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Old 19th August 2007, 19:34   #1
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Default Fiat vs Ambassador

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Originally Posted by ram View Post
No. I'm only saying that the Fiat 1100Ds and Padminis were good solid cars and there is no real economical replacement for them. No successor in spirit so to say, if you get my drift.
Yes I do now, thanks for clarifying.

I always wondered why the Padmini became the Mumbai taxi when the rest of India unanimously picked the Ambassador as the vehicle of choice for any kind of taxi. Down south until about 12 years ago, 100% of tourist taxis were Ambys. (pretty sure the same situation for TTs up north as well)

Amby was a lot more spacious, bigger boot, had a better ride quality and offered a diesel long before PAL did, whereas Padmini was always known as the sporty one. Methinks it was a sort-of patriotic decision with the factory being in Mumbai rather than something driven by pure logic.
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Old 19th August 2007, 19:34   #2
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The debate over at the Taxi thread got me thinking. Who really won the Fiat (Padmini) vs Amby war?

Back in the day you were either an Fiat or an Amby family. As for me we were an Amby family and we owned 3 of them starting with Mk2. I wasn't driving back then but I can vouch for excellent ride quality. As far as FIAT, it sounded awesome and was the sporty choice. Cannot really comment on reliability or FE.

NOTE: I have copied some relevant posts from the Wagon R Taxi thread that appear in chronological order

Last edited by Mpower : 21st August 2007 at 20:57.
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Old 20th August 2007, 07:51   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mpower View Post
I always wondered why the Padmini became the Mumbai taxi when the rest of India unanimously picked the Ambassador as the vehicle of choice for any kind of taxi.
Amby was a lot more spacious, bigger boot, had a better ride quality and offered a diesel long before PAL did, whereas Padmini was always known as the sporty one. Methinks it was a sort-of patriotic decision with the factory being in Mumbai rather than something driven by pure logic.
Fiat/Premier scored over Ambassador in economy, quality, customer care and resale value.

Economy
Of all Indian cities, Mumbai may have been first to drift away from joint family system to nuclear families. So Mumbai appreciated a slightly smaller car earlier.
The Fiat was always easier on petrol, nimbler to accelerate and stop than the Ambassador and lighter and more pleasant to drive.

Quality
Quality of the Fiats delivered was superior.
Back in the early seventies, Ambassadors were actually delivered without dashboard instruments. Some customer-care huh!? HM actually delivered unfinished Ambassadors without a speedometer, because they claimed they were (would you believe it) out-of-stock!

Back then you took your brand new Ambassador to a garage to get all the missing parts put in and loose bolts tightened!

Still some people booked a new car when they took delivery of a new one, because it would take years for the booking to mature and a matured booking commanded a good premium!

Customer Care
The Walchand Hirachand Doshi group, had built a good reputation for their Chrysler imports and customer service thereof. Customer care at Bombay Cycle & Motor Agency, Opera House was good and the Kurla factory delivered consistent quality.

The Birlas on the other hand, hadn't heard of customer care. We lived in the licence raj. They could manipulate their way into licences. Their customer care to this day, I'm told, is still abysmal !

Resale value
In 1981, as a freshly qualified 23-year-old B.E. in his first job, I remember wanting to stop using my dad's car and buy my own car. The first Maruti would not be seen for another two years. I took home Rs. 1,100 per month. Petrol was Rs. 6.38 per litre. A new Fiat 1100D cost Rs. 22,000. A new Ambassador cost Rs. 26,500. But while a 10-year old Ambassador could be had for Rs. 8,000, a 10-year old Fiat still cost Rs. 12,000.
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Old 20th August 2007, 17:00   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mpower View Post
Yes I do now, thanks for clarifying.

I always wondered why the Padmini became the Mumbai taxi when the rest of India unanimously picked the Ambassador as the vehicle of choice for any kind of taxi. Down south until about 12 years ago, 100% of tourist taxis were Ambys. (pretty sure the same situation for TTs up north as well)

Amby was a lot more spacious, bigger boot, had a better ride quality and offered a diesel long before PAL did, whereas Padmini was always known as the sporty one. Methinks it was a sort-of patriotic decision with the factory being in Mumbai rather than something driven by pure logic.
1) Mumbai doesn't have broad roads like say Calcutta or Delhi. Amby look big and doesn't seem like fitting into Mumbai roads. But Fiat had this sleek design and since it will be used as city-taxi, seemed perfect.

2) The perception that Ambys are for long distances and Fiats are for short commute helped Fiat.

3) Ambys usually carry lot of people. But in Mumbai people often travel alone, may be a couple and occasionally three or four. Fiat fits the bill.

Just my thoughts.
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Old 21st August 2007, 12:40   #5
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Anybody Wonder why Fiats were modded and raced/rallyed but Ambassadors weren't?

Early Fiats were built Continental European style -- free revving engines, wishbone and coil-spring independent front suspension (Ambys had torsion bar fronts). Fiats had antiroll bar on the rear axle, rubber-bulb windscreen washer, good power to weight ratio. Unfortunately Padmini workmanship deteriorated over the years.

In contrast, Ambassador was always bad -- as bad as the original Morris Oxford/Cowley, unreliable Lucas electrics, unreliable SU dashpot carb.

The Bombay monsoon would flood low lying areas like King's Circle. I remember as a kid that Ambys would easily stall while Fiats soldiered on. No wonder all taxis were Fiats. There were a few "Chhoti-Taxi" Ambys but they didn't quite click with Bombay cabbies.

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Old 21st August 2007, 20:37   #6
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Fiats are cute and sporty. Amby strictly for being chauffeured around. A black or white Amby Grand still commands attention.


Fiat, the driver's car .
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Old 21st August 2007, 21:01   #7
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I remember our Family buying an Ambassador Mark-II in 1973. It was an off white colour bought from National Motors. I was a kid at the time. The car was smooth, comfortable and has the best rear leg room still than most cars available today.
By this time my brother had grown up and wanted a Fiat because it was the car to have and represented the youth. I 73 or 74 we bought our first Fiat a Premier President in a Grey colour, non metallic. In the future, this would be the trend as my brother was a Fiat loyalist. Fiat was the choice of women too, till the MAruti came up.
Then we bought our second Ambassador in 1977, a Amby with floor shift gear and a high compression engine. That was with an A/c. This was a Mark III. This car was later to become my daily drive and college commute.
I loved an Amby always as I loved larger cars. A fiat was a small dainty car to me. I remember getting a hand me down fiat from my brother who bought a new Padmini ant d this was to be my first tryst with car modding. The car was handed to the famed Suresh Naik. Scooby will recall his pure genius with a herald and Fiats. This car went through many mods starting from a FFE from then Panchal, now Automech, Porting Polishing and Oversixe pistons. Hunger for power never is contained so the next step was a high lift cam and racing gear box, the humm o fwhich was so irritating that my mom once opted to go by cab rather sit in my car. Then the next was twin Webbers. My Padmini was now giving me a FE (if you can call it that) of 3kms/ltr. The next step was fitting a chromed external side exhaust.
The Ambassador n the other hand always stayed with the Family as a work horse and a commute for the family.
My grandad was a big man and would not fit in a Fiat (and with great difficulty in an Amby) so his favourites were the American Planes the chevys.
I learnt driving in his 1966 Belair V-8 LHD automatic. Hence I think my love for larger cars
Sorry got carried away and went
Coming back, the Fiat (1100cc) was always more fuel efficient than the Amby (1400 odd cc), was a lighter and a smaller car. I think the Amby has won the battle as Ambys are still available but where can one buy a Fiat??

Last edited by V-16 : 21st August 2007 at 21:02.
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Old 21st August 2007, 21:46   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mpower View Post

I always wondered why the Padmini became the Mumbai taxi when the rest of India unanimously picked the Ambassador as the vehicle of choice for any kind of taxi.

It could also have been due to the fact that the Amby was always seen a "big" car - an automatic choice for inter-city travel while the Padmini was seen as a smaller car, perhaps appearing more ideal for city usage.

I still remember, in a different lifetime, when we couldnt get an Amby for a trip to Mysore, the family was very apprehensive when we got the Padmini instead, and many people wondered whether it could take the "strain" of a highway run since it "was a city car"

Last edited by theMAG : 21st August 2007 at 21:48.
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Old 21st August 2007, 22:26   #9
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Indian psyche @ late 70's, 80's (which i have some vivid memory off)

Amby was chauffeur driven saloon
Fiat was a owner driven saloon

Then Maruti 800 happened in 84 and spoiled it, for all.
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Old 21st August 2007, 22:53   #10
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Hello, what exactly we're discussing here?

An really old Amby owner wants to know..
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Old 21st August 2007, 23:12   #11
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The amby is like the Indigo of today, good to be chauferred in, whereas the padmini was like the RS of today, good only to be driven.
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Old 21st August 2007, 23:15   #12
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i think thread is asking why someone choose an Amby of a Fiat ?
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Old 21st August 2007, 23:20   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by esteem_lover View Post
The amby is like the Indigo of today, good to be chauferred in, whereas the padmini was like the RS of today, good only to be driven.
More of a Palio 1.6 rather than the RS. RS fame would later go to the Contessa Classic 1.8 GL (Thats the full name)

Being a Bong family, it was unusual on our part to have not owned a single Amby. Granddad disliked it, Dad dislike it. I dont prefer it, but like it for its virtues. One of the reasons for the dislike was the reason that although the waiting list for the Fiats used to be huge, when you finally got a Fiat it was okay. But for an Amby, I recall a few relatives getting the car and having to open the new car up to do the chasis welding etc. One Relatives car was delivered with a leaky petrol tank. Another car needed the entire interiors to be assembled after delivery. More to do with the company than the car. Someone mentioned Lucas electricals and problems during monsoon.

On the Fiat if you distributor cap was fine and you had un-punched distributor wires, the car would pull thru water upto its nose.

However, a well maintained Amby, with an anti-roll bar setup at the front and rear added, worked much better and more reliably than a showroom car. The gearshift was notchy but only if you had bad bushes, no other car pulls with load on 4th gear like the Amby does from speeds as low as 20kmph.One more experience, after which I do not get my hands on the keys of that car was a couple of mid corner adventure in second gear with the throttle. (For those interested, coming from Mayo road and getting into the race course road, that was possible long back) Although to this day I do not understand the logic of having the antiroll bars added and not letting me play.

Last edited by 1100D : 21st August 2007 at 23:34.
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Old 22nd August 2007, 00:03   #14
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My dad's side was an Amby family and my mom's side was with all 3 - Fiats, Ambys and a Jeep.

Even when i was an infant we had a Sky blue coloured Fiat and loved it.

Personally if you ask me i never liked the look of an Amby especially the round shaped roof.

As told by my parents, Fiat was more of a premier / status car whereas Amby was a joint family car to squeeze in loads of people and luggage.

Both were equally reliable / unreliable as you may like.

Yes i think Mumbais had Fiats as taxis could be bcoz of the factory in the native place otherwise every where else it was Amby as a taxi.
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Old 22nd August 2007, 00:34   #15
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Either the Fiat had a higher top speed or my dad was a slow driver..coz we were always overtaken by Fiats on the highway.

What were the sales numbers like in the 70s and 80s. Did one consistently outsell the other.

Last edited by Mpower : 22nd August 2007 at 00:36.
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