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Atal Bihari Vajpayee Was First Indian Prime Minister to Use Armoured BMW 7-Series Instead of HM Ambassador

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the first Indian Prime Minister to shift to a fully armoured BMW from the Hindustan Motors Ambassador.

Arjit Garg | News18.comArjit_Garg

Updated:August 20, 2018, 5:31 PM IST
Atal Bihari Vajpayee Was First Indian Prime Minister to Use Armoured BMW 7-Series Instead of HM Ambassador
Prime Minister's BMW 7-Series. (Image: CarToq)

An era in the India’s political history ended with the sad demise of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, one of the India's most revered political figures. The three time Prime Minister bid adieu to the world after a long battle with ill health on August 16, 2018 in Delhi's AIIMS hospital. Mr. Vajpayee was known for some of the instrumental developments during his tenure in the office.

While not many changes were related to the automotive segment, one key development that many remember was the flagship Golden Quadrilateral program. The stretch of highway was developed to connect all four corners of India and is still one of the biggest highway projects in India.

However, one lesser known change during his stint at the Prime Minister’s office was the introduction of the fully armoured BMW 7-Series sedan as the official state carrier. Before Vajpayee inducted BMW 7-Series’ fleet as the official vehicle of the Prime Minister of India, Hindustan Motors Ambassador was used by the PMO for ages.

HM Ambassador. (Image: The National) HM Ambassador. (Image: The National)

What AB Vajpayee did was to replace these ageing HM Ambassadors with much more modern, comfortable and safe BMW 7-Series sedans, making him the first Prime Minister to shift to a fully armoured BMW from the Indian Hindustan Motors Ambassador. But there’s an interesting back story that forced the Government of India to shift to the German high-end luxury car.

During Vajpayee's third term between 1999 and 2004, HM Ambassador once broke-down midway, alarming the Special Protection Group (SPG) to rethink the security of the nation's head. Post the breakdown, the attack on the Parliament in December 2001 acted as the nail in the coffin for the SPG, who handles the security of the head-of-the-state, to switch to a better and safer car.

The SPG advised on upgrading to the armoured BMW 7-Series sedans for being safe, comfortable, technologically superior and high on performance. The Government then placed an order of four armoured 740 Li sedans in 2002, providing protection against bombs, bullets and poisonous gases.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives at Red Fort in Range Rover. (Image: AP) Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives at Red Fort in Range Rover. (Image: AP)

Powered by a V8 petrol engine, the 740 Li was capable of hitting 0-100 kmph in 6.7 seconds and could run at 80 kmph even after a puncture. Other safety features included an automatic fire extinguishing system, autonomous fresh air intake system, factory-fitted bullet resistant windshield, door windows and rear windshield.

The BMW 740Li was then subsequently used by future Prime Ministers including Dr. Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi. PM Narendra Modi uses the new generation of same BMW 7-Series along with Range Rovers as his official ride. The car reportedly costed Rs 5 Crore for each unit, as against Rs 1 Crore for a regular version.

There are stories that after the completion of his tenure, Atal Bihari Vajpayee continued using Hindustan Ambassador as his daily ride. However, in one such incident, the doors jammed while plying Vajpayee and he had to squeeze through the small gap between the front seats and exit through the front door. UPA government then sent across one of the four BMWs from his former cavalcade and not in service anymore for his regular commuting.

| Edited by: Arjit Garg
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