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Hindustan Ambassador

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Despite its British origins, the Ambassador is considered as a definitive Indian car and is fondly called "The king of Indian roads". The automobile is manufactured by Hindustan Motors at its Uttarpara plant near Kolkata, West Bengal. It was the most popular car in India and is perceived to be best suited to the harsh Indian terrain due to its very good suspension. Its iconic status was helped by the fact that it was the preferred means of conveyance of India's political leadership, including the Prime Minister of India, before they moved on to other luxury cars and SUVs.[citation needed] In 2002, then-Indian PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee started traveling in an armored BMW 7 Series for security purposes. However, some prominent Indian politicians, such as Sonia Gandhi, continue with their preference for the Hindustan Ambassador.

Origins

When the Birlas wanted a new model to replace their already old Hindustan models based on Morris Oxford Series II (Hindustan Landmaster), they scouted for the then-new Morris Oxford Series III. The car initially came with a side valve engine but was later improved to an overhead valve engine. Also the car at that point was quite an innovation with a fully enclosed monocoque chassis, which is why it is spacious inside. Hindustan Motors Limited (HM), India's pioneering automobile manufacturing company and flagship company of the C.K. Birla Group was established just before Indian independence, in 1942 by B.M. Birla, commencing operations in a small assembly plant in Port Okha near Gujarat.

Evolution

The Amby, as it is affectionately called, has been in continuous production since its inception, with very few changes to its frame. In 1948, Hindustan Motors shifted its assembly plant from Port Okha in Gujarat to Uttarpara in West Bengal's Hooghly district and strengthened its manufacturing capacity in the automobile segment. The 1954 Morris Oxford series II in India was licence-built at Uttarpara, (Hooghly dist.), West Bengal, three years after its debut in England and labelled as the 1957 Hindustan Landmaster. It had a rounded rear squab and a curvaceous sloping hood. Engaged in the manufacture of the Ambassador, Contessa and utility vehicles like the Trekker, Porter and Pushpak, the plant also has to its credit, many innovations and improvements in the automobile industry in India. Hindustan Motors is the only manufacturing facility in the world to manufacture parts for Bedford trucks currently.

Ambassador Mark I to Mark IV In 1957 all the tooling of the British Morris Oxford Series III was transferred to India. The car was renamed the Ambassador and series-production started in 1958. Styling changes from the Morris Oxford series II (Landmaster) to Morris Oxford series III (Ambassador) included deep headlamp cowls and small rear wing "tail fins" -- all the rage in 1956. The dashboard and steering wheel were completely redesigned. The Landmaster's flat-plane two spoke steering wheel gave way to a stylish dished steering wheel with three spokes made-up of four wires per spoke, for the Ambassador. Also a new, dimpled hood debuted. All subsequent models in this series were named Ambassador, Mark II, Mark III, Mark IV, etc.,. In the 1960s, it underwent a minor frontal facelift with a closely chequered grill and was named as the Ambassador Mark II. Like 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. In 1975, another minor facelift to the same grille and a much bigger frontal facelift was turned out as the Mark III, the most popular face of the Ambassador. The Mark IV was the last of the Mark cars. Further on, it was renamed Ambassador Nova.

Ambassador 1800 ISZ In an attempt to increase its appeal,in 1992 another version was released. Dubbed the Ambassador 1800 ISZ, this model featured a powerful 75 bhp 1800 cc Isuzu engine and a 5speed gearbox, and also had the option of bucket seats, as opposed to the earlier 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. At that time no Indian cars had such a powerful engine and it was the fastest car of that time.

Ambassador Classic After the millennium renovation project at the Uttarpara Plant, the Ambassadors released were renamed as Ambassador Classic. These models feature a redesigned dashboard, polyurethane seats, pull type door handles and the steering column gear lever was replaced by floor shift gears.

Avigo Its most radical revision, a part of a brand revitalization kicked off in the middle of 2003, was the Avigo (a break from the Ambassador marque indicating a different marketing strategy), launched in the summer of 2004. The revitalization consisted of the Ambassador Classic of mid-2003, the Ambassador Grand of late-2003, and the aforementioned Avigo, designed by Manvindra Singh. Car enthusiasts, however see this as a desperate attempt to claw back the dwindling market share. Notable influences on the new design include the new Mini, and even the Porsche 356. However, the most overpowering influence on the front and bonnet has been that of the original Landmaster series (also based on Morris Oxford). 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. Retro-car enthusiasts would have preferred a rounded back (without the small fins), while as a current car, the regular-look Ambassador is very good itself. The Avigo, however, has much more classic-touch internals, like a centrally mounted console (like the Mark IV models), beige colored seats and wood-grain interiors.

Engines

In the early 1990s, the old BMC 1.5L petrol engine was replaced in favour of an Isuzu 1.8 litre engine and became the fastest production car in India, beating Fiats, and the Maruti Suzuki cars at that time. The engines currently available are the 1.8L 75 bhp MPFI petrol engine and a 2.0L 50 bhp Isuzu diesel engine. Brakes and steering, however, have not been modified or improved to match the increased power.

Extended version

Many local customisers offer stretched versions, though they are not very popular. One such manufacturer is Parikh, whose effort is called the "Ambylimo"

Customized version

Car designer Dilip Chhabria created a concept inspired by the Ambassador. version[5], the Ambierod. This car is not manufactured by Hindustan Motors nor is it based on the ambassador. Several styling cues however have been borrowed from the Ambassador.

UK imports

The car was briefly imported to the United Kingdom in 1993 (as the Fullbore Mark 10) in a disastrous attempt to bring the Ambassador "home." The cars were retrofitted with a heater and seat belts in order to comply with European safety legislation, but only a tiny number were ever sold, and the importer went into liquidation [6]. Despite this failure, from 2002 the Ambassador has again been available new in the UK from Merlin Garages, an importer in Wales.

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