The personal Land Rover of His Holiness the Dalai Lama will be auctioned off by RM Sotheby’s in the United States later this month. Registration for bidding in the auction is now open and the auction will run from 29 August–1 September. The vehicle, a 1966 Land Rover Series IIA on an 88-inch wheelbase chassis, was never driven by the Dalai Lama himself, but was used to help him travel the rough roads of northern India from 1966–76.
The vehicle was built in England in February 1966 and delivered immediately to Nepal. “It was then driven by His Holiness’s brother, Tenzin Cheogyal, into India, where it entered service as the Dalai Lama’s vehicle. Mostly driven by Cheogyal to ferry his brother along the mountainous roads of the Dharamsala region of India,” according to the RM Sotheby’s website.
After years of ferrying the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, the Land Rover was taken out of service and cared for by Cheogyal. In 2005, it was donated to the Dalai Lama Foundation in California, where it was fastidiously restored over the course of a full year by Michael Green, owner of West Coast British, a Land Rover repair shop based in Livermore, California. “It was kind of comical,” said Green, of the car’s original condition. “It was pretty hammered.” (Atlas Obscura)
The Dalai Lama Foundation paid Green more than US$49,000 to restore the car to its original condition. This included repainting it with the classic bronze green color and replacing much of the interior, which he noted smelled strongly, especially on hot days. “They smoked like fiends,” said Green. “I don’t know if they got the good stuff, but whatever it was, you sure could smell it.” (Atlas Obscura)
Fully restored, it was auctioned on eBay in 2007 with the assistance of celebrity Buddhist Sharon Stone. The winner of that auction, who paid the generous sum of US$82,100, was also given the opportunity to meet Stone and to enjoy private teachings with the Dalai Lama. Funds from the auction were used to help Tibetan refugees arriving in the US.
Along with the vehicle, the new auction winner will claim a British Motor Industry Heritage Trust Certificate, the original owner’s manual with Cheogyal’s signature on the first page, a copy of Land Rover Lifestyle magazine from 2007 featuring the car, and insurance policies listing the Dalai Lama as the owner. The car also comes with the original Indian license plate, HIM-7555, denoting its registration in Himachal Pradesh.
The Land Rover series IIA, built from 1961–71, is considered by many to be the hardiest series model constructed. It is also widely recognized due to its appearances in popular films and television series set in Africa throughout the 1960s.
More than a decade after restoring the car, Michael Green offered this advice for the auction winner: “Just because a car is worth thousands of dollars doesn’t mean you should only take it out for car shows,” he said. “I would have driven it all over the place. That’s what it’s for.” (Atlas Obscura)
Initial bidding for the auction is set at US$100,000–150,000.