• David Andrews

Jim Morrison's Wild Ride

The Clarksvillian

This story begins in 1969, The Doors and Elektra Records are riding on the top of the music charts. To celebrate the album's success, Jac Holzman, Elektra's top executive, bought a "thank you" present for each member of the band. Morrison’s choice? A Mustang GT500. Jac Holzman provided that gift understanding it was a dangerous gamble with a car capable of traveling zero-sixty in 6.5 seconds – it was powerful, quick and one of only forty-seven manufactured that year.

Morrison fell in love with the idea of owning a Mustang after spending time riding around LA in friend Jay Sebring’s 350GT. Sebring was known as the original hairstylist of the stars and a notorious drug dealer to the famous. He would later become known for being one victim of the Manson Family at Cielo Drive in Los Angeles. In short, he had plenty of money to spend on toys and the Mustang easily fell into that category.

Jim was extremely excited about his new car and even gave it a name, “The Blue Lady”. And despite its thoughtful name, he didn't treat the Mustang in any way resembling care. Morrison’s use of alcohol and drugs made his driving record a sketchy one. As a result, no one knows the exact history of the Mustang’s status after Morrison’s death in 1971. To this day, Morrison’s car is still the object of desire for many automobile collectors.

Example of a restored 1967 Shelby GT500

Morrison's ownership of the car was shared with the accounting firm who handled The Doors finances. The California State Vehicle Registration shows James Douglas Morrison's name on top with "care of Johnson and Harbrand" below. Johnson and Harbrand was a chartered accounting firm that still exists to this day as Johnson/Harbrand/Foster/Davis. The registration paper was dated April 30th, 1969, and revealed the license plate was VRD 389. From this data, we know the car still was at the latest plated part of 1969.

There are as many rumors about Morrison’s Mustang as there are about the man himself. For instance, we'll begin with Sunset Boulevard. One night Morrison allegedly ran his new Mustang into a pole on Sunset Boulevard. After hitting the pole, he allegedly abandoned the vehicle and walked up the street to The Whiskey A Go-Go to perform with The Doors. Later that night, when he returned to retrieve the car, it had vanished. Some say Morrison never investigated the car to find out where it was or who towed it. Ever since that point, no one is capable of honestly saying where the car is or if it has survived.

Another story involves Morrison parking the vehicle at LAX. The vehicle remained in storage long enough to result in towing and, because of being unclaimed, sent to auction. Still another version has Morrison crashing the vehicle behind the Wilshire LAPD Police Station resulting in the vehicle being totaled. Many close friends of Morrison, such as Frank Lisciandro, Babe Hill shared countless rides in the car without mentioning the eventual fate - "Feast of Friends", Lisciandro's photographic memoir of Jim Morrison.

The likely outcome is the vehicle was destroyed by October 1969. There are no details other than registrars having never seen a car with Morrison's VIN number appear. The Shelby American Auto Club is a reputable source for information on the VIN number and/or seller info of the vehicle. In this scenario, the last accident’s approximate time matches the story of Morrison crashing the car behind the LAPD Wilshire Station with Babe Hill and Frank as passengers.

It was also reported by Morrison’s friend and bodyguard, Tony Funches, the Mustang "didn't survive by any means" and "Jim learned he shouldn't drive after wrapping his Shelby Mustang around a telephone pole". Yes, it was totaled. Frame damage went to the crusher/shredder. End of Story.. anything presented as the original is done so as an intentional intent to defraud." An longer interesting interview with Funches can be found here. Funches' account is consistent with the insurance company not having cut a check with Johnson & Harbrand, in the event an asset, ie vehicle, were totaled. Whoever bought the remains would be the legal owner today. A car is totaled, the insurance company writes it off, a check goes in the mail and life goes on. The insurance company will sell the remains if it retains a value at auction. And considering Southern California's reputation for interest in cars? It's possible The Blue Lady would've been sold as parts.

In an interview regarding Jac Holzman’s business venture at Elektra Records, The Doors stage manager Vince Treanor, recalled Jim Morrison's reckless behavior. "He piled up his Mustang, destroyed the damn thing. Bill Siddons got the tow truck to get it before the police picked it up. I saw a picture of that car. Nobody could have survived it, and yet he walked away, stone cold drunk off his ass," As a side note, Vince met the Doors for the first time on the night of the infamous New Haven incident when Jim was arrested onstage. The severity of the wreck, combined with Vince’s timeframe, suggests this was related to the late 1969 crash behind LAPD’s Wilshire station. The story also blends with Frank Lisciandro's memory of Morrison weaving and speeding through an alleyway with Babe Hill and himself.

In The Doors self-produced documentary, “Feast of Friends”, Babe Hill mentions the night Jim crashed his Mustang behind the Beverly Hills Police Station.

"I remember one night in The Blue Lady we went racing down some street. He just took off, and the street ended. It dead ended. Jim was dead drunk, and we had Violet (one of our cocaine queens) with us. I was just holding on to her. Man, I said ‘we’re going to die’. And he hit the brakes, and we went over the curb and went up on the lawn and dead ended against a tree. It just so happened we were in the back of the Beverly Hills Police Department. It didn’t wreck the car, but it more or less wiped out the undercarriage. We hit the curb straight on, but it was a pretty high curb. So, we sent Violet in, and she called a cab and we left. The cops never even knew we were involved."

In one of the earlier printings of the book “No One Here Gets Out Alive", the authors included another accident. "The problems were piling up. Jim had another accident in The Blue Lady. This time leveling five young trees on La Cienega Blvd near the Clear Thoughts Building. He abandoned the car and ran to a phone booth to call Max Fink to say his car had been stolen." This type of accident would have left the front end with substantial damage, but the damage would not be significant enough for a write-off.

Henry Diltz photographed The Doors for their 1970 classic Morrison Hotel album. Recording sessions for the album started in autumn of 1969 and Diltz was hired to photograph the band around their old stomping grounds of Venice Beach. When asked about Morrison’s infamous Mustang, Diltz’s response was surprising. “I never saw Jim's Shelby. Never saw him in any car except the band's VW van."

Patricia Kennealy-Morrison was a rock journalist working for Jazz & Pop magazine back in 1969 when she met Jim Morrison for an interview. She met Jim in late fall-early winter of 1969. This is the contentious period where we believed the car was wrecked. Patricia's reply was interesting and helped to further establish a window of time. "Fun stuff about the car, but it was before my time. I never saw nor rode in it, so I can't tell you anything about it. The car we drove around in was a violently fluorescent chartreuse Challenger. Just awful."

Charlotte Stewarts interviews have been interesting. Stewart, who later became an actress on Little House on the Prairie, ran a hippie clothing store in Los Angeles during 1971. She met Jim Morrison and "became drinking buddies." Their trip to Hearst Castle, shortly before Jim left for Paris, includes some recently discovered photos believed to be the last of Morrison in the United States. She has two photographs of Jim driving a car and Dodge Charger. Does this mean Jim no longer owned his GT 500 by 1971?

With all those details, it appears likely the vehicle has been destroyed. However, a 1971 LA Times car ad was recently discovered. The date of the ad? Three months after the announced death of Jim Morrison. It's the correct license plate, the correct make, model, and year. And just like that, the mystery of The Blue Lady cheating death seems as debatable as Morrison himself.