The former owner of this luxury British sedan was a spiritual leader who went by the name Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. He founded Rajneeshism, a self-described “religionless religion” that focused on each individual discovering their own religious path, rather than ideology and philosophy.
The founder came to the United States in May of 1981 and began preaching his own religious ideas, which he called Neo-Sannyasinism. His influence in the U.S. grew to the point where he had approximately 2,000 followers who moved to a private ranch in northern central Oregon state, near the small city of Antelope (pop: 50).
Though members described it as an “intentional community,” it was considered a religious cult by outsiders. These members sold or gave away all of their personal belongings to join the group, where they lived in a communal living arrangement. Members of the Rajneesh community carried out the bizarre (and later criminal) wishes of the leader, such as dressing in orange robes and group chanting exercises. In practice, the religion was known for its mysticism and sexual freedom.
By 1984, the community had grown to more than 7,000 people. It had its own police and fire department, restaurants, mall, townhouses, a local bus system, sewage treatment plant, and a 4,200 foot airstrip.
During this time, the Rajneesh leader had attained significant wealth due to its expansive enterprise of both secular and spiritual businesses. One report estimated that the movement was responsible for $120 million in revenue during its time in Oregon.
What did the founder of this religion do with his wealth? Rajneesh had a penchant for Rolls-Royce automobiles, and at one time owned a staggering 93 vehicles! Management of the fleet was set up under its own company, Rajneesh Modern Car Collection Trust, whose purpose was to deal with the acquisition and rental of Rolls Royce automobiles.
This car was one of the more than 90 Rolls-Royces owned by Rajneesh. This 1982 Silver Spur was consigned to sell at the Scottsdale 2022 Collector Car Auction by its owner. The car shows 2,500 miles on the odometer, which is very, very low for the age of the vehicle. The listing states that the car “…was driven by the Bhagwan within the compound to bestow blessings from his followers.” Sold as Lot #682, the car fetched $22,000 – including the buyer’s premium.
The group sought to attain political influence by getting its members on city and county voting boards. To accomplish this, some of the members engaged in a biological attack by spraying salmonella bacteria on salads at local restaurants, poisoning more than 700 people. This was part of a plot to influence the election in their favor.
Rajneesh and his leaders were also later discovered to be engaged in a massive wiretapping scandal, eavesdropping on all incoming and outgoing communications from their members. There was also a serious plot to assassinate a U.S. District Attorney for Oregon, which was investigated by the FBI.
The ranch lasted from July 1981 through approximately September 1985. Rajneesh was deported from the United States in 1985 and he died in India in 1990 at the age of 58.
The legacy of the Rajneesh and his community endures to this day. It has been the subject of multiple books and biographies. The narrative was parodied in a 1998 episode of “The Simpsons” in which Homer is brainwashed into joining a religious cult that bears many similarities to the Rajneesh community. In one scene, the mysterious leader drives around in a Rolls Royce while the group members labor in the fields.
Following the death of its founder, the Rajneesh movement is essentially non-existant today. However, this car is a physical link to a time and a place that no longer exists. I wonder what happened to the rest of the Rolls Royce automobiles?
There is so, so much more to this story that I could not possibly fit into this article. For more information, please see these links: