Hellraiser Dumbledore Actor Forgot His Rolls-Royce in a Parking Garage for 25 Years

The wildest celebrity car story goes to Richard Harris and the Phantom V he forgot in parking for 25 years 15 photos
Photo: Yahoo/Warner Bros. (Composite)
Rolls-Royce PhantomRolls-Royce PhantomRolls-Royce PhantomRolls-Royce PhantomRolls-Royce PhantomRolls-Royce PhantomRolls-Royce PhantomRolls-Royce PhantomRolls-Royce PhantomRolls-Royce PhantomRolls-Royce PhantomRolls-Royce PhantomRolls-Royce PhantomRolls-Royce Phantom
We've all been there: you leave home and suddenly realize you don't know if you locked the door or not, or you can't remember where you put your keys or even where you parked your car at the mall. But this is on a whole different level.
Today's Blast From the Past comes from a man who was once deemed one of the most promising actors of his generation before he came to Hollywood and turned into what trade publications described as "a philandering drunkard with a taste for fisticuffs." Richard Harris got to redeem himself in the later part of his life after going cold turkey, including with a memorable turn as Professor Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter films, but his reputation as a hellraiser has outlived him.

In the '60s and '70s, when he was at the height of his career, Harris was also at his wildest, something he would often talk about in his interviews. As talented and wealthy as he was, Harris was equally wild, going on week-long binges when he'd only meant to step out to buy bread and getting so messed up on booze and cocaine that he often forgot where he was and how he'd gotten there.

In this context, it's probably not that surprising that he'd forget he'd gotten a new car. What's astounding is that he got it, parked it in an underground parking garage, and forgot about it for the next 25 years, during which time bills piled up to an astronomical amount. And he only remembered about having owned the car by accident, which is perhaps the proverbial icing on the cake.

Rolls\-Royce Phantom
Photo: Rolls-Royce
Forgetting where you put your keys or where you parked your car has nothing on Harris' most famous anecdote, which has since become a sort of urban myth – and the perfect example of the debauched, insane life of the rich and famous back in the day.

Harris was born in Ireland to middle-class parents, but he worked hard at home and made a name for himself in theater. When the 1960s rolled in, he'd crossed over the pond to Hollywood, taking up residence in a play that was initially cast for Richard Burton. One savvy business call about securing rights ensured that the play's success became Harris' success, so by the end of the tour, he was so wealthy he was telling the media he'd need four lifetimes to spend all that money.

So Harris began to buy property all over the world, including in the United States. In 1965, after appearing with the late Kirk Douglas in the WWII drama The Heroes of Telemark, Harris was gifted a Rolls-Royce Phantom V, which he admittedly loved. That may have been the case, but he didn't love it enough to keep it close to him.

Rolls\-Royce Phantom
Photo: Rolls-Royce
While in New York, the actor parked the vehicle in an underground parking garage and seemingly forgot about it – not for a day, a month, or even year, but for 25 full years. During this time, Harris went sober, liquidated almost all of his real estate portfolio, and moved back to the UK where he continued to work in both film and theater.

He "remembered" the car by accident. To be more accurate, he didn't remember it at all, but he did find out about it eventually after coming across a photo of himself leaning against the Phantom. Intrigued, he called up both his ex-wives, but neither could provide him with any information about it. His bookkeeper finally solved the riddle, confirming that the car was in his name and, even worse, that it had been racking up unpaid bills at the NYC garage.

Depending on which source you believe, by that point, Harris was on the hook for anything between $92,000 and $543,000 in unpaid bills. Accounts also vary on the timing when Harris found out about the car: some claim it happened some time before his 2002 passing, allowing him ample time to have the vehicle shipped to the UK, restored, and then sold. Apparently, he hated the idea of rolling around in such an expensive – and now vintage – vehicle.

Rolls\-Royce Phantom
Photo: Rolls-Royce
Other sources claim that the Phantom remained lost until after Harris' death and that it was his first wife, Elizabeth Harris, who arranged for it to be sold. Local reports quote her as saying that selling the car at auction was the only way in which she could cover part of the bill. In 2003, when this report got out, Elizabeth was saying she was hoping to get some $220,000 for the Phantom.

Perhaps the strangest part about this very strange tale about a celebrity-owned classic is that the Phantom V doesn't seem to exist beyond the details in this anecdote. This and the fact that the math doesn't add up in any of the circulating variants of the story seem to indicate that this might have been just a tall tale told by a man famous for his outrageous storytelling, who counted on the public's inability to fact-check the details.

True, Harris probably did own a Phantom V at one point and maybe even forgot he'd abandoned it in a parking structure, which cost him more than if he'd taken it home for storage. But everything else might be just part of the Harris brand, which was built on his hellraising image, the tales of his epic binges with his celebrity friends, and the cult of the celebrity – which was an entirely different thing than what we have today, relying much more on tales like this, substantiated or not by facts.

If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram

Editor's note: Photos in the gallery show the latest generation of the Rolls-Royce Phantom.

About the author: Elena Gorgan
Elena Gorgan profile photo

Elena has been writing for a living since 2006 and, as a journalist, she has put her double major in English and Spanish to good use. She covers automotive and mobility topics like cars and bicycles, and she always knows the shows worth watching on Netflix and friends.
Full profile


Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories