The Ugly Indian Icon

The Amby is the first Indian car and according to Hindustan Motors, the good old Amby has been ruling the Indian roads ever since its inception in 1948.

I wonder which roads are they talking about ?

Though the Amby doesn't sell as it used to in the days of the License raj, the Amby still finds buyers. An LA Times article calls it, 'India's ugly icon of the road.' Its historical associations with the upper crust appealed to Jaideep Dasgupta, who recently shelled out about $14,000 for an Ambassador Grand. About 600,000 of Ambassador cars still ply the roads.

Why do the Ambys still sell? Owners in addition to citing its spacious interiors also say that Ambassadors, with their heavy rear axles, weather India's rutted roads better than other cars. And when an Amby does break down, even a village mechanic will have the parts and know-how to fix it.

What do critics say?

"Dynamically, it's one of the most unstable cars you can drive today," said Bijoy Kumar Y, the editor of Business Standard Motoring. "The suspension is the same that it's been for ages; they haven't touched it. Going in a straight line, the Ambassador is fine. But when you have to brake, when you have to go around a corner, when you carry people who are very dear to you, I wouldn't go with it."

Kumar and others also fault the Ambassador for lacking contemporary safety features such as crumple zones, anti-lock brakes and air bags. India does not have stringent safety standards for cars, but industry observers say such standards may be adopted in the next few years."It's nice to be romantic about the car," Kumar said. "I was born in the hospital and brought home in an Ambassador…. But as a motoring journalist, I'm feeling guilty that this car is being produced."

Like it or hate it, the Amby is an icon on Indian roads, albeit an ugly one.

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