16 Dec 2015

End of the road-the Hindustan Ambassador

When I went to N India in 2000 the roads were full of bicycles,motorcycles,trucks,buses,three wheeled autorickshaws but few cars. What cars there were were either Hindustan Ambassadors or an Indian version of the Fiat 1100 with the Ambassadors outnumbering the Fiats 10 to 1.
The Hindustan Ambassadors were taxis,politicians and dignitaries limos and transport for tourists.
The Ambassador started life a Morris Oxford in the UK  and when it ended production there in 1957 they shipped the tooling to India. The Ambassador continued in production in India until 2014-another 57 years. Surely this must be the longest production run of any car model?

I travelled many kilometres in Ambassadors in 2000.The bench seats with their vinyl covering were uncomfortable and there was no aircon.The legroom was restricted.They were slow and the ride with the cart sprung solid rear axle on India's very rough roads was atrocious. They felt like a 1950s car and they were awful by any criteria. Quite how they found buyers for so many years is a total mystery to me.

In the early 1990's an attempt was made to sell the Ambassador in the UK as the Fullbore Mk10 ( I am not making this up).Why anyone would think that UK buyers would be interested in a such a heap of very outdated junk-even if it was very cheap- is another mystery.Suffice to say that the importer folded very quickly.I presume that they had to dump the unsold inventory out at sea.

Since 2000 the Indian automotive market has been totally transformed and India has taken to wheels. Now millions of cars are being produced locally each year and Indian roads are full of cars from most of the world's manufacturers.  And the wheel has turned a full circle as the major Indian conglomerate,Tata,owns Britain's Jaguar Land Rover,one of the world's most profitable car companies today. It's a long way from churning out Britain's hand me downs.

I saw a few Ambassadors on my recent trip -most were abandoned by the side of the road or in a National Park as above but a few are obviously still loved and cherished. Perhaps the owners are keeping them ready for use in the filming of the next Marigold Hotel movie.

No comments:

Post a Comment