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Old 20th March 2017, 17:41   #1
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Default Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car

We often dismiss our post independence automotive legacy as basically three players - and its true - though there were numerous small projects that sprung up all across the country in the 60s and 70s as a result of the Government's (previous!) Make-In-India campaign.

Much insight into the industry at the time is given in the initial chapters of Gautam Sen's book "A Million Cars for a Billion People". Around the mid 50s (?) the Government severely restricted foreign players that were selling cars here, leading to the exit of the big three (Ford, GM and Chrysler) and the emergence of the small three (Fiat, Hindustan and Standard). The Jha Commission at the time set certain mandates for the development of a small 'people's' car for emerging India. Many proposals were submitted, including those from established players like Morris for the Mini, BMW for the Isetta, Citroen for the 2CV, Fiat for the 500/600, and many more. Tempo of Germany had built a prototype which survives in their museum in Germany. Local attempts included the 'Stanmobile' prototype from Standard Motors, the PTV from Bajaj (more here), the Meera car from Kolhapur (more here (History of Cars in India)) and Sanjay Gandhi's Maruti (completely different from the car that we came to know as the 800, more here (History of Cars in India)).

Two versions of the Meera
Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car-meera-01.jpg

Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car-meera-02.jpg

Standard Motors 'Stanmobile'
Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car-stanmobile01.jpg

The Bajaj PTV
Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car-ptv.jpg

The 'original' Maruti
Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car-maruti.jpg

The SAIL Badal
Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car-badal.jpg

I clearly remember as a school boy reading the Auto India magazine an image of a few shells of the German Fuldamobil lying in the open. The Fuldamobil, so named after the town of Fulda, was a small 3 wheeler micro car / bubble car made of fibreglass that earned a cult fan following along with other similar products like the BMW Isetta and Messerschmidt. Powered by a single cylinder 2 stroke Sachs motor, of capacity probably not more than 200cc. I always wondered under what circumstances were shells of this car lying abandoned in India. I know I have the issue somewhere but I cannot find it for now.

Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car-fulda01.jpg

Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car-fulda02.jpg

Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car-fulda03.jpg

Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car-fulda04.jpg

Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car-fulda05.jpg

Last edited by karlosdeville : 21st March 2017 at 10:14.
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Old 21st March 2017, 09:58   #2
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Default re: Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car

Some googling tells you on multiple websites that the Fuldamobil was made in many countries including India where it was called the Hans Vahaar (?) - no more information is available. My guess is that all the websites that mention it have just lifted it from Wikipedia. I never thought much more about it since.

Cut to mid last year when a Fuldamobil was advertised for sale (advertised as a Mini!). I saw the car personally and noticed some features unique from the Fuldamobil - the first being the presence of the Villiers engine instead of the Sachs engine. Local bits and bobs included Bajaj rickshaw wheels, Lambretta headlights, Amby numberplate light, generic 1970s/80s switchgear including anchor electrical switches on the dash! I naturally assumed most of these would be local alterations over the years. But the more I looked at the car, and the rather crude construction of even the fibre shell, and Atultuf markings on all the glasses, I felt strongly this could have been a locally built product.

Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car-01.jpg

Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car-02.jpg

Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car-03.jpg

A lot of googling was of no help, other than pointing out these differences. The vendor offering the car had no further information, but the original owner's son who he bought it from had referred to it as a 'Scootacar' - a small enterprise that made cars in Tiruapthi that never took off, since it didn't meet homologation. The name was familiar, and a quick google showed that the Scootacar was indeed a small bubble car of similar concept, but completely different design and specs. Another dead end.

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By a complete quirk of fate I found this news item about the UK Scootacar dated around 1957/58 in the Automobile Magazine of India

Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car-scoot02.jpg

A breakthrough came when chatting with an uncle who was associated with the Badal project, another later fibre glass three wheeler that met with a little more success, he also mentioned that some car of this description was made in South India, in Renigunta. The foreman from this factory went on to work for him.

The next breakthrough came when I was casually googling for more information, and Scootacar India threw a result - in a listing of registered companies, the following result appeared.

Scootacar Private Limited.

Company Address:
RENIGUNTA TIRUPATI RD.,RENIGUNTA, CHITTOOR DISTT.
CHITTOOR,
ANDHRA PRADESH
INDIA

E-Filing status: Dormant
Year of incorporation: 14 December 1971

Bingo! Finally it seemed to add up - the period, the location, the local features - all pointing to a local small car project. The Villiers engine was already in use in Royal Enfield products in fairly large numbers, so it made sense over the imported Sachs unit. Fitted with 'dynastart' system like the Fantabulus scooter and sequential floor mounted shifter and a reverse gear and a parking brake.

Last edited by karlosdeville : 21st March 2017 at 10:33.
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Old 22nd March 2017, 14:55   #3
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Default re: Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car

The car was stripped for a detailed grounds up restoration, the most work being needed on the fibreglass shell. The car was completed start to finish in just a few months, and just about made it in time for the Bombay VCCCI rally.

Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car-04.jpg

Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car-05.jpg

Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car-06.jpg

Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car-07.jpg

Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car-08.jpg

The car is a real head turner and one wonders how the landscape might have changed had the project taken off.
Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car-09.jpg

Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car-10.jpg

Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car-11.jpg

An important piece of India's motoring heritage saved!

I am really hoping people will share more details after reading this, and shed more light on possible survivors. I know of 2 more so far.

Last edited by karlosdeville : 22nd March 2017 at 17:45.
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Old 22nd March 2017, 17:18   #4
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Default Re: Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Classic Car Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 22nd March 2017, 17:40   #5
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Default Re: Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car

Fantastic reading - thank you for the details. It is heartening to see the small enterprises trying to tackle the opportunity and at the same time, it is saddening to see how many startups like this end by biting the dust due to bureaucratic red tape.

Can you please share more details of the restoration - how did you manage to find which all parts were original and which were replaced and how did you manage to obtain spares for this almost non existent car?

--Anoop
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Old 22nd March 2017, 18:42   #6
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Default Re: Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car

Quote:
Originally Posted by karlosdeville View Post
We often dismiss our post independence automotive legacy as basically three players - and its true - though there were numerous small projects that sprung up all across the country in the 60s and 70s as a result of the Government's (previous!) Make-In-India campaign.
Hats off to you Karl.

Fully agree with your comments above

Waiting for further installments of this with details of the restoration.

Best Regards & Drive Safe

Ram
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Old 23rd March 2017, 07:28   #7
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Default Re: Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car

Thanks for sharing Karl, this wonderful piece of Indian automotive history. Can you please share pictures of the engine layout.

In fact we did preview that such a vehicle existed, when you confirmed
Quote:
Originally Posted by schakravarthy View Post
Met a veteran rallyist. A few pics I found on his coffee table.

Name:  scootacar.jpg
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(edited picture from that quote)
Quote:
Originally Posted by karlosdeville View Post
That is a Scootacar - the short lived Indian built version of the Fuldamobil. Stay tuned for more next week
Thanks for keeping up your promise

Cheers

KPS
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Old 23rd March 2017, 11:10   #8
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Default Re: Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car

Very interesting thread Karl... especially the intro. Food for thought.

This must be a huge head turner!

Couldn't help notice the strange exterior turn indicator position on the 'stock' photos of the vehicle. Yours doesn't have those, or you left them off?

Any pics of the engine, and how you access it?

Also, what is the thing that looks like a mirror above the glovebox in this picture?

Last edited by Rehaan : 23rd March 2017 at 11:11.
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Old 23rd March 2017, 11:14   #9
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Default Re: Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car

Great find Karl. Do you mind sharing some pictures of the engine and also the post restoration interiors? You are right, it would have indeed been interesting to see the Indian car landscape if this project had taken off.

Hats off to the restoration quality. Would not have been easy to restore fiberglass to that level of finish. Was there any difficulty in getting any spares?
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Old 23rd March 2017, 12:03   #10
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Default Re: Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car

Beautiful shade and just Wow on tracking and restoring such an amazing car.

After reading this thread, I did a bit of googling myself and I must admit I was as disappointed as you were. The car seems to be a ghost of what they tried to do in the UK.

It is really a very cute car and such a joy to see a resurrection of sorts. Not every day you wake up and say look there is what we call a scootacar. Kudos to you and the team.
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Old 23rd March 2017, 13:15   #11
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Default Re: Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car

Great bit of history and trivia. And the final restored Scoota is a head turner for sure. Do add to the thread with more pictures of the restoration and the small details inside and out. What all did you have to fabricate, apart from the shell? And some driving videos too. The fan i'm sure is the first must-have accessory to be put in for our weather
cheers!
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Old 23rd March 2017, 19:15   #12
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Default Re: Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car

Great find and restoration Karl

I was informed that the DAF car with variomatic transmission was also evaluated for production in India by the erstwhile Bajaj Tempo. The project was dropped, probably due to pressure from Kolkata.

Regards,
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Old 23rd March 2017, 19:51   #13
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Default Re: Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car

Quote:
Originally Posted by theexperthand View Post
Can you please share more details of the restoration - how did you manage to find which all parts were original and which were replaced and how did you manage to obtain spares for this almost non existent car?
Luckily most important parts were present, and many small components shared with other local products and even household hardware

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rehaan View Post
Couldn't help notice the strange exterior turn indicator position on the 'stock' photos of the vehicle. Yours doesn't have those, or you left them off?

Any pics of the engine, and how you access it?

Also, what is the thing that looks like a mirror above the glovebox in this picture?
The indicators on the B pillars was seen on some european cars of the time - so can be seen from cars in both front and rear. No trace of it on the Scootacar. This was a bare bones project, with very minimal fittings. The extra trim and chequered seats and dual tone dash was just to liven things up a bit.

Will take some engine pics. The engine is just ahead of the rear wheel, and accessed from under the parcel shelf, which is a wooden plank secured by a tower bolt latch It was original, hence retained!

Yes that is a rear view mirror, dash mounted, and its in the centre, just gives the impression that its on the glove box.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vanam View Post
Hats off to the restoration quality. Would not have been easy to restore fiberglass to that level of finish. Was there any difficulty in getting any spares?
Yes they did a great job, and super quick! Restored by the team at Niki garage where I get most of my work done. Luckily major components were all intact, a little bit of jugaad here and there was needed, just like it was when this car was new!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Automaton View Post
What all did you have to fabricate, apart from the shell?

The fan i'm sure is the first must-have accessory to be put in for our weather
The shell is the original, not fabricated, just repaired. The fan is just a cool period touch

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anwesh View Post
I was informed that the DAF car with variomatic transmission was also evaluated for production in India by the erstwhile Bajaj Tempo. The project was dropped, probably due to pressure from Kolkata.
Yes now that you mention it I do remember reading about that.
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Old 25th March 2017, 15:10   #14
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Default Re: Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car

This restoration really warms my heart! You've restored it lovingly and so well! Congratulations and thanks for keeping another piece of Indian automotive history on the road.

How long did it take?
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Old 25th March 2017, 17:44   #15
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Default Re: Scooter + Car = Scootacar! India's first bubble car

Great write up, Karlosdeville! I vaguely remember seeing pictures of the Scootacar in the early 70s. The name 'Badal' does strike some memory chords!

As regards your doubt on when foreign players were discouraged from selling cars, it was around 1952, based on Nehru's drive to encourage domestic car manufacturers. I got to know about this from my father, as my grandpa was a Ford dealer in Orissa and Northern AP from 1932 to 1952. And i believe he refused a dealership offer from Birla for Ambassador cars because he felt it was inferior to the ones he was importing and selling!
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