By on April 8, 2022

Today’s Rare Ride was randomly mentioned among some other Lexus discussion on Twitter, and your author knew it immediately needed coverage here. This very special RX was conceived at a time when McCartney and Lexus were particularly chummy and financially interested in one another. Lexus worked up a bespoke special edition car as an homage to the legendary star. And though the resulting homage was even more cringe-inducing than its title might suggest, it was at least created for a good cause. You might say this particular Lexus RoX.

Sorry, I can’t take credit for that dad pun. The RX project got its start shortly after McCartney launched his “US” tour in 2005. Lexus joined the tour as presenting partner. Along with a Lexus-themed CD compilation, the sponsorship agreement included the creation and subsequent donation of a very special RX.

In 2005 the RX 400h was exciting new fare, and an important vehicular development that Lexus claimed was the world’s first luxury hybrid SUV. Being environmentally conscious was important to McCartney, and he felt the RX with its hybrid powertrain reflected said consciousness.

In the late summer of 2005, Lexus ran a new commercial for the RX 400h where McCartney’s new song Fine Line was featured prominently. The track was from McCartney’s new CD, titled “Chaos and Creation in the Backyard,” and Lexus got exclusive use of the material in its ads. It was actually the first time McCartney allowed one of his songs to be used in an advertisement. Showing Lexus knew their audience, the spot debuted during the 2005 US Open. I can’t find a copy of the ad online.

Despite the marketing deal, McCartney had previously spoken against licensing songs for product use, saying it cheapened the music. Those statements were from 1995, after Michael Jackson licensed Beatles songs for advertisements. Jackson purchased the rights to the Beatles’ catalog in 1985 and spent £50 million at the time, or £161 million today ($211 million) for the licensing privilege. Earlier in 2005 McCartney also became the face of Fidelity Investments, which might not have been an eco-motivated decision. Do as one says, not as one does.

For its part, Lexus said the 400h provided a real alternative to V8-powered SUVs (lol you guys) and simultaneously offered big power, big fuel economy, and 90 percent fewer carbon emissions. Lexus also made their own McCartney-themed webpage supporting the new CD (now offline). There was also a special Lexus-sponsored CD, “Motor of Love.” The album cover featured the front end of an RX, along with a stylized guitar and McCartney’s signature. What a weird time.

The charitable part of the deal took the form of the special one-of-one RX you clicked here to see. The Lexus-McCartney agreement dictated that Lexus would create a special RX, and that it would be donated to the charity of Paul’s choosing. The chosen charity was Adopt-a-Minefield, and the vehicle you see here was raffled off via online sweepstakes. Tickets were $10 apiece.

To create the Signature Edition, a black 2006 RX 400h was transformed into an artistic representation of music, guitars, and earth-friendly ideals. The RX’s exterior presented the shapes and general appearance of McCartney’s favorite 1962 Hoffner Bass guitar, and his VOX AC30 amp. Both pieces of equipment were hand-painted onto the exterior of the RX.

Exterior paintwork was completed by artist Pete Santini. The passenger side also displayed McCartney’s signature, scrawled large across the body. That wasn’t a sticker or reproduction, as McCartney himself signed the car. A flaming guitar logo was added to the hood of the RX in gold, in a Trans Am sort of way.

The shapes and detailing of both guitar and amp were repeated on the interior as well, where center console trim was made of the same material as the pearl pickguard on the Hofner. There was special cloth covering the seats, quilted in off-white atop brown fabric. The pattern was repeated on the doors, where the door trim was also pearl white pickguard plastic.

A standout piece of kitsch was the gearshift handle; a replica of an old Shure 55 Unidyne vocal microphone. The interior was finished off with a plaque indicating that it was the Paul McCartney Signature RX 400h. The Mark Levinson sound system was edited too, to include a spot to plug in a guitar and jam out over the speakers. Perhaps play a Michael McDonald tune.

In furthering the eco-conscious cause of the RX, all edited materials of the special edition were vegan, and the aforementioned fabric on the seats was supplied directly by VOX amplifiers. McCartney’s signature was embroidered. across the vegan cloth in various locations in the interior. It was billed as an all-vegan interior, but it’s unclear where the line is for the usage of that blanket term.

Once completed, the RX was showcased at various McCartney show stops along the tour between September and November of 2005. At the concert venues, it was displayed on a giant turntable that was made especially for the RX. Then it was given to the lucky sweepstakes winner. It was a long sweepstakes run: Ticket sales began on September 16th, 2005, and ran through March 31st, 2006.

After that, the winner of the special RX was not too eager to drive it about town; it was mostly stored and rarely driven. Its first time at auction was via Barret-Jackson Scottsdale in 2007, where it sold for an undisclosed sum with 126 miles on the odometer. Subsequently, it reappeared in May of 2009 and had relocated to the less-warm locale of Indianapolis. At that point, it had accumulated an extreme 450 miles, and the vegan interior was looking a little worse for wear.

Since then, the one-off RX has sort of disappeared from the internet. Perhaps it will surface again in a few years, and we can see what literally hundreds of miles of wear do to an all-vegan interior.

[Images: Toyota]

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16 Comments on “Rare Rides: The Paul McCartney Signature Edition 2006 Lexus RX 400h, One of One...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Wow, the good old days of 2006, when the RX wasn’t an affront to good taste…

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      I bought my 16 year old a 2009 RX 350 AWD for his 16th birthday with 140k miles on the clock. 2009 was the last year of this body style. The 2010 and 3rd gens in general looked pretty good as well, but went downhill to the hideous hosebeast of an RX that we know today.

      I must admit, though the car is not very exciting, it is very nice to drive and shockingly spacious inside, incredible rear leg room. It is also surprisingly quick given its weight, which I somewhat regret handing over to a new teenage male driver. I easily understand the popularity of this model, even 12-13 years later it is pretty solid. We breathed some new life into in the form of a few thousand dollars of new parts (rotors, suspension, tires, OEM replica rims). Should be good until 200k miles and hopefully be the first car driven by my other two upcoming drivers. This car with AWD and snow tires is an absolute beast in the winter. Best I have ever driven.

      More on topic though, that is one ugly paint job on McCartney’s.

      • 0 avatar
        Astigmatism

        My wife and I used a 10-year-old RX300 beater as our car in Brooklyn years back. I hated driving it but loved riding in it, and packing it. It was the best minivan I ever had.

    • 0 avatar
      Lynchenstein

      You’ve seen the photos above, right?

  • avatar
    bunkie

    I saw Macca on that tour at Madison Square Garden. I don’t remember seeing the RX on display.

    He and his band put on a great show.

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    still better than ANY “pimp my ride” car, obvs

  • avatar

    So Paul McCartney is a new Frank Sinatra? This car is for the dying Boomer Generation. This will be their last car. For me – the last thing I want to be associated with is Paul McCartney.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      I see you 8n a Dua Lipa edition Kia Soul

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      The Band On The Run made their escape… in a Lexus??!!

    • 0 avatar
      swester

      Not sure why you are implying that the car is somehow available now (or ever) – it’s a one-off from 17 years ago.

      As for Sinatra, aside from his late 70s cover of “New York, New York” that became a bar-mitzvah/wedding staple, he was pretty washed up for the last ~25 years or so of his career.

      Meanwhile, McCartney’s star power seems to only grow as he ages, like a fine wine.

      So while YOU may not want to be associated with Paul McCartney, virtually every act in popular music today – young to old – still seems to look up to him (and the work of The Beatles) as a guiding force on some level. He has an enormous fan base under 30.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I think of McCartney as being a Morris Minor, classic Mini or when he’s feeling sporty a Rover 3500 TC kind of driver.
    The Shure 55 Unidyne looks like it would also belong on a vintage hot rod.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Those heated seat controls are just about ideal (range of settings, maintain same setting upon next start cycle, only two switches to pay for, both controls accessible from driver’s seat), but very poorly located (buried under the radio overhang, difficult at that angle for the front passenger to adjust [especially with long nails], impossible for the front passenger to access their own control without crossing the plane of the driving controls [absolute no-no, Toyota!]).

    One day vehicle interiors will be designed by people who know something about driving in the real world. That day is not here.

  • avatar
    Garrett

    Couple of minor fixes:

    1) It’s Höfner, not Hoffner

    2) While he has played guitar through an AC30, the bass amp that is far more associated with him was the AC100.

  • avatar
    wolfwagen

    Who would have though that a vegan material would hot hold up in a vehicle?
    At 450 miles most interiors are not even broken in yet.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      Vegan material is far more durable than leather. For example Mercedes-Benz MB Tex. I’ve seen early 2000’s Honda interiors that look like they never left the showroom. Contrast that with the paper-thin leather interiors on BMWs like the E36 where side bolsters on the driver-side seats are almost guaranteed to have holes from wear.

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