Rare Rides: The Paul McCartney Signature Edition 2006 Lexus RX 400h, One of One

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the paul mccartney signature edition 2006 lexus rx 400h one of one

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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3 of 16 comments
  • Garrett Garrett on Apr 10, 2022

    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.

  • Wolfwagen Wolfwagen on Apr 11, 2022

    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.

    • Mcs Mcs on Apr 11, 2022

      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.

  • Dusterdude @El scotto , I'm aware of the history, I have been in the "working world" for close to 40 years with many of them being in automotive. We have to look at situation in the "big picture". Did UAW make concessions in past ? - yes. Do they deserve an increase now ? -yes . Is their pay increase reasonable given their current compensation package ? Not at all ! By the way - are the automotive CEO's overpaid - definitely! (That is the case in many industries, and a separate topic). As the auto industry slowly but surely moves to EV's , the "big 3" will need to be producing top quality competitive vehicles or they will not survive.
  • Art_Vandelay “We skipped it because we didn’t think anyone would want to steal these things”-Hyundai
  • El scotto Huge lumbering SUV? Check. Unknown name soon to be made popular by Tiktok ilk? Check. Scads of these showing up in school drop-off lines? Check. The only real over/under is if these will have as much cachet as Land Rovers themselves? A bespoken item had to be new at one time. Bonus "accepted by the right kind of people" points if EBFlex or Tassos disapproves.
  • El scotto No, "brothers and sisters" are the core strength of the union. So you'll take less money and less benefits because "my company really needs helped out"? The UAW already did that with two-tier employees and concessions on their last contract.The Big 3 have never, ever locked out the UAW. The Big 3 have agreed to every collective bargaining agreement since WWII. Neither side will change.
  • El scotto Never mind that that F-1 is a bigger circus than EBFlex and Tassos shopping together for their new BDSM outfits and personal lubricants. Also, the F1 rumor mill churns more than EBFlex's mind choosing a new Sharpie to make his next "Free Candy" sign for his white Ram work van. GM will spend a year or two learning how things work in F1. By the third or fourth year GM will have a competitive "F-1 LS" engine. After they win a race or two Ferrari will protest to highest F-1 authorities. Something not mentioned: Will GM get tens of millions of dollars from F-1? Ferrari gets 30 million a year as a participation trophy.