The Time John Bonham Paid $85,000 For A Car To Embarrass A Salesman

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John Bonham was an essential part of Led Zeppelin, but the band was also crucial to his life. While bassist John Paul Jones believed Bonham was undervalued in the band, he was compensated financially. The band’s incredible success resulted in a financial boon, which Bonham utilized to buy an expensive car with $85,000 in cash.

Bonham’s family was from a middle-class background, with his father operating a building and construction company, and they were well-off but not necessarily affluent. However, Bonham’s financial situation improved dramatically due to Led Zeppelin’s success.

Although John Bonham had grown up in a household where they had enough to make ends meet, his lifestyle changed when Led Zeppelin became successful. He used his newfound wealth to splurge on his passion for drums, buying several Ludwig kits, one of which had two bass drums.

In addition to drum kits, he also bought a farm near Birmingham. While the drums and farm could be seen as work expenses or investments, Bonham’s purchase of a luxury car for $85,000 was an impulsive move driven by his love of cars, which was one of his other great passions.

“John loved cars,” according to Kushins, Richard Cole, the road manager for Led Zeppelin, stated. “Bonham bought 26 cars in the band’s first successful year in 1969, [then] he’d get bored with them. One day, he’d turn up in a Maserati, and the next day it would be a Jensen, an E-type Jaguar, or a Rolls-Royce … The car dealers in Birmingham loved him.”

When Bonham went to buy a car in England, the dealers anticipated a profit from the sale, but it was a different story in the US. Bonham decided to do something about it.

As reported by Kushins, while on a break in a U.S. tour, Bonham, along with Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant and roadie Henry Smith, visited a Rolls-Royce dealership in Los Angeles. The salesperson was dismissive of Bonham, but he and Grant showed up with $85,000 in cash and purchased the car immediately.

“‘Sonny, don’t put your hands on it unless you can pay for it,’ the salesman said.

‘How much is it then?’ Bonham asked.

‘Eighty-five thousand dollars,’ the man said.

John immediately turned to Grant. ‘Peter, quick, give me eighty-five grand.’”

That Bonzo loved cars was no surprise. His clips in the Led Zeppelin film The Song Remains the Same included him polishing a roadster and driving a drag racing car. The fact Bonham paid $85,000 in cash for a car to upstage a snotty salesman is a bit of a shock, especially because the drummer didn’t have a chance to drive it in LA while on tour. That $85,000 Bonham paid (assuming he spent it in 1970) translates to more than $640,000 in 2022, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator.

It was not a secret that Bonham was a big fan of cars, which was shown in his appearances in the Led Zeppelin documentary The Song Remains the Same. He was featured polishing a roadster and driving a drag racing car. However, it was surprising that he bought a car for $85,000 in cash just to outdo a patronizing car dealer, especially considering that he didn’t even have the opportunity to drive it during the tour stop in Los Angeles. Adjusted for inflation, that $85,000 in 1970 is worth more than $640,000 in 2022 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.