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A chassis in stasis
August 10, 2014 2:42 AM   Subscribe

The closure of the Hindustan Motors factory in Uttarapara, West Bengal, is the end of an era in Indian history. The Ambassador is the perfect example of all that was wrong with Indian policy towards industrialization, manufacturing and business. Protectionism and the license raj created a seller's market where people waited years to buy a car. Until liberalization in the 1990s, the Amby hadn't known any real competition, and there was no pressure to either modernize or improve quality. None of this mattered, at least we had a car. And there wasn't any other quite like it in the world. RIP, motor gadi.
posted by infini (18 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
I have never owned one, never been in one, but for all these links slamming it I still think it has excellent lines. They got the body right.
posted by Meatbomb at 2:56 AM on August 10 [2 favorites]


Those old Morris Oxford lines are classic. That comment about some parts bring made out of lead, not surprised it handled like a barge.
posted by arcticseal at 5:39 AM on August 10 [2 favorites]


I have never owned one, never been in one, but for all these links slamming it I still think it has excellent lines. They got the body right.

This. They may have been terrible cars for all I know, but they are pretty and instantly recognizable when I saw them in films.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:02 AM on August 10


The lovely lines become meaningless the first time you find yourself literally standing on the brake pedal to make the thing stop.
posted by vanar sena at 9:15 AM on August 10 [3 favorites]


Of all the car designs they could have used, they pretty much got the worst of everything: poor fuel efficiency, low power, terrible brakes, damp-string electrics, cart-like suspension …
posted by scruss at 9:49 AM on August 10


Of all the car designs they could have used, they pretty much got the worst of everything: poor fuel efficiency, low power, terrible brakes, damp-string electrics, cart-like suspension …

This seems to be a thing about many cars that develop a following, though. Lots of people love the original VW Beetle, even though makes a great case study in what not to do, engineering-wise. Terribleness becomes part of the charm after a while.
posted by FishBike at 10:11 AM on August 10


I'd say that the Beetle - with all its flaws seen from a modern viewpoint - was all about doing more with less. The Amby did less with more.
posted by scruss at 11:46 AM on August 10 [1 favorite]


And the Beetle was competing with cars that were also terrible, just differently so.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:14 PM on August 10


And there wasn't any other quite like it in the world.
Well there was the Morris Oxford, in England in the 1950s. It's very like that.

By the way, there's an episode of "Wheeler Dealers : Trading Up" where the guy buys a much-loved one of these Ambassadors in India and ships it to England. He has no trouble at all selling it there for a nice profit.
posted by w0mbat at 12:39 PM on August 10 [1 favorite]


The Beetle came out in 1938. It's a good excuse for having poor engineering by 1960s standards.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:20 PM on August 10


The ambassador is a good looking car. I can see why they'd be popular with taxi companies.

The Beetle had poor engineering by 1950s standards; its big advantage was it was cheap to buy and easy to maintain.
posted by Mitheral at 3:42 PM on August 10


Cheap to buy and easy to maintain is pretty good engineering in my book.

At least the Amby lasted longer than the Mahindra Jeep. Now, that was a bad vehicle.
posted by scruss at 7:41 PM on August 10


(Ha ha ha ha ha ... sob.) Glad this era has finally ended.
posted by RedOrGreen at 7:53 PM on August 10


Not mourning the Amby myself, having been stuck on the side of a highway many times in my childhood, but having seen Steven Fry drive around US in a London cab, I have this crazy wish to drive across continental United States in a juiced up, climate-appropriate Amby. Ideally through such pieces of musical Americana as Winslow Arizona or the Blues Highway.

*Then* the Amby can die a sad, natural death.
posted by the cydonian at 11:41 PM on August 10 [1 favorite]


the cydonian: " I have this crazy wish to drive across continental United States in a juiced up, climate-appropriate Amby"

...with POWER BREAK painted in big red letters on the back.

I'll give the Amby this though - at least it wasn't that idiotic Contessa, a car that had no business existing.
posted by vanar sena at 3:56 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


LOLs at Contessa mention. What a body yaar... and it had genuine Isuzu engine no? ;p
posted by infini at 8:13 AM on August 11


I'd say that the Beetle - with all its flaws seen from a modern viewpoint - was all about doing more with less.

But not as well as a true blank-sheet exercise. The Beetle started out as old-fashioned and compromised as the Hindustan Ambassador, and just got worse with time. It was lucky it was cute, at least.

Of course, both old dried-up hunks of sadness outlived my beloved 2CV, because history is a dick.
posted by sonascope at 2:38 PM on August 11


The only cool 2CV had two engines.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:08 PM on August 11


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