Published On: Sat, Mar 30th, 2013


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So we covered the basics of Ambi’s glorious history in our previous issue. We read a little about its birth, its rise and rise. We now know that Ambassador to India was what Pan was to Peter. It took over the market share of other British counterparts that existed then- like the Standard. At the end of it all, you’d wonder why there was such an enormous buildup if all that it really lead to was a disappointing finale. A company with such legacy could have taken this country’s market by storm, but sadly, with great monopoly, came dismal business strategy. Here goes.

Mark II In 1963, Mark I underwent a minor surgery and paved way to give birth to something they called Mark II. By minor, we mean just a facelift; a chequered grille. Until Mark II came out, there really was no question of a Mark I. That’s how most British manufacturers rolled back in the days. What was interesting was the fact that the then sales Manager for Ambi tried to convince Mr. Birla to own and drive the Mark II, to pose as an “ambassador for the Ambassador”. As history has it, Mr. Birla was a great man and knew well beyond doubt that the Ambi isn’t his cup of tea. He rejected the idea. Th is in turn signifi ed the level of faith the owners had in its product.

Mark III 1975 was the year when the Ambi came out with a face that is most similar to the ones we see around us today, as little in number as they may be. Th e Mark III was again a facelift gimmick with a bit of grille mantra and hammering a few parts of the eyes to make it look bigger. Th ey brought in a few changes into the instrument cluster with a lot of knobs and dials that were locally made and installed. Th ey came in two variants, the standard 1.5L and a higher, 1.8L option. You had to pay an additional Rs. 1925 for the higher option.

Mark Iv  HM was vigilant for the fact that by the time this 4th edition came out, they found a need to release a diesel variant. However, they weren’t too bothered by the fact that a little company called Maruti was creeping in to have them killed forever. In 1979 the Ambassador got the 4thfacelift with a smaller chequered grill and square park lamps and separate blinker lamps incorporated on the semi front lip spoiler below the bumper. Th is model was named as Mark 4. In addition to the existing petrol version, a diesel variant was launched which was powered by a 1,489 cc, 37 bhp BMC B-series diesel engine. It was the fi rst diesel car in India and was well received by the Indians. Mark 4 was the last of the Mark cars. For a short period the cars were available as “Deluxe” & later it was renamed Ambassador Nova. Th e Ambassador of 1990 was virtually identical to the 1956 original, with most changes being cosmetic. Th e changes were mainly the front styling and minor changes to the dashboard..

Nova Th e word “No-va” in Spanish translates to “something that does not move”. For some reasons, the Nova that was launched in 1989 lived up to that kind of translation and brought upon itself, a very questionable reputation. From poorly developed suspensions to wheels coming off the axle during run, Nova had a palette of headaches it could off er to its owners. Th ings got so out of hand, a group of taxi drivers decided to make a customized “coffi n” for a faulty Nova and protest by carrying it on a lorry. An embarrassing moment for the Ambi’s, they recalled the car and did what they could.

The Ambassador Nova was launched in two variants—a 55 bhp petrol-powered Deluxe version and a 37 bhp diesel-powered Diesel DX version. Ambassador Nova had a newly designed steering wheel, new steering column, better brakes and electricals. It also had some cosmetic changes which included a new radiator grille.

Classic The Ambassador was re-engineered and renamed the Ambassador Classic. The new model featured a redesigned dashboard, polyurethane seats, pull type door handles and the steering column gear lever was replaced by floor shift gears and had a tweaked up suspension. The higher end models featured servo assisted disc brakes and power assisted TRW steering.

Ambassador Grand  Ambassador Grand was launched in 2003 and as per the manufacturer, the new version had 137 changes compared to its predecessor. The notable changes included body coloured wrap around bumpers, camel coloured interiors, fabric seats, remote shift gear lever ,moulded roof and door trims, Salisbury axles, bigger rear wheel drums, improved suspension with anti roll bar and Metlon bushes, central door lock, factory fitted music system and an optional sun roof. The acoustic insulation of the Ambassador Grand was developed in Europe. The Grand version of Ambassador was available only in 2.0L and 1.8L engines at first and later in 2007 the 1.5L model was added to the line.

Avigo The Avigo is the most radical revision of the venerated Ambassador, a part of a brand revitalisation kicked off in the middle of 2003. The change of name, a break from the Ambassador marque, indicated a different marketing strategy. The Avigo was launched in the summer of 2004. The revitalized lineup consisted of the Ambassador Classic of mid-2003, the Ambassador Grand of late- 2003, and the aforementioned Avigo, designed by Manvindra Singh. Car enthusiasts, however, see this merely as a desperate attempt to claw back ever-dwindling market share. Notable influences on the new design include the new Mini and even the Porsche 356. However, the most overpowering influence on the front and bonnet has been that of the original Morris Oxford). The rear of the car has been left untouched, and this leads some to feel that the car is not really different from an Ambassador. The Avigo, however, has much more classic-touch internals, like a centrally mounted console (like the Mark IV models), beige-colored seats and wood-grain interiors

Station Wagon- Pickup experiments Back in 1970, HM decided to come up with a station wagon. However, India was quite alien to a culture of station wagons and estate cars back then. Then inevitable happened, and the idea barely surfaced. However, in 2011, at a time when India is used to vehicles of all shapes and sizes, the bosses at HM thought that it’d be a good idea to come up with a pickup truck they called “Veer”. This 0.8 tonne truck carried the worst feature of ambassador- it’s ugly face. It looked like an amateur cut an Ambi in half and attached some kind of tray at the rear. The general public took this for yet another gimmick from the HM’s. The Veer wasn’t taken seriously at all.

Ambi, then and now Granted, Ambassadors were giant, bulky hunks of metal welded together that performed reasonably well, given its decent suspension and monocoque body at a time when aesthetics and performance took the backseat. The spareparts were dirt-cheap and any man with a hammer could fix anything on it. HM, being a company that was founded during the protectionist periods of India, enjoyed the benefits of being a monopoly. This meant that they had a lot of time producing the car according to their whims and fancies, but had little time to listen to its customers. It was only a matter of time before companies that actually value its customers ravished HM and stole almost everything they had.



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