus on the problems in the Far East rather than any oil-based problems in the Middle East. Which is why the couple purchased a new Chrysler Town & Country station wagon. Yes, arguably the most luxurious station wagon offered at the time in the United States.
They were living in Greenwich Village when the vehicle was purchased. Lennon moved to California for about a year and a half, and the Chrysler made the trip there and back. After returning to New York, he and Ono moved to an apartment in The Dakota on 72nd Street in Manhattan, where the couple lived until Lennon's murder in 1980.
Yoko Ono sold the wagon after her husband's death. Yet the current owner still holds the registration, recording the address of The Dakota and listing "Apple Record Inc.," the record company controlled by The Beatles, as the car's owner.
As with all of Chrysler's senior models, the 1972 Town & Country was redesigned for 1972, as seen in the brochure. Of the three wheelbases offered on the big Chryslers, the Town & Country had the shortest at only 122 inches, making it two inches shorter than the New Yorkers and Newports and five inches shorter than the Imperial.
Even on such a short wheelbase (only two inches longer than the current "big" Chrysler 300C), the huge wagon cast a shadow nearly 225 inches long, more than two feet longer than the 300C.
A big wagon needs big power to motivate it, and the T&C didn't disappoint. In the era between the second-generation Hemi and the modern Hemi, Chrysler's 400cid V8 did the bulk of the heavy lifting. This engine was put into use in the Lennon/Ono wagon, bolted to Chrysler's world-renowned three-speed Torqueflite automatic transmission.
For the first time, front disc brakes were standard on all Chrysler models, necessary to provide better stopping power for the 2¼-ton land yacht.
The Town & Country is best known for the wood trim on the original 1940s models. After the discontinuation of actual wood trim in 1950, the T&C became a steel-bodied station wagon at the top of the Chrysler lineup. Wood trim, simulated this time, returned in 1968 and became the model's calling card.
John and Yoko, however, decided to delete the faux trim from their personal car--perhaps because it wasn't Norwegian wood.
Nice-condition 1972 Town & Country wagons are currently advertised for $10,000 to $25,000. While not quite in mint condition, this particular Mist Green T&C has a noteworthy previous owner, making it worth a little more for the right buyer. And with the current perfect storm of Beatles nostalgia taking place where Paul McCartney is touring, with iTunes releasing the Fab Four's songs, and with the 30th anniversary of John Lennon's death, now might be the perfect time to sell this old family hauler.
Self-described as musically inept, Sam Fiorani is extremely proud of his music collection, which includes nearly 1,000 vinyl records, among them a handful of Beatles tunes. He even owns the decidedly un-Beatles soundtrack to the movie Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, featuring the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton. Please don't hold that against him.
By Richard Truesdell
We're always on the hunt for subjects for the Not Found on eBay department, and this was one we simply couldn't pass up. While visiting my family in New Jersey over Christmas, I picked up a new 2011 Dodge Durango (thanks, Ron Kevit and the team at ESI in New Jersey) and drove to the Braswell Galleries in Norwalk, Connecticut to photograph this piece of pop culture history. The white jacket Lennon wore for the Abbey Road shoot will also be offered.
While there, I met with owner Kathy Braswell, who was most gracious in giving me full access to the car--which, unfortunately, did not run. We made a vain attempt to start the car using the tried-and-true method of pouring raw gas down the carburetor and priming it with a shot of starter fluid.
Sitting behind the wheel of the battered Chrysler, I thought of what a loss John Lennon's sudden death was not only to the music world but to all of us. At the time, he had finished Double Fantasy and was basking in domestic life with Yoko Ono and their son Sean.
Lennon apparently loved this car, saying he could go anywhere in it in relative anonymity. He wasn't John Lennon, ex-Beatle. He was just another loving husband and father living in New York, his adopted city.