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Old 15th November 2014, 23:38   #1
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Default 2014, a watershed year - 3 iconic Indian cars laid to rest

The year 2014 has been one of shocks for many Indian automobile lovers , who have seen the Maruti 800 dissappearing into oblivion, (Dec 14, 1983 to Jan 18,2014 RIP) after becoming India's symbol of motoring for the masses. It had literally put India on FOUR wheels.About 2.87 million were manufactured, of whch 2.66 million were sold in India. Thats though nowhere near the 22 million sales mark reached by the VW Beetle - the most sold, mass produced car in the world.

Come May 25th , 2014, the great Ambassador's production was stopped by HM - a real shocker. With the current indications, it seems unlikely that the production will resume, if at all, anytime soon. Sad News that is (1958-2014 RIP )!

And lastly, come December 2014, the Hyundai Santro, that was a rage in its initial years since its launch in 1998, will also be coming off the assembly lines at Marimalai Nagar, Tamil Nadu, and retiring into oblivion (1998- 2014 RIP).

We have seen umpteen cars come and go, but these three have been very special for Indian car lovers and have influenced us in countless ways either as owners or as fans of these iconic cars. The Ambassador tops the list as our National car, followed by the Maruti 800 and then the Santro.

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Old 16th November 2014, 01:56   #2
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IMO Its been a great year where we left behind technologies & designs that was decades old.

IMHO The Maruti 800 didn't "put India on 4 wheels", just a tiny privileged section. 29lakh cars in a population of 125crores is like literally 0.01% of our population.

Thank god the Ambassador was finally discontinued. A great relief that after >half a century we decided to move on from a design copied from the Morris Marina (IIRC).

IMO even as a car lover, these had well passed the stage of being called 'iconic', and were rather just desperately required to be shelved for well and good. India deserves better.

Discontinuing Santro was but natural since there are plenty of better hatchbacks.

Just my perspective, no offense.
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Old 16th November 2014, 03:50   #3
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Default re: 2014, a watershed year - 3 iconic Indian cars laid to rest

This thread couldn't have come at a more inappropriate time. The sentiment nowadays has shifted towards safety everywhere on the forum. All these cars score very poor on that front and as we have seen on various new threads, if the first reply to the OP sets the tone against the topic the whole thread starts going that way.
Yes, no one can disagree that these cars were iconic and we have heaps of praises showered on theses cars on countless number of threads but now that's not the case anymore.
One similarity among all these cars were that, they were long forgotten by the market wrt sales figures with the exception of Santro. Though I don't get happy by the discontinuance of any specific model but I would be very happy if they discontinue the Omni too. That one vehicle can be seen as most unsafe vehicle plying on our roads but still selling in good numbers, and if it's not discontinued, it should atleast be banned from transporting the pupils. But I guess this won't happen as we are yet to see any vehicle being disconitued due to lack of safety in our country rather than commercial viability.

Last edited by carwatcher : 16th November 2014 at 03:51.
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Old 16th November 2014, 19:53   #4
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Default re: 2014, a watershed year - 3 iconic Indian cars laid to rest

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Originally Posted by GrammarNazi View Post

Thank god the Ambassador was finally discontinued. A great relief that after >half a century we decided to move on from a design copied from the Morris Marina (IIRC).
The Ambassador was built under licence from Morris Motors ( under the umbrella of the British conglomerate British Motors Corporation or BMC). It is not the Morris Marina but the Morris Oxford Series III made between 1954-58 in the U.K. The car came to India courtesy HM in 1958.
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Old 16th November 2014, 23:48   #5
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Default re: 2014, a watershed year - 3 iconic Indian cars laid to rest

I know, plenty will say good riddance. That's what a person would think logically. I particularly feel bad about Ambassador. Calcutta roads will never be the same without them. A slice of my life is gone with the demise of Ambassador.

I just wish that Ambassador is resurrected sometime in the future. The way Beetle came back. It had been an iconic car. Whatever one might say, it was the national car. It was the car that represented India. It was the car that Indian Presidents and the Prime Ministers used even after 50 years of attaining independence. It has been historic. We cannot deny that. It's not only a "car" but also "history". If we can have heritage buildings in India, we should have preserved the heritage car called Ambassador.

Unfortunately, here we are bothered about bhp and proving a point of being modern.
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Old 17th November 2014, 01:45   #6
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Default re: 2014, a watershed year - 3 iconic Indian cars laid to rest

The smallest tear shed will be for the Maruti 800 - it was outclassed by Maruti's own Alto 800 and Tata's Nano. Maruti played an active role in killing it by not offering it in BS4 format even though the same engine was updated to BS4 in the Omni and Alto (and Alto 800). The quality was also dropping a lot in its final years as Maruti used it to push the Alto to customers at a premium by showing them how much better it is than the artificially slighted 800. My dad had a year 2000 model Maruti 800 EX 5-Speed MPFI (non AC) which was the last generation before Alto was launched. One heck of a car it was and we did plenty of long distance Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala holiday trips in it. When I went to driving school where there was a newer 4-speed Maruti 800, I could see the cost cutting everywhere. The old 800 had its internals sent to the Alto while the 800 itself had lots of bits chopped off to make it cheaper.

The Ambassador was famous for wrong reasons (read: exploitation during Jawaharlal Nehru's license raj era). While I personally wish the modern Ambassador Encore would have succeeded outside Calcutta as a taxi elsewhere in India (the non-turbocharged BS4 Diesel with 48 BHP and 112NM Torque looks good enough for a taxi), shoddy management and the fact that the employees where hired at a time when labor laws were unfavorable to companies in multiple ways killed it. It will still be remembered for its longevity and the iconic shape. I also miss the fact that it had a long bench in rear enabling 5 to travel in comfort (the bench in front for 3 passengers seemed more of a gimmick so I am discounting that). But the Indica Vista, Etios Liva and Verito Vibe do that at a cheaper price today and I can vouch for all their suspensions to be more comfortable.

The Santro would perhaps be most missed, because it was the best Mumbai Cab in the market at the time of discontinuing - and perhaps best ever for some time to come. I say best ever because after old 1.1L WagonR was discontinued, this was the only high torque petrol in the market, was effortless to drive, more powerful (at city speeds) than competing new-gen WagonR, Alto, Indica and Omni, comfortable for left foot due to dead pedal (something most cars don't offer today even at significantly higher prices), comfortable for passengers due to tall boy design, had a chiller of an AC (in cool cab form), a passenger friendly suspension and easily available spares and serviceability due to being in the market for long. It was perhaps one of the few cars that looked a LOT smarter after facelift (compared to the frog-like original Santro) unlike cars like the original Scorpio which got uglier with time.

There! I feel like I was touch by all three iconic cars. The former was the first car in the family and one in which I learnt to drive. The later two were amazing taxis I traveled in which made me see how pathetic Bangalore rickshaws were in comparison and I was drowned in self pity because our public transport had no taxis.
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Old 17th November 2014, 01:48   #7
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Default re: 2014, a watershed year - 3 iconic Indian cars laid to rest

Rather than as icons they today represented these companies taking us customers for granted with no regard to safety. Maruti 800 was long back replaced by the Alto which too is unsafe in today's times and the santro by the i10 which again is not safe by today's standards. The less said about the am by the better.

Yes they deserved nostalgia but only if they had stopped sales 10 years back. In my view these cars overstayed. They were good when they came in but each has lasted 10 years or more too many.
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Old 17th November 2014, 07:05   #8
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Default re: 2014, a watershed year - 3 iconic Indian cars laid to rest

Comfort? The NVH in a typical ambassador and the metal shell that soaked up the sun's heat mean that the only time I have actually been car sick / vomited after a ride is after riding one of those.

Maybe I am spoiled after riding marutis and Hondas for over a decade and no other boneshakers in common use in chennai (such as premier padmini in mumbai, which actually offered a far smoother ride than the amby ever did) but I am glad to say good riddance to that car.
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Old 17th November 2014, 08:31   #9
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Default re: 2014, a watershed year - 3 iconic Indian cars laid to rest

Quote:
Originally Posted by anjan_c2007 View Post
And lastly, come December 2014, the Hyundai Santro, that was a rage in its initial years since its launch in 1998, will also be coming off the assembly lines at Marimalai Nagar, Tamil Nadu, and retiring into oblivion (1998- 2014 RIP).
I believe only Ford has its factory at Maraimalai Nagar. Hyundai is located at Sri Perumbudur.

Correct me if I am wrong but I have not seen it in my 8 years of journey on these roads
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Old 17th November 2014, 08:48   #10
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Default re: 2014, a watershed year - 3 iconic Indian cars laid to rest

Quote:
Originally Posted by GrammarNazi View Post
IMHO The Maruti 800 didn't "put India on 4 wheels", just a tiny privileged section. 29lakh cars in a population of 125crores is like literally 0.01% of our population.
Just my perspective, no offense.
Well, if we are going to do such deep calculations, then we should keep in mind that car bought is not only used by the owner, so we can safely assume that the actual percentage is more.
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Old 17th November 2014, 14:49   #11
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Default re: 2014, a watershed year - 3 iconic Indian cars laid to rest

It is indeed nostalgic. Especially the M800, which we brought home in 1985 for around 59K odd rupees. Loads of driving memories associated with that car.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ACM
Rather than as icons they today represented these companies taking us customers for granted with no regard to safety. Maruti 800 was long back replaced by the Alto which too is unsafe in today's times and the santro by the i10 which again is not safe by today's standards. The less said about the am by the better.
Not debating the need for safety, but saying that we (in India) are alone being taken for granted by manufacturers as part of some big strategy, is not fair. For one thing, there needs to be regulation by the Government, which inarguably has played a major role in making cars safer in other countries. And another is that we have similar cars in more developed nations too. I am in Amsterdam now and the kind of thin/light cars that I have seen here can put an M800 to shame. Yeah, maybe they have airbags (no idea), but structurally the M800 / Santro look way better. Some of them had Fiat badging, though not sure of the model. Could not take a snap yet, as they seem to scamper away like auto-rickshaws in Chennai.

Saw a rebadged WagonR today - almost same as the one we have (just slight difference in lights) and structurally similar too. Again, might have airbags in it, but that would be more to do with the regulatory requirement and again airbags are only part of the safety story.

Last edited by supremeBaleno : 17th November 2014 at 14:52.
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Old 17th November 2014, 18:12   #12
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Default Re: 2014, a watershed year - 3 iconic Indian cars laid to rest

As a fledgeling driver I never liked the Amby. The smelly diesel version is probably my most hated car to drive as well as be in. However, what I hated more was the obsession for the Amby and its ostensibly being most suited to 'Indian conditions' during the early days of Maruti. People didn't welcome newer, safer, efficient and easier to drive cars. Somehow those days, suffering seemed to be expected and glorified.

One of my sisters had an Amby. The joke repeated in the family was that the only original part was the engine/chassis number plate. Everything was replaced sometime.

Did like driving the Maruti 800 and Santro even though manual shift cars are not really my forte. They were definitely way ahead compared to the Amby and Padmini.
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Old 17th November 2014, 19:53   #13
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Default Re: 2014, a watershed year - 3 iconic Indian cars laid to rest

Quote:
Originally Posted by SchumiFan View Post
I believe only Ford has its factory at Maraimalai Nagar. Hyundai is located at Sri Perumbudur.

Correct me if I am wrong but I have not seen it in my 8 years of journey on these roads
Thanks for the corrected information about the location of the Hyundai Motors India Ltd factory. Indeed, the factory is located at Sriperumbudur in Kancheepuram dist., T.N.:

Irrugattukottai, NH No. 4, Sriperumbudur Taluk,
Kanchipuram District,
Tamil Nadu - 602117
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Old 17th November 2014, 20:07   #14
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Default Re: 2014, a watershed year - 3 iconic Indian cars laid to rest

Nice Thread.

The only car of the lot which has sentimental value to me is the Ambassador! Simply because of the fact that I learnt to drive on an Ambi plus the live to drive philosophy came about in those days when we used to drive the Ambi down to Kerala annually during our Sabrimala visits! For those times the Ambi was a fantastic car..loads of space, proper high stance and also a very clear view from the front which gave you a clear view of where your bonnet ended and made life so much easier. Used to be a work horse too and used to take our drive to the south well.

Always wanted to get my hands on my old car but have not been successful!
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Old 17th November 2014, 20:33   #15
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Default Re: 2014, a watershed year - 3 iconic Indian cars laid to rest

Quote:
Originally Posted by ACM View Post
Rather than as icons they today represented these companies taking us customers for granted with no regard to safety.
Safety is a hot topic these days, but the standards were quite different in those days.

However, even by those different standards the Maruti 800 was pretty flimsy. I'm not speaking of the body shell, but Maruti did cut costs wherever possible. Around '86 - '87, my grandfather was friends with the then principal of my school. I remember an oft repeated story that my principal's wife and their accountant were rear-ended in her 800 (she was driving), and they both ended up flat on their backs because the seat mounts gave way.

The comfort of the spring seats in the old Amby's was just awesome, especially after they were re-tensioned by a local furiturewalla. Kids love to bounce.

Memories, but I'm not sad that they've been discontinued.
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