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Old 26th May 2014, 22:39   #31
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Default Re: End of the road for the HM Ambassador?

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Originally Posted by gearhead_mait View Post
Did anyone know that he 1.5 litre engine of the HM Ambassador is actually 1489cc, BMW B-Series diesel engine. Till now, I knew that it was ISUZU engine.

http://auto.ndtv.com/news/hindustan-...g-facts-389445

It is actually the old British Motors Corporation (BMC and not BMW) overhead valve 1489 cc, (earlier 1476 cc side valve, that powwered the Hindustan 14 (1949-54), Landmaster (1954-57) and earliest Ambassadors (1958-60) ) petrol engine, that evolved from the 1476cc side valve.This 1489 cc engine came to India in 1960 and powered the Ambassadors from 1960- 1992.The ISZ 1800 and the 2000 DSL soon followed. But the 1500 DSL (1489 cc) continued and evolved to become BS I, II, III complaint and in Sept 2013 the BS IV complaint, turbocharged version was launched.

The 1489 cc diesel was developed from the same engine block (1489 cc petrol engine) by BMC, for the Morris Oxford Series V in 1961 (Ambassador is the Morris Oxford Series III). This variant sold well as taxis in the U.K. and elsewhere. It came to India and powered the Ambassadors since 1979. The diesel engine was available only for taxis and not for private cars. The government policy changed later on,to allow diesels for private cars sometime in the early 1990's.

A Morris Oxford advertisement from 1961:

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As far as the Ambassador is concerned, all of us have some memories good or bad attached to this car.

I being an admirer of the car (it was iconic, no doubt) would say that it should have started to evolve when change was coming in the mid 1980's. The company HM sold about 25,000 cars a year in the 1980's and made handsome profits. Had it started investing in R & D or else in acquiring newer technology from abroad, using apart of its profits, things would have been different. With a more contemporary car, the profits would have added to the company's balance sheets and further evolution using the same basic design could have made it a game changer.

True the backseat position is comfortable, but not the leaf spring suspension. With stiff leaves and damaged bushes, the leaf spring suspension in some taxis could make the back seat the most uncomfortable.

The best part of the Ambassador is that it has beaten all cars hollow and has created a world record for being the same basic car model, that has been the longest in production, (1958-2014 ----- or may be beyond ) anywhere in the world, from the same assembly line.

This very fact makes it stand out against all odds.

Last edited by anjan_c2007 : 26th May 2014 at 22:41.
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Old 27th May 2014, 07:27   #32
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Default Re: End of the road for the HM Ambassador?

The HM Ambassador in its current form was a thing of the past even 10 years back, but look how Auto makers revive their classic cars and build a brand around it. The ambassador would have still found takers if there were not concerns around every possible aspect of its, mileage, safety, maintenance etc. etc. In my prior organization, the Ambassador was used as an example of what not to buy under the official lease in the policy document.

If only they had managed this brand well, it would have found a lot more takers especially in towns and villages where perceptions about vehicles are hard to change and those in cities as well who wanted an affordable vintage looking car..
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Old 27th May 2014, 09:22   #33
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Default Re: End of the road for the HM Ambassador?

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Originally Posted by anjan_c2007 View Post
Had it started investing in R & D or else in acquiring newer technology from abroad, using apart of its profits, things would have been different. With a more contemporary car, the profits would have added to the company's balance sheets and further evolution using the same basic design could have made it a game changer.
It was not possible back then due to Nehruvian socialist policy of "closed economy" where imports were banned and India wanted to cultivate and manufacture everything to keep them sustainable and thus preserve the Rupee value. Our exports also started falling.
Effect ??? No new technologies came to India when other countries who got liberated after us prospered with their open economy model thereby getting latest technology, more jobs and also better exports.
Post mid 80's our country had partially liberalized and hence the only option was of going with Joint Ventures and that's why we hear "Kinetic Honda", "TVS Suzuki", "Hero Honda" and our very own "Maruti Suzuki"
What went wrong was that these companies had got habituated to monopolistic rule and were making merry of the license raj regime and didn't opt for strategic joint ventures and kept milking the grand old car till Maruti Suzuki decimated them with Maruti 800, 1000 & zen.
It is not otherwise that Premier, HM, Standard all erst while high profile car makers died.

Last edited by Cooltronics : 27th May 2014 at 09:23. Reason: addition
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Old 27th May 2014, 09:27   #34
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Default Re: End of the road for the HM Ambassador?

In 1997 I received a commission from a BBC content provider in the United Kingdom to write a story on the Ambassador car. On the way to their factory in Uttarpara, I visited a friend of my father's in Kolkata. He asked me, "Who are you meeting in the factory?"

"The head of research and development." I replied.

"He must be senile." quipped my father's friend. I raised a puzzled eyebrow. "What else can the head of research in Hindustan Motors be?" he smiled.

Production of the Ambassador car ceased on 24 May 2014, probably for the last time. Manufactured for 56 years (1958 to 2014), the car attained legendary status long ago. So, the question arises: how did the car survive for so long and, having survived, why has it died?

I grew up in the tea estates of Assam and the mountains of Darjeeling. Along with the Land Rover for driving in the gardens, the Hindustan Landmaster and then the Ambassador were our road cars. I sold my last Ambassador in 2004, long after all my friends had converted to the new generation of cars.

I used to be teased about possessing an Ambassador in the 1990s and 2000s. Yet, it amused me that when the migratory Winter birds (NRIs) descended from the USA every year, they would borrow my old Ambassador as they felt 'safe' driving it in the chaotic Indian traffic.

My bond with the Ambassador is deep because my parents were passionate road travellers. Every two years, we would set off to explore our country. These journeys would routinely be for a month and cover approximately 6,000 kilometres. In the decade-and-a-half that we did this, I remember only two tyre punctures and one broken clutch plate (on the road to Kathmandu, when we hit a badly aligned culvert - we still managed to reach Kathmandu with the car stuck in 3rd gear). This was during an age when many of our national highways existed only on paper.

I learnt whatever I know of practical mechanics due to the Ambassador. The beauty of the car was that you could fix virtually any problem by improvisation.

Once, I was shifting base from Dibrugarh in Assam to Kolkata in West Bengal - a distance of 1,400 kilometres. We loaded everything into the car and on top of it, so much so that that car was flat on its suspension. Our initial apprehensions at the load were belied when it ran much smoother than usual! The only problem was that, due to the extreme load, the suspension bushings kept getting cut and a rattling would start. So, after this had happened for the third time, we fitted Tata truck bushings. They not only worked, I never needed to change bushings ever again in that car!

It was also much more powerful than we give it credit for.

When my father was posted in Darjeeling, our home was on Jalapahar, accessed by an extremely steep road. We would always engage 4-wheel drive on our Land Rover to climb the incline. In the Ambassador, we would take a longer, less steep route through Ghoom. Once, returning from one of our national tours, we took our fully loaded Ambassador up the road without any feeling of power inadequacy.

Since Hindustan Motors never paid much attention to standardisation, every car was unique. I loved the fact that you had to 'learn' each car. You could not just get into an Ambassador and drive off. The brake, clutch and gear in every car required differently aligned pressures. Other quirks abounded. One car we bought in 1974 easily raced to 130 km/hour (normally, crossing 100km/hour was an achievement) while another bought in 1982 consistently returned a fuel average of 16km/litre!

To return to my opening topic: on my visit to Uttarpara, I was treated most courteously and, after a lengthy chat and tour, offered a 'sneak peek' at the next generation Ambassador. Excited, I was taken through two massive locked warehouse doors to enter a vast open space, in the middle of which was a pristine white Ambassador.

"So, what do you think?" beamed the head of research and development.

I walked carefully around the car, trying desperately to find something different, remembering the comment by my father's friend. Sensing my puzzlement, the gentleman started bustling around, pointing out numerous minute details, garnishes and touches. The only interesting change I found was the horizontal fuel tank which opened up a big flat bed in the boot, though it did lead to concern of consequences should there be a rear-end impact.

That, in essence, was the problem with Hindustan Motors. They did not respond, either at the entry of Maruti Udyog in 1981 or to liberalisation in 1991, for transforming the product to the modern age. As a consequence, in 2013-14, the production was 2,200 units against the high of 24,000 units in the early 1980s.

The other, of course, was the lack of quality, even at inception. It is rumoured that the marketing head of Hindustan Motors in the 1950s had tried, without success, to get the company's owner to use the Ambassador as his regular car so that it could build credibility. Birla refused as he did not trust the car's quality!

That production could continue for so long is due to government patronage that kept it as official transport for lower levels of government officers and Kolkata's taxi drivers. This too is evidence that the promoters of Hindustan Motors never emerged from the 'license raj', even as the country around them changed. Another pointer to the promoters' attitude was when the Uttarpara factory achieved full depreciation in 2000. None of the cost benefit was passed on to the customer.

Despite shifting to a Maruti car in 2004, I lived in hope that the Ambassador would transform into a car I could buy again. Every time I thought of buying a new car, I would ritually take a look at the current Ambassador. Every time, I would be faced with a wall: the negative difference between the price asked and the value offered.

India's leading automobile designer, Dilip Chhabria, reportedly commented, "Had HM continued to evolve the Amby over the past 60 years without changing the DNA, it would have been the Rolls Royce of India."

May the original mover of the Indian citizen rest in peace.
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Old 27th May 2014, 11:00   #35
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Default Re: End of the road for the HM Ambassador?

I am at a loss to understand this nostalgia for what was, admittedly, avowedly, unabashedly, unapologetically a piece of s*** for 56 years. It was outdated when it was launched and unlike good wine, time only made it worse both for the specific car and for the brand.

Good riddance, I say!
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Old 27th May 2014, 11:14   #36
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Default Re: End of the road for the HM Ambassador?

Having driven a mark IV for almost more than 5k kms, spread over a span of two years, I must say that it was good for almost nothing.

The under body started showing signs of rust in two-three years. Had to get some reinforcement done for that from a local workshop. The gears used to get stuck for apparently no reason. Alternator failure was a quarterly affair.

All this is still okay but what was not acceptable that HM never bothered to rectify any of the issues. It was like buy a Ambassador and get the things done on your own what a manufacturer is supposed to do.

Look at other car manufacturers like Mahindra, TATA, etc. As time progressed they improved their products unlike HM.

Launching Isuzu engine was the only notable improvement that I know of.

As like others have mentioned, it was about the time for HM to take this step.
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Old 27th May 2014, 12:22   #37
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Default Re: End of the road for the HM Ambassador?

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Originally Posted by charanreddy View Post
The HM Ambassador in its current form was a thing of the past even 10 years back, but look how Auto makers revive their classic cars and build a brand around it. The ambassador would have still found takers if there were not concerns around every possible aspect of its, mileage, safety, maintenance etc. etc. In my prior organization, the Ambassador was used as an example of what not to buy under the official lease in the policy document.

If only they had managed this brand well, it would have found a lot more takers especially in towns and villages where perceptions about vehicles are hard to change and those in cities as well who wanted an affordable vintage looking car..
Probably HM should take a clue from Mahindra and Enfield as to how they revived their jeep and bullet. They simply refused to learn just like premier automobiles.
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Old 27th May 2014, 12:33   #38
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Default Re: End of the road for the HM Ambassador?

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Yes it is mostly true, but look at the Bullet Standard and the Jeep ( Thar ).
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Originally Posted by suresh_gs View Post
Probably HM should take a clue from Mahindra and Enfield as to how they revived their jeep and bullet.
An Enfield Bullet is super cool, a Jeep is super cool. Plus, both of them have USPs (e.g. Thar = Jeep styling + diesel + 4x4).

The Jeep is a lifestyle choice.

Neither is the Ambassador cool, nor does it have any kind of aspirational value. In fact, the younger generation of today would be super embarrassed to be driving around in an Ambassador.

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Originally Posted by Cooltronics View Post
What went wrong was that these companies had got habituated to monopolistic rule and were making merry of the license raj regime and didn't opt for strategic joint ventures and kept milking the grand old car
Well, HM did have a JV with Mitsubishi which was initially quite successful (the Lancer outsold the City in some months). Trust HM to eventually botch things up.
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Old 27th May 2014, 12:41   #39
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Default Re: End of the road for the HM Ambassador?

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Well, HM did have a JV with Mitsubishi which was initially quite successful (the Lancer outsold the City in some months). Trust HM to eventually botch things up.
If I am not wrong, it was a tie up with Mitsubishi to produce Lancer and sell them in market, they had no joint venture where new technology and models were put in market as a combined entity and hence Lancer is always called "Mitsubishi Lancer". This also happened in 1998 by when Maruti had penetrated immensely in Indian markets and our erst-while auto companies had collapsed by then.
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Old 27th May 2014, 14:16   #40
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Default Re: End of the road for the HM Ambassador?

I saw an Amby on display inside the the Malpensa airport, Milan last year and was used for branding purposes to promote tourism in India.

The vehicle is way beyond it's shelf life! It may just be a few auto-enthusiasts like us, who may be wanting to buy it and keep a part of the legacy, however, HM with the Amby can never feature on the monthly sales charts for manufacturers on Team-BHP Either-ways it is curtains for the Amby!

Look at what happened to Sony! The world today looks at constant innovation and evolution and HM failed the Amby there.

It has served the Indians and some European countries very well and time to let it RIP now...
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Old 27th May 2014, 14:33   #41
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Default Re: End of the road for the HM Ambassador?

HM i believe did try for a sort of make over with Mark 4. It was considerably different from 2 & 3. But some how stopped at that. The later editions like Nova, where just copies of mark 4.
As many said , if they had started reinventing after mark 4 , story could have been different.
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Old 27th May 2014, 14:37   #42
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Default Re: End of the road for the HM Ambassador?

I still remember the days when anyone bought an Ambassador, they would have to directly drive the vehicle to a private workshop to do additional welding before the car could be driven regularly. Such was the quality on offer.
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Old 27th May 2014, 14:44   #43
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Default Re: End of the road for the HM Ambassador?

Though not really a good news, it is still somehow nice to hear that HM has finally decided to put Ambassador to rest. Hope the decision is final.

Over the past decade, it was very dis-heartening to see how brutally HM had been treating this iconic car with lack of R&D , no real facelifts, inferior quality,poor marketing etc.

So many times I have felt like, if they can't treat such an old citizen with due respect , why don't they just discontinue it? That way, the brand will be remembered by people as a glorious & succesful model of its time. Not as a model which struggled for 20-odd years with poor sales and finally gave up, accepting defeat.

As many have pointed out here, Enfield and Thar are succesful examples of how old products can be marketed to suit modern times.
But one thing common with both these products is the rugged, macho image, which Amby lacks. There are literally no new products that can offer the raw, tough guy image that a bullet or a Jeep offers. Still so many people buy Enfield inspite of all its dis-advantages over modern bikes, just to get this macho image. But Amby never had anything like that.It was always a people mover, known for just its back-seat comfort, and with the advent of more modern & comfortable cars, Amby lost its relevance altogether.Thus HM lost its plot. Not just that, they failed to re-model or re-position Amby or a successor, in a totally new slot/category.

Good that this thought finally occurred to HM. Better late than never.
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Old 27th May 2014, 14:46   #44
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Default Re: End of the road for the HM Ambassador?

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+1

I've travelled in Amby a couple of times and never did I experience that sofa feeling that people talk about. I too think its overrated a bit.
They say that because their memory of Amby backseat was from when they were little. That's what is imprinted into their memory.

Now that they have grown big (and fat ), they compare their now-adult experience in modern cars to that of Amby backseat when they were 1/10 the size.
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Old 27th May 2014, 15:02   #45
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Default Re: End of the road for the HM Ambassador?

This sums up my feelings for the car I still wish to own some day. My father drove around in it proudly and we had to sell her off when he was hospitalized. I really want to buy one and paint it and restore it just like our old CPD 8092
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