The Amby: The Pride of Kolkata

The famous Hindustan Ambassador.  Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Hindustan Motors
Hindustan Motors, or HM, was founded in 1942 at Port Okha, Gujarat. However, in 1948, operations were moved to a place known as Uttarpara, situated in the Hooghly District of the Indian state West Bengal.

It was founded in 1942 by B.M. Birla.

HM is currently continuing operations at its Uttarpara Plant. The same place where the famous HM Ambassador is produced.

HM is one of the only automobile manufacturers in India. However, its Uttarpara Plant was the first, and currently the only integrated automobile factory in India.

HM has been known to have a close technical collaboration with the Japanese automobile manufacturer, Mitsubishi Motors.

Undoubtedly the most famous creation of Hindustan Motors is the Ambassador, which is widely used as a taxi, and as official government vehicles.

The Hindustan Ambassador
The Amby itself is based on a British car dating to 1954, the Morris Oxford.

The initial Ambassador was almost a ditto copy of the British Morris Oxford III.  Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Despite its British origin, the Ambassador is a car totally manufactured in India.
It is tagged as the definitive Indian car, and is often called “The King of the Indians Roads”.

Any why should it be not? The Amby is used by almost all elite government officials. Ranging for the Prime Minister, the President, and Defence Ministry, to the Personal Secretary of a state’s Chief Minister.

This is a familiar sight of Indian roads. In 2013, it was rated as the world’s best taxi by BBC.

When HM rebuilt the Morris Oxford III in India after production was stopped in Britain, it was built for Indian roads.

Many are aware what I mean by “Indian” roads. An average “Indian road” is as good as the ‘torture track’ that every new automobile has to drive through during its very first test drive!

Uneven Road Surface, potholes, and dogs and cows running through streets are characteristic of many Indian roads. Some roads are as good as mud tracts. It’s better to trek there than to walk on foot!

The Amby was designed to survive all these. It has a high ground clearance, and has repeatedly been praised by the Defence Ministry for its superb off-road performance.

And taxi drivers are all praise for it, many of whom only bother to put it in for maintenance as regularly as they change their toothbrush!

How long do people use a single toothbrush? Around  2 to 3 years! Doctor uncle says, “Change it every six months.” I bet he doesn’t himself!

The Amby on the production line at the Uttarpara Plant.

Comfort is the cornerstone of the Amby. I have been on many car models, even on luxury cars, but I’ve not found the seats in any more comfortable than those of the Amby! 

Low maintenance cost, superb off-road performance, built for Indian road conditions, best-in-class comfort: it’s all a power-packed punch. Get you that in any other car? No. It’s dependable, and has huge leg space, along with a full boot to pack up.

A real multi-purpose car!

That’s what has kept the Amby alive. It was banned in 2011 for failing to meet Indian emission standards (which are, BTW, one of the most lenient in the world). However, it soon overcame that hurdle with R&D, and the Amby is back onto the streets.

Despite having undergone hundreds of internal changes in the dashboard, engine, power steering, disc brakes, and the like, the exterior structure of the Amby still mirrors the Morris Oxford III. 

Like many other things, this is an “Indianized” artifact of British history left back in India, that has become the identity of the country.

After all, an Ambassador with a red beacon on top has been the ultimate symbol of power in India for decades.


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