The King of Indian Roads.
By- H. A. Patgiri
Recently I watch a television show called Wheeler Dealers Trading Up where Mike Brewer (the presenter) bought a Hindustan Ambassador (nicked named Lucky) and exported it back to UK where he sold it with a profit. Watching the show made me nostalgic about the wonderful time I spend with my father’s Ambassador. Before I share my nostalgic moments I would first like discuss the history of this wonderful machine. One can surely say that this iconic car has been used from an ordinary person to Prime Minister of this country. Before introduction of modern SUV’s Ambassador was the only car strong and powerful enough to be modified to carry bullet proof protection.
Hindustan Ambassador (Ambassador) was first introduced in Indian roads in 1958 and was manufactured by Hindustan Motors (HM). This car is considered as the “King of Indian Roads” and is affectionately called the “Amby” The Mark I Ambassador or simply called the Hindustan Ambassador was basically The Morris Oxford Mark III made around 1956 to 1959 by Morris Motor Limited at Cowley, Oxford. In 1957 when Birlas commissioned the car all the tooling of the British Morris Oxford Series III was transferred to India. The car was renamed as Ambassador and series-production started in 1957. The car had a 1476 cc side-valve petrol engine. In 1959 the side-valve engine was replaced by a 1489 cc, 55 bhp overhead-valve BMC B-series petrol engine.
In 1963 Ambassador underwent a minor frontal facelift with a modified grill and was named as the Ambassador Mark II. As with other British designed Mark cars, while there was never really any Ambassador Mark I, the arrival of the Mark II got people calling the older model, Mark I. Incidentally, the first ever produced Mark II in black was gifted by HM to the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. My father’s car is also an Ambassador Mark II car which I am going to discuss later on.
Hindustan Ambassador Mark II.
In 1975 Ambassador under went yet another minor facelift to the same grille and a much bigger frontal facelift, with a new dashboard all in black, new tail lights, number plate light and rounded parking light. The new car was known as the Mark 3, the most popular face of the Ambassador. By 1978, the Mark 3 was available in its Standard and Deluxe versions. The Deluxe version had a newer dashboard with four meters plus the speedometer.
Hindustan Ambassador Mark 3.
In 1979 Ambassador got another facelift with a smaller grill and square parking lamps and separate blinker lamps incorporated on the semi front lip spoiler below the bumper. This model was named as Mark 4. In addition to the existing petrol version, a diesel variant was launched which was powered by a 1489 cc, 37 bhp BMC B-series diesel engine. It was the first diesel car in India and was well received by the Indians. Mark 4 was the last of the Mark cars. For a short period the cars were available as "Deluxe" & later it was renamed Ambassador Nova.
Hindustan Ambassador Mark 4.
The Ambassador Nova was launched in 1990 in two variants—a 55 bhp petrol-powered Deluxe version and a 37 bhp diesel-powered Diesel DX version. Ambassador Nova had a newly designed steering wheel, new steering column, better brakes and electricals. It also had some cosmetic changes which included a new radiator grille. Foot gear lever was also introduced and had replaced the steering column type hand gear lever.
Hindustan Ambassador Nova.
In an attempt to increase its appeal, in 1992 another version of Ambassador was released. Named as Ambassador 1800 ISZ, this model featured a 75 bhp 1800 cc Isuzu inline-four cylinder engine and a five-speed manual gearbox, and also had the option of bucket seats, as opposed to the earlier traditional bench seats. Also, the entire dashboard was redesigned. Instrumentation panels were shifted from the centre of the dashboard to the right, behind the steering wheel. Seat belts became mandatory. Incidentally, HM was on its toes after the mid-1980s after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984 and the impending terror threat to the new leadership, coupled with the inclination of the Indian political class to use the Ambassador. These factors compelled the car maker to shop for a more powerful engine, which could effectively propel the car with the added weight of armor plating, with bullet-proof glass and air-conditioning as essential add-ons.
Ambassador 1800 ISZ.
The Ambassador again was re-engineered and renamed as Ambassador Classic. The new model featured a redesigned dashboard, polyurethane seats, pull type door handles. The higher end models featured servo assisted disc brakes and power assisted steering.
Ambassador Grand was launched in 2003 and according to HM, the new version had 137 changes compared to its predecessor. The notable changes included body colored wrap around bumpers, camel colored interiors, fabric seats, remote shift gear lever, moulded roof and door trims, bigger rear wheel drums, improved suspension with anti roll bar, central door lock, factory fitted music system. The Grand version of Ambassador was available only in 2.0L and 1.8L engines at first and later in 2007 the 1.5L model was added to the line.
The Avigo is the most radical revision of the Ambassador, a part of a brand revitalization kicked off in the middle of 2003. The change of name, a break from the Ambassador marquee, indicated a different marketing strategy. The Avigo was launched in the summer of 2004. The revitalized lineup consisted of the Ambassador Classic of mid-2003, the Ambassador Grand of late-2003. The rear of the car has been left untouched, and this leads some to feel that the car is not really different from an Ambassador. The Avigo, however, has much more classic-touch internals, like a centrally mounted console (like that of Mark 4 models), beige-colored seats and wood-grain interiors.
Ambassador’s latest model called Ambassador Encore was launched in 2013, to match the BS IV standards of the metropolitan cities. The new car looks just like an Ambassador Grand and has the same overall dimensions as that of the BS III Ambassadors
Hindustan Motors has currently halted the production of this iconic car due to lack of demand and funds. This iconic car not only completed 50 years but had it been in production it would certainly have become the Rolls Royce of India.
I can say one thing you take a ride in Ambassador and you will not feel comfortable in any other car because Ambassador is truly the King of Indian Roads. It can easily ply through the bad and broken roads of India.
I feel proud to be an owner of an Iconic Ambassador Mark II which is been in our family since 1974. Our car completed 40 years and is still used as daily car by our family members. Besides having three other modern cars taking a ride in this car is totally a different experience. I can say that this was the first car that I took my first car ride in and the first car to learn by driving in. Hence truly for me it is the number one car.
I hope Hindustan Motors can start the production in the future and the interest grows for this wonder Indian Icon so that some day this car can again rule the Indian roads.