Grand Old Lady

 

On 11th February 2017, Calcutta based Hindustan Motors (HM) announced that it sold the brand ‘Ambassador’ to the PSA Groupe (Peugeot S.A), France for a sum of US$ 11 million (Rs. 80 crores). It was the end of the saga that ran successfully for over 60 years that began in 1954 with the introduction of the Hindustan Landmaster (Morris Oxford Series II) and little later the Hindustan Landmaster Traveller (estate version with partial wooden body and rear barn door).

If there is any car that is synonymous with motoring in India, it is this ‘Grand Old Lady’. It became the symbol of governance in India with every single government establishment starting with the Prime Minister’s office, the armed forces chiefs and down to the lowest rung in the bureaucracy using the Ambassador as its official car. Also known as the ‘Sarkari’ (government) or the ‘Lal Batti’ (red beacon) car, it is said that 17% of all the Ambassadors produced were brought by the Government of India. Even until this day, these cars are preferred by Ministers who are from the old era.

                                         

Though its origins are British (Morris Oxford Series III), it didn’t quite set the roads on fire in its home country, but in India it did. In 1958, Hindustan Motors started its production at Uttarpara, a distant suburb in Kolkata (Calcutta) plant, little knowing that it will turn out to be India’s most iconic car. The first model was named Hindustan Ambassador Mark I (produced between 1958-1962).