The Jabalpur Car (Part I)

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Soon after automobile production began at the end of the nineteenth century, countries ranging from Germany to France to the United States began to produce cars, which became the new field of discovery in transportation. Some were one-off pieces, and a few were regular mass-scale production. However, this graph really took off in the early twentieth century when more people from various countries, such as Austria, Spain, and others, attempted to produce cars for the common people.

In India, too, the first attempt to make a car was by a self-taught Bengali mechanic, Bipinbehari Das, who created his first car and named it "Swadeshi" in 1928 after working on it for nearly four years inside a machine-shop shed at Bondel Road in Kolkata (Calcutta). His first car, with a 4-cylinder L-head engine having a power output of 15 hp, was purchased in 1929 by the Banaras Hindu University (BHU), Varanasi, and driven by its founder and freedom-fighter, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya. Even Motilal Nehru (father of Jawaharlal Nehru) sat in this car during his visit to the city of Varanasi. 

He built his second Swadeshi car under the instruction of Deshapriya Jatindra Mohan Sengupta, the Mayor (before Subhas Chandra Bose took over as the Mayor of Calcutta) and sold it to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation in 1930. The last one he created was for the Maharaja of Gwalior. By this time, he was already 56, and so did not have the financial means to produce more.

Other attempts were made all across India to produce indigenous cars. One was a British employee of the Morvi State Railway, Ralph Ricardo, who produced a car and named it "Morvi". This was also in the late 1920’s.

The next attempt was made after a gap of 25 years by Shankarrao D. Kulkarni in the year 1949 in the small textile town called Ichalkaranji (then called "Manchester of India") in the district of Kolhapur, Maharashtra. Educated only in school, Kulkarni gave India her first microcar, the Meera, with a 4-stroke petrol engine fixed at the rear (similar to the Volkswagen Beetle).

Then, in 1951, a model called "Iddy Champion" was made by Kunnath Ayyath Balakrishna Menon (K. A. B. Menon), who set up his firm called Aravind Automobiles in Trivandrum. This was followed up by two more models that he produced, called "Palace Special" (for the Maharaja of Travancore) in 1959 and finally the "Aravind 3" in 1965, a more modern car.

It was around the same time that a 2-stroke, 2-cylinder engine car developed by the General Manager of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Bangalore plant, Captain Pingle Madhusudan Reddy, was named the "Pingle". Captain Pingle, who was also a pilot, wanted to develop a car for the masses, and so, with the help of another government firm, Praga Tools Corporation, produced three prototypes. These cars ran in Hyderabad, which was Pingle's home city, in the mid-seventies.