APpa 07/26 1407 Rajneesh-Rolls Royce By DANIEL J. WAKIN Associated Press Writer NEWARK, N
APpa 07/26 1407 Rajneesh-Rolls Royce
By DANIEL J. WAKIN Associated Press Writer
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- When the unusual Oregon community of
Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh collapsed two years ago, the
world's largest fleet of Rolls Royces suddenly was up for sale.
The prospect of the Bhagwan's 90 luxury automobiles appearing
on the market struck some as a curiosity and others as an
excellent chance to buy a Rolls cheap.
But executives at the carmaker's U.S. headquarters,
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Inc. in Lyndhurst, were more than a little
"Image is a great deal of what our company is about," said
company spokesman Reginald Abbiss.
So company President Robert Schwartz and two top dealers went
out to the commune, called Rajneeshpuram, to examine the fleet.
"We were anxious to ensure that when they went on the market
they were cosmetically and mechanically authentic Rolls Royces,"
Company officials and dealers also worried about the effect of
dumping so many of the cars on the market, particularly in a
region with a low ratio of Rolls buyers.
All of the fears, however, appear to have been unfounded and
most of the Bhagwan's cars have been sold.
Interviews with Rolls Royce officials and dealers last week
told the tale of a lucrative -- and somewhat strange -- customer
The Bhagwan bought his first Rolls Royce, a Corniche, in 1980
and had it plated with armor. After establishing his commune in
Oregon, followers of the Bhagwan said their leader wanted a new
Rolls for each day of the year, and began ordering two a month
The commune even had its own service center, and a Rolls
engineer periodically traveled there to trouble-shoot.
Rajneesh would get into a Rolls each day and be driven slowly
down the commune's roads. On each side, disciples clad in red
clothing would sing, chant and toss flowers on the hood.
The company also was happy.
"Anybody who's got 90 cars is a good customer, even though it
was a rather bizarre place," Abbiss said.
As for the Rolls-a-day idea, "We though this was a splendid
marketing opportunity," he said.
The company only made 2,500 of the cars last year, and sold
1,155 in the United States, Abbiss said. The U.S. subsidiary's
British parent, Rolls Royce Motor Cars Ltd., reported net income
last year of $28 million on sales of $280 million.
A new Rolls costs from $109,000 to $173,000 and the company
earned about $1.4 million from sales to the Bhagwan, company
"The fact was that Rajneesh himself enjoyed driving a
brand-new Rolls Royce every day," said Anthony Thompson, manager
of Carriage House Motor Cars Ltd. in New York, the nation's
largest Rolls Royce dealer.
But a number of the cars were painted "psychedelic colors"
that seriously distrbed the aesthetic values of Rolls dealers and
"They were pretty horrendous, some of them, enough to put our
senior executives (in Britain) in cardiac arrest," Abbiss said.
Peacocks adorned sky-blue panels on one car and "lace kitchen
curtains glued to the hood" adorned another, said Bill Ferris,
owner of a Rolls Royce dealership in Dallas.
The paintings may have been of "great artistic merit, but you
usually don't put great artistic merit on motor cars," Thompson
In November 1985, the 54-year-old bejeweled Bhagwan was
deported to India on immigration charges, and his commune
Schwartz made his visit to examine the used Rolls Royces, and
followed with an undisclosed offer to buy the Bhagwan's fleet.
But he was outbid by Dallas autodealer Bob Roethlisberger, who
offered a reported $6 million for the collection, including
premiums for the specially painted cars.
The arrival of the cars in Texas brought a deluge of media
When interested buyers sought to inquire about buying a
Rajneesh Rolls, they most often asked telephone directory
operators for a number under "Rolls Royce," which brought callers
Ferris called that month the "biggest December of my life."
"My inventory was wiped out," he said.
Today, just about all of the Rajneesh cars have been sold,
Abbiss said, including 30 to an unidentified buyer from the
Middle East. Most of them have been repainted.
All in all, the experience had little effect on the
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, Abbiss said. "It was a blip in our
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