Many of you may not be aware, but His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama is actually a passionate car enthusiast. Recently, his Land Rover garnered attention, and now his Fortuner is capturing headlines, particularly within the automotive community. Surprisingly, the Fortuner used by the Dalai Lama is valued at over Rs 1 crore. It’s highly likely that you were unaware of this fact, and now let us delve into the reasons behind it.
The Dalai Lama in this video is on a journey to Bodhgaya, Bihar. Although he is not often seen in cars, he was recently seen accompanied by his latest vehicle, a Toyota Fortuner. He was spotted in a Himachal Pradesh-registered Toyota Fortuner and warmly greeted his followers as he passed by. Despite its outward appearance as a standard SUV, this vehicle holds significant features. The Indian government has graciously provided the Dalai Lama with a bulletproof Toyota Fortuner, which explains its substantial price tag.
Although Toyota does not provide an armored version of the Fortuner directly from the factory, there exist numerous aftermarket options for interested buyers. Among these options, Minerva Special Purpose Vehicles (MSPV) is a notable company that specializes in converting standard Fortuners into bulletproof vehicles. By incorporating armoring materials into the Fortuner, its weight increases significantly, going from the original 1.8 tons in stock condition to approximately 3.7 tons.
MSPV offers an armored version of the Toyota Fortuner that is capable of withstanding assault up to B4+ level. This includes protection against gunfire from weapons such as the Kalashnikov AK47, as well as B6 level ammunition, including M80 special purpose machine guns and SS109 green-tipped rounds capable of penetrating various types of armor.
In addition to ballistic protection, the floor of the Fortuner is also reinforced to safeguard against bomb blasts and explosives. This ensures the safety of the occupants in the event of DM51 hand grenades or HG85 fragmentation grenades. Furthermore, there is an option to include protection against land mines like DM311.
Mechanically, the Fortuner remains unchanged from the stock version, ensuring that there is no significant drop in performance. However, crucial components such as the suspension and steering are upgraded to accommodate the added weight of the armor. Interestingly, these armored vehicles are designed to maintain an identical appearance to their stock counterparts. In the case of the Fortuner used by the Dalai Lama, the only noticeable indications that it is an armored vehicle are the presence of steel rims and thicker window boundaries. The windows of bulletproof vehicles are completely sealed due to the use of significantly thicker glass compared to standard vehicles. This thicker glass provides the necessary protection, but it also requires additional maintenance.
After seeking refuge in India following China’s invasion of Tibet, the Dalai Lama utilized a Land Rover Series IIA as his personal vehicle from 1966 to 1976 while residing in Dharamshala, India. This mountainous city became the new home for the Dalai Lama after his escape from Tibet. Although he did not personally drive the vehicle, he frequently traversed the area in it, spending a significant amount of time in the co-driver’s seat.
He utilized the vehicle extensively, embarking on numerous journeys and adventures. By the time it underwent restoration in 2006, the Land Rover Series IIA had accumulated over 1.10 lakh kilometers on the odometer. This vehicle not only traversed various parts of India but also crossed the border multiple times, venturing into Nepal and exploring the vast expanse of the Himalayan range. Undoubtedly, the Land Rover Series IIA’s exceptional low-ratio 4X4 capabilities proved to be incredibly valuable. Given the challenging terrain of the Himalayan region, with many unpaved roads and formidable obstacles, only 4X4 vehicles could conquer these treacherous paths and reach these remote destinations.