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Sunday, February 5, 2023

Elvis Presley's Private Jet Is Going Up for Auction

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Elvis Presley's jet
The dilapidated jet has been sitting at the Roswell Air Center in Roswell, New Mexico, for decades. Courtesy of Mecum Auctions

When he bought it for $840,000 in 1976, Elvis Presley’s 1962 Lockheed 1329 JetStar was the cream of the crop, decked out with custom red velvet upholstery, gold-finish hardware, a microwave, a VCR player, a cassette player and other lavish amenities.

These days, however, after sitting at the Roswell Air Center in Roswell, New Mexico, for decades, the plane is a little worse for wear. Mecum Auctions hopes some devoted Elvis superfan will be willing to overlook the aircraft’s condition for a chance to own a piece of the storied singer’s legacy. The plane will be up for grabs during Mecum’s upcoming Kissimmee 2023 auction, scheduled for January 4–15.

Mecum hasn’t shared an estimated pre-auction price for the aircraft, but whoever submits the winning bid will get “a truly rare bird with immense appeal,” per the online listing.

Plush plane interior
The plush, velvet interior includes six passenger seats that swivel and recline. Courtesy of Mecum Auctions

“Elvis and his effect on the music industry are known the world over, and this opportunity for a new owner to acquire an extravagant piece of his aviation past is a momentous occasion with untold room for flights of rock ‘n’ roll fancy,” according to Mecum.

The plane was one of several private jets the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” owned throughout his musical career, including two that are currently on display at Graceland, the 200,000-square-foot museum complex located on the grounds of the late singer’s home in Memphis, Tennessee. It was one of just 202 JetStar airplanes Lockheed made, per Artnet’s Vittoria Benzine.

Faded red and silver paint covers the plane’s exterior. The inside features six plush, swiveling chairs that recline, a couch, a restroom, window shades and wood paneling.

Cockpit of Elvis' plane
The engines and many cockpit pieces have been removed. Courtesy of Mecum Auctions

The sale does not include engines or replacement parts, and mechanics have removed the plane’s engines and many of the cockpit components. As such, the JetStar’s new owner won’t be able to fly the plane home, but Mecum promises to help coordinate disassembly and shipping. 

The winning bidder will also get a copy of the aircraft security agreement featuring Elvis’ signature, a copy of the bill of sale and the plane’s official Federal Aviation Administration documents.

Lockheed began producing the JetStar in September 1957 which, as Mecum notes, is the same month RCA Records released “Jailhouse Roc.” This executive jet model was popular among “A-listers, recognized dignitaries and star-studded celebrities,” according to Mecum. The planes had four engines and could reach speeds of up to 565 miles per hour.

Elvis bought the plane that’s now up for auction on December 22, 1976, adding it to his collection that already included a custom Convair 880 and another JetStar. The singer kept several pilots on retainer so he could fly around the country whenever he wanted. He used his planes to travel to concerts, venues and appearances, often accompanied by his band, backup groups, manager Tom Parker and members of the so-called Memphis Mafia, or the friends and family members who were always by his side.

Elvis died on August 16, 1977. A Saudi Arabian company purchased the JetStar later that year, per Mecum. From here, the details get a little murky, but Mecum notes that the plane has been stored at the airport in Roswell, New Mexico, for decades.

In recent years, several companies have offered up the plane at auction, including, most recently, GWS Auctions in August. According to that auction house’s listing, Elvis initially purchased the jet for his father, Vernon Presely. At that time, a “very loyal Elvis Presley fan who is over 80 years old” owned the plane and wanted to “see it restored for the world to enjoy,” per GWS Auctions.

GWS Auction had previously offered up the jet in May 2017, when it netted $430,000. The plane hit the auction block again in June 2018. As Collin Woodard writes for Jalopnik, with so many auctions over the last five years, the JetStar is a “plane that no one seems to want.”

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