First Maruti 800 rusting, India steps up to restore the grand old car

  • Abhinav Rajput, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Apr 18, 2015 17:16 IST

People across India have offered to restore the first Maruti 800 car after Hindustan Times reported that the vehicle, now a piece of history, is dying a slow death after its owner Harpal Singh and his wife Gulshanbeer Kaur passed away. Many showed an interest in buying the car built in 1983.

Singh died in 2010 and Kaur died two years later. The couple’s Green Park home has been locked since then. Their two daughters live in separate areas of South Delhi with their husbands and are unable to take care of the car. It was last taken out for a spin one-and-half years ago.

People poured out their emotions about the car’s current state through Twitter, Facebook, emails and phone calls, and wished that the Maruti 800, which symbolised middle class aspirations for the longest time, could be kept in a museum. They shared their own experiences with the Maruti and how they learnt driving in it.

Harpal Singh receiving the keys to the first Maruti 800 car from former prime minister Indira Gandhi. (Raj K Raj/ HT File Photo)

Reacting to the report, Maruti offered to buy the car from Singh’s family. "We will speak to the family soon," the company spokesperson said on Friday.

Derek O’Brien, quizmaster and a senior leader of the All India Trinamool Congress, contacted Hindustan Times and showed interest in acquiring the car. Sharing his fond memories of the vehicle, he said: "It was in mid-1980s and I was in Delhi to meet actor Roshan Seth. He had a Maruti 800 which was among the first lot of Marutis being given. I remember how good it felt talking to him in India’s very own Maruti. It is sad to see its first baby in this state."

He added, "For me it is all about nostalgia attached with this car, it’s more important for me than a swanky red Ferrari."

Autocar India editor Hormazd Sorabjee too showed interest in buying the car. "My main interest is that this car be restored to its glory, whether it is done by the owners, Maruti or me."

He said he was a big fan of the oldest model of Maruti 800 as it was this car in which he and most of the members of his family learnt driving.

"I have one Maruti 800 which I recently purchased, it is among the first lot that Maruti had released," Sorabjee said.

Singh’s family, however, said money was not a priority but they want the car to be restored in a museum.

His elder son-in law Tejinder Ahluwalia, 65, said: "I respect people’s emotions, who are coming forward to buy the car but if money would have been our priority all we needed was to put a small advertisement in newspapers and several people would have come forward to buy the car. We want it to be restored so that the name of our father-in-law who cared so much for the car goes into history."

Harpal Singh's family: (From left to right) Govinder Pal Kaur, Tejinder Ahluwalia, Amardeep Walia, Sunita Walia. (Virendra Singh Gosain/ HT Photo)

His younger son-in-law Amardeep Walia, 55, expressed similar sentiments.

Several others shared their emotions regarding the Maruti 800 and their experiences with the car, which taught an entire generation to drive and embodied their aspirations.

Salid Goel, a student from Gwalior, said: "I too would want to have this car. It would be a prized possession."

People suggested on social media platforms that Maruti should come forward and take care of its first baby.

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The very first Maruti 800 is now an abandoned, rusting car
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