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Saying goodbye to the good old Ambassador car: 17 reasons why we'll always love and miss the grand old lady of Indian roads

India's oldest car factory has abruptly suspended production of the hulking Ambassador sedan.

Updated:May 27, 2014, 4:50 PM IST
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Saying goodbye to the good old Ambassador car: 17 reasons why we'll always love and miss the grand old lady of Indian roads
India's oldest car factory has abruptly suspended production of the hulking Ambassador sedan.
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India's oldest car factory has abruptly suspended production of the hulking Ambassador sedan that has a nearly seven-decade history as the car of the Indian elite. It was unclear how long manufacturing will be on hold, but Kolkata-based Hindustan Motors said it hopes to resume making the so-called 'Amby' after a period of restructuring and clearing of its debts.

The heavy car's large size and poor gas mileage have driven customers to cheaper competitors from abroad. The company began making the Ambassador in 1948, modeling it after the British Morris Oxford III.

Also known as the grand old lady of India's pot-holed and pitted roads, the Ambassador has remained largely unchanged for more than five decades in ferrying the elite including prime ministers and high-society celebrities. It recalls an era when India's policy of economic self-sufficiency meant domestically produced cars were the norm.

Its bulbous chassis and bouncy back seats delight tourists and other passengers nostalgic for earlier times, while many in rural India still view white Ambassadors as the de-facto vehicle of officialdom.

It began losing its dominance in the mid-1980s when Maruti Suzuki introduced its low-priced 800 hatchback. It lost further cachet and market share when global automakers began setting up shop in India in the mid-1990s, offering models with contemporary designs and technology.

The Ambassador has remained the choice of a dwindling share of bureaucrats and politicians, usually in white with a red beacon on top and a chauffeur at the wheel. It is also still in use as a taxi in some cities. (With agencies inputs)

It was the official government car. In the age of bullet-proof BMWs, it’s easy to forget that the good old Ambassador was the trusted lieutenant of our public officials for decades. If it was good enough for them, it was good enough for us. Almost all of us grew up with the image of a snow white Amby stopping at a traffic light, red light flashing from the beacon on its top, tiny but fancy curtains drawn across its windows.

The load an Ambassador could carry would easily put your pansy new car to shame. It had a boot the size of Buckingham Palace.

Any road, any terrain, the Amby is The Rock. When any other car gives up on an incline the Ambassador takes it as a challenge. That car had the heart and tenacity of an ox.

This Amul topical truly summarizes the deep sense of loss that we feel at the halt in production of the beloved Amby.

The Ambassador taxi was once the ultimate in comfortable travel across the roads of the cities. The interior was spacious and the seats wide and deep, easily seating four, five with a bit of a squeeze.

Call it an oil guzzler, but the Ambassador’s dashboard was how humans were meant to have dashboards – with lots of space for knickknacks and personal stuff.

The taxi is the most secular car in India. The taxi does not discriminate between the rich and poor, religions, sex or class. The only thing you need to keep handy while taking a taxi in India is loose change.

While a light drizzle is capable of stalling any of your modern cars in the middle of the road, the Amby was meant to survive the Biblical floods. An Ambassador would see you through flooded streets, cough up a bit of water and might need a push or two, but it would be all right in a bit and get along just fine.

The Ambassador was once the life blood of a city’s middle class dependent on cheap travel to go about in relative luxury. This photo showing a taxi strike would mean hundreds of thousands inconvenienced and brought to tears on a busy work day.

This Ambassador advertisement is gold.
‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge
Spacious, Safe, Sturdy & Comfortable. Available in 1800 ISZ (with Catalytic Converter and CNG option) & Diesel models.
HM Ambassador
It’s always there.’

Did we mention the romances on the back seat of an Ambassador taxi? It was the getaway car for elopers, the meeting point for lovers desperately looking for privacy in a city of teeming millions and the witness to hundreds of heartbreaks.

The Ambassador taxi was literally the friendly neighbourhood Rescuer-in-Chief for people stranded with shopping, or women who want a lift out of a deserted place, office-goers returning home late at night or students returning from partying at 4 AM.

The Amby was THE family car. It could fit in three generations, pet and luggage effortlessly. It was usually the first car the newly-affluent bought in India, till the time Maruti grabbed the market with the economic Maruti 800.

Because of annoying nostalgia, plain and simple. How many times were you stranded in a broken down Amby or gasped at the monthly expenses of maintaining the damn oil guzzler. It was like a pet you loved too much but wished at least once in your life (in a moment of weakness) that you gave it away while it was still in good health.

Built like a tank, the Ambassador was the best car to navigate the Martian roads of Indian cities, often edging its way past bullock carts and trams.

The boot of an Ambassador deserves a separate post. It was a magical world that perfectly housed your trunks, boxes and an assortment or crap that you would not imagine any of 2014’s fancy cars holding. It was vast and you could always depend on hiring just one taxi, instead of spacing out your luggage in two or three when you needed to shift house. It WAS a house. Sniff.

The Ambassador pick-up truck. Enough said.

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