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Old 28th November 2021, 14:03   #1
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Default 1971 HM Ambassador | Lighting up our lives

Introduction

This story dates back to 1991, and features a 1971 Ambassador and the great journey our family had with this Raja gaadi until we parted with the car. These posts are my small way of paying a befitting tribute to:

1. this great car that ruled the Indian roads for several decades, and
2. all those passionate owners who held OR still hold this car and have only smiles to report in their period of ownership.

Many readers who never got a chance to experience this car would perhaps gain from a virtual experience here.

1971 HM Ambassador | Lighting up our lives-ambassador_markii_msl_3.jpg

1971 HM Ambassador | Lighting up our lives-ambassador_markii_front_sample1.jpg

Last edited by vigsom : 28th November 2021 at 16:01.
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Old 28th November 2021, 14:10   #2
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Background

Year 1990 : My Dad, a retired Indian Army officer was longing to own a classy Ambassador. He came across some low odo great examples for INR 85,000, which was huge money those days. My Mom dissuaded him from spending so much for a car that wasn’t going to be put to much use.

Post retirement from the Indian Army, Dad held several appointments culminating in one in Chennai. Dad was known to throw surprises. I remember a day in 1990 when he suddenly turned up at home in the city that we were in, rang the doorbell, and when we opened the door, we saw him and a Lhasa Apso in tow, whose pink tongue was out more than it should have. Before his arrival, Dad had said nothing about the Apso at all. Poor Tipsy, the Apso, had travelled 10 hours by train and took a 7km long walk from the station all the way home. Dad then told us that Tipsy, a 3 year old, was being given away by someone who was relocating from Chennai to Australia, and that’s how Dad got him. The Ambassador’s arrival was something similar - a pleasant surprise that took a while to sink in !!

Arrival of the Ambassador

By around May-1991, Dad was preparing to move to our city and get into full retirement as I’d landed a job while in my final sem. We were also preparing to move into our own house here. While all this was on, Dad comes home, rings the doorbell, and we see yet another surprise - a greyish blue Mark II Ambassador at the gate.

1971 HM Ambassador | Lighting up our lives-ambassador_markii_msl_7.jpg

Last edited by vigsom : 28th November 2021 at 21:59.
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Old 28th November 2021, 14:20   #3
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How did this Ambassador happen?

Dad then told us about how the car came home. He was anyways wanting an Ambassador, and when he knew he was going to settle down, he apparently kept looking for one that would fulfil his requirements plus not hurt the pocket too much. That’s when one of his friends sounded him about this car that was being used by a company manager who was relocating. This was a 1971 Ambassador with the company manager being the fifth owner. Dad negotiated and the car was finally his for INR 25,000, which was a great deal then for a 20 year old Ambassador.

Was this a too-good-to-be-true car?

Yes it was. I do not remember what the odo reading was but the car was mechanically and structurally sound except that when in the second gear there’d be a khat khat noise from the gearbox. That meant that the main shaft in the gearbox warranted replacement. The bodyline, paint, suspension were all in great shape. Tyres were average.

First jobs in the Ambassador

Gear Box

In the first ten days of the car coming home, the car ended up in a workshop for the gearbox job. IIRC, the main gear cost us INR 2,500 and the labour was some INR 500 or so. The part that came out of the car showed one tooth on no.2 gear missing.

Seats and door panels

Although the seats and door panels of the car were finished in blue/grey art-leather, it did look a little gaudy. While Dad was figuring out what to do, he suddenly came across a set of light brown velvet seat covers that were available for peanuts. Reason: the upholstery guy we know had made this for one of his customers, but he got the shade a bit wrong and was making a new set. Although light brown wasn’t a great match for a greyish blue exterior, the set didn’t look too bad either. Finally, I got down to removing the door panels, fitting the brown door pads in place of the gaudy blue, and fitting the seat covers too. This was the first time I was doing upholstery fitment in any car, and surprisingly I found the fitment rather effortless. The end product looked way way better than the gaudy blue.

Last edited by vigsom : 28th November 2021 at 17:04.
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Old 28th November 2021, 14:52   #4
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Evolution of the Ambassador

The Hindustan Ambassador was based on the Morris Oxford series III model, first made by Morris Motors Limited in the United Kingdom. This post provides a quick overview of the journey of the Ambassador from the Mark I to the Mark IV.

Exterior

It was primarily the front look that would change marginally in the various avatars that the Ambassador featured – from the Mark 1 to the Avigo

Mark I
1971 HM Ambassador | Lighting up our lives-ambassador_mark-i.jpg

Mark II
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Mark 3
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Mark 4
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Nova
1971 HM Ambassador | Lighting up our lives-ambassador_nova.png

Grand
1971 HM Ambassador | Lighting up our lives-ambassador_grand.jpg

Avigo
1971 HM Ambassador | Lighting up our lives-ambassador_avigo.jpg

Last edited by vigsom : 28th November 2021 at 16:10.
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Old 28th November 2021, 15:04   #5
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Evolution of the Ambassador (Contd.)

Interior

While the front of the car looked pretty much the same from Mark3 onwards, the dash would feature more significant changes from one avatar to the next

Console - Mark I
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Console - 1965-1969 with oil pressure gauge
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Console - Mark II later without oil gauge
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Console - Mark 3
1971 HM Ambassador | Lighting up our lives-ambassador_console3.jpg

Console - Mark 3 modified with oil pressure gauge and temperature gauge
1971 HM Ambassador | Lighting up our lives-ambassador_console3_modified.jpg

Console - Mark3 Deluxe and Mark 4
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Console - Nova
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Console - Grand
1971 HM Ambassador | Lighting up our lives-ambassador_console_grand.jpg

Console - Avigo
1971 HM Ambassador | Lighting up our lives-ambassador_console_avigo.jpg


Engines

1476cc petrol -> 1489cc BMC B-Series petrol and 1489cc BMC B-Series diesel -> 1817cc Isuzu petrol and 1995cc Izusu diesel

Engine bay with the 1489cc petrol - note the wet type air filter and the see-through fuel filter
1971 HM Ambassador | Lighting up our lives-ambassador_enginebay.jpg

Engine bay - 1489cc petrol - sample image courtesy bhpian anjan_c2007
1971 HM Ambassador | Lighting up our lives-ambassador_enginebay_anjanc.jpg

Engine bay - 1800cc petrol - image courtesy bhpian musicmanaman
1971 HM Ambassador | Lighting up our lives-ambassador_1800isz_engine.jpg

Engine bay - 2000cc diesel - image courtesy bhpian sidindica
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Last edited by vigsom : 28th November 2021 at 16:13.
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Old 28th November 2021, 15:33   #6
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Small yet significant things about the Ambassador

Our Mark II Ambassador came with a provision in the crankshaft pulley to use a starting handle and crank the engine up in the event of a dead battery OR starter motor malfunction. The feature never needed to be used, though. Prior to this car, I've cranked our Standard Super10 engine to life several times using the starting handle.

The crank handle being deployed on a Mark I Ambassador
1971 HM Ambassador | Lighting up our lives-handcranking_sample.png

As seen above, the center of the front bumper would have a hole, and the crank pulley would have a slot into which the starting handle would fit. The engine could typically be cranked with just one turn of the starting handle. The rear seat of the Ambassador was its USP – meant for the kings, this could easily seat even four abreast

Rear seat of the Ambassador – pic courtesy bhpian @venkat kumar
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The front seat would also seat three easily, given that the car had a column operated gear shifter, like in the Premier Padmini. The steering wheel on the Ambassadors changed with time. The first models (Mark I and II) had the three spoke dished steering wheel with each “spoke” made up of four chrome plated spokes.

Metal spoke dished steering wheel - pic courtesy bhpian @venkat kumar
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Metal spoke dished steering wheel - sample2
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Front seat - pic courtesy bhpian @venkat kumar
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Next came the three spoke lac steering in the Mark 3 and Mark 4
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And finally, when the Ambassador Nova was out sometime in 1991, we had a Maruti like 2 spoke steering with horn buttons too
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Turn indicator switch on the pre-Nova Ambassadors
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Foot operated headlamp Lo-Hi dipper switch on pre-Nova Ambassadors
1971 HM Ambassador | Lighting up our lives-ambassador_dipperswitch.jpg

The boot of the Ambassador - fuel tank positioned behind the hard board panel
1971 HM Ambassador | Lighting up our lives-ambassador_boot.jpg

The dynamo cut out
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Front sunshade - this looked like an add on and not standard fitment
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The Lucas700 headlamp - used on the Premier Padmini and other vehicles too
1971 HM Ambassador | Lighting up our lives-lucas700_headlamp.jpg

A beautifully appointed Ambassador - courtesy Mr.Sanjeev Vas. Note the handbrake to the right of the driver seat edge
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Last edited by vigsom : 28th November 2021 at 18:29.
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Old 28th November 2021, 15:48   #7
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Role of our Ambassador in our lives

Our Ambassador was a 1971 model in the Azure blue shade (pundits, correct me if I've got the shade wrong) and my Dad was the sixth owner. I would have the privilege of only riding around in the car until 1998. Although I was licensed to drive in 1994, Dad didn’t allow me to drive this car until I’d gotten my own first car – a 1993 Premier Padmini that I’d acquired in 1998.

The only “maintenance” that I performed personally on the car was replacement of the speedo cable sometime in 1998. I got one for a little over INR 100 and replaced the cable from the speedometer to the gear box in less than 20 minutes. Other than the gear shaft replacement, the car saw only routine service in the 8 years that he held the car. My Dad would tell me that the car never let him down anywhere, never overheated, never failed to start, never threw tantrums – if that isn’t reliability, then what else is?

Our Ambassador has been part of the family – done numerous pick up and drop trips to the station, saw my wedding, transported us home after my son was born, saw my bro getting married, guests would pose with the car, and so on.

Guests posing with the Ambassador
1971 HM Ambassador | Lighting up our lives-ambassador_markii_msl_2.jpg

Welcoming my son home
1971 HM Ambassador | Lighting up our lives-ambassador_markii_msl_4.jpg

My bro posing with the Ambassador
1971 HM Ambassador | Lighting up our lives-ambassador_markii_msl_5.jpg

Bro and my sister-in-law enjoying their first Diwali post his wedding - Ambassador in the backdrop
1971 HM Ambassador | Lighting up our lives-ambassador_markii_msl_6.jpg

A window with a view
1971 HM Ambassador | Lighting up our lives-ambassador_markii_msl_7.jpg

Aunt posing with the Ambassador
1971 HM Ambassador | Lighting up our lives-ambassador_markii_msl_8.jpg

Nephew with the Ambassador
1971 HM Ambassador | Lighting up our lives-ambassador_markii_msl_9.jpg

Last edited by vigsom : 28th November 2021 at 17:08.
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Old 28th November 2021, 15:57   #8
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Departure

Year 1999 : My Dad couldn't drive or ride beyond a point, and that meant both the vehicles at home - the Ambassador and the Lamby Polo 150 would need to go. The Ambassador was his most prized possession after the Standard Herald and the Standard Super10 that he owned when in the Army. (The Super10 was another car that I remember vividly but have no photographs of).

Letting go of his jigar ka tukda wasn't easy but there was no option out. I could have come and run the car while on leave but that would be no earlier than once in six months, and a car sitting idle for that long wasn't the best thing to happen.

The car, and the Lamby Polo150 were both taken for a meagre INR11,000 which was kind of heart wrenching, but then all good things have to come to an end, and the Ambassador was no exception. There was no news of the car after departure, but I'm sure if this car is still in use, whoever has the car must be smiling !!!

1971 HM Ambassador | Lighting up our lives-ambassador_markii_msl_7.jpg

Last edited by vigsom : 28th November 2021 at 17:28.
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Old 29th November 2021, 05:12   #9
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Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 29th November 2021, 06:07   #10
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Good write up on the Ambassador.

Minor correction - the pic of the Mark I dashboard does not have the original clock. The original had two knobs to adjust the time and wind the clock.

Pic below:
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Old 29th November 2021, 11:29   #11
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Wonderful to read your post - A true trip down memory lane. Could relate to many of your thoughts and words in the post.

To me, the MK I and MK II carry an air of regality which no other Indian car can hold a candle to. Love to find some pristine examples / original restorations of these beauties!
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Old 29th November 2021, 11:43   #12
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Hi Vigsom,

There was an Ambassador classic between nova and grand. I believe it is the Classic that you have shared as Nova.

The 1991 Nova diesel dx my dad owned came with front design identical to the mark 4 except for grille becoming a horizontal affair with just 2 vertical rods at back and ambassador lettering replaced with HM badge on the bonnet. I believe it came with different rim design with more vents and lost whitewall tyres. The dashboard layout was similar to Mark 4 with only minor changes. It had column mounted gear lever and the 2 spoke steering wheel. I am afraid I do not have any pictures of that car.
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Old 29th November 2021, 11:51   #13
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Thank you very much for sharing this and bringing back a lot of sweet memories

I am very proud to state that I have been a proud owner of a 1986 Mark 4 petrol Ambassador which I drove for close to 2 decades all over the treacherous terrain of North East India in mostly overloaded conditions. Never faced any significant issues with it.

However, the following four incidents will remain etched in my memory forever :-

First incident : It was about 30-35 years ago when we were driving through Kaziranga forest in upper Assam during the day and found a fully grown adult one-horned rhino blocking the road at a distance of about 20 metres from our 1986 Ambassador. It stared at us intently for about 5-6 minutes and then suddenly decided to charge at us. By the time we had engaged reverse gear, it had already reached us and with one swing of its head took out the left headlight assembly, slightly bent the front bumper and skidded to a stop behind us. By the time it turned around, we had already changed to forward gears and floored the accelerator but even then we could not save the rear left tail lights. However, we were able to escape a worse situation and that is what matters.

Second incident : It was probably in 1995 or 1996 when we had to drive our Ambassador through the treacherous terrain of Meghalaya. My husband had to join office the next day and hence we started our journey in the evening after he returned from office. If only I could explain the pains of transferable government jobs. Anyway, both of us knew driving and we had planned to take turns at driving to prevent fatigue. While we were navigating a tight turn, suddenly the headlights went dark right after we hit a small pothole. We tried the foglights but they too went dark after momentarily glowing very bright. We came to a halt and looked under the hood. Sure enough, all the fuse wires (yes, wires and not fuses for the young ones here) were blown. Not a big issue, as we were both adept at fixing minor issues like these. We rewired the fuse setup and continued our journey. After a few kilometers, the same issue cropped up again but this time the headlights were also blown as well as the foglights. We realized that there was a more serious problem. After checking out all other wirings as much as possible with a 5 cell flashlight (remember those ?), we narrowed down the issue to the dynamo (again, not an alternator for the young ones here) but couldn't fix it. The only consolation was that the engine was still running and at no point had we turned it off. The only source of light we had was from our flashlight. We decided to take a risk and continue onwards since it was an insurgency-prone area at that time. We could only use the flashlight intermittently lest we drain the batteries. Those were probably some of the most harrowing hours of my life. Anyway, we reached our destination safely in the morning. We later found out that the dynamo coils were slightly burnt and hence it was performing with reduced efficiency. This was not surprising at all considering all the water crossing we had to cover regularly. The plastic covers that we had put on and around the dynamo only protected it up to a certain extent.

Third incident : We survived a landslide in Arunachal Pradesh's Papum Pare area in the 90s. It had been raining for the past few days and this particular area was seeing minor and slow landslides every 20 minutes to half an hour. Anyway, our Ambassador slowly reached to be the first in line to cross after the last slow landslide around half an hour ago. On one side to our car's left was a 120-140 feet hill and on the right side was a very fast and overflowing river at the end of an 50-60 feet drop. Only one car was allowed to move on this approximately 400 metre stretch at a time. Now comes the scary part. Small stones, rocks and mud were continuously falling and sliding down but still we decided to move ahead. Once we reached approximately the midpoint of this stretch, the entire mountain-side decided to give way and started to come straight for us. My husband who was driving, stomped on the accelerator pedal and we somehow made it to the other side in the nick of time. When we looked back the entire hill side was gone along with the road that we had just crossed. Although, I did not have the guts to look back at the time when we were crossing the stretch, I can imagine that it must have looked like a scene straight out of any movie. Fun times, eh ?

Fourth incident : We survived a major accident in 1997 or 1998 but I cannot remember exactly though. We were traveling to Guwahati from lower Assam again through Meghalaya in our 1986 Ambassador and had to engage the services of a driver due to certain medical issues. However, much to our woe, we found that the driver had a mad penchant for speed. For example, he was taking hairpin turns at anywhere between 60 and 80 kmph. Despite our repeated warnings, he would invariably speed up after momentarily slowing down when rebuked and then the inevitable happened. He took a blind turn at about 90 kmph and our car got kissed by a Tata 1210 truck. The impact was such that the right headlight was stuck to the steering column. Miraculously all of us survived with zero injuries and our car, thankfully, didn't go off the road because there was an unbarricaded 70-80 foot drop there. Anyway, that same driver took us the rest of the way to Guwahati in our car while driving between 20-40 kmph. Thankfully, cars of that era could be repaired easily unlike the "total loss" situation of cars today in similar accidents.

Sadly, I had to sell it off in 2005 after the untimely demise of my dear husband but thank you for helping me reminisce all the wonderful times we had

Here is an image of an advertisement for the Ambassador Mark 4 petrol from those times :-
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Last edited by Samurai : 29th November 2021 at 13:19. Reason: typo fixed
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Old 29th November 2021, 12:09   #14
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Thank you so much for the writeup!. The Ambassador Mark II and III along with the Mahindra MM 540 are the two vehicles where I learnt driving. Both were dad's work vehicles. I remember the Amby's gear shift lever on the steering column, the metal horn wheel!. I was brought up in the hills and the Amby could ramble along just about anywhere. I remember playing in the spacious boot of the Amby and getting locked inside it for a few moments with no one around!. Pretty soon, the Maruti 800 rolled out and gradually the Amby looked like a dinosaur. I still have nostalgic memories and wouldnt mine driving one even now.
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Old 29th November 2021, 12:20   #15
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You have just rekindled some good old memories through the thread Vigsom and for that I canít thank you enough. We had a Mark2 at my paternal home and itís a pity that we didnít cared for it enough. An enviable garage of a Ambassador coupled with a Jeep just got wasted with the vagaries of time and thatís the most sad part. As a kid, taking the drives through the lush green tea gardens of Upper Assam in those two vehicles meant the world to me. Thank you again for the thread.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chhanda Das View Post
We survived a landslide in Arunachal Pradesh's Papum Pare area in the 90s. It had been raining for the past few days and this particular area was seeing minor and slow landslides every 20 minutes to half an hour.
Some scintillating experiences there, I can well imagine every scenarios you mentioned since I have also encountered the same at some stage of my life. One thing which struck me, is your mention of Papum Pare district and going by the description, somehow I guess the place is Karshingsa between Banderdewa and Nirjuli. The vivid description of the landslide just ignited some memories of the bygone days when the landslides and river crossings were the norm during the rains. Do let me know if it was Karshingsa or some place else in Papum Pare !!
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