Sitting on one of the old wooden benches across the road one evening I was enjoying the sunset. With new cars zooming past me, I noticed how the car segment has evolved over the years in India. With the cool breezes that evening acting as catalyst, I soon found my mind taken back into the timeline of the era of Ambassador Cars ruling the Great Indian Roads.
Cruising in as an Ambassador
Down the memory line it was just one car that I could recall which had status symbol while plying on roads. It was none other than Ambassador. For some it was a status symbol, for some it was swadesi car and for few like me it was family car. As a kid rose in late 20th century I had a lot of memories with this car. I was remembering that how we used to rent an Ambassador car to go out to meet our relatives on various occasions. It served as a popular picnic car many a times. This was the only car in which I desired to sit in the rear seat. I used to cozy myself in the extra cushioned sofa rear seat of the car. I remember how I used to fight for a front sit and used to stare at each and every number plate of vehicles which passed nearby figuring out the state to which the vehicles belong. Sitting in the front seat of the Ambassador, I felt like a navigator. In certain terms this was India’s reply to the west’s luxury car segments ranging from Mercedes, Buggati, Ford, BMW, Porsche, Ferrari (well to name a few).
Ambassador was a part of many jokes when I was in schooling days. Some called this car as fatso and obese vehicle. To some this car seemed to be a pregnant woman, all thanks to its oval shape from the sides. I have never seen such a car which has multi tasking capability. This car has a huge storage capacity for anything and everything. I wondered how this car can accommodate luggage’s enough for each and every member of the family. It had a big dicky capacity which can swallow anything you feed in. At times I had seen people using this car to carry luggages when there was no facility of pickup trucks in India. This car was true multipurpose vehicle in every aspect. I remember how we used to sit packed with a little more than eight people in this car. Yet it had space to accommodate a person who wants to join the trip in the eleventh hour. I sometimes wondered that this car came with a salient feature to shrink and expand itself according to the need.
Sarkari Icon (lal-batti)
This car had won the status of ‘vehicle for officials’ in Indian roads. I had never seen any Indian minister or a diplomat not having a white Ambassador car parked outside his house. This was an official car given to them during the time of their tenure in the office. A white or black Ambassador car with a lal-batti mounted on it was like a matter of pride for anyone who sat inside it. When this car with lal-batti used to pass the streets, people used to look at it with utmost respect as this meant high official vehicle. I remember how my family member used to say “it’s an honor to have a white official Ambassador car with red light above it, parked just outside a home”. This car was also more of a status symbol in the society than a car for masses. The funny thing about this car is that this was the only vehicle which could be repaired by any village mechanic. I bet, every mechanic in the country must had a hand on this vehicle.
In Popular Culture
Bollywood movies dating back to 50 years and hence had featured this car repeatedly. I remember the Hero-Villain chases in every movie had an Ambassador sequence. In golden era for typical Bollywood movies this car had been part of certain stunts to die for. Even now this car is popularly used as cabs in certain cities of India. It provides a joy ride to travelers.
I came across the news early this week that management of Ambassador Cars has put a stop on the only company’s plant in West Bengal. This car was finding it tough for retaining itself competing with its contemporary counter parts. This puts an end to an era of mighty road show for this car. A chapter of Indian car industry has finally ended. It’s a dawn of the revolution on Indian roads laying the pavement for new technologies to embrace it. Be it a white car for common people, a lal-baati car for diplomats or car draped in black-yellow colour of the taxis…….
Ambassador was a form of life, a way of life, a toast of life.