Buying a 60-year-old Hindustan Ambassador Mark 1

The next couple of days, I was expecting a reply and after a long wait of about two weeks, I got a call from the seller's son. He asked me some basic questions like why I was interested in such an old car and if I had the capability to maintain a 60-year-old classic car. I briefed him about my experience with classics and only after that, he shared his location and suggested I have a look at the car.

BHPian arun1100 recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Hindustan Ambassador - The purchase and initial ownership experience

This thread is about the ownership experience of our 60-year-old Historical Car - The 1960 Hindustan Ambassador (popularly known as Mark 1); drafted along with BHPian funkykar (Karthik Makam).

There is something intriguing about classic cars, especially Fiats and Ambassadors. These are the cars we '80s and '90s kids have seen as we grew up. The simple mechanicals, timeless design, nostalgic memories make these Classics so special for some of us classic car enthusiasts. Owning a car then used to be a very big deal. Affordability is one, the never-ending wait periods were another. One had to wait several years in waiting period to be able to own an automobile. This also made the owner and often the entire family bond with it. Fiat, or rather the Premier Padmini, has been my favorite classic car, as this is our family's first car and the car in which I learnt to drive. At home, we still have my Dad's 1991 Premier Padmini, and also Dad's 1997 Chetak and 1971 Bullet. Coming to the Ambassador, my grandfather owned a 1970 Mark 2. This was the only car any of our family members owned till the early '90s. Sometime in the mid-'80s, this Ambassador was sold. Years later, my Dad's official car was a 1998 model 1800cc ISZ Ambassador. In my childhood summer holidays, I have been on many drives with my Dad and his driver in this Ambassador across coastal Karnataka during his official trips. I drove on the highway for the first time in this very Ambassador. For a brief period, I owned a Ambassador Mark 2 in 2016, which I eventually passed it on to BHPian Arun.V. I've lot of fond memories of these three Ambassadors and it was a dream for me to own one such Ambassador sometime in my life.

Karthik was crazy too for owning an Ambassador ever since he drove a couple of petrol Ambassadors. This Ambassador's purchase happened way back in Feb 2020, yes, feels too long back as a lot has happened in the last fifteen months even without a coffee! Karthik and I casually browse OLX once in a while as means to kill some time. This also gives us a peek at how some of the classics we admire appear. Not that we intend to buy one as we already have a number of classic cars and scooters at home. But one fine evening in Jan 2020, I stumbled upon an Ambassador Mark 1 ad in OLX. The description and the pictures were impressive and hence, I forwarded the ad to Karthik. The seller's location was very close to my sister's house as per the ad. I messaged the seller in OLX and requested him to share his number and also informed him that my sister's house is close to his house. The next couple of days, I was expecting a reply and after a long wait of about two weeks, I got a call from the seller's son. He asked me some basic questions like why I was interested in such an old car and if I had the capability to maintain a 60-year-old classic car. I briefed him about my experience with classics and only after that, he shared his location and suggested I have a look at the car.

That weekend, on a Saturday morning, Karthik and I visited the seller's home close to MG Road, Bangalore in my Dad's Premier Padmini. Since it was the weekend, we could enjoy the classic drive together. We knocked on the door and there came the Ambassador's owner, Mr. Anand Kumar, and along with him was his son Naresh. We introduced ourselves and started walking towards their home garage where the Ambassador was parked. But my Padmini caught Anand uncle's attention and immediately he told me he wanted to check out my Padmini first. We all sat in the Padmini and went for a short drive. Uncle was very happy to see a well-maintained classic car and he was convinced I was a prospective buyer as I could easily drive a column shift geared Padmini which is similar to the Ambassador.

Now came the opportunity for us to see the Ambassador. Right in here, inside the closed garage, was the Ambassador which we were so eager to see for about three weeks. We had seen the pics of the Ambassador in the OLX ad, however, these Classics generally look great in pics regardless of the real condition:

Karthik and me were really restless to see the Ambassador in real as Anand uncle was trying to open the shutter. To keep our excitement intact, the shutter refused to open!

We informed uncle we would visit them again the next day. When we visited again the next morning, his son Naresh helped him open the shutter. I was shivering in excitement, probably the reason for the pic to appear shaky. Lol:

And there we saw the Ambassador for real for the very first time!

As Naresh drove their family legacy out of the garage:

Look at the 60-year-old history of Indian Automobile gleaming all the way to Glory!

Naresh parked the Ambassador outside their home and uncle told us the history of this Ambassador. History is the car was originally a Kerala car owned by a business family who had their establishment in Bangalore too. The car was bought new in 1960 by the Kerala family and hence the car's original registration number was KLQ 2725. In 1964, the Ambassador was brought to Bangalore and re-registered with the registration number - MYV 5263. For some reason, the car was sold in Bangalore to Anand uncle's Father Mr. M. Krishna Swamy, who was GM in ITC, Bangalore. One interesting bit is that the original owner of the Ambassador - NP Chewing gum factory owner's grandson was my classmate in school. I will try to get in touch with him and see if they recollect this car!

Anyways, since 1964, the Ambassador has been with Anand uncle's family. In fact, Anand uncle went on to narrate the story that he learnt driving in this very Ambassador in the early '70s. After his father passing away, Anand uncle continued to use it till his retirement. The reason for selling was his old age, health and parking issues.

RC Copy with details of previous registration:

Anand uncle then asked me about my education and career. It was then we came to know that we both were Alumni of the same school - St. Germains, Bangalore. Our discussion got very interesting thereon and also realized that we both had been attending the school's OBA every year! We felt very connected by now and uncle was confident that if the car is sold to us, it would be in safe hands.

Anand uncle offered us a drive in the Ambassador but he suggested he would drive himself. Just for memory sake, I wanted a pic of this drive and took the below pic of Uncle. I was not sure if Uncle would like me to take a pic of him driving. Nevertheless, I showed him this pic later and he liked it. This pic eventually became more valuable; more on it later:

After uncle took us for a short drive, Karthik and I too drove the car around the locality. Below were the first impressions of the Ambassador:

  • Original petrol engine and column shift gear. The carburetor was changed by the previous owner from SU carburetor to Solex carburetor.
  • Since the car was always parked in a closed garage, the body was quite perfect with almost no rust anywhere and the paint slightly faded.
  • The car drove quite well - the engine, brakes, suspension all seemed very good for a 6 decades old car.
  • The car was last restored in '80s and untouched ever since.
  • Most of the original bits were intact like the grill, bumpers, meters, etc.
  • FC and Insurance were Valid.
  • Interesting observation was that FC had never lapsed throughout the 56 years of ownership in one family.
  • Car was always in running condition. The Ambassador was never hibernated in its lifetime.
  • Tyres on the car were really aged and needed immediate replacement.

All this was customary. Deep within, both of us had already made up our minds to acquire this beauty. Uncle invited us to his home for coffee and we continued our discussion. I gave the assurance to uncle that if the car is sold to us, we would surely give her the best time, love, and care. As the family never bought a used car nor sold one, they had no clue how to go about it. Casually, uncle had called Cars24. Uncle told us that the only person who saw the car was from Cars24. He was not ready to sell to such a car dealer as they didn't value the car as much as it deserves. He also said he did not reply to most of them on OlX too as he did not feel they were good enough to acquire their possession. Once uncle made up his mind to sell the Ambassador to us, he finalized the price, delivery timeline etc. In the next few minutes, he spoke about the transfer of ownership. A week later, we did the money transfer and also initiated the car ownership transfer. The car's FC and Insurance were valid and hence made the ownership transfer easy.

Feb 1st was the day we decided to take the delivery of the Ambassador from Anand Uncle and Naresh. Uncle handed over a big box of spares he had. For us classic lovers, this is equivalent to the gift hamper any child receives during their birthdays. He gave us an insight into the current mechanical condition and gave a heads up on the immediate repairs needed like weak tires, etc. This car has been with their family for 56 years, used by three generations of the family, and hence it was a very emotional moment for the entire family to let go of the car.

Anand Uncle and his son Naresh pose with their family Ambassador:

Anand Uncle and his son Naresh. Uncle is now resting his hand on the car emotionally. Their domestic help of few years also felt somewhat emotional too and chose to be around (seen in the background, right side):

I joined them for a group photo:

Karthik took a selfie with all of us:

Karthik took this video of me driving the Ambassador for the very first time. Just after I started the car, Uncle and Naresh gave their final set of instructions related to the cranking procedure and gear changing.

Yay, all smiles!! Karthik and me finally driving our Ambassador after a long effort of completing the purchase formalities:

Finding a Classic car and then completing the purchase formalities is quite a task. Considering our passion for the Classics, it's all worth it.

Here's a Balcony view of the Ambassador after we drove her home for the first time. I just could not stop staring at this beautiful sight!

Continue reading arun1100's review of his 1960 Ambassador and BHPian comments for more insights and information.

A helmet will save your life