Hindustan Ambassador

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Hindustan Ambassador Classic
Hindustan Ambassador.jpg
Manufacturer Hindustan Motors
Production 1958–2014
Assembly Uttarpara, Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Body and chassis
Class Compact car
Body style 4-door saloon
Layout FR layout
Related Morris Oxford series III
Transmission 5-speed manual
Predecessor Hindustan Landmaster
A recent model Ambassador
Hindustan Ambassador Classic on the streets of Kolkata
Official Hindustan Ambassador cars parked outside North Block, Secretariat Building, New Delhi

The Hindustan Ambassador was an automobile manufactured by Hindustan Motors of India. It was in production from 1958 to 2014 with few improvements and changes over its production lifetime, and is based on the Morris Oxford series III model, first made by Morris Motors Limited at Cowley, Oxford in the United Kingdom from 1956 to 1959.

Modelled after the British Morris Oxford, the Ambassador was the first car to be made in India and was once a status symbol, but began losing its dominance in the mid-1980s when Maruti Suzuki introduced its low-priced 800 hatchback. It lost further cachet and market share when global automakers began setting up shop in India in the mid-1990s, offering models with contemporary designs and technology. The Ambassador has remained the choice of a dwindling share of bureaucrats and politicians, usually in white with a red beacon on top and a chauffeur at the wheel. It is also still in use as a taxi in some Indian cities.[1]

Despite its British origins, the Ambassador is considered as a definitive Indian car and is fondly called the "king of Indian roads".[2] The automobile was manufactured by Hindustan Motors at its Uttarpara plant[3] near Kolkata, West Bengal. The car was an inspiration of six Indian engineers including Mr. Jaishankar Tewari.[citation needed]

Some[who?] Indian politicians use the Hindustan Ambassador.[4]


1955 Morris Oxford series III was launched in India in 1957 as Ambassador Mark I
Side view of 1956 Morris Oxford Series III that remains unchanged till date except for frontal grill changes

When the Birlas wanted a new model to replace their already old Hindustan models based on the Morris Oxford Series Il (Hindustan Landmaster), they scouted for the new Morris Oxford Series III. The car initially came with a side-valve engine but was later improved to an overhead-valve engine. Also the car at that point was quite an innovation with a fully enclosed monocoque chassis, which is why it is spacious inside.

Hindustan Motors Limited (HM), India's pioneering automobile manufacturing company and flagship company of the C.K. Birla Group, was established just before Indian independence, in 1942 by B.M. Birla. They began operations in a small assembly plant in Port Okha near Gujarat by assembling the then Morris 10 as the Hindustan 10. The Morris MO Series models (the earlier one and its next model with a new front grille) were by 1949 introduced, as the Hindustan 14. The production continued till 1954, after which the Landmaster based on the Morris Oxford Series II was introduced, with the same 1478 cc side valve engine, drawn from the earlier Hindustan 14.The same engine was used for the older Ambassadors Mark I from 1958 till 1960.

The car was briefly imported to the United Kingdom in 1993 (as the Fullbore Mark 10).[5] The cars were retrofitted with a heater and seat belts in order to comply with European safety legislation, but only a tiny number were ever sold, and the importer went into liquidation.[6]

Production of Hindustan Ambassador at its plant outside the city of Kolkata was ended due to weak demand and financing problems. Prior to the cancellation, the company had sold 2,200 Ambassadors in the financial year which ended in March 2014.[7]


The Amby, as it is affectionately called,[citation needed] has been in continuous production since its inception, with very few improvements or changes.

In 1948, Hindustan Motors shifted its assembly plant from Port Okha in Gujarat to Uttarpara in West Bengal's Hooghly district and strengthened its manufacturing capacity in the automobile segment.

The 1954 Morris Oxford series II in India was licence-built at Uttarpara, (Hooghly dist.), West Bengal, three years after its debut in England and labelled as the 1957 Hindustan Landmaster.

Engaged in the manufacture of the Ambassador, Contessa and utility vehicles like the Trekker, Porter and Pushpak, the plant also has to its credit many innovations and improvements in the automobile industry in India. Hindustan Motors is the only manufacturing facility in the world to manufacture parts for Bedford trucks currently.

Sale of Ambassador taxis had been banned since 1 April 2011, a year after BS IV emission standards were rolled out in 11 Indian cities, including Kolkata. At present the company is in an extremely challenging situation with plummeting sales and loss of Rs 29.96 crore in 2011-12. The company could only sell around 2,500 cars in 2011.

However, Hindustan Motors have recently started to fit the cars with a new, cleaner diesel engine, that complies with the new emission rules; and has now been able to resume taxi service in cities such as Kolkata, one of the cities in which it was banned. The Hindustan Ambassador is, once again, a familiar sight on India's roads . The company had stopped paying wages to workers a few months back and has finally stopped production on 25 May 2014

Models and Versions



Mark I (First generation)
Production 1957-1962
Engine 1,489 cc (1.5 L) I4

In 1957 all the tooling of the British Morris Oxford Series III was transferred to India. The car was renamed the Ambassador from the Morris Oxford series II (Landmaster) to Morris Oxford series III (Ambassador) included deep headlamp cowls and small rear wing "tail fins"—all the rage in 1956. The dashboard and steering wheel were completely redesigned. The Landmaster's flat-plane two-spoke steering wheel gave way to a stylish dished steering wheel with three spokes made-up of four wires per spoke, for the Ambassador. Also a new, dimpled bonnet made its debut. These models had a 1,476 cc side-valve petrol engine. In 1959 the side-valve engine was replaced by a 1,489 cc, 55 bhp overhead-valve BMC B-series petrol engine.


Mark II (Second generation)
Production 1962-1977

In 1962 the Ambassador underwent a frontal facelift with a closely chequered grill more reminiscent of Morris Mini. The interior now had a redesigned dashboard and instrument cluster. The early mica sheet was replaced by wood grain coated plywood and aluminium bezel. This model was named as Ambassador Mark II, and the early version quickly got dubbed as Mark-I in the market, while it was never really christened such in its production days.

In the mid 60's model again had minor changes to the tail lamp with integrated lens for indicator and danger lamp and the tall ornamented bumper stopper from the Mark-I was redesigned with a smaller chrome metal stopper keep with the times. This model was sold until mid-1977 and eventually replaced by the Mark-III model. Being one of the ubiquitous early models of Ambassador numerous older versions can be found in restoration, garages and in numerous Indian movies of that era. In its final years in 1977 it had no competition other than the Premier Padmini and its smaller rival Standard Motors


Mark III (Third generation)
Production 1977-1978

In 1977 the Mark 3 version was launched with another frontal facelift. The front grill had horizontal louvres giving it a modern feel and a round profile indicator lamp now isolated from the grill. At the rear a more modern looking number plate bezel replaced the early design which was commonly used by many other British cars as well. The interior now had a new dashboard with 3 standard instruments mounted on a black recessed mesh again moving away from the early coated wooden base with aluminium strip design. By 1978, the Mark 3 was available in its Standard and Deluxe versions. The Deluxe version had a newer dashboard with four meters plus the speedometer. Just before the launch of the Mark 4, the Mark 3's had their front windscreen wiper configuration changed, with a common direction sweep for both wipers.This configuration was prevalent in the new Ambassadors till the end.


Mark IV (Fourth generation)
Production 1979-1989
Engine 1,489 cc (1.5 L) I4
1,700 cc (1.7 L) I4

In 1979 the Ambassadors front went through a major facelift departing from a flatter design of the 50's which was retained till its end in 2014. The front grill was much smaller in height with a larger chequered grill and square park lamps. Now separate amber indicator lamps was incorporated on the semi front lip spoiler below the bumper. This model was named as the 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 first 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. The Ambassador of 1990 except for the front cowl area was virtually identical to the 1956 original, with most changes being cosmetic. The changes were mainly the front styling and minor changes to the dashboard. This technological stagnation was mainly because of the protectionistic policies being pursued by the Indian government at the time, and there was little incentive on the part of Indian companies to innovate.

The car celebrated the Golden Jubilee of its production in 2008 (1958- 2008). The Ambassador has emerged as the car mass-produced for the longest number of years, with minimal design changes, on the same assembly line (Uttarpara,West Bengal,India) in the whole world until 2014. The team of 6 engineers headed by Mr Jaishankar Tewari from Jaipur, Rajasthan were said to be under lab work for 2.5 years where they hardly met their families.

It was during its model run that India launched an controlled economic liberalisation in the mid 80's which allowed many Japanese companies to set up joint ventures in India. Maruti Suzuki launched its Maruti 800 in the then non existing small car category. The then existing manufacturers Standard Motors, Premier Automobiles and Hindustan Motors were granted licensees for bigger category cars. The Ambassador still remained the principal family car of choice in the mid segment in spite being a pre-modern design and dated styling. The company also earmarked for a major upgrade for its mechanical and power plant systems later launched as "Nova'.

Ambassador Nova

Nova (Fifth generation)
Production 1989-1999
Engine 1.5L I4
1.8L I4
2.0L Diesel I4

The Ambassador Nova was launched in 1990 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.

Ambassador 1800 ISZ

In an attempt to increase its appeal, in 1992 another version was released. Dubbed the Ambassador 1800 ISZ, this model featured a 75 bhp 1,800 cc Isuzu inline-four engine and a five-speed manual gearbox, and also had the option of bucket seats, as opposed to the earlier bench seats. Also, the entire dashboard was redesigned. Instrumentation panels were shifted from the centre of the dashboard to the right, behind the steering wheel. Seat belts became mandatory. The Isuzu 1817 cc engine that was used in its luxury model HM Contessa 1.8 GL that produced a power of 88 bhp was slightly detuned for the new Ambassador. The same power plant was available since 1985, for the special order armour plated, VIP models. By the early 1990s, this 1817 cc/ 75 bhp (@ 5000 rpm), OHC, Isuzu engine, that had 4 in-line cylinders and a max torque of 13.8 Kgm (@ 3000 rpm ), was available as an option, in all the Ambassadors commonly available for sale and this very reliable modern Japanese engine proved to be a success that would last till its entire production run.

Final Generation


Ambassador Grand

2013 Hindustan Ambassador Grand 2000ISZ in a showroom.
Rear View, HM Ambassador Grand, 2013 Model
Interior, HM Ambassador Grand 2013 Model

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 by Treves of France. 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.

Ambassador Avigo

Hindustan Motors Avigo
Hindustan Motors Ambassador Avigo 4281.jpg
Manufacturer Hindustan Motors
Also called Hindustan Avigo
Production 2004–2010
Body and chassis
Body style 4-door saloon
Layout FR layout
Related Morris Oxford series III
Engine 2,000 cc (2.0 L) I4,1,800 cc (1.8 L) I4
Wheelbase 2,464 mm (97.0 in)
Length 4,325 mm (170.3 in)
Width 1,662 mm (65.4 in)
Height 1,593 mm (62.7 in)
Predecessor Hindustan Ambassador

The Avigo model launched in 2004 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, with the exterior designed by Manvindra Singh. However, the most overpowering influence on the front bonnet has been that of the original Landmaster series (also based on Morris Oxford). The main panels at the rear remained the same but the tail lamp and name plate bezels were redesigned. In interior the Avigo, however, has much more classic-touch internals. The entire dashboard console was redesigned with a classic retro theme reminiscent of the early models with central mounted meter new clusters (like the Mark IV models). Seats were specially built for this model with dual tonne beige coloured scheme and wood-grain interiors. A factory fitted 6CD Kenwood audio system and new air-conditioning system was installed. The car was priced higher than the existing models.

Ambassador Encore

This new model was launched in 2013, to match the BS IV standards of the metropolitan cities. The new car looks just like an Ambassador Grand and has the same overall dimensions as that of the BS III Ambassadors.[8]

Other Variants

Extended version

Many local customisers offer stretched versions, though they are not very popular. One such manufacturer is Parikh, whose effort is called the Ambylimo.[9]

Customised version

Car designer Dilip Chhabria created a concept inspired by the Ambassador. version,[10] the Ambierod. This car is not manufactured by Hindustan Motors nor is it based on the ambassador. Several styling cues however have been borrowed from the Ambassador.


In the early 1990s, the old Austin-designed B-Series OHV straight-4 BMC 1.5L petrol engine was replaced in favour of an Isuzu 1.8 litre engine and became the fastest production car in India, beating Fiats, and the Maruti Suzuki cars at that time. The engines currently available are the 1500 DSL (1.5L 37 bhp diesel engine), 1800 ISZ (1.8 L 75 bhp MPFI petrol engine), 2000 DSZ (2.0 L 50 bhp Isuzu diesel engine) and 2000 DSZ Turbo (2.0 L 75 bhp turbocharged intercooled Isuzu diesel engine.

In the late 1970s a limited batch of Mark III Ambassadors were produced with 1,700 cc engines.They were fitted with Constant Velocity SU side-draft carburettors of an earlier era instead of the more common indigenous variable velocity Solex down-draft units. The engine blocks of these cars had "1700" etched on them instead of the usual "1500". These were probably produced to handle the extra load of the piston-driven air conditioner compressors available in those days. The trim (metal beading) of these cars were a throwback to the sixties because they were chromeplated instead of aluminium.


Declared the best taxi in the world by Top Gear (2012 TV series) in Episode 2 of their 20th Series.[11][12]

An article by Hormazd Sorabjee titled An Epitaph for India's "Appalling" National Car appeared in a July 2014 issue of BBC Magazine[13]

See also


  1. ndtv.com
  2. "Full Stop India". Ambassador Car – The King of Indian Roads. Retrieved 18 August 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "HM Plant – Uttarpara". Hmutp.com. Retrieved 2009-05-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "No takers for Vajpayee's BMWs". Rediff.com. 2004-06-10. Retrieved 2009-05-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Glancey, Jonathan (1996-02-17). "What on earth has the Hindustan Motor Corporation's R&D department been doing for the last 25 years?". The Independent. Independent Print. Archived from the original on 2010-09-11. Retrieved 2014-01-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Simeli, Asopée. "The Everlasting Amby..." ARonline.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-11-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Production of India's Ambassador car suspended". bbc.com. Retrieved 25 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. indiancarsbikes.in
  9. "Parikh Coach Builders". Indianlimo.com. Retrieved 2010-07-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Sanjay Dutt Unveils Dilip Chhabria's Ambierod". Bollywoodhungama.com. 2008-01-12. Retrieved 2009-10-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. telegraph.co.uk
  12. timesofindia.indiatimes.com
  13. bbc.com

External links