The raise & fall of Iconic automobiles in India

What is that common between Me, Birlas, Morris Motors Limited, Kolkata and Oxford (United Kingdom)?

Its the Hindustan Ambassador car or Amby as it’s fondly called as.

Automobile Icons:

Hindustan Motors Limited (HM) was setup in 1942 before Indian independence by B.M.Birla. The initial operations started in an assembly plant in Gujarat. Later the assembly plant was shifted to Kolkata, West Bengal. Hindustan Ambassador car was based on Morris Oxford model manufactured by Morris Motors Limited in United Kingdom. Another great car manufactured by Hindustan Motors was the Contessa. Hindustan Ambassador car and Contessa both was popular among government officials and politicians. Both the cars at their time were all about Status, Style and Prestige.

Bajaj Auto Company started its Bajaj Scooter production from 1972. The first model was 2 stroke engines with 150cc named as Bajaj Super. The original design of Bajaj super was based on Piaggio’s Vespa. Later Bajaj Chetak was produced and it was named as Chetak, after the Indian warrior king Rana pratap singh’s horse.

Bajaj Scooter_Ambassador Car

Ride to a Dead end:

Hindustan Motors finally suspended their production of the Ambassador Car. The reasons cited were, not much demand from the consumers and lack of funds to continue their production. Bajaj Scooter was stopped more or less for the same reason. Both these vehicles lost their dominance in the market. In the dynamic market place, consumers have more options, their tastes kept changing and aggressive competition came from Indian, global manufacturers. They slowly started to vanish in the recent decade before it perished.

The modern motorbike/car/scooter buyer wants latest technology, safety, comfort and lower emissions. Companies like Maruti, Royal Enfield read the mindset of the buyer to manufacture vehicles like Maruti Alto, Royal Enfield Classic 350 cc and Classic 500 cc etc.. These vehicles are retro styled with latest technology advancements. This made them to survive in the market and to score in their sales chart.

The general opinion is that Hindustan Motors, Bajaj Auto’s lack of interest, to improve the quality and add technology advancements was the foremost reason for the declined sales which eventually lead to complete halt. The same happened to Contessa or Conti which was manufactured based on General Motors Vauxhall victor FE. The Bajaj Auto Company should have tried something in the lines of Honda Activa and Piaggio Vespa, considering the fact that every 4th two wheeler sold in India is a Scooter. Scooter is a 2 wheeler but carried 4 souls (entire family). Both the Ambassador Car and Chetak scooter enjoyed a loyal customer base that was built in their heydays which span more than a few decades. An opportunity was missed by the manufacturers. Many car and scooter enthusiasts started to remodel these vehicles for their value. I used to drive my cousin’s old remodeled Ambassador Car fitted with an Isuzu engine. It’s absolutely fun, riders pride and collectors favorite. Most of the latest cars of this price range cannot match with the Ambassador car’s seat comfort.


Classic cars/motorbikes/scooters are simpler to work on, made for pure driving experience, rider’s pride, have character and soul. It can’t be explained in words or paper. As an enthusiast, coupled with our nostalgic memories, most of us feel to voice our opinions about our favorite marque. Our thoughts are “the Company should have done this or they should have build that” instead of stopping the production once and for all. At the end of day its business and they would have discarded it considering various factors too. Whatever the case maybe, there is a proclamation in few countries when new monarch’s accession to the throne “Long live the King”. I would echo the same for Amby and Chetak which has now became old classics. Vacuum created by them can never be filled.


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