Media Land Rover

The Dalai Lama once owned this classic Land Rover up for auction

Many cars come to auction with celebrity ownership stories. But very few will have ownership provenance like this humble Land Rover

Forget being part of a collection owned by a sports star or musician. This 1966 Series IIA was originally the property of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

It was even used as his official vehicle during the early years of his exile to India, and this special vehicle will soon be available for auction.

Holy roller

Built in February 1966, the 88-inch short-wheelbase station wagon was delivered to Nepal the same month. 

There it entered ownership of the Dalai Lama, and became his personal vehicle. Based on the documents shown by RM Sotheby’s, the name of His Holiness, Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso, does appears on Indian registration documents. 

Befitting the leader of Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama did not drive the Land Rover himself. Instead, his brother (Tenzin Cheogyal) took responsibility for ferrying him around the rocky roads of the Dharamsala region of India. 

For a decade the Series IIA was put to use in the hills of India, whilst the Dalai Lama remained exiled from Tibet. Tenzin Cheogyal was in charge of maintaining the Land Rover and its four-cylinder engine. 

Even after His Holiness had stopped using the Series IIA, Tenzin Cheogyal and his family continued to keep it running until 2005.

Then the four-wheel drive vehicle was donated to the Dalai Lama Foundation in Palo Alto, California in December 2005. The aim was to help raise funds for Tibetan refugees living in the United States.

Reborn from the original

Upon arrival in California, it became clear that the Land Rover was in need of restoration work to capture its original glory. 

Worked on by Land Rover specialists throughout 2006, the final bill for repairs came to an impressive $49,000 (£40,000). This included bringing the classic Bronze Green paint scheme back to life.

Tenzin Cheogyal had preserved the original seats, interior parts, and even the tires from when the vehicle was new, adding to its history.

Due to the incredible ownership lineage of this particular Series IIA, it has been the cover star of Land Rover Lifestyle magazine. Original documents, including the insurance policy listing His Holiness as the owner are included as part of the sale. 

The Series IIA is set to be sold at the RM Sotheby’s Auburn Fall sale, held at Auburn Auction Park in Auburn, Indiana. 

Crossing the block on Saturday August 31st, bidding is expected to be high for the chance to own this unique vehicle.