Austin Maxi - Popular Culture and Notoriety

Popular Culture and Notoriety

On 1 July 1969 John Lennon crashed a white Maxi in Golspie near Loch Eriboll in the Highlands of Scotland. He was on holiday with Yoko Ono, his son Julian and Yoko's daughter Kyoko.

Originally they had set off from Tittenhurst Park, his country home near Ascot in his Mini Cooper, however it soon became apparent that it was too small to drive all the way to Scotland in, so they stayed overnight at his relatives' home in Liverpool where he rang Apple Records and arranged their driver to bring the "staff" car, a recently acquired Snowberry White Austin Maxi with full length white webasto roof, it also featured a silver apple mounted on the radio speaker top of the front facia.

Next morning Yoko and John transferred all their luggage over and his driver took the Mini back to Tittenhurst, and the four set off north again to Scotland. it was whilst driving the narrow single file lanes that John panicked and sent the Maxi headlong into a ditch. While the children escaped relatively unhurt, John received a gash to his forehead and Yoko injured her back resulting in a hospital stay in Golspie's Lawson Memorial Hospital for five days. After they returned to London, John arranged for the Maxi to be placed on a plinth outside his Tittenhurst home as in homage to their luck, where it stayed for the next few years, during which time Julian took the Silver Apple from the dash and kept it as a keepsake, though it was auctioned many years later. When John and Yoko finally left the UK for New York, John sold Tittenhurst to Ringo Starr who immediately then had the Maxi crushed.

Also in 1969 Mars Confectionery UK ran a competition entitled "Maxis from Mars" where a number of white Austin Maxis were driven around the country with numbers on the doors and if the number inside your Mars bar wrapper matched the Maxi you would see driving around your area you won that very car. One lucky winner in Corby was so happy with winning one that their Maxi still survives to this day.

In 1972, a married couple escaped the Soviet quarter of Berlin at Checkpoint Charlie in the back of a Maxi. Once over into the western sector, the British Royal Military Police and the West German Polizei were so surprised that two people could fit into a Maxi's boot, that it was then taken up by Leyland West Germany and re-created in a television advert shown across West Germany, Switzerland and Austria!

Also in 1972 at the Earls Court Motor Show a competition was staged by the Daily Telegraph,the Institute of British Coachbuilders and Motor Manufactures (later incorporated into the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders) to design a futuristic concept car based on a Maxi. The winning design was done by young talented designer Chris Field, and the prize was to have his design on paper turned into reality. The "Aquila" was constructed by Woodhall Nicolson, of Halifax with help from Lucas, Smiths Instruments and Triplex The resultant car was then exhibited at the 1973 show and then given to Field. He then went on the design speed cycles with help from Lotus and his designs for high speed cycles have been used through subsequent Olympic teams. The car itself still survives at Poole in Dorset.

In 1975 Dunlop Tyres, keen to prove their new "Worldbeater" tyre range, drove two white Maxi 1750HLs around the globe, visiting Europe, the Middle East, India, Australia and through the USA. Upon the return, using some footage shot on the trip, Dunlop made an advert featuring a similar Maxi, in which the wife says to her husband that she is "popping down the shops" while he watches the Saturday afternoon sport. She then proceeds to drive the Maxi onto the hovercraft and go past the Eiffel Tower, across Saint Peter's Square, along the Saudi Highway and to the Taj Mahal. She then walks back into the house, while the football results are on, carrying exotic Indian shopping and her husband looks on in surprise.

From 1975 up until 1980 British Leyland supplied the Lawn Tennis Association every year with official "Wimbledon" Maxis. These were standard single carburettor 1750s but fitted with HL velour seat trim and extra sound proofing. Afterwards they were sold through local Surrey dealers as ex-demonstration cars.

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